Mendoza – Exploring the northwest of Argentina

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Mendoza Argentina

With an area of 2.780.400 square kilometers, Argentina is a huge country and nearly 8 times as big as my homeland Germany. Starting in the metropolis Buenos Aires you can go down south visiting Patagonia with its incredible mountains and glaciers. Discover hiking in national parks, watching whales or penguins before heading back north to Bariloche and where you can spend a day skiing.

We rented a car and started our journey toward Mendoza. This are the places we visited:

Day 1 – Valle Grande San Rafael

Valle Grande is a valley somewhat similar to the Grand Canyon. I have never been to the States so far which is why it was absolutely stunning for me to see such a big canyon.
Over the millennia a river has eaten into the rocks and has creating the Valle Grande. Everything is green and makes a nice contrast to the red rocks which enclose the ice-blue river. Because the river is stopped over and over again to win energy you see a lot of big azure lakes in the midst of the rocks.

This image below is just one small example of the incredible landscape you can enjoy while driving through the canyon until arriving in San Rafael, a small village full of bodegas where you can do some nice winery tours. On your way to San Rafael the nature changes completely – from desert-like zones and red rocks of the canyon to a scenery of full vineyards, fruit groves and green acacias. The panorama is amazing and combines two of the best things: vine(-yards) and mountains.

Day 2 – San Rafael and its surroundings

There are a lot of things you can do in San Rafael which is why we decided not to visit Mendoza itself directly. Many people told us that Mendoza city is nothing special and very touristic; unlike San Rafael and its surroundings which have lots to offer. In the morning we got up early and went immediately to a rafting tour on the Mendoza River. Along the way we relished once again the beautiful nature and approached the Aconcagua mountain, the one which dominates the mountain chain and is furthermore the highest mountain in South America.

Before starting the rafting tour we got a little introduction into the commandos and safety instructions – even if the river in the end wasn’t that tearing. Nevertheless, we had much fun and went home tired in the end which however didn’t mean going to bed at all – the bodegas, wineries and vineyards wanted to be explored as well.

What was really nice about doing the winery tour in San Rafael is that we could do everything by bike allowing us a view above vineyards, olive groves and the Andes. And of course, the wine was excellent as well due to the fact that Mendoza and its surroundings are the biggest wine-growing district in Argentina.

Day 3 – Parque Nacional Aconcagua

We set off early the next morning and started in direction to Parque Nacional Aconcagua – the national park in which you find the mountain Aconcagua (what a surprise).
We got directly into a big valley and the mountain we’ve been seeing for the last two days got closer by every step we took. Arriving in the park we had to change our outfits from summer clothes to a little bit more adequate ones for heights around 3000m – yes suddenly we’ve seen ourselves in the high mountains in which the cold wind blew around our ears.

But even if it got a little colder in the park than in the village before, it is absolutely worth it to go. The view you are going to be rewarded with is incredible!

Day 4 – Parque Talampaya and Valle de la Luna

We went by bus into the huge red canyon and stopped over and over again to walk around a little bit and take the obligatory tourist pictures. The steep red cliffs are stunning and impressive and gave us a feeling as if they were shining really really bright in the sunlight. We saw a lot of old drawings in the stones made by the Inca thousands of years ago. I couldn’t avert my eyes from the formidable rock formations and enjoyed every minute in the park.

Carried back to the starting point we directly went on with our way to Valle de la Luna where we took part in the last day tour. It is not possible to go into the valley on your own which is why we had to join a caravan with our car. The valley also is huge and I really got the feeling of standing on the moon some time (or at least what I expect it to be like on the moon). The ride took us approximately two hours and ended up at a beautiful vantage where we could see the sundown. The light down there was amazing and the rocks shone darkly red. This epic picture I have in mind was definitely the best end I can imagine for this roadtrip!

As you can read and especially see on the photos the north-west of Argentina definitely is a trip worth it and can easily compete with the Patagonia, Iguazú or Buenos Aires.

If you have further questions about travelling tips or Argentina in general, feel free to write a comment below.