Mendoza is all about wine, specifically the tasty red Malbec that the surrounding valleys are known for producing. With more than 1,200 bodegas (wine cellars) in the area, you’ll have your pick of vineyards and wineries to visit. You can book tours to explore them, rent a bike, or stay in one of the family-run fincas (estates) to immerse yourself in wine country.
The actual city of Mendoza is teeming with gastronomic outlets and tree-lined streets which lend themselves to having a glass of wine (or several) outdoors. And the surrounding countryside offers up tons of adventure sports and natural beauty for those looking to explore a little beyond the grapes. From rafting and horseback riding to fly-fishing and trekking, you’ve got the Andes right on your doorstep while visiting Mendoza.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Mendoza:
1. Take a Bike Tour of the Wineries
This is one of the most popular activities for tourists in Mendoza.
You could arrange to visit a few wineries and vineyards by bus, but biking between them is a much better way to see the countryside.
Arrange for a tour that includes lunch, or do it yourself by simply hopping on a bicycle, grabbing a map, and asking for a bit of advice about the best places to stop.
Take the public bus to Maipú and from there you can rent a bike to cycle to the many nearby bodegas and vineyards for tastings.
Mr. Hugo’s Bikes is a favorite, and they’ll even help you plan your route for the day.
Your bike will have a basket too, in case you pick up any souvenirs (ie, bottles of wine) along the way.
Suggested tour: Bike Tour Mendoza and Wineries with Lunch
2. Stay at a Vineyard
If you can’t get enough of the incredible vineyard scenery (how could you?), plan to stay outside the city in one of the many wineries that offer guests a room for the night.
You can spend the evening in family-run farms or larger vineyards that provide all of your meals and a few tastings of wine.
You’re likely to have views of the snow-capped Andes and a room set amidst the vines.
Options range from a more intimate four-bedroom micro-bodega like Posada Finca Garciarena to the larger Cavas Wine Lodge with its private villas and spa.
Club Tapiz is also a historic estancia where you can stay and lounge by the pool with a bottle of wine.
Transport from the Mendoza airport to these more remote accommodations can usually be arranged.
3. Horseback Riding in the Andes
See more of the mountains outside of Mendoza on horseback.
You can take a casual ride through the vineyards or you can explore the base of the Andes and even farther.
Tours range from half a day to full 10-day crossings of the Andes.
Your guide will tell you more about the history and the terrain of the area, and you’ll often get snacks like mate (the local, hot herbal drink of choice) and biscuits during one of your breaks.
Venture into the Uco Valley and the Quebrada del Condor (Condor’s Gorge) to see massive birds in flight as well as other wildlife and spectacular landscapes from mountain viewpoints.
Sunset rides are also available.
4. Paragliding From Cerro Arco
A popular sport in the Andes, if you want a little adrenaline rush you can go paragliding just outside of Mendoza.
Experienced guides will pick you up at your accommodation and take you to the summit of Cerro Arco in a 4×4 vehicle.
They’ll explain to you everything you need to know before you’re strapped to your instructor and told to run off the edge of a 1,700-meter-high hill for takeoff.
Flights are both thrilling and calming, and you’ll soar with your parachute over mountainous deserts and vineyards below.
It’s a great way to experience breathtaking views of Mendoza while filling your vacation’s adventure-seeking quota.
5. Plaza Independencia
This is the largest green space and plaza in the city center of Mendoza, so spend some time relaxing and people-watching in this popular socializing area.
Watch the fountain’s dancing waters show, buy some sweet caramelized peanuts from the vendors, and check out the street performers and musicians.
Occasionally you’ll find artisans selling their handicrafts on the sidewalks here.
It’s also home to the theater and modern art museum if you care to have a look.
There are four other secondary plazas all within two blocks of Plaza Independencia which you should explore as well.
6. Wander the Peatonal Sarmiento
Just next to the Plaza Independencia, you’ll find the lively pedestrian street Sarmiento.
