Adventure sports in the snowcapped Andes, lazy days in the MaipĂş Valley, a growing gastronomic scene, artistically rich culture, and of course, fine wine, all make Mendoza possibly one of the top travel destinations in South America. Situated in the western Cuyo region, just 1,000 kilometers (621 mi) west of Buenos Aires and some 340 kilometers (211 mi) east Santiago de Chile, Mendoza is surrounded by picture-perfect mountains, lush green valleys, and miles of thick forest. The city was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire and earthquakes in 1861, so there arenâ€™t many historical sitesâ€”though the city's wide boulevards are great for strolling.
Mendoza is perhaps best known for its winesâ€“specifically, its regional vino, Malbecâ€“and visits to the wineries (or bodegas, as they are called in these parts) that craft them.While the more serious â€śenophilesâ€ť can dedicate a week or more to bodega hopping, lesser wine drinkers should at least try to set aside a day or two to get out among the vines. Not only are the wine and olive oil samplings palate pleasers, but the historic buildings and exquisite vineyards are photograph worthy as well.
Mendoza is also home to several universities, which attract a healthy artistic culture. Museums, such as the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno, located underneath the main Plaza Independencia, hosts monthly exhibits from the countryâ€™s top painters. Dance, music and live performances all serve important roles in Mendocino life as well. On weekends, parks, including Plaza Independencia, Plaza San Martin, Plaza EspaĂ±a, Plaza Pellegrini and Parque San Martin, host everything from musicians and artisanal markets to the occasional dance troupes. Cleaner and safer than most parks in North America or Europe, Mendocino parks are popular gathering places for families and adolescent lovers.
Craving more of an outdoor adventure? Donâ€™t fear, Mendoza is situated on the eastern Andean piedmont and provides endless opportunities for mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Mendoza is also famous for its close proximity to Cerro Aconcagua, the highest peak in all of South America at 6,962 meters (22,842 ft). Nicknamed the "Roof of the Americas," only experienced mountaineers attempt the summit. But hiking to base camp and the surrounding area is a popularâ€”and unforgettableâ€”option. Because of the diverse geographic area, the Diamante, Atuel and Upper Ro Mendoza rivers also provide some of the best whitewater rafting in the country.