Mendoza and the area : discovering hidden paths
Mendoza, a city known for its vineyards ! But Mendoza is also the name of the region, where the capital city has the same name. This is often why, when I talk to foreigners or local people, I get specific when I am talking about Mendoza : Mendoza capital or Mendoza region … because this is different. You will understand it later in the post !
Obviously, we are aware of Mendoza since we love wine so much ! But we mostly come here to visit the vineyards only ! Big mistake ! And yes, there are some hidden treasures in the region of Mendoza !
To make it simple, I didn’t like it. I find the city not having any charm. Public transportation is not obvious. And everything interesting is located outside the city.
So, what do we do when we come to Mendoza ? Well, the 2 main activities are vineyards tours and « High Mountain » tour to see Aconcagua.
You have several options : have a tour or on your own. I choose the second option. To do so, you have several « areas » around Mendoza where you can visit vineyards. The most famous ones are Maipu, Lujan de Cuyo and Valle de Uco. Generally, a bike is rented and you go around from vineyard to vineyard. This is pretty nice and without major problems.
I rented mine at Maipu Bikes Rental. I highly recommend it because service was amazing. The owner perfectly explained me in details and was very kind to me. He also provide me a map with all vineyards location and some itinerary advices upon my preferences. The thing I really appreciated is that he didn’t push to one particular vineyard called « Bodega » in Spanish. He also helped me attend one visit by booking it right away with a phone call because I would have been short on time. Then I got to test the bike before going. A helmet and a lock are provided as well. And let’s go !
The area is pretty flat so without any major difficulties. Even if there were false flat part. There is a cycle path on 90% of the area, very appreciable. The last thing to do is to visit different bodegas and of course, tasting wines ! I made 3 : Bodega Trapiche, Bodega Tempus Alba and Entre Olivos (for olive oil tasting) !
High Mountain tour
A very nice tour to do. Why ? Because of the promise to see the Aconcagua. This is the highest mountain of South American !! However we stay a lot in the car though. And besides that, we didn’t see well Aconcagua. Or rather more … we are disappointed ! I was very disappointed.
Like I said, this is it for Mendoza capital. What is really interesting to me is elsewhere in the region. This is why I went to San Rafael and Malargüe ! Unknown cities ? Yes it is true ! I barely met other foreigners and yet …
San Rafael is located only in 2 hours by bus from Mendoza capital. There is some nice things to see there, especially the Atuel Canyon. This tour takes you deep inside at the bottom of the canyon with its wonderful decors and also, if your guide is good, an explanation of the dam system ! I had a lovely time with this tour.
In San Rafael, you can go to Los Reyunos dam where water activites are offered.
Finally, in Malargüe, it was my crush of this region !! Totally unknown, even less than San Rafael, and yet this were where I saw such incredible landscapes ! And I would never think of going there if I didn’t meet a local girl who told me about this town and all those things to see.
Cavernas de la Brujas
It literally stand for the « Witches’ cave », kind of creepy though. This tour was crazy. Buuuuut, I am telling you right away, it you are a claustrophobic or if you are scared of dark, do not go there !
It is always interesting to me to visit caves and all geological formations happened since thousand even million years ago with minerals and water only. And because it is completely unknown, in term of facilities, it is very limited. You have to be agile to sneak in, there is almost no stairs, no light, no rope… The only material you have is your lighting helmet and the guide’s flashlight.
Without spoiling too much… when your guide says « turn off all your lights » in the middle of the deep dark cave, I can tell you that you are not well at all ! But it was magical !
Payunia Natural Reserve
It is almost a secret I want to keep to myself. It was maybe the most unexpected of all my trip ! I learnt that there were volcanos in Argentina !! Yes, you read it right … Unbelievable, isn’t it ? These are different volcanos because they look like at first at some high hills, but in fact no. Things are happening inside. So I who am a fan of volcanos, I was thrilled ! Besides, you can check my tips of Acatenango volcano climb in Guatemala in this article.
The reserve is totally inaccessible for tourists alone. You have to get by an agency. The main reason is to preserve as much as possible this area still authentic. You will see, some rules have been set up such as not stepping outside the path defined by the stones’ line for example.
I was so fascinating by this completely surreal place. We forget we are in Argentina, in fact, we just don’t know where we really are.
Little story : there is no signal there. If something bad happened, the only way of communication is through satellite telephone. During our tour, our car overheated and it stopped us 30 minutes in the desert. Yes because it is hot out there !!! And this when we think about if we have a real issue, we would be in such a mess ! But fortunately, the car went back !
I didn’t make this tour because of lack of availabilities or days. But I would say it deserves a shot. I think that if you liked Antelope Canyon in the US, where you can read my adventure here, I might say it would be the same idea of a volcano made of water flow.
Here are some recommendations if you want to go to Malargüe :
– it is not very touristy so there are no tours schedule everyday even sometimes once per week, depending on the season. In my case, this is why I couldn’t go to Malacara volcano. If you are a private groupe (about 4 persons min), there might be a chance you can try for a private tour. Anyway, go see several agencies.
– the choice of accommodations are limited
– it is a very local town, so the rhythm is different, between 1:30 pm to 5 pm everything is closed
– if you really want to go there, plan at least several days. I stayed 4 days and it wasn’t enough to do all the things I wished doing.
In short, I was very lucky to be able to see all those authentic untouched sceneries. And above all, these places need to be preserved !! It might seem silly but please follow the rules ! Like when someone is coming to your home and doesn’t care of your rules, how does it feel ?
I highly recommend this region of Mendoza because of those hidden places !! And all those gems, thanks to this Argentinian girl I met in Puerto Madryn. Also talk to people, open up to them !! I really met great people during my trip.
And you, do you have some secret hidden gems to share ?
The next step of my journey is also one of my favorite : Easter Island