Fortín de Picheuta - on Ruta 7
If you go on the tour from Mendoza to the Chile border, you will make a stop at the old fortress at Picheuta. The water of the river is crystal clear, and you get the first glimpse of the multicolored corillera in this part of the world. Picheuta river - view to the northwest
A Drive to the Top of the Andes
On the middle day of our 3 full days in Mendoza, we took our pre-booked tour drive up into the Andes Mountains, lasting from 7:10 AM until 8:40 PM. This tour was the most fun that we had during our entire 2-week stay in Argentina, and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area (we used the local Huentata Touristico tour agency).
The trip consisted of a great bunch of fellow travellers on a mid-sized bus that will take you up into the Andes toward Santiago, Chile via the majestic and twisting Mendoza and Cuevas River valleys. The mountain scenery was among the most dramatic that I have seen anywhere. We were able to take ski-lifts part way up the mountains at a resort during a rest stop (photo), saw the snow-capped tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas and stood on the mountain-top border with Chile at 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) elevation!
To top it all off, we also toured the amazing Inca Bridge (see next Tip) and enjoyed a great meal with our small group of travellers. This was really a day to remember! For the full details, see my 'Provincia de Mendoza' page.
Early on the morning of our first full day in Mendoza, our pre-booked tour (just the two of us and our guide) involved a short drive outside Mendoza to visit one of the many wineries in this part of Argentina. Bodega y Cavas de Weinert (Weinert Winery) was first built in 1890 but was then abandoned in 1940. However, in 1975 it was purchased and revitalized by Bernardo Weinert, who was born in a German colony in southern Brazil. He was able to introduce new grape varieties and techniques to produce very high quality wines, especially Malbec.
The type of soil in this region, combined with it's altitude and micro-climate in the 'rain shadow' of the Andes makes this one of the world's great wine-growing areas. The early Spanish settlers were not long in recognizing the possibilities and they introduced the first grape vines to take advantage of the situation. Today, the main varieties of wines produced here are Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Chenin and Rieslins for 'whites' and Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bonarda and Pinot for 'reds'. In 2003, Argentina, the world's 5th largest wine-maker, produced 1,400 million litres, which has translated to US$225 million in export earnings. The main customers are UK (28%), USA (22%), Canada (9%) and Brazil (8%).
We were taken through and beneath the building in the photo, which houses the Weinert offices and grape processing equipment.
Snowboarding in Las Lenas and Los Penitentes
Las Lenas is around 7 hours away by bus from Mendoza and Penitentes around 3. Las Lenas is a lot bigger with modern skilifts and a snowboard park with rails, ramps and jumps. It is quite a drive from Mendoza so you would have to stay there for at least a couple a days to take full advantage of the powder.
Penitentes is closer to Mendoza and a lot smaller, and can be done in one day.
Several agencies in Mendoza, especially in Avenida Las Heras specialize in organizing trips to both places and rent equipment.
Taking to the mountains
Forming a spectacular backdrop to Mendoza, the Andes are always in view here and sooner or later you're bound to feel them pull you away from the vines and the wine that were probably the reason you chose to come here. Serious hikers and climbers will of course know that Mendoza is the stepping off point to the Alta Montana, the highest stretch of the Andes here in Argentina, but I'm just a sightseer so I'll leave advice about the seriously active stuff to others such as Trekki who really knows the ins and outs (or should that be ups and downs?) of Mendoza's outdoor activities. You don't have to get out the hiking boots to experience these mountains though - a day spent driving the Ruta Alta Montana (RN-7) is a fantastic way to spend one of your days here. Whether you hire a car (as we did) or take a tour, the road up, and up, to Los Penitentes, and on to Puente del Inca, will be one of the highlights of your time in Argentina.
Fantastic scenery changing at every twist and turn in the road, extraordinary colours in the rock, ski resort villages, a wide and fertile valley, the Rio Mendoza, the first glimpse of Acongagua, strange tattered shrines, the skeleton of a railway line and, always the mountains. It's wonderful.