Our visit to Mendoza was one of three areas we toured while in Argentina. The entire 16-day Argentina excursion was organized by my long-time friends David and Bill (from Boulder, Colorado). Over the past thirty years they have organized small-group trips throughout the world, including my first trip with them to India and Bhutan in 2013 (for descriptions of these trips, see Blog Posts by Country on this Home Page).
Joining the three of us here are Jim, from Long Beach, California; and Rick, from Tacoma, Washington, both of whom have been on other excursions with David and Bill. In addition to Mendoza, our group will be touring Bariloche, the lake district in the northern part of Patagonia; and, the capital city of Buenos Aires. We will also take a one-day tour of the colonial city of Colonia, Uruguay, not far from the capital city of Montevideo (I will be reporting on each of those destinations in upcoming blog posts).
The Trip Begins . . .
I wasn’t looking forward to the 10-hour flight from Houston to Buenos Aires, especially sitting in a row well behind the more luxurious First Class and Business Class seats where you have not only extra leg room, but also enjoy your own entertainment center, and can actually lay down and sleep during the flight! I had travelled to Argentina several times before, working on a tourist-attraction study in the northwestern Province of San Juan, so I knew what to expect in the Economy section of the plane … cramped quarters, crying children, an unappealing dinner, and difficulty in finding a good resting position in the hopes of getting a few hours of intermittent sleep!
But with the long flight behind us, the following afternoon we checked into the Hotel Intersur Recoleta, a relatively small boutique hotel in the heart of Recoleta, one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, with some of the priciest real estate (more about Recoleta and other neighborhoods in Buenos Aires in upcoming Blog Posts).
Mendoza and the Region
Our first excursion outside of Buenos Aires was to Mendoza, a city of over 100,000 people, and a metropolitan population of over 1.6 million, making it the fourth largest in Argentina. Mendoza is the capital city of Mendoza Province. It is located in the northern-central part of the province, in a region of foothills and high plains, on the eastern side of the Andes.
The city is a frequent stopover for climbers on their way to Aconcagua (the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemispheres), and for adventure travelers interested in mountaineering, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, and other sports. In the winter, skiers come to the city for its easy access to the Andes. Check out Hiking in the Andes | Mendoza, Argentina in my upcoming blog post.
Two of the main industries of the Mendoza area are olive oil production and Argentine wine. The region around Greater Mendoza is the largest wine producing area in Latin America. As such, Mendoza is one of nine cities worldwide in the network of Great Capitals of Wine, and the city is an emerging enotourism (wine tourism) destination and base for exploring the region’s hundreds of wineries located along the Argentina Wine Route. There are over 1000 vineyards in the region, employing over 400,000 people, one-fourth of the metropolitan population!
Wine tasting, hiking, and learning about the culture of the area were our primary reasons for our trip to Mendoza . . . and we were not disappointed.