It’s filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants – many of them with outdoor seating.
You’ll also be able to find banks, pharmacies, and salons here if you need them.
The street is lined with trees and flowers plus the occasional street performer, so it’s nice for an alfresco coffee, beer, or glass of wine.
However, many of the restaurants here cater to tourists with their higher prices (and often lower quality), so you may want to venture down a side street before having an elaborate meal.
7. Hike Aconcagua in Parque Provincial
If you’re in good shape and the weather is cooperating, you can head into the Andes to hike part of South America’s tallest mountain, Aconcagua.
It’s the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere and reaches 6,962 meters (22,841 feet) above sea level.
Even on a day hike to the first base camp, Confluencia, you’ll have great views of it.
The scenery is spectacular and the route is about 16 kilometers (10 miles) round-trip to and from Confluencia.
If you don’t want to trek that far, you can do plenty of hiking and photo-taking in the surrounding Parque Provincial – there’s a one hour, round-trip hike to a great viewpoint.
This national park is about two and a half hours from Mendoza, and it covers 75,000 hectares of land and amazing mountains.
8. Museo del Área Fundacional
This small museum is excellent if you’re looking to understand the beginnings of the city.
Visitors can see the excavated ruins of the former cabildo (town council) of Mendoza which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1861. After that the town was relocated to the southwest (its current location), and the museum shows the progressions of Mendoza from settlement onwards through a series of murals.
Located just outside the city center towards the airport, it’s worth a gander to educate yourself on why and how the city was founded, especially if you’re into archeology.
9. Go White Water Rafting
Try some rafting on the Mendoza River! This wild river irrigates all of the region’s wine-growing valleys, but it can also provide you with an afternoon of adventure.
There are several companies that can take you out on the rapids – Potrerillos Explorer Rafting is highly rated – and they’ll lend you all the equipment you need, like wetsuits, shoes, helmets, and life jackets.
Your guide will give you a safety briefing before you hit the Class III rapids, and some of them will even take your photos during the trip down the river.
You can opt for kayaking too if that’s more your style.
Suggested tour: River Rafting in the Mendoza Rapids
10. Eat Steak at a Parrilla
It’s Argentina after all. And even though you’ve been focusing on Malbec while in Mendoza, be sure to try at least one steak.
You’ve got your pick of many casual parrillas (steakhouses) or full-on tasting menus at elegant restaurants in the city.
El Patio de Jesús María is a local favorite and traditional parilla where the portions are huge and steak is king.
La Lucia is also great for grilled meats and a funky atmosphere.
Cordillera Vinos y Fuegos offers steaks in addition to lots of other upscale dishes, along with a wine room, elegant atmosphere, and outdoor seating.
Or splurge at the famous chef Francis Mallman’s 1884 Restaurant.
11. Go Up the Cerro de Gloria
You could get a ride, but why not walk to the top of the “Hill of Glory” where you’ll find a monument commemorating General San Martín and the Army of the Andes? He’s the man on horseback and leader of the Argentine War of Independence that you’ll see all over the country.
When you make it to the top of the hill, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views of the city and the mountains beyond.
Along the way there are plenty of places to stop for photos, buy snacks from vendors, and purchase souvenirs.
Alternatively, you can take the orange tourist bus labeled “El Oro Negro” that leaves from the corner of Sarmiento and Chile.
12. Drink Malbec in a Traditional Tavern
Of course you’ve been drinking Malbec this whole time, but be sure to sip on some red wine in a traditional old-time pulpería (tavern) while you’re in Mendoza.
El Palenque is a great place to do just that! It’s a super popular restaurant and bar with great food and appetizers, as well as solid pizzas and empanadas.
They even serve the wine in old-school white ceramic pitchers shaped like penguins (aptly called pinguinos). Order something local to sip on – they’ve got beer on tap too – and grab a table outside.
They have happy hour specials, and this place can fill up!
