Mendoza is an incredible region in Argentina, a favorite destination in many exclusive South American holidays. There’s so much to explore in Mendoza! Most notably, Mendoza is known for wine – it’s the best place in the world for growing Malbec grapes, although other varietals are also grown.
It’s important to mention that Mendoza is a big area! You absolutely must rent a car. Even with a car, however, you can expect multiple long drives if you are hoping to hit the main sites.
Besides wine tourism, Mendoza is a popular hiking destination. Many visit Mendoza to hike the legendary Mount Aconcagua. Due to the beautiful landscapes of the Andes Mountains, Mendoza is a perfect destination for adventure sports like horseback riding, whitewater rafting, or kayaking.
Mendoza is home to friendly warm people, a thriving gastronomic scene, sunny desert temperatures, and budget-friendly prices. It’s a must-see in South America. The best place to stay in Mendoza is at a small boutique winery hotel. Waking up right among the vines and drinking homemade small production wine is all part of the experience.
3-Day Mendoza Itinerary
On the first of your three days in Mendoza, you’ll explore the wine region of Lujan de Cuyo. You’ll maximize your time and hit 4 wineries by the day’s end. On day 2, you’ll trek to Mount Aconcagua’s base camp. Finally, on the last of your 3-day Mendoza itinerary, you’ll enjoy some adventure sports and relax at the famous thermal springs spa.
- Day 1 – Tour Wineries in Lujan de Cuyo
- Day 2 – Hike Mount Aconcagua
- Day 3 – Kayaking & Thermal Springs
Day 1 in Mendoza – Tour Wineries in Lujan de Cuyo
There are three distinct wine regions in Mendoza – Melipal, Lujan de Cuyo & the Uco Valley. Melipal is known for being smaller, so guests frequently bike from winery to winery.
If you’re only visiting Mendoza for 3 days, you should really visit Lujan de Cuyo or the Uco Valley. That’s because the views aren’t so great in Melipal. On the other hand, Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley offer incredible panoramic views of the Andes Mountain range as well as vineyards.
The Uco Valley is much further away, and wineries within the Uco Valley are also somewhat far from one another. So, if you are limited on time, it’s best to focus your wine tours in Lujan de Cuyo.
When visiting wineries in Mendoza, it’s very important to book your wine activities in advance. You can do so ahead of time by email or texting on WhatsApp. Most wineries offer tours around 10AM, 12:00 PM and 3:00PM but times and days of the week vary. Also, most wineries close between 4:00- 6:00PM. Few wineries offer evening or dinner activities.
Katharina Bistro (8AM)
You can start your day with a hearty breakfast at Katharina Bistro. It’s open from 8 AM. You wouldn’t want to drink on an empty stomach, now! Katharina Bistro is at the Entre Cielos Luxury Wine Hotel, so it’s the perfect way to kick off your vacation.
Bodega Norton (10 AM)
Next, you’ll head over to Bodega Norton for the 10 AM wine tour and tasting. Bodega Norton is one of the most famous wineries in Lujan de Cuyo. That’s because it’s owned by the man behind Swarovski crystals. You’ll even find a Swarovski studded bottle!
Bodega Norton is also famous because of the age of their vines — some are over 80 years old. This winery focuses on high-end wines, especially Malbecs. Besides wine tours and tastings, this winery also offers a unique array of other wine experiences. Check them out if you have more time in Mendoza!
Ruca Malen (12:00 PM)
At noon, you’ll have an expertly created lunch at Ruca Malen Winery. In 2013, this place was awarded the special honor and recognized as “the best winery restaurant experience in the world.” This was at the Global Best of Wine Tourism Awards.
Ruca Malen offers an exceptional 6-course tasting menu with wine pairing. Your meal is crafted from fresh, in-season ingredients grown in Ruca Malen’s own garden. Ruca Malen was one of the pioneering restaurants in Argentina and the first to provide a unique gastronomic experience. From their property, you can enjoy stunning views of the Andes Mountains.
Nieto Senetiner (3:00 PM)
In the afternoon, enjoy a tour at Nieto Senetiner Winery. Contact the winery in advance to set up a horseback riding experience.
Nieto Senetiner is one of Mendoza’s historic wineries with roots since the late 19th Century. It’s still a family-owned winery with exceptional standards. The property is stunning. During the tour, you’ll get to explore history winemaking methods and see how they compare to modern advanced technologies.
Cavas Wine Lodge for dinner
Had enough wine yet? Well, there’s more!
End your first day in Mendoza at Cavas Wine Lodge where you’ll enjoy the stunning property and delicious food. At Cavas Wine Lodge, you’ll step out of your vehicle and be greeted with a welcome glass of wine. The service here is stellar!
Cavas Wine Lodge is a luxury wine estate and resort. It’s utterly romantic. During dinner, you’ll listen to live piano music and watch the sunset over the Andes mountains. It’s one of the must-see places in Mendoza in 3 days!
