Since we arrived in Santiago, visiting Mendoza’s wine country has been at the top of our bucket list. It’s a stone’s throw from Chile, with frequent flights and bus services to the wine region. We choose an overnight bus ride to and from Mendoza that allowed us to spend two full days in this charming city. Below is a snapshot of our trip.
santiago to mendoza by bus
Since this was a last-minute trip, finding bus tickets was surprisingly difficult. At first glance, it seemed cheaper to fly ($166 flight vs. $213 bus ticket), but luckily, my friend went directly to the Argentine bus websites (Andes Mar, Cata International) and found availability for about $60 RT.
MENDOZA WEEKEND ITINERARY
WHERE TO STAY
We chose the Reina Victoria Airbnb in the heart of downtown Mendoza, which was a perfect spot to use as a base for the city’s nighlife. While it wasn’t the swankiest spot to sleep in, it was clean, had fresh towels, and a bar of soap. It’s all we needed for one night.
DAY 1 IN MENDOZA
BREAKFAST WITH A VIEW
With practically no sleep on the overnight bus, we emerged bleary-ed into Mendoza. The sun was just beginning to emerge, casting a beautiful light on these leafy tree-lined streets.
My friend Luka found El Faro Bistro to be one of the only places open as early as 7am, so we trudged to the location, with low expectations but hopeful for coffee and comfortable seating
When we finally reached their rooftop restaurant, the views were incredible. It was 360 degrees of beautiful blue skies, sprawling Andes mountains and a clear view of the city.
BIKING IN MENDOZA
Whatever you do, make sure you take advantage of biking through Mendoza. We were interested in the vineyards of the popular Maipu Valley, so we hailed a taxi from our Airbnb to Senor Hugo’s BIke Rental. There are tons of bike rentals along the same road. A one day rental was $5, and included a map of the local wineries. The owners were sweet and charming, I highly recommend them if you need a budget bike rental.
#1: Bodega Domiciano
With bikes in tow, we visited our first winery a few blocks from Senor Hugo’s, called Bodega Domiciano. It’s a boutique winery that opened up in 2001, with a small-ish vineyard and tasting room. While the vines were great, the sommelier provided a ton of interesting facts about winemaking.
The most memorable fun fact was learning the differences in labels - younger wines have labels with bright, light colors. The older the wine, the more serious-looking the label, with darker colors and fonts.
Favorite Wine: Estelar 2016 Malbec (young, fruity Malbec)
#2: Bodega La Rural - Museo del Vino San Felipe
I’d describe this as a “wine museum”, with ancient wine making relics from the 15th century. The entrance fee pays towards a tasting or a bottle, but it’s fascinating to walk through their vintage wine making collection.
They had everything from old cash registers, to this old siren that signaled the end of the day for workers.
Favorite Wine: Rutini Chardonnay, 2016
LUNCH SPOT IN MAIPU, MENDOZA
Following the winery, we went to a highly recommended spot called Casa De Campo. Most of us had the 5-course tasting menu, which after a series of confusing attempts to what we ordered, was a delicious appetizer of braised chicken, 3 courses of different types of meat, and a couple of different types of dessert.
I got the ravioli, which is a decent vegetarian option.
A NAP & DINNER
All that day drinking (+ massive head cold + overnight bus) took it out of us, and we headed home for a quick (2 hour) nap.
Argentines like to stay up late though, so dinner usually begins around 9-10pm. When we set out at 8:30pm, the streets were brimming with families and little kids just starting out their night.
Plaza Independencia was having a Spain festival, complete with flamenco dancers, paella and sangria. We even picked up some souvenirs to take home with us - we learned there are street vendors there almost every weekend, so definitely take the time to check it out if you’re there.
For dinner, we headed to Maria Antonieta, an Italian / Argentine restaurant specializing in pastas and steaks. The service and food were exceptional, especially the two burrata appetizers we ordered. It’s located just off the popular Sarmiento street with tons of bars and restaurants.
DAY 2 IN MENDOZA
BREAKFAST AT BEIRUT
A few blocks from our Airbnb was Beirut, an adorable cafe with outdoor seating and delicious ‘medialunas.’ I highly recommend starting your day here before you set out on your Sunday adventure. We fueled up with coffee, jamon con queso (ham and cheese w/ croissant), and finally, a beer before hitting the road (they have 2 for 1 specials).
CERRO LA GLORIA AT PARQUE SAN MARTIN
One of Mendoza’s claim to fame is Cerro de la Gloria (Hill of Glory), a small mount located in the city’s Parque San Martin. The 15-minute climb to the top offers semi-decent views of the city and the Andes mountains (it’s mostly covered by the beautiful trees, though).
Be sure to take the time to marvel at the intricate detail of the monument honoring the Army of the Andes. On the bottom reads an inscription dedicated to General San Martin, “La Patria al Ejército de los Andes" ("The Fatherland to the Army of the Andes").
JAMON CRUDO SANDWICHES AT CERRO LA GLORIA
If you see a sign for Jamon crudo sandwiches at the foot of this monument, spend the $3 for the perfect lunch. The guy is a Mendoza native and whips up delicious, simple and healthy food. Pair it with a bottle of local wine and you’ve got yourself a great afternoon snack.
VENTURE OUT TO CACHEUTA
Due to a chance encounter with a kind waitress at Beirut, we got the opportunity to spend a few hours outside Mendoza at Cacheuta. She drove us to the outskirts of the city to a town best known for its thermal hot springs in the foothills of the Andes.
We only had time for a quick stop, so our destination was the Puente Colgante (Hanging Bridge), situated on top of a small river perfect for swimming on a hot day.
Mendoza has a lot more that we didn’t get a chance to see, so we’ll definitely be back again…but maybe no overnight buses this time.