​Mendoza, Argentina: Wine, bikes and horses

IMG_0144Mendoza is a small city, North-West of Argentina and is famous for its vineyards and wine. Quite a few travellers stop here, mainly to do the wine and bike tour in the winery area. It seems like a great reason to spend a couple of days here. I was in Argentina in the low season, their winter, June to August, which meant there were not many backpackers around and it was quite cold.

IMG_0038After leaving Colombia and doing a long haul journey of 26 hours, going from Medellin to Bogotá, Colombia to Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile, I finally arrived in Mendoza. Don’t ask it was the cheapest flight I could find to Argentina leaving the day my Colombian visa expired. One annoying thing was that I had to collect my bag every time, go through immigration, get stamped into the country (which was a worry for me as I really don’t have enough pages in my passport), just to check in and go back through immigration.

Once I collect my luggage at the airport, I caught a cab to my hostel, where I arrived evening time. In my hostel, it was dead and I was taken to an empty dorm. I needed to exchange money as I only had US dollars. This was harder than I thought as it was Saturday night so no exchange places were open and the following day was Sunday so again nowhere would be open. The receptionist did tell me that about two blocks away, there were people on the street saying ‘cambio’, where I would be able to exchange money. It was definitely dodgy as I went in a back shop and the exchange rate was not good but at least I had some Argentinian pesos.

After, I just went back to my hostel and got ready for bed as I was feeling exhausted.

The following morning, I planned to get up early as I wanted to do the wine and bike tour. When asking the guy at reception the day before, he had told me a company to go to at 8.00. I rose early and ate the pastries they provide for breakfast along with a coffee.

IMG_0061At the agency, they explain that they didn’t do it and as it was Sunday, the wineries were likely to be closed but talk to the tourist information, which was closed. I went back to my hostel then back out again. I felt like a yo-yo and the girl at reception must have thought I was crazy as I left about 4 times in total.  The tourist information wasn’t helpful with them only speaking Spanish. I got the info I needed and they sent me to a different place, which had no one in the shop. I was getting fed up of just walking and not being given true information. In the end, I gave up on the idea and searched for other things to do.

My hostel had advertised a walking tour but when I went on their Facebook, there hadn’t been any activity for over a year so I searched to see if there was another. Success! There was a free walking tour around Mendoza, where I signed up then did some more researching about the vineyards.

When the time came, I walked to Pellegrini square, which was the meeting point of the walking tour. VIVIMZA does four different tours, two times a day, everyday. I did the New City tour, which was recommended as this area was open unlike the places on the other tours. There was about eight of us that joined the tour, with a lovely guide speaking English extremely well. He took us around the city, where he mainly described the art, explaining the history and showing us the different plazas. It was really interesting but the city was small so there wasn’t that much to see.

Whilst on the tour, I made friends with some of the girls so I went back to their hostel, Windmill Hostel which had way more traveller staying there and the owner was so much more helpful and friendly. I cooked a soup for lunch and chilled with them there for the rest of the afternoon, where we had the decided to do a horse-riding at sunset tour.

IMG_0791At around 4pm, we got picked up by a car to take us about half an hour to the middle of nowhere on a farm. As we arrived, there was another group of people on horses just about to head out. We were the second group to go out so we had time to chill; sitting around a bench, chatting to the owners, drinking red wine and mooching around, looking at the different animals. There were loads of pigs, chicken, horses and dog, just lounging. The sad part was that they were in small cages.

When the others trotted back to the farm, it was our turn. I hadn’t been on a horse for years so I was feeling a bit nervous. However, there were also others, who had never been on a horse. I climbed onto one of the larger horses (because of my height) then waited for the other travellers. We started our trek towards the mountains going at a steady pace, through low bushes with the sun slowly setting. It was beautiful. The further we went, the faster the guide wanted us to go, which I didn’t mind too much, but others refused and were nervous. The horse galloped over rocks and through small streams but also following behind the next horse. We must have rode about 10 km with the incredible view of the Chilean mountains.

With the wine kicking in, we reached back to the farm, where it was time for food. They were cooking a traditional Asado (BBQ). Not quite sure what meat but a range as I’m a veggie. I ate different vegetables, salads, breads and potatoes; there wasn’t any extra for me but the foods I did have tasted delicious alongside a free flow of red wine.

Late evening while we were still chatting, we basically got kicked out and taken to our hostels. Back at my hostel, I found that my room was still empty so I just changed and fell asleep.

