World-class wine. Cosmopolitan café culture. Fine olive oil. Colorful streets. Horse riding, rafting and skiing. If this sounds like paradise, then head to Mendoza.
Take a seat by a gurgling fountain in one of Mendoza’s leaf-shaded plazas and you’d barely guess you’re in a desert region in north-central Argentina, not far from the Chilean border. But Mendoza’s network of irrigation channels has allowed the city to flourish, along with the grapes and olives that also thrive in this region.
Mendoza is part of the network of nine Great Wine Capitals, of which only one other — the Casablanca Valley in Chile — is found in Latin America. The local wine industry began in the 1890s and soon drew new wineries to the region, attracting European migrants who have helped define Mendoza’s particular style and charm.
Wine tourism is a major draw, with agencies all over the city offering wine tours to vineyards and wineries. Most, if not all, offer wine tastings. You can even do a bike tour of the wineries, which may not be the best combination if you plan on sampling all that’s on offer. Either way, you’ll soon develop a taste for the local Malbec with its deep inky color, intense fruit flavors and robust tannins.
Beyond the wine, the city has also become a hub for ecotourism and adventure tourism. It’s surrounded by mountains, valleys and rivers, in which trekking, horse riding, rafting, paragliding and zip-lining are all popular activities.
Sixty miles west of Mendoza lies Aconcagua Provincial Park, home to Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. Plenty of hardened climbers come through Mendoza to tackle Aconcagua and other peaks.
In winter, it’s also possible to ski in the nearby Andes. The most popular ski spot in the province of Mendoza is the world-renowned Las Leñas. The skiing and snowboarding here cater to all tastes and levels of experience, from cross-country skiing to extreme skiers hitting adrenalin-pumping double-black diamond chutes.
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