Day 2 in Mendoza – Hike Mount Aconcagua
In preparation for your trek at Mount Aconcagua you’ll want to make sure you bring enough food. You can grab some pastries at Jebbs Bakery, or stop by one of the community supermarkets to stock up. On route to Mount Aconcagua, there aren’t places you can stop to get food. You’ll have to start your day quite early before many restaurants or shops even open.
Mount Aconcagua is 3.5 hours drive from Lujan de Cuyo through tiny winding mountain roads.
You can expect to spend at least 5-7 hours there if you hike to base camp.
Also, make sure to bring sunblock, a hat, comfortable walking shoes, plenty of water, cash and your passports.
You will need your passports to register for the hike! You’ll need to pay the park entrance fee in cash! Also, you must arrive at the mountain prior to 10 AM if you plan on doing the base camp trek. Arrive too late and you won’t be permitted to do the entire hike.
The drive to Mount Aconcagua is long but rewarding. When you arrive at Mount Aconcagua, you’ll be blown away by the beautiful views all around. The scenery is incredible. You don’t need to hike to base camp to appreciate the panoramic, colorful mountains. However, you’ve just driven for 3 hours, so you might as well!
Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas and the highest mountain outside of Asia. The base camp is called Confluencia. Getting there and back is approximately 10 miles, and it’s best to give yourself a full 6 hours. Overall, the trail is very well marked. You certainly don’t need a guide.
It’s not necessary to do the full base camp trek to enjoy Mount Aconcagua. There are plenty of smaller, shorter trails to enjoy in the park. When you first arrive, there’s a small hut where you can check in with your passports and pay the entrance fee. There are also bathrooms here (although, they are limited so try to bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper just in case).
Overall, it’s a long strenuous day that’s totally worth it. No trip to Mendoza is complete without a visit to Mount Aconcagua.
Clos De Charcra
Arrive back at your accommodation and rest after your hike. You’ll top off your evening with a winery tour and dinner at Clos De Charcra in Lujan de Cuyo.
Clos De Charcra is a boutique winery focusing on small production of high-quality wines. It’s also one of the oldest wineries in Mendoza.
Dinner is served on a stunning outdoor patio surrounded by willow trees and overlooking a giant koi pond. It’s tranquil and romantic. This is an excellent opportunity to sample empanadas. They are a fried pastry filled with minced beef and onions. This is one of Mendoza’s typical regional dishes. For dessert, you’ll have to have some Dulce de leche or flan.
Day 3 in Mendoza – Kayaking & Thermal Springs
On your last day in Mendoza, you’ll enjoy adventure and relaxation.
Potrerillos Explorer is the region’s best adventure company. They’re located 45 minutes outside of Lujan de Cuyo or about 1 hour away from Mendoza downtown. You can book activities such as whitewater rafting, horseback riding, kayaking, flyfishing, or zip-lining. There are also great combination tours to choose from.
The most exciting combo option is calm waters, intense waters.
During this activity, you’ll spend the morning battling Level 2 and 3 rapids along the Mendoza River. Whitewater rafting is one of the Mendoza bucket list activities that you won’t want to miss!
After rafting, you’ll enjoy a gentle kayaking on the nearby lake. Mountain views all around!
There is a restaurant at Potrerillos Explorer, so don’t worry about packing a lunch. Although, it’s still important to bring sun protection and a bunch of spare clothes to change into.
The thermal spa in Mendoza is the perfect place to unwind and rest your sore feet after a long day of activities. Guests will enjoy an array of stone pools of various temperatures.
There’s also a mud therapy station where you can cover yourself from head to toe in natural clay. This earthy residue has healing and rejuvenating properties. You can also enjoy aromatherapy and reflexology at the spa. The spa also provides accommodations, a restaurant and transfer services.
In the evening on your last day in Mendoza, you’ll explore Mendoza’s downtown. Mendoza’s downtown is approximately 30 minutes driving from the Lujan de Cuyo wine region.
Have dinner at Azafran Restaurant, and you won’t be disappointed! Try the rack of lamb or any beef dish. Make sure to get the wine pairing! The wine selection at Azafran Restaurant is incredible. They have premium regional wines, plus a hefty selection of South American favorites.
While you’re visiting Mendoza’s downtown, make sure to walk through Plaza Independencia and Plaza España. Downtown Mendoza is so lively and welcoming! You feel like you’re walking through the streets of Europe.
Mendoza downtown also feels much safer than many other big cities in South America. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the neighborhood-ey vibes. There were very few homeless people and peddlers. You’ll appreciate that you won’t have to watch your belongings like a hawk.
The parking situation downtown is a bit confusing. You have to find an attendant and pay them. Some streets don’t require payment however. It’s best to ask a local if you’re confused.
Author Bio: Valentina’s Destinations was born from my obsession with meticulously researching, organizing, and planning my travel itineraries. I’m originally from Serbia, but I grew up in Chicago. I love hunting down local restaurants, unique experiences, and hidden gems.
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