13. Reserva Natural Villavicencio
A lot of the bottled mineral water that you buy in Argentina originates at the natural springs here, and the nearby mountain scenery is just fabulous.
It’s also home to the now-defunct Gran Hotel de Villavicencio, a hotel and spa that used to be popular with Argentina’s elite before it was looted by the military junta and closed in 1978. You can’t go inside the hotel but it’s surrounded by walking trails, gardens, and parks that you can explore.
There’s no public transportation to this area just northwest of Mendoza, so you’ll have to rent a car or go with a tour (which are easy to find in the city). If you fancy spending the night, there’s camping at Hostería Villavicencio where you can also have a gourmet meal.
14. Experience Mendoza’s Nightlife at Calle Arístides Villanueva
When the weather’s nice, you can find crowds of people partying on the sidewalks of Calle Arístides, the nightlife district of Mendoza.
Local mendocinos gather outside with their concoctions of Fernet and Coke to begin the night (be sure to try one of these Argentine favorites while you’re here). You’ll also find quite a few tourists partying alongside locals because of the many hostels in the area.
Grab a cold Quilmes and join the crowds, but not until around midnight because things get started late in Argentina.
Most of the serious clubs (boliches) are outside the city in Chacras de Coria, but the bars that line Arístides like Bar Por Acá, El Abasto, and Lupulo are great fun.
15. Try the Olive Oil
You might’ve come for the wine, but Mendoza’s proud of its other big agricultural product too: olives and olive oil! Though it’s been overshadowed by all the wine tourism, there are lots of olive groves in the area too.
You can tour many of these olivícolas where you’ll learn how the olives are harvested, pressed, and bottled.
And they’ve got tastings of olive oil too! (These are the best places to find souvenirs to take back.)
Maipú is home to several olive producers that you can tour, like Maguay, Pasrai, and Simone.
And at the famous Familia Zuccardi, during harvest season you can pick your own olives and make them into a bottle of olive oil to take home with you!
16. Visit the Little Town of Chacras de Coria
This little village is a bit of an anomaly.
Formerly a sleepy small town in a valley on the outskirts of Mendoza, it’s developed into a chic center for gastronomy, shopping, and nightlife.
But it still manages to retain its quaint charm.
There’s a weekly market on Sunday that’s great for meandering, where you’ll find everything from antiques and jewelry to wood carvings and handmade toys.
The town is filled with clothing boutiques, high end food shops, gourmet restaurants, and cafes.
In the evening, lots of young people from the city head to the nightclubs around here – like Grita Silencio and La Guanaca – located just off the Panamerican Highway.
Chacras de Coria is also another great gateway for exploring more bodegas and vineyards.
17. Take a Cooking Class
This is a souvenir that lasts! Take a cooking class offered by one of the bodegas or fincas surrounding Mendoza.
You’ll learn how to best utilize the local ingredients and maybe add a few traditional Argentine cooking techniques to your repertoire.
Chefs at lots of bodega restaurants invite guests to cook a selection of dishes and then eat the finished products together in the beautiful surroundings of wine country.
(And the local wine is sure to be flowing throughout the class as well!) Learn to make things like bread, pizza, empanadas, and of course, grilled meats.
Familia Zuccardi, Norton, and Finca Adalgisa are just a few of the establishments outside Mendoza that offer cooking classes to small groups.
18. Museo Nacional del Vino
Add this stop to your DIY wine tour by bike to get a little background on the history of the wines you’re sipping.
Learn the story of how a Swiss and Italian immigrant came to the Maipú Valley in the late 1890s to start the first winery in the region.
The museum is housed in their elaborate mansion which was designed by an Italian architect and built out of materials shipped from Europe.
You can arrange for a tour to gain a little more insider information, or just wander about.
Guests can see some of the first tools, wine bottles, and labels used in the endeavor to begin the wine industry here.
