Discovering Mendoza: Off the Beaten Path Adventure Activities
Mendoza Location & Environs
Mendoza in the west of Argentina has a metropolitan population of in excess of one million people. It is nestled in a beautiful setting neath the foothills of the Sierra de los Paramillos Mountains at 2,497 feet above sea level (761 m). The region also holds the high mountain pass over the Andes Mountains to Santiago de Chile, just 266 miles (363 km) away. Mendoza is readily accessible on a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires or one hour from Santiago. We also recommend you take the spectacular bus journey of 7- 8 hours from Santiago to Mendoza. It is one of the most scenic routes in the world crossing over the high Andes with captivating vistas at every turn.
The local climate on the leeward side of the high Andes is dry but irrigation has permitted local cultivation of vineyards and fruit growing. Wine production dates back to Catholic priests in the 16th Century and latterly avantgarde immigrants that arrived from the 19th Century onward. There exists two main appellations at Maipú and Luján, today producing two thirds of all Argentinian wines. The prime reasons for visiting Mendoza are twofold, firstly wine and secondly adventure. Here we must note that the region holds the highest peak in all the Americas, that of Aconcagua at a stately 22,834 feet (6,961m). In truth, Mendoza offers a rare equivalence of adrenaline rushing activities and food and drink adventures to satisfy the most demanding epicurean tastes.
Mendoza Adventure Activities
The mountains and valleys of the region are home to a host of adventure activities such as hiking, biking, rafting, hot air ballooning, horseback trekking and so much more. Often visitors just come for a couple of days, but in reality, a good time is four days to a week to explore in meaningful depth. A well-planned itinerary will allow a balance of action-packed days and easy days. We always suggest the first day or two to be spent enjoying some of the wines of the region, perhaps a cookery class with one of the local vineyards. Then venture out and do some day hikes, rafting etc. or even a multi-day trek or horse-trekking. Always be mindful to include free time or half day tours.
Best Time to Visit Mendoza
The best time to visit Mendoza is from October through April, one could also include the shoulder month of March to include some Autumnal (Fall) colours to the landscape. In Mendoza year-round the climate is typically dry. The summers (end of December to the end March) are warm and mostly clear and the winters (end of June to the end of September) are cool and partially cloudy. Temperatures range from 35°F (2° C) to 90° (2° C).
Wine tours are great from mid-February through May and the Vendemia Wine Harvest Festival is usually at the beginning of March. Check the dates with your adviser as they vary year on year. The bus journey from Mendoza to Santiago is a very scenic one over the Andes Mountains but should be avoided in the winter months of May through August. It should be noted that while different activities vary on availability Mendoza itself is broadly open year-round to visitors.
Aconcagua Mountain Trekking Experience
The peak of Aconcagua is the highest in the Western Hemisphere at 22,834 feet (6,961m). This trek brings you to the base camp of Confluencia at 10,827 feet (3,300 m). This appears high in altitude, but it should be noted that the trek only involves an ascent of about 1,640 feet (500 m). This makes it well within the capability of any reasonably fit individual. Beginning at Parque Provincial Aconcagua the hike takes around three hours to reach the climax at the base camp. En-route you will encounter, alpine views, gorges and deep valleys including the immense South Wall of Aconcagua itself. At the campsite there is a wonderful panoramic vista making all the exertion pale to a distant memory. A sample itinerary which includes the Aconcagua trek and many wineries can be viewed here.
Key Points Aconcagua Mountain Trekking Adventure Mendoza:
- Full day eleven hours. Starts 08.00 hrs.
- Actual hiking time six hours approximately
- Suitable for all people in reasonable fitness
- Always come prepared for changes in weather with warm clothing, good hiking boots etc.
4 Days / 3 Nights – Horseback Riding or Trekking to Memorial Plane Experience
On Friday, October 13th in 1972, a plane from the Uruguayan airforce left with Montevideo with forty-five people bound for Chile. Many were members of the Old Christians rugby team. Unfortunately, it crashed in the middle of the Andes mountain range. Twelve passengers died in the accident, while the rest fought the hunger and cold. After ten days in the mountains they discovered, through an old radio, that the government was no longer looking for them. They encountered a local muleteer Sergio Catalán, who ventured back and returned with a rescue group. It became the subject of a subsequent film “Alive” and a book called “Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors”. Nowadays, this site is visited by innumerable walkers who still admire the courage of this people to survive, while enjoying spectacular landscapes. You get to explore a remote site where a group of friends turned tragedy into survival. The remote routing involves tent camping accommodations and is via El Sosenado, Barroso, Valley of Tears (Plane site), El Puesto Araya and finally a return to Mendoza.
