Situated on the eastern side of the Andes and settled in the crest of hilly terrain, Mendoza is famous for its wine, steak, and beautiful landscape.
The city of Mendoza isn’t going to win any beauty awards but you don’t visit Mendoza for the city – you come for the mountains and wineries surrounding the region.
I spent over a week traveling Mendoza, biking around wineries, hiking mountains, visiting canyons, and gorging on steak and wine. It was everything I thought it would be. Like Napa Valley but in Argentina.
The city makes for a good base for lots of activities and if you love wine (who doesn’t?), come to this region and drink its famous Malbecs.
You can use the tips in this Mendoza travel guide to take what is considered a pricer region and turn it into an affordable destination! Learn what to see, do, and how to save here in Mendoza!
Table of Contents
Click Here for City Guides
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Mendoza
2. Go Hiking
3. Puente del Inca
4. Take a wine tour
5. Get on a bike
Other Things to See and Do in Mendoza
1. Parque San Martin
After all this activity, have a relaxing day on the Parque San Martin grounds. Complete with its own forested park, zoo, amphitheater, large lake, restaurants, and camping, as well as 34 sculptures and the El Rosedal Rose Garden, it is easy to see why the park has become a must-see attraction for visitors and locals alike.
2. Grape Harvest Festival
Mendoza’s largest festival begins in January, with the crux of the festival beginning on the first Saturday of March and continuing until the beginning of April. Held in celebration of the winemaking industry, the event climax is a performance by hundreds of dancers, a large firework display, and the crowning of the Reina Nacional de la Vendimia.
3. Plaza Espana
Plaza Espana, known for its beautiful colored tiles, is considered a restful, serene place to visit. Situated amongst gardens and fountains, this is your tranquil getaway, especially when there is a charming Artisan’s Fair with locals selling their handcrafts.
4. Historical center
If you are looking for a diversion from all that outdoor activity and wine drinking, the historical center provides plenty of sights and museums, including the Museo del Area Fundacional on Pedro del Castillo Square and the Museo Nacional del Vino, perfect for learning more about the wine culture. Just outside of Mendoza is the Casa de Fader, an 1890 mansion once home to artist Fernando Fader that is now an exhibit of his artwork.
To soak up even more of your breathtaking surroundings, head to Uspallata, a village situated in the Andes region heading towards Santiago in Chile. While this is a place to relax and unwind, it is also of historical and cultural significance as the site where in 1817 José de San Martín sent his army to fight the Spanish royalists in Chile.
6. Museo Fundacional
This is the perfect museum for buffing up on the history of Mendoza and Argentina. Trace back through the city’s timeline, and check out displays of the original city remnants, prior to the majorly destructive earthquake of 1861. Admission is 50 ARS ($1.25 USD) and it’s open daily from 8am-8pm, but it opens at 2pm on Sundays. It’s closed on Monday.
7. Peatonal Sarmiento
Known commonly as ‘the pedestrian zone’, this area offers an escape from the congestion of the city. Open only to those traveling on foot, this is a great place to do some shopping, check out street performers and eclectic street vendors, or just grab a coffee.
8. River rafting
For some of the best rafting in Argentina, head down the Mendoza River. Typically beginning at Porrerillos, this is an all-day activity. For those that are more adventurous, consider going on a full moon trip. The options are endless—check out a variety of adventure companies until you find the right fit!
Surrounded by beautiful parks, gardens, and various walking trails, this hot spring is an ideal getaway. Beyond the mineral-rich waters lies beautiful scenery, ‘Darwin’s Petrified Forest’, Los Caracoles, and ancient Inca rock paintings.
There are many travel companies that offer paragliding tours from the base of the Andes Mountains over the wineries. Expect to pay bout 1,450 ARS ($36 USD) per person.
11. San Rafael and Canon del Atuel
Just over three hours by bus from the city of Mendoza, San Rafael is a central hub for just about any outdoor activity you can think of. From hiking to kayaking to paragliding, you’ll find something exciting to do with a stunning backdrop. My biggest recommendation is to head to Canon del Atuel, just outside of San Rafael. This breathtaking canyon boasts unique plant life, lakes and rivers, and natural sculptures along with stunning views. For cheap, you can take the public bus to Valle Grande and it’ll take you through the sights. Even better is packing a lunch and having a picnic (also be sure to bring lots of water).
Mendoza Travel Costs
Hostel prices – While some hostel dorms begin around 200 ARS ($5 USD) per night, though the average is closer to 400 ARS ($10 USD) for a 6-8 bed dormitory. Private rooms with a shared bath are generally triple the price of dorm rooms. There are a lot of HI hostels in the city and, if you’re a member, you’ll get 10% off your stay. They all come with a simple free breakfast.
