Located on the footsteps of the Andes, in an arid region known as the Cuyo, Mendoza is at the heart of the fourth largest metropolitan area in Argentina, with slightly more than one million inhabitants. This region is known for making some of the best wines in the country, being renowned as one of the world capitals for enotourism, and also for its excellent olive oils.
Central Mendoza is compact enough to be easily explored on a leisurely walk. The main draw here is to just contemplate its well-planned streets decorated with trees planted along the sidewalks that provide an important shadow during the scorching summer months. These trees are irrigated by an intricate array of canals than bring water directly from the nearing mountains thaw. Mendoza’s core is limited by four squares: Italia, Chile, España and San Martín. These four squares are located around Plaza Independencia, where the Province Legislature, the Municipal and Independencia theaters and the Modern Art Museum can be found.
Heading west of Plaza Independencia for less than a mile you will find the San Martín Park. This is probably one of the best urban parks in the country. Its perimeter comprises a large area with inviting trails for biking or just walking. It also features two stadiums, two tennis clubs, a golf course, an equestrian club, a lake and a zoo, besides other attractions. The Gloria Hill, located behind the zoo, features the impressive Monument to the Andes Army and allows for excellent panoramic views over the city and to the mountain range. This park also hosts important events related to the main festival of the region, the Fiesta de la Vendimia, which takes place annually between late February and early March to celebrate the grapes harvest season.
Several wineries around the city are happy to welcome visitors. They are usually located in the valley south of Mendoza, in the neighboring towns of Godoy Cruz, Luján de Cuyo and Maipu. The best season for these visits starts in March and continues until May, during the harvest. Several local companies organize tours that allow for two or three wineries to be visited on the same day. Nevertheless, it is perfectly possible to organize your own itinerary and visit them by yourself on a rental car or even using public transportation. It is highly advisable, though, to book sampling tours a few days ahead of your visit, particularly during the high season.
Another very popular side trip among Mendoza visitors is the so called High Mountain tour. Travelers in this itinerary fundamentally head west all the way from Mendoza to the Chilean border along Route 7. This is a very beautiful ride on every season, although people willing to take it during the winter months (May to September) should be aware of the risk of finding the road partly or completely blocked by snow; and it will be cold, since this road reaches a maximum altitude of 3,200m (10,500ft). The key highlights along the route are the Potrerillos dam, the small resort of Los Penitentes, the stone arch at Puente del Inca and the Mount Aconcagua viewpoint. It might be a good idea to plan your itinerary on such a way that either the way from or back to Mendoza passes through the Villavicencio springs, a more pleasant (although lengthier) route between Mendoza and Uspallata than the main Ruta 7. Extensions to this trip might include a visit to the excellent ski resort of Portillo, right across the border with Chile, and the trail to the Aconcagua base camp, which demands at least 3 days, but offers great views to the roof of the Americas.
Mendoza is crossed by Ruta 7, the main highway connecting Buenos Aires to Chile. The city is located 1,050km (650mi) away from the national capital and about 200km (125mi) from the Chilean border. The Chilean capital, Santiago, is located 360km (200mi) away. Alternatively, the city of Córdoba, in central Argentina, is 650km (400mi) away from Mendoza. These cities, besides a few other destinations in Argentina, Santiago and, seasonally, Sao Paulo, are served by the airport, which is just 10km (6mi), or 20 minutes by car, away from downtown. The bus terminal is about 1.5km (1mi) away from the central square and offers good domestic connections, besides services to Brazil and Chile.