As I planned our 7-day Argentina itinerary, initially I tried *really* hard to fit a couple days in Patagonia into the plan, because I was obsessed with the Andes and scenery (and glaciers). But the more I planned, I realized that it really wasn’t in the cards for this trip. Kind of a bummer.
But I wasn’t willing to give up on the Andes just yet. As I kept researching, I saw a lot of people talking about hiking in the mountains outside of Mendoza, and some stunning mountainous pictures I hadn’t expected from an area best known for its wine.
It took a while to figure out the details, but I decided that given our short timeframe, a tour was going to be the best fit for us. We went with the same tour company that we did our two days of phenomenal winery tours with, because they got rave reviews for the Andes tour as well. This post is part info, part photo essay because it was SO hard to figure out what pics to include and which to cut. It was such a perfect day and I love them all!
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After two days of overcast skies, the morning dawned clear and beautiful, and we were psyched to hit the road with our tour guide Ricardo.
We were joined by John and Ainsley, a couple from New Jersey that ended up on both days of our wine tours. We had dinner with them on the second night, and found out they didn’t have any plans (particularly since it was going to be Easter Sunday), so we invited them to come into the mountains with us.
The first part of the drive was just getting out of the city and beginning to gain elevation, and it was gorgeous. We stopped for a coffee and medialuna and continued on our way.
Ricardo also shared some of his mate tea with us. Also known as yerba mate, this is an Argentinean institution…seriously, there are hot water fountains all over public spaces so that people can have mate whenever they want, and it’s something you’re meant to share with friends or family.
There’s a special container you drink it out of typically, which strains the tea leaves/powder as you drink it (you share the container as well). And it’s an…acquired taste. Not bad, but kind of bitter. You get used to it though.
Our first major stop was some Incan ruins just off the highway. Many people think only of Peru when it comes to the Incans, but northern Argentina’s peoples were dominated as well.
We made a few other short stops as well, getting out to stretch our legs and acclimate to the increase in altitude slowly as we ascended. The altitude here is no joke, and the mate tea is actually supposed to help with that some.
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Our next big stop was Puente del Inca, a bright natural stone bridge over Rio de las Cuevas. The bright oranges and yellows are from sulfuric sediment, and the ruins of an old spa sit beneath the bridge. The backdrop is no slouch, either.
Then we came to the base of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas. I honestly has NO idea that it existed—how is that possible?!
We were hiking at about 10,000 feet, but Aconcagua’s peak is around 23,000. That’s insane.
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We hiked for about an hour, surrounded on all sides by stunning scenery, bright colors, and largely silence.
This little mountain sits basically opposite Cerro Aconcagua, and we dubbed it Cerro Amazeballs. I was completely obsessed with all the different striations and colors striping the rock. Purple, brown, yellow, gray, red. So beautiful.
The drive back down had more of the same beautiful scenery. It’s hard for photos to really do justice to the vastness of these mountains and the plains around them. I particularly like that last picture, looks like a giant animal clawed the rock.
Finally, we stopped at a traditional asado (barbecue) lunch. They cook all kinds of different cuts of meat (yes, that’s a little piece of…tripe? I wasn’t a fan of the texture) over an open fire, and then it’s just meat-a-palooza. We ate empanadas and meat and drank wine and talked about life in Argentina, while all the families around us returned to their post-Lenten meat-filled ways.
We were pretty wiped out when we got back (well, let’s face it, also from the two previous days of winery tours… :p), but before crashing into bed we were treated to this absolutely glorious sunset outside our apartment balcony. It was kind of like Mendoza was thanking us for visiting!
I highly recommend this tour, we went with Trout & Wine (I wasn’t compensated in any way, paid for everything myself) and wouldn’t have seen half the things ourselves if we’d self-guided. However, it is possible to rent a car or take a taxi up to do a bit of hiking if you’d prefer. Just want to mention that if it’s of interest.
Did you know about Cerro Aconcagua?? I’m still baffled that I’ve never heard of that amazing mountain!
For more about Mendoza: Exploring Mendoza’s Wine Country
For more gorgeous mountain hiking: Hiking New Zealand’s Hooker Valley Track
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