Travel

Argentina Itinerary Part 1 – Mendoza

December 8, 2015

The Shut-Up-and-Give-it-to-Me-Quick Version:

Beautiful scenery, great wine and wonderful hiking – I would DEFINITELY recommend Mendoza.
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The Itinerary
November 17th – Arrive 7:40 pm
                             – Take Remis (secure taxi) to Retiro Bus Station for overnight bus at 10:30 pm
November 18th – Arrive in Mendoza
                             – 2:30 pm Lagarde wine tasting + food pairing
                             – Explore Lujan de Cuyo
November 19th – Hike the Andes
                             – Dinner in Mendoza/ explore Mendoza
November 20th – Wine tasting at Vistalba
                              – Lunch and wine tasting at Alta Vista

                              – Bus back to Buenos Aires

The I-Like-to-be-Wrapped-Up-in-All-the-Details Version:

Earlier this year I decided I would celebrate my 25th birthday with a bang! After all, it is a quarter of a century and if I don’t celebrate who will?!? Since I wanted everyone to share in the festivities I decided it should be a family affair, plus Dennis (I mean let’s be honest if he didn’t tag along, did it even happen?). Let’s begin by saying that I’ve planned quite a few trips, but never with 8 people!!! Also, I guess I forgot the massive size of Argentina when I chose our destination. Simply picking how to divide our 2 weeks proved to be a challenge. I told myself I wouldn’t go to Argentina without seeing Iguazu falls, but as you will find out, we didn’t go there. Planning came down to staying enough time in one place to relax and not always being on the move. Plus, when you’re 2 people traveling you can rally and cover lots of ground quickly – we were 8 with ages ranging from 15 to 54 (I had to please the masses). I wanted to come up with an itinerary that covered everything I wanted to see (I mean I was the birthday girl) while making it fun and enjoyable for everyone. I was really happy with how everything turned out and I truly got a taste of each place we went to. I would highly recommend these cities to others – young or seasoned, athletic or not, in a group or solo.

The first part of our trip took us to Mendoza (known as the land of sun and Malbec). It’s obvious that choosing Mendoza wasn’t hard – who doesn’t want to drink their weight in wine and bask in the sun – hello… dreams come true! I do hope that my loyal followers realize this was a big step for me – being a sweet and white wine kind of girl I really threw caution to the wind and figured “When in Rome Mendoza”.

Why Mendoza?

We chose Mendoza because even though we could probably sit and drink wine until we died, we also knew we could make it a shorter trip and still get the essence of this beautiful city. My aunt, uncle, Dennis and I flew in a few days earlier than my mom, dad, brother and sister so we wanted to get away and see something different since we were waiting to see Buenos Aires (where we landed) with them. Planning this part of the trip was probably the most stressful because if we wanted to utilize our time we had to jump on a bus right after our flight and since we arrived late (7:40 pm) we didn’t have too many options.

Airplane or Bus?

We didn’t fly into Mendoza because we bought our tickets before we decided where we were going so we booked our flights in and out of Buenos Aires. I did check, however, and in order to fly to Mendoza the flight still stopped in BA and was MUCH more expensive than buying the ticket to Mendoza separately. We did look into tickets and while the price wasn’t that much more expensive than the bus fare, there were no flights leaving at night, which meant we would’ve had to get hotel rooms and then waste the flight time in the morning. Instead, we chose the last bus (10:30 pm – to ensure we made it because it takes about 45 minutes from EZE airport to the Retiro bus terminal).

Some Tips:

  1. Andesmar is definitely the best bus company and I would absolutely pay for the Cama Ejecutivo. The difference is meal service and your seats, in addition to being larger, will fully recline into makeshift beds. This made our return trip WAY better.
  2. Keep in mind this is a long bus ride. Transit time does vary from 12 to 14 hours. Therefore, it is worth taking it at night because you save yourself a hotel room and you don’t waste any precious daylight hours stuck on a bus.
  3. You can buy the tickets right off their website. Some people recommended Plataforma 10, but I found the site to be glitchy and because I was looking for such a specific time, I noticed the times and availability went up sooner on Andesmar’s website. Please be careful because even though you are on the Andesmar wesbite (or any other bus website) they cross sell, so make sure the first column labeled “Empresa” says Andesmar.

Our Stay

We decided to stay in Lujan de Cuyo on recommendation of a friend because while Mendoza is the major city, Lujan has more local wineries and we could get away from the main hustle and bustle.

For this trip I decided to go with Airbnb. I’ve only used it once before, but I had good luck with the places we stayed and thought it would be the best option for so many people because we could rent houses everywhere we visited. For Mendoza, we chose this listing. I would recommend the location and the house itself. There were a few minor things that we didn’t like about the house – dogs constantly barking was one, but the neighborhood was safe, the house was simple, but very clean and we could come in and out as we pleased. The house is ideal for 2 couples because although it has a third room, the bed is a twin. If you don’t mind that it’s not an issue. We didn’t spend much time in the house, but there was ample room to eat dinner, hang out and enjoy the shared pool (owners live next door). We didn’t really meet the wife, but the husband was cordial. We didn’t appreciate that he flaked on helping us exchange money, which made things pretty difficult for us (I’ll explain the money exchange in the next post). Besides that, the house served it’s purpose and it’s a great place if you want the owners to stay out of your way.

The Wineries

Lagarde was the first winery we visited. In fact, it was the first thing we did when we got in. Our bus was late, so we pretty much just dropped our bags off and taxi’d it to the winery. Tip: In Mendoza wineries offer tastings early (starting as early as 9 am) and they finish their tours pretty early as well. So since we got to our destination around 1 pm, it was a struggle finding a winery that would welcome us in. After emailing quite a few in the weeks leading up to our trip, Lagarde was the only one who was super accommodating. Even when we showed up late to our appointment, they were the nicest. From the kitchen staff to the tour guides everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We chose to dine there, opting for their 5 course tasting menu paired with wine. This was easily one of the best meals in Argentina. I will have to write a separate post about it so I can share pictures and more details. I would definitely recommend this winery and don’t skip out on the meal!

Vistalba was another winery we visited. The actual tour at this winery was probably the most in depth and my favorite. The location was beautiful – with a view of the Andes and while the staff wasn’t quite as nice, the tasting room was very cool. The background you see in the picture above is actually a look at the soil where the grapes grow. You can actually see roots from the trees directly above. This is something I’ve never seen before, making the experience feel very authentic.

The last winery we visited was Alta Vista which, by far, had the most charm. We chose to have a picnic lunch with our wine tasting. I would definitely recommend the picnic and I would highly suggest you allot enough time here because you will find yourself wanting to spend it enjoying the beautiful location. The staff here was very nice and the tour was also great!

A Day in the Andes

After reading their countless 5-star reviews and trust me there’s nothing but positive experiences, I decided we needed to set aside one day to explore and hike the Andes with Discover the Andes. They don’t just organize tours to the Andes, they will help you plan everything from wine tasting to horseback riding. What I love is that they only reserve private tours and they accommodate your needs. From the moment I emailed with them, they were courteous, responsive, and super attentive. Our driver, Daniel, (can be seen in the photo above) and our tour guide, Maria Jose, were incredible. They were funny, talkative and really friendly. I honestly felt like I was talking to an old friend. From start to finish, they were professional and gave me one of my best memories of this vacation. They even took us to a brewery to finish off our day (more details on that in the next post). I have nothing but great things to say and I know they will make your day/trip memorable.

We more than enjoyed our time in Mendoza, if you have any questions please leave a comment or email me. I will have more details in subsequent posts.

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