Key Points 4D/3N Horseback Riding/ Trekking Mendoza:
- Includes tents, sleeping bags, mules, horses and emergency satellite communications
- Max 15 kg of personal equipment
- Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult
- Also available as a 4D/3N trekking adventure (Contact your expert Latin America Travel adviser)
Rafting in Potrerillos & Ruca Malen Winery
An exhilarating rafting trip in the Mendoza River surrounded by the backdrop of The Andes Mountain. We combine the river adventure with a winery visit including wine tasting and lunch. In the morning, you will transfer to the town of Potrerillos, 31 miles (50 kms) from the city of Mendoza. Get attired into a neoprene suit, life vest and helmet and receive safety instruction. Then onto the river for a one- hour guided rafting adventure of 8 miles (13km) on the rapids. The ever-changing rapids provide constant action throughout the exhilarating descent. High summer brings sediment flows, large holes and haystacks to navigate. Low winter flows run clear with a natural slalom course of exposed rocks. Safety kayakers will join the group for additional support.
Note: The rapids on the Mendoza River are intermediate level of Class 3, rising to Class 3/4 in the summer months.
After your activity, we will have time to enjoy a wonderful visit and gourmet lunch at Ruca Malen Winery, on your way back to Mendoza city. From the foothills of the Andes Mountains, the focus of Ruca Malen is producing wines that speak of the land and their commitment to the environment. There, we will taste their entire wine list, including their famous and iconic Kinien malbec. The dining room is located inside a glazed room in the vineyards with a view of the Andes. The menu is amazing, and the courses are universally excellent, with clever taste combinations, great presentation and appropriate wine pairing. This complete day is a great balance of fun, adventure and soaking up the paradise of wonderful surrounding vineyards.
Key Points Adventure Rafting & Wine Mendoza:
- Rafting is 5 miles (8 km) on the river and typically lasts an hour
- Rafting level: Typically grade 3-4 (Moderate -Difficult during October and November)
- Lunch at Ruca Malen Winery includes allotted wine/ soft drinks
- Full day tour experience 8 hours
Trans-Andean Trekking – Old Railway (Mendoza | Chile)
This is certainly a route off the beaten track. It follows the pathway of the now defunct Trans Andino railroad and originally it ran all the way to Santa Rosa de los Andes in Chile. The train ran from 1910 to 1984 and was a regional lifeline between the neighboring countries. It was the vital link that connected the regions all the way from the Pacific Ocean at Valparaiso to the Atlantic at Buenos Aires.
The route meanders along the Mendoza River banks in wild open countryside near Potrerillos up to the high Uspallata Pass near the border with Chile. Here the route is in a valley bisecting the imposing Andean peaks of Ausangate and Tupungato. The route along the defunct line will see many bridges, derelict train stations and tunnels. This is as much a cultural trek as just a trek into the countryside. Your guide will help to bring the route to life and explain the significance of the communities and trade along the route.
Key Points Trans Andean Trekking Adventure Mendoza:
- Altitude 5,250 feet (1,600 m)
- Duration 6 hours of hiking and a day of about 10 hours in total
- Moderate difficulty, anyone in good health
- Boxed lunch included
Bike & Wine in Luján de Cuyo with Gourmet Lunch
This cycle excursion is a great mix of biking, culture and wine. We travel along quiet rural roads in a stunning landscape, a blend of poplar trees, olive and grape farms, and the impressive backdrop of the Andes range. Mendoza’s outstanding scenic diversity is matched perfectly by the variety and intricacies of dining experiences available to the traveller. In Mendoza we first call at Finca La Anita in the appellation of Luján de Cuyo. Founded back in 1992, it set out to revolutionize the industry, moving away from the bulk wine market to opt for a less is more strategy of high quality production. At the end of this visit, the most awaited moment arrives, the wine tasting!