DCIM123GOPROThe next day in Mendoza, I had planned to meet the girls from the other hostel to do a wine tour. It’s popular amongst traveller to rent a bicycle and ride to the different vineries. From my research from the day before, the agencies I spoke to told me it is not advised to go by bike as it can be dangerous. Wine plus bike on the road, I can kind of see the danger. Anyway, the price was so much cheaper as one just has to buy a bus ticket to Maipu, go to Maipu bikes to rent a bike (100 pesos for the rental bike and helmet) then do a self guided tour of the wineries.

Once I had checked out and ready to go, I walked to the other hostel where I met the others. What to wear was a difficult situation as it was freezing cold but the sun was out and I would be riding a bike. In the end, I covered up and took my hoody just in case.

When we left to catch the bus, there was about 8 of us from around the world going to the wineries. It was super easy to get there, just top up a bus card, take bus number 10-171/172/173 from Rioja and Catamarca Street and it takes approximately 45 minutes. The bus driver tells you where the bike hire, Maipu bikes is. At the shop, we paid to hire a bike and the owner spoke English so explained the different wineries, where they were, the cost of them, the most popular ones and told us there is a happy hour between 5pm-6pm at the place next door, where there is free wine. Unfortunately I knew I wasn’t able to go as I needed to catch an overnight bus. I did consider staying but I felt it was best to move on.

IMG_0793Once we had our bike, which were basic with no gears, we rode to our first winery about 6km away along a straight, flat road. I’m not normally fond of  cycling but actually it was quite enjoyable, riding on the bike lane at the side of the road with trees along the side, looking out to fields and the sun shining onto our backs.

At the first winery, we parked our bikes and wandered in. There was a self guided tour, explained the process of how to make wine and seeing the vineyards. As it was winter, It was pretty bare and not much going on. We made our way to the balcony, overlooking the picturesque landscape, where we were given a wine menu. Basically, you could either chose a glass of wine or get half a glass of three different wines from a choice of about 8 different wines, I decided to go for a rose, Malbec and Cabinet Sauvignon, which all had a distinctive and full favour, tasting delicious. It nice to know that they were made right there with the highest quality grape. We must have been sitting out in the sun for over an hour before deciding to move on to the next winery.

We collected our bikes and cycled about a km to the next place. We knew this winery had a lunch deal with a beautiful view. There wasn’t any kind of tour here so we went straight to order food, which included a pasta dish or a traditional Argentinean food with half a bottle of wine. I don’t know if this offer it on all the time but apparently this was the best place for food. The food was basic, where I had ricotta ravioli with a tomato sauce. I’m sure they make a ton of people.

IMG_0794As we were there a long time, it got to the time wheN I needed to leave to make sure I would catch my evening bus. It was about 3.30pm when I left the winery, said goodbye to the people I was with, nearly leaving my hoody, riding back to the bus hire place and catching a bus back to the centre of Mendoza. As I didn’t have a bus card, I paid a local to use there card, which was simple enough. Arriving back to the centre, I kind of got lost; I was following my maps on map.me and I was trying to go as close as I could to my hostel but there were a lot of one way roads and suddenly it turned in the opposite direction. I was just waiting to see if it suddenly turned back but it didn’t so I just got off the bus and walked.

I picked up my bag from the hostel and walked about 15 minutes to the bus station. I could buy a ticket easily and jumped on the next bus going to Buenos Aires.  I paid for a semi-cama bus including individual USB ports and an evening meal of rice, chicken, vegetables, bread, jelly, cheese and biscuits and a drink then a snack in the morning. On the bus, as well as the driver, there was a guy serving food and answering any questions, which made the journey more personal. It was a comfortable ride, where I slept for majority of the journey with the bus being quite empty. It took around 12 hours from Mendoza to Buenos Aires by bus, where it terminated at the bus station in the centre.

IMG_0075 (1)Unfortunately, due to technical faults I could only take photos on my old phone of poor quality on this day.

Mendoza was a lovely city, which felt like a Latin American country with different things to do. A couple day is plentiful but I would advice not to stay on a Sunday if you only have a couple days in Mendoza as there’s nothing to do, and I would have liked to stay to do more wineries. There’s always a next time.

How I got to Mendoza:

This was very long and I had to get four flights, which I expect not many people doing as I was coming from Medellin in Colombia. It took in totally about 25 hours with long layovers but this was the cheapest option. Normally most people either get a bus or a flight from a closer country or city.

Where I stayed:

Malbec Hostel Central – it was a really quiet hostel with a free breakfast in a central location. Unfortunately, the wifi wasn’t good and the staff weren’t helpful. I would recommend staying at Windmill Hostel as they were friendly and informative, and they had a cute hostel with a rooftop area.

2 Comments

  1. aj

    Hi Jessica, What a lovely blog and extraordinary adventures!
    Thanks for visiting and following my blog 😉

  2. kerbey

    You are fearless!

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