After a busy couple of weeks in Patagonia, we came to Mendoza mainly thinking about wine and downtime. Other than that, we didn’t really know what else there was to do in Mendoza. After a bit of research, we found so much to see and do. We weren’t disappointed, we loved Mendoza!
Getting to Know Mendoza
For the first few days we relaxed in the city, did some walking around to explore, and took a bus tour. The bus was a very good introduction to the history of the city and possible places to visit.
It’s a beautiful city to be in, especially compared to some others in South American that can be quite oppressive, bustling, unplanned, and a little crazy.
The reason Mendoza is different, unfortunately, is because it was hit by an earthquake in 1861. This devastated the city and led to most of the infrastructure needing to be rebuilt. The positive outcome, however, is that the new city (through a necessary earthquake precaution) consists largely of wide, tree-lined avenues, low buildings that allow plenty of light and space. There are also plaza’s everywhere providing green spaces and, more importantly, points of refuge for people if/when an earthquake were to strike again.
Once we’d got a feel for the city it was time to leave, albeit temporarily. We were going to visit Maipu for a few days to be closer to one of Mendoza’s primary wine regions. We spent 2 days on bikes tours to various vineyards and thoroughly enjoyed our time here! Look out for our dedicated post on this, or be notified here
Rather than continuing our journey right away, we decided to come back to Mendoza city to take in some more of what it had to offer.
The bus tour had introduced us to the aquarium and the snake house, and we decided to visit the former. It was fairly small, which was expected, but there were some nice fish there. We spent what felt like hours watching turtles playing ‘king of the castle’ and trying to climb to the highest points in their enclosure. The mood changed when we came to the main attraction; Jorge the turtle. This 100-year-old giant sea turtle, about a metre in length, was confined to a circular take with maybe 4 metres in diameter. It would take Jorge maybe 15 seconds (at a VERY easy pace) to circumnavigate. And then do it again. And again. Poor Jorge has been in this cell since 1984. As if to add further insult, that water was so filthy that you could not see from one side of the tank to the other.
Parque General San Martin
The next day, to brighten the mood a little, we decided to rent bikes and spend the day at Parque General San Martin. However, being a Sunday (and contrary to information found online) bike rental was seemingly not an option! Not to be beaten, and because the park was very close, we ventured on foot instead. Our main focus was the peak found at the back of the park (also seen on the bus tour).
Despite only being a 20-minute climb, we found that the altitude at the top was higher, by two metres, than any point back in England. From the top, we had some amazing panoramic views of the park and the entire city. It was here that we first spotted that there appeared to be an event happening at the velodrome (yes, this park has a velodrome, and so much more!). Having missed out on our cycling fix for the day, we decided to investigate.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were freely able to enter and watch the races. Despite, for the most part, having absolutely no idea what was going on we enjoyed the spectacle. It was fun trying to work out what was going on, who was winning, who the ‘animated’ coach was shouting at and making up what we thought his tactics were! The only downside was that we managed to each burn one side of our heads through standing at the track for at least an hour!
Before we left Mendoza, we chose to maximise or relaxation with a visit to Cacheuta thermal spa. There’s a very reasonably priced spa location with pools and even a lazy river (not open in winter we heard). We decided to splurge on the hotel resort location a little down the road. Mendoza had been pretty cheap for us with their peso performing particularly poorly, so we redistributed some of our budget for this more luxury experience, and it was definitely worth it! With a very limited number of daily users permitted and excellent facilities, we enjoyed a truly relaxing day. Many thermal pools of different temperatures were available, saunas, mud ‘bath’ (slather it on with your hands), massages, and an issue excellent buffet lunch meant that we were never at a loss for a new way to relax and enjoy!
We were a little sorry to go, but even leaving Mendoza was an experience in itself. We had decided long before that if we were heading to Chile (originally undecided), we would do so via the bus from Mendoza to Santiago. The trip takes you straight across the Andes and allows for some exceptional views and photo opportunities. One of the highlights for us, immediately after crossing the border, was a series of maybe 30 switchbacks, taking the road down the side of the mountain.
What to See
Great alternative to a walking tour, allowing you to see much of what the city has to offer and hear some of it’s history
Food and Drink
Av. Aristides Villanueva – A popular street with many restaurants and bars
Avenida Sarmiento – Just north of Plaza Indepencia, this is the place to go for a good meal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great places elsewhere in the city!
A few bike tours exist in Maipu. We chose Wine and Ride and Maipu Bikes.
Wine and ride is accessible directly from the city using the train and has affiliations with a number of vineyards for discounted tours.
Maipu Bikes requires a bus from the city or after the train but is close to (in our opinion) the best vineyard and tour/tasting; Domiciano. It also has a free (tips earned) happy hour from 5 til 6 at the rental location with wine made by Maipu Bikes. Not the best wine you’ll taste all day, buy palatable (especially after multiple tastings) and free-flowing!
Slightly depressing aquarium, but maybe you want to go and see Jorge the turtle and also feel sorry for the size of his tank
The snakehouse us just opposite.
1-2 hr bus ride from Mendoza’s main bus terminal, visit the thermal water park for a relaxing day.
Add a little luxury and visit the Hotel’s spa instead if your budget allows!
Bus to Santiago
Not something to do in Mendoza, but definitely the best way to get in or out!
Redbus / Sube – Bus transport
Many cities in Argentina have adopted the Sube card for payments (if not cash). Not Mendoza. They have (at the time of writing) the RedBus card, needed for any bus transport. You can buy it and top up from local shops.
Sube was planned to be rolled out and might be in the near future!
Moovit – Bus maps and timetables
Very useful app for bus times and routes. Not all of the times or bus stops are 100% accurate, but it gives you a very good idea of where you need to be and what bus numbers to look for