Now it is time to take our bikes! On the way to the next winery, we will make some stops to enjoy the landscape. A great adventure bike tour deserves good food and we find that at Bodega Melipal. Martin Tosolini is the chief winemaker and we sample and enjoy a delicious pairing gourmet lunch. Later that afternoon we head back to your hotel after a thoroughly enjoyable amble in the airs of Mendoza.
Key Points Biking & Wine Adventure Mendoza:
- Duration 8 hours, mix of vehicle and biking, about 2- 3 miles (3-5 kms) between wineries
- Snacks and water included
- Lunch included at Melipal Winery with 3 courses
- Suspension mountain bikes with safety equipment, helmets etc.
- Local assistance throughout the day
Biking San Rafael & Cañon del Atuel
We depart Mendoza and head to the south of the province, a region known for its sharp contrast in natural landscapes. Fifteen miles (25 km) from San Rafael, you will arrive at the small town of Villa 25 de Mayo. This is beautiful museum town with historic boulevards where in 1805 the fort of San Rafael was founded. We continue to the Nihuil Dam. A favorite of nature lovers, where you can practice fishing, hiking, water sports, and relax. Today we start biking here and enjoy a splendid ride of 28 miles (45 kms), some 3 – 3 ½ hours, to Valle Grande Dam. En route you will cycle a beautiful landscape discovering wonderful sculptures in natural walls forming the canyon, such as hanging gardens, The Chair of Rivadavia and The Wax Museum. The constant sound provided by the Atuel River surrounds you way up to the Valle Grande Dam, a sight of unmatched beauty, where you will have time to relax and enjoy lunch. We then travel by vehicle to San Rafael to explore the city on foot and subsequently return to Mendoza.
Key Points Adventure Biking & Cañon del Atuel Mendoza:
- Full day tour of approximately 10 hours
- Cycling option of 3 – 3 ½ hours
- All bikes, helmets and safety equipment provided
- This is the perfect day out for bikers that enjoy the very best scenic touring
Hot Air Ballooning Mendoza
The balloon flight is perfect voyage in harmony with nature with spectacular all-encompassing aerial vistas. Seeing animals in their natural habitat and the rolling undulations of the countryside, all in silence. We travel to Junin some 28 miles (50 km) from Mendoza. On arrival your very own pilot will give you safety and operational talk in all aspects of the flight and eventualities. The balloons are then inflated which takes about fifteen minutes. Up up and away! Once sailing across the sky you will notice the calmness and serenity as the countryside glides by. It has been akin to watching a beautiful nature film in slow motion. Be sure to have your camera ready throughout the trip for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Nearing the time for landing the pilot will seek the best spot and instruct everyone in the process to land nearby to our original starting point. Upon landing you will enjoy a toast to your new success and receive your ballooning flight certificate!
Key Points Adventure Hot Air Balloon Mendoza
- Safety is paramount. All pilots fully trained
- Clients to have their own insurance cover for this adventure activity
- Balloon flight time approximately 45 minutes
- Three balloons available. Maximum capacity in total sixteen people
- Inclement weather conditions can alter plans but are rare. In this event the trip is rescheduled to another date
- Typically, flights are performed around sunrise and sunset with the inherent more favourable air currents
Top Tips for Visiting Mendoza
- Stay a minimum of four days
- Bus from Mendoza to Santiago -sit on the right side of the bus get the best vistas of Aconcagua Mountain
- For wine lovers the Vendimia grape harvest festival is held at the end of February and beginning of March each year (dates vary). They crown the harvest queen of Reina Nacional de la Vendimia. Great food and wine experiences abound and please book long in advance, as it gets busy
- Summer (December to February) book a hotel with a pool, it can get hot
- To truly learn of the destination in depth speak to an expert adviser, click here.
Important Note on Risk in Adventure Travel
Safety is the primary concern in any travel activity. However, all adventure activities by their inherent nature involve elements of risk, both known and unknown. Each traveller will be expected to sign a recreational release of liability indemnity agreement before undertaking any such activities. Travellers must include their own insurance policies to cover the risks involved in undertaking any adventure activities.
Contact Us Today and speak with an expert Mendoza travel adviser to begin your amazing adventure.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
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