Top Five Reasons to Avoid Mendoza, Argentina

Avoid Mendoza?! Isn’t that where all the malbec is grown that Argentina is famous for? Doesn’t it sit at the base of the beautiful Andes mountains? Are they crazy?

Well, yes, we are pretty crazy. But that’s beside the point. There are almost no blogs out there bashing Mendoza and everyone seems to go there. Heck, we even considered staying there for three weeks before actually getting there. But after spending a week in Mendoza and two months in other parts of Argentina we absolutely recommend that you should avoid Mendoza and spend that time in other parts of Argentina. Here are the top five reasons why:

#5 The wine tours aren’t that great

We are pretty far from the wine snob type, but we have been on some nice wine tours in parts of the US, New Zealand, and Europe. If you are expecting a Napa or Sonoma experience in Mendoza, think again. It’s not that the wineries have bad wine or aren’t “nice”, it’s just not quite the same experience. And yes we did go to the Lujan area, which is certainly better than poverty-stricken Maipu, but it was still just meh. We have no problem going to rough areas (in fact, we embrace those experiences) but we just prefer to avoid them while on wine tours.

With our friends Katy and Seamus at Chandon winery in Lujan

With our friends Katy and Seamus at Chandon winery in Lujan

Our favorite Mendoza wine experience was actually when we randomly met a local couple at a restaurant who just starting making their own wine. They invited us to their winery, called Mairena (highly recommend), and gave us a private tour. But aside from this experience, the Mendoza wine experience just didn’t do it for us.

Gabriel giving us a personal tour of his Mairena winery

Gabriel giving us a personal tour of his Mairena winery

With Gabriel and his wife Monica at Mairena

With Gabriel and his wife Monica at Mairena

#4 There are much better places to explore the Andes

We did a horsebacking riding and gaucho/ asado tour in the foothills of the Andes, which was a neat experience. But it didn’t hold a candle to the hiking and trekking in and around Bariloche, El Chalten, or Torres del Paine.

Horseback riding in the Andes

Horseback riding in the Andes

#3 The city itself is dirty and not that interesting.

Mendoza is kind of a dirty place and we can’t really think of any one aspect of the city that sticks out as being really cool and noteworthy. Maybe we just missed something. But nothing really comes to mind.

#2 Yes, the meat and wine is awesome, but you can get great meat and wine everywhere else in Argentina, too!

There are definitely some great places to eat and drink in Mendoza, there is no denying that. But the steaks we ate there were no better or worse than those we had in Buenos Aires, Bahia Blanca, Trelew/ Puerto Madryn, or Patagonia. And since you are definitely going to get some great steak in Buenos Aires, why not spend more time in Patagonia and indulge on some amazing lamb as well? As for the wine – yes they have great wine in Mendoza. But they also ship it all over the country. So you can drink the same wines everywhere else, too.

#1 There are so many better places to see in Argentina – Buenos Aires, Iguacu Falls, the Pampas, Valdes Peninsula, Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego to name a few!

Want a healthy dose of Porteňo culture? Buenos Aires has it. Jungles and waterfalls? Iguacu Falls puts Niagara to shame and will take your breath away. Crystal clear lakes and rivers? Bariloche and surrounds has a never-ending chain of them. Some of the best and most accessible mountain beauty on earth? Head to southern Patagonia and you’ll never want to leave. Never seen a glacier up close? Perito Moreno outside Calafate will blow your mind. Want to go to the “end of the world”? Ushuaia is the southernmost city on earth. Great food and wine? It’s everywhere.

Nothing in Mendoza made us say "Wow!"  This hike in El Chalten did.

Nothing in Mendoza made us say “Wow!” This hike in El Chalten did.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most spectacular things we've ever seen

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most spectacular things we’ve ever seen

It’s not so much that Mendoza sucks. It doesn’t. There are just so many other incredible (and better) places in Argentina to go see. And every day spent in a mediocre place is an opportunity lost somewhere else.

If you disagree, we’re totally fine with that. And we welcome any thoughts. It’s just our opinion.


12 thoughts on “Top Five Reasons to Avoid Mendoza, Argentina

  1. Ugh, this post just make me want to go to Argentina even more than I already did!!! Wanna go back with me later this year??? 😉 I won’t make you do Mendoza lol!

  2. I know what you mean. I spent a really pleasant week in Mendoza in 2011, but it’s just a nice city with some nice things. Nothing to blow anybody away with awe, but just…. Nice.
    If Argentina was the size of Scotland nobody would visit Mendoza, but as the bus journeys in Argentina are epic, a nice city in the middle of nowhere with some nice wine and some decent steak has a role to play.
    My top shout for a good place to do the wine thing in Argentina is Cafayate, south of Salta. Dusty streets, lots of producers within walking distance of each other, great food and all with a really relaxed vibe.

    • I definitely agree with you on the location- it’s just kind of convenient to go there to or from Santiago or before heading north to salta/ bolivia or east to BA. It’s a shame so many people spend time there and miss out on Patagonia, but I guess the fact that Patagonia is so hard to get to has kept it so unspoiled. We did not make it to Cafayate, but it’s good to know there’s another wine area worth visiting. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. I felt the same way. It was nice but not amazing. The most awesome part was getting on a bus that crossed the Andes from Mendoza to Santiago. And yes, Buenos Aires is amazing. It actually reminds me of a dirty 1980’s NYC but the atmosphere and the vibe of the city is incredible.

  4. Hi there 😉
    U r right. Wine and meat is all over
    But saying that is a mediocre city ???hahaha I think you pick the wrong guide
    There are many options as the small winery you visited (by chance) and with people doing that for years, not just beginners
    Comparing a horse ride in patagonia and the one in Mendoza is like comparing surfing in Hawaii and in Mar del Plata, of course they are VERY different
    Did you know that there are no natives trees? Every one was brought in. It is a desert mate !!!! Only 5% of the total area of the province is ‘green = with water’

    Did you visit the San Martin Park?
    Did you read something about the history? Freedom from Spain?

    Dirty ? Of course is not the cleanest as it use to be, but dirty compare to wath? Buenos Aires???

    I have never guided a person that has been to California and think that this is ‘worse’ … They always are amazed by the Andes and the ‘big & personalized tastings’

    