The city of Mendoza, capital of the province of the same name, is home to some 150,000 mendocinos, local inhabitants, with another 500,000 people living nearby. Many Argentines consider Mendoza to be the most pleasant city in the country, and it's easy to see why. It was founded in 1561 and named for the then-governor of Chile, Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza. It has the good fortune to be situated in one of the country's most beautiful regions, with vineyards and the Andes serving as backdrops.
Located just a few miles east of the foothills of the Andes, Mendoza is a traveler's dream. Gorgeous scenery, a temperate climate year-round, nearby wineries, a manageable downtown, outstanding cuisine, and a varied cultural calendar make it a favored stop. Easy access to the Parque Provincial Aconcagua, the border with Chile, and Las Lenas, a world-class ski resort are prime draws. Mendoza is served by air and bus; an urban light rail system will open in 2011. Apart from the fame of its wines, the area around Mendoza also produces olive oil and has several cattle estancias, or cattle ranches, outside the city. In recent years, high-grade mining has also added to the local economy. The compact size of the city and its many parks make it easy to walk about, and the several restaurants, museums and shops downtown make an in-city experience appealing to all.
Aconcagua Mountain and Park Overview
One of Argentina's Most Historic Cities
Mendoza's long and varied past makes it a destination for history buffs - both the Museo del Pasado Cuyano and the Museo del Area Fundacional are outstanding - and the city was recently selected by National Geographic as one of the world's top ten most historical destinations. From here, Jose de San Martin, revered as the liberator of both Argentina and Chile, set out on his epic journey across the Andes and defeated the Spanish in 1817. Decades later, the famous Trans-Andean Railway linked these two nations together in Mendoza, at about the same time the great wineries were being built. Leveled in the earthquake of 1861, the city rebuilt quickly using wide boulevards and low buildings to mitigate the damage of future earthquakes. It is now the major city in the region.
Foundation Area Museum Further Information - (External Link)
It is impossible to mention Mendoza without recognizing it as the epicenter of Argentine wines. At the same time, the cuisine of Mendoza should not be underestimated. As in all of the country, meat is a staple of the mendocino diet, and is available everywhere. You can't go wrong with beef here, and sampling a parillada (a mix of select cuts of different grilled meat) is mandatory. But there's much more: Mendoza has (somewhat paradoxically) some great vegetarian restaurants, along with fresh-water fish that rivals that found in Salta. Mendoza has strong Spanish culinary traditions; as a result, excellent Spanish restaurants serving both meat and seafood paella abound.
Article with Further Information - (External Link)
Sights In and Around Mendoza City
Ciudad Vieja (Old City)
The city of Mendoza itself has a fascinating past and an equally impressive present. Much of the former is on view in the historic center around the Plaza Independencia, including the Basilica de San Francisco (which houses the mausoleum of Argentina's liberator, General Jose de San Martin). There are several other small picturesque plazas throughout the city and an abundance of art and history museums. The pedestrian-friendly center also has excellent handicraft and gaucho, or Argentine cowboy, wares for sale.
Parque General San Martin
The Parque General San Martin, crowned by the imposing Cerro de la Gloria monument with murals and statue honoring Jose de San Martin and his army, is a large park with a zoo and amphitheater. Many of the annual Vendimia festival events are held here. It is also home to the province's largest university.
Further Information - (External Link)
Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia - National Grape Harvest Festival
The annual wine harvest festival is held on the first Saturday every March, but the festivities start well beforehand. The celebrations include folklore festivals, fireworks, raucous parades, religious ceremonies to bless the grapes, a provincial beauty pageant, sports events and much wine and merriment both before and after the main festivities.
Further Information - (External Link)
One of the most popular activities when in Mendoza is to take one or more of its many wine tours. All wine tours include the sampling of local wines, descriptions of the particulars of the vineyard and variety, and lunch or snack is often included. Many of these bodegas, or wineries, are located in the province's most beautiful surroundings, and generally very close to the provincial capital. You can visit multiple wineries in one day or explore other wines further by touring different bodegas on different days. Many wine tours can now be organized as multi-day trips that offer luxurious accommodations, fine dining, and high-end excursions as well.
There are now nearly 1,000 wineries in the Mendoza province, almost all of them within two hours of the city (and 300 of those are within the city's municipal limits). There are even vineyards on the grounds of the city's airport! The industry is still growing, and the sheer number of bodegas available to visit means that a little research ahead of time will reward the visitor with an ideal agenda. The first stop to deciding which ones to visit should be our Mendoza Wine Guide. The next should be a trip to a cafe, restaurant or hotel in town. Mendocinos know their wines like few others, and those with ties to the industry often can provide valuable information regarding which of the many stellar options should be on your agenda. The newly renovated Museo Nacional del Vino y la Vendimia (National Wine Museum) in nearby Maipu is a good stop, as is the Vines of Mendoza information center in Mendoza itself.
Argentine Wine Guide: Mendoza
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