19. Head Out to Lake Potrerillos
Like many of the locals on summer weekends, you too can take the public bus (or drive) out to this lake just west of Mendoza.
Great for a day trip or short getaway from the city, the area around this artificial lake has been developed to include a few hotels, resorts, and sports clubs.
There are facilities where you can book outdoor adventure activities like mountain biking, guided treks, horseback riding, and rafting.
It’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains and cypress forests, and the lake provides a great place for a picnic, a drink, or some kayaking around.
Check out the dam too while you’re there!
20. Museo de Bellas Artes – Casa De Fader
A great place to spend a sunny afternoon wandering among the statues in the gardens, this mansion and former high society hangout is now home to several amazing collections of artwork.
Located outside the city in Luján de Cuyo, the beautiful grounds were restored by an aristocratic couple who hired the famous Fernando Fader to paint frescoes around their summer home.
They donated the mansion to the government as a fine arts museum which opened in 1951, and it contains works of art by several Argentine and European artists.
21. The Cacheuta Thermal Baths
Located outside Mendoza along Ruta 82, experience a little something different at this spa, hotel, and waterpark situated among the mountains.
Depending on what you’re after, you can go for relaxation or a fun day with the kids.
On the hotel and spa side, there are saunas, mud baths, hot springs, and thermal pools of varying temperatures.
Guests can book a massage, have a fabulous buffet lunch, and walk around in plush bathrobes.
On the waterpark side, check out the lazy river and wave pool, or arrange to go ziplining.
They have a restaurant and brewery on-site for your eating and drinking needs.
22. Puente del Inca
Rent a car and head out into the Andes to see this natural bridge.
It’s a beautiful, gold-streaked span of rock that crosses the Vacas River at 2,720 meters (8,924 feet) above sea level.
Charles Darwin stopped here and sketched the curious arch that was supposedly used by the Incas to reach the healing hot springs nearby.
Geologists aren’t sure about its formation, but it’s believed that the interaction of extreme elements like ice and those hot springs had something to do with it.
This bridge is a great addition to your route if you’re making the trip to Mount Aconcagua.
23. La Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia
If you’re lucky enough to visit Mendoza in late February or early March you’ll get to experience the biggest event of the year – The Annual Grape Harvest Festival.
Attendance has grown since the festival first began in 1936, when it was decreed that the harvest should be a social event and celebration around the city.
It combines folklore, pageantry, musical and theatrical performances, and fireworks.
The ten-day festival begins with the blessing of the fruit and then El Carrusel parades through the city with the 18 beauty queens elected from different districts, one of which will be crowned the Vendimia (Harvest) Queen.
Hundreds of thousands flock to Mendoza to experience this celebration, cheer on their princesses, and of course, drink wine together.
24. Have a Wine-Inspired Treatment at the Spa
You can combine wine with your spa experiences in Mendoza – who knew? Grapes contain polyphenols that are believed to combat free radicals (those things responsible for aging) and improve your skin’s elasticity, softness, and tone.
These unique, wine-inspired spa treatments are available at some of the more upscale hotels in the city and countryside.
Therapies include luxurious things like a crushed Malbec scrub, grapeseed body exfoliation, red wine bath, and a Torrontes wine body wrap.
The Cavas Wine Lodge, the Kumelkan Spa at the Esplendor Hotel, and the Park Hyatt Mendoza Kaua Spa all offer wine-inspired treatments.
25. Go Fly-Fishing
Try your hand at fly-fishing in the foothills of the Andes.
It’s a great place to land some rainbow trout and take in the scenery of the mountains and streams outside the city.
Companies like Trout & Wine and Uncorking Argentina offer bilingual guides, fishing rods and flies, and transport to and from the river.
You’ll enjoy an asado (Argentine barbecue) of grilled meats and salad for lunch, accompanied by Malbec obviously.
The fishing here is great for everyone – from beginners to pros – because the streams in this high-altitude Uco Valley are filled with trout!