Mendoza, situated 1,100km west of Buenos Aires at the foot of the Andes. Come here to taste the wines from the largest wine-producing area in Argentina. But besides wine, Mendoza is famous for being the point at which the liberator, Jose de San Martin set out to cross the Andes with an army to liberate Chile. It is also a great place to take a journey into the foothills of the Andes to see the southern most point of the Inca Empire and the highest mountain in South America – Aconagua.
The city of Mendoza was destroyed by earthquake and fire in 1861 and today it is a modern looking place with wide avenues and low buildings (as a precaution against further earthquakes) thickly planted with trees and gardens. It is something of an oasis as the whole of the surrounding area, other than the vineyards, is desert. Visiting vineyards is the key tourist attraction for the city, and it possible to visit quite a variety in a day’s visit. It is a red wine-producing area — whites being better from the Chilean side of the mountains. The grape they use here is Malbec, originally introduced from Europe.
Being in the foothills of the Andes it is worth taking a drive out of the city to experience the dry, crystal clear air as the mountains soar to a height of over 3,000m finishing in snow capped peaks as they border Argentina and Chile. The mountain colours change from deep reds & browns to beige, to green. Standing at the top of a high mountain pass with views stretching for miles in every direction will give you a wonderful feeling of space and freedom that is impossible to experience in a city. An ideal itinerary is to arrive in Buenos Aires for a few days and after Mendoza continue on over the mountains to Santiago in Chile.
‘At-a-Glance’ Illustrative Itinerary
DAY 1: Fly to Buenos Aires, the cultured, elegant and cosmopolitan Argentinian capital famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses.
DAY 2: Take a guided Buenos Aires city tour as there is so much to see. Don’t miss Teatro Colón, Recoleta, La Boca, a tango show or your own private tango lesson.
DAY 3: Take a day at leisure in Buenos Aires, to explore at your own pace or seek out the lovely Argentinian leather.
DAY 4: Transfer to airport and fly to Mendoza, positioned on a broad river valley. Continue to your hotel of choice and take some time out to explore the wide tree-lined avenues and handsome squares in the town that give way to rolling countryside leisure filled with rows of vines and vies of the snow-capped mountains.
DAY 5: Guided excursion to local vineyards. Relax in the company of your guided tour where you can taste the wines of their well-known wine cellars. A variety of wines is produced including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but it is Malbec which stands out for its quality and its grapes are the most widely cultivated.
DAY 6: Drive to Santiago, crossing over one of the Andes’ most picturesque passes to Santiago in Chile. This memorable journey with its border crossing takes anything between 5-8hrs. The trip itself is spectacular with mountain views particularly on the downward descent towards Santiago.
DAY 7: Guided city tour of Santiago. The city is set in a broad Andean valley with the majestic snow-capped peaks as a backdrop and a smaller coastal range with a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Santiago offers bohemian areas, large craft markets, grand central squares and the Cerro San Cristóbal, a hill which can be reached by funicular railway for superb views of the city.
Once in Santiago the options are numbers for where to go to next. You can continue on to extend time in Chile or take the opportunity to fly over to Easter Island