Budget hotel prices – Simple budget hotels start at around 635 ARS ($16 USD) per night for a single room and 1,080 ARS (28 USD) for a double room with a private bathroom and breakfast. After that prices go as high as 2,600 ARS ($65 USD) per night. Airbnb has exploded in this town and you can find entire apartments starting at 1,075 ARS ($27 USD) a night.
Average cost of food – Food in Mendoza is expensive. Cheap meals at the local burger/sandwich shops cost around 200 ARS ($5 USD). In most of the cafes around the city, you’re looking at 200-275 ARS ($5-7 USD) per dish. Pizzas are really popular in the city and cost 320 ARS ($8 USD). Steaks begin at 400 ARS ($10 USD), bottles of wine at 320 ARS ($8 USD), and pastas at 280 ARS ($7 USD). If you are looking for a really nice sit-down meal with good steak and wine, expect to pay 914 ARS ($23 USD). You can buy a week’s worth of groceries (including bottles of wine) for around 1,300 ARS ($33 USD). Fast food like McDonalds or Burger King is between 240-290 ARS ($6-7 USD) for a value meal. For a good cafe, visit Caffe Jack near the main square. Fast wifi, good and affordable food, and friendly staff!
Backpacking Mendoza Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker’s budget, you will spend between 1,600-2,400 ARS ($40-60 USD) per day. On this suggested budget, you’re staying in hostel dorms, cooking most of your meals but allowing for fast food, and walking everywhere around town while occasionally using the public transit (or a quick taxi ride). You can also visit historical sites and museums on this budget.
On a mid-range budget of 4,000 ARS ($100 USD) per day, you can afford a private room at a hostel/cheap Airbnb/hotel, eat fast food (or plenty of pizza), travel around town on public transit and taxis, and do an occasional tour (like a half-day wine tour).
For a luxury budget of 19,000+ ARS ($230+ USD) per day, you can do quite a lot. You will enjoy nicer hotels or Airbnbs, fancier sit-down restaurants with steak and wine, splurge on a rental car, and hop on some really nice wine tours.
Mendoza Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Mendoza doesn’t have a ton of cheap options. If you buy your own groceries and do your own bike tours, you’ll save lots of money but Mendoza should be considered one of your splurge cities. Eat the steak, drink the wine, and offset those costs by cooking your lunch! For a few ways to save money in the city, here’s what I found:
- Bike – To save on taxi and bus fares, bike around the city and to the wineries. You can rent a bike for around 320 ARS ($8 USD) a day.
- Buy wine cheap – If you buy wine at the grocery store, you’ll get the same great local varieties for a much better price. Prices start around 180 ARS ($4.50 USD) instead of 400-600 ARS ($10-15 USD) in restaurants.
- Travel off peak – You’ll find cheaper flights and accommodation in the off season from April to December.
- Get the plate of the day – Most of the restaurants and cafes (especially those downtown) offer a set lunch menu for around 250 ARS/$6.50 USD (often times including steak). If you want to eat at the city’s many restaurants, it’s best to do it during lunch!
- Free walking tours – Tours for Tips Mendoza offers a 2-3 hour walking tour that orients you to the city and gives you the history and culture behind Mendoza. At the end of the tour, you pay what you can, based on your budget.
- Couchsurf – Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
Where To Stay in Mendoza
Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Mendoza:
How to Get Around Mendoza
Walking – Mendoza is easily walkable if you don’t want to take public transportation! Of course, if your primary purpose is visiting the wine region, you’ll have to find other means to get around.
Public Transportation – Mendoza has a fairly reliable public transportation system. You’ll need to get a Redbus card because you can’t pay on the buses or trams. It costs 10 ARS ($0.25 USD) and can be purchased at kiosks around the city. Bus and trams are 5 ARS (0.15 USD) each ride.
For onward travel to Santiago, the 7-10 hour bus costs between 1,600-2,200 ARS ($40-56 USD) depending on the time and class of service. The bus to nearby San Rafael is 280 ARS ($7 USD).
Bicycle Rental – Renting a bicycle in Mendoza is a very common way to get around, especially for visiting the mountains and the wineries. You can rent a bike for around 320 ARS ($8 USD) a day with companies like like Maipu Bike Rentals or Mr. Hugo’s Bikes.
Taxis – For taxis, you won’t pay more than around 60 ARS ($1.50 USD) for a ride around town, although a longer ride will cost up to 160 ARS ($4 USD) and to the airport is around 280 ARS ($7 USD). You can also easily hire a taxi driver to visit the wineries and the mountains, which shouldn’t cost more than 600 ARS ($15 USD) per hour.
Car Rental – Car rentals start at around 1,800 ARS ($45 USD) per day and is an excellent option if you want to get beyond the city. Plus parking is easy and cheap in Mendoza. You’ll find all the regular rental services here, like Hertz and Avis. If you’re planning to visit a lot of wineries or spend more time in the mountains, a car rental might be cheaper than hopping on guided tours (especially if you can split the cost with other travelers).
When to Go to Mendoza
Mendoza has year-round sunshine, making it always a good time to visit. It doesn’t rain very often, and when it does, it doesn’t last for long.
Mendoza is hottest from December to March, where temperatures start around 86°F (30°C) and go as high as 104°F (40°C). It can cool off in the evenings though, so be sure to pack something warm. January and February can sometimes be rainy as well.
Winter is from June to September, and it’s the driest and sunniest time of year but with cold nights. The average temperature during this time is 58°F (14°C).
October to April is considered the best time to visit. Spring (October and November) and fall (March and April) have average temperatures around 70°F (21°C) each day, and the wineries are busy pouring their best stuff. It’s also the best time for any outdoor adventure activities.
How to Stay Safe in Mendoza
Mendoza is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel – even if you’re traveling solo, and even as a solo female traveler. Your biggest worry will be petty theft. Don’t flaunt expensive jewellery or belongings. Cell phone theft is incredibly common, and thieves will sometimes literally snatch the phone right from your hand in broad daylight. Just watch your stuff at all times! Lock your bags on overnight buses.
Crime has been slightly on the increase in Mendoza in recent years, due to its growth. It’s not overly serious but it’s a good idea to avoid the main square area after dark (especially if you’re alone).
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Mendoza. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Mendoza Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Mendoza. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Argentina, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Grassroots Volunteering – For volunteering, Grassroots Volunteering compiles a list of good local volunteer organizations that keep the money within the community.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Mendoza Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Mendoza Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin
A classic bit of travel writing, Bruce Chatwin’s account of his time in Patagonia is full of beautiful descriptive writing, tidbits of history, and plenty of personal anecdotes. This book perfectly captures the mystique and exoticness of Patagonia – especially when it was still mostly untouched by tourism. Chatwin’s trek through Patagonia will make you immediately want to pack your bags and go.
The Motorcycle Diaries, by Ernesto Che Guevara
This is the story of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s eight-month motorcycle journey across South America as a 23-year-old medical student in 1951-52. Guevara left home with a doctor friend of his, and this eight-month motorcycle trip was the start of his path towards becoming a revolutionary. He explores Inca ruins, visits a leper colony, and helps miners and farmworkers. Whatever you want to say about his future politics, this story is about a man discovering that the world is bigger than himself and I think that is something we all pick up from travel….and a good message to remember.
A Beautiful Young Woman, by Julián López
A Beautiful Young Woman is set in the middle of Argentina’s military dictatorship and is centered around the themes of family and political violence. With the world in chaos around them, a young boy and his single mother live alone in an apartment in Buenos Aires (which is now under military rule). One day the boy comes home to find his mother has disappeared. The story leaps forward in time to follow the boy (now a man) as he pieces together his mother’s activism while struggling to retain her memory. It’s a sad read, but you’ll get some great insight into Argentina’s dictatorship past.
Santa Evita, by Tomas Eloy Martinez
This book is about legendary Eva Peron, a poor girl who became a beautiful icon and then a leader of the people before dying from cancer in 1952. But that’s where things get weird. After her death, Peron was elevated nearly to sainthood – and so her corpse was seized by the army after her dictator husband was ousted in 1955. While the army wanted to keep the corpse away from fanatical “Peronists,” they also didn’t want to destroy it for fear of the backlash. This is the story of Peron’s corpse, its disappearance, and one of the most bizarre political moments in South American history.
Bad Times in Buenos Aires, by Miranda France
When Miranda France moved to South America in 1933, where she was drawn to Buenos Aires because of its intellectual appeal chocked full of writers, romance, passion, and tragedy. Buenos Aires is all of those things, but as France experienced, it’s also full of “famously unhappy” inhabitants and lots of rage (also known as “bronca”). Don’t take this book too seriously – it’s a comical read about one woman’s struggles with adjusting to life in Buenos Aires as an expat, and she tells the story with a lot of humor.
Mendoza Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Argentina travel and continue planning your trip: