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Vacation in Mendoza
It’s harvest time and the Argentinean province of Mendoza offers activities for every taste, from adventure tourism to relaxing vineyard tours to festivities celebrating the vendimia amid truly spectacular surroundings and a gorgeous climate.
The scenery can be intimidating. The imposing Andes Mountains loom in the center of the landscape, a patchwork of gray and ocher hues. But the green valleys and cool nights lend balance to Mendoza’s warm, dry summers. This range of temperatures is mirrored by the variety of activities available during the summer season. Get a rush from extreme sports, like rafting the Río Mendoza, climbing rocky walls and cliffs or hiking the trails offered by the rugged mountains, enjoy leisurely excursions on bike and horseback or just relax at the inns and hotels spread among the vineyards. While you’re here, be sure to check out the activities of the famous Fiesta de la Vendimia, the wine harvest celebration that takes place from late February through early March.
Let’s begin with something for those who love to be challenged by nature. The “High Mountain” circuit includes a number of spots on the Rió Mendoza along national route N7, including Potrerillos, Uspallata, Penitentes, Puente del Inca, Las Cuevas and up to the border with Chile. Additionally, San Rafael and Malargüe, located in the south of the province, are also highly recommended options.
These extreme locations provide the perfect opportunity to put your mountain and water sports skills to the test. Rappelling, zip lining, climbing and mountain biking are all popular activities, as are kayaking, canoeing and rafting (the rapids vary according to the time of year, with summer being the most challenging thanks to increased water flow). Lovers of fishing, sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing flock to the various reservoirs in the area, including Carrizal and Potrerillos, although the latter prohibits the practice of any sport that requires the use of any kind of motor.
History buffs can explore a different route. Between December and February, you can follow in the footsteps of General José de San Martín and the Liberation Army, which crossed the Andes to Chile to fight for the neighboring country’s independence in 1817. Today, several operators and mountaineering clubs offer excursions that recreate the epic Samaritan journey over the course of five to ten days, either on horseback, riding a mule or on foot. Travelers sleep in tents at altitudes of more than 14,700 feet above sea level.
The trails of Aconcagua offer another unbeatable option. The highest peak in the Americas, Mount Aconcagua tops 22,800 feet. Although professional-level climbers will target the summit, tourists can find groups that organize hikes to the base camps in the lower reaches. For example, there’s a three-day excursion to Plaza Francia that can be extended to a seven-day trip to Plaza de Mulas.
If you want to take in Mendoza from above, head to Cerro Arco (just minutes from the city’s downtown) and paraglide over the surrounding hills. And there are always simpler options, like trekking or horseback riding.
Tourism & Wine: A Perfect Match
If you are spending a few days in Mendoza, be sure to sample some of the many different activities related to wine making, the province’s keystone industry.
In addition to the guided tours and tastings – Malbec is the favorite local varietal – you can enjoy hotels and inns that focus on wine, some even include wine spa therapies. Diners will find excellent cuisine at restaurants with impressive views, and the range of alternatives has expanded to include art galleries, vineyards where you can play polo and golf, astronomical observatories and even hot-air balloons that soar above the wineries.
The province of Mendoza boasts the highest concentration of wine tourism options in Argentina, with 108 wineries open to visitors (out of a total of 167 in the country). You can find all the information you need at the Caminos de Vino organization Website.
If you happen to visit between late February and the first week of March, you’ll be able to enjoy the famous wine harvest festivities of the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia. The series of activities begins with the grape-blessing ceremony and unfolds over the following days to feature events like the Vía Blanca, a parade of floats through the downtown area carrying the Harvest Queen candidate from each department; the Carousel, more floats escorted by different collectives and bands of street musicians; and the live performance of the Acto Central, with the coronation of the new queen. And all the festivities are complemented by the region’s best wine.
There’s no shortage of summertime attractions in Mendoza, and you have your invitation. What are you waiting for? In
Where to Stay
$$$ Park Hyatt Mendoza: This hotel offers all kinds of amenities in the heart of the city.www.mendoza.park.hyatt.com
$$$ Cavas Wine Lodge: A refined hotel in the middle of a vineyard, complete with a luxury wine spa.www.cavaswinelodge.com
$$$ Villa Mansa: Twelve large room, all with terrific views. In Vistalba, 30 minutes from the city of Mendoza.www.villamansa.com
$$$ Entre Cielos: The lovely and spacious rooms are complemented by a hamam and a spa that recalls the finest Turkish baths.www.entrecielos.com
What to Do
Touring Wineries: This Website has all the information you need to visit the area’s wineries.
Climbing Aconcagua: You must obtain a permit before beginning your ascent (check the Website for locations).
Crossing the AndesAndino Club Tunuyán, tel. 54-2622- 422-538 www.trekking-travel.com.ar www.cordondelplata.com.ar www.cordilleranas.com.ar
Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia: sitio web con información actualizada sobre todos los eventos relacionados con esta celebración.http://vendimia.mendoza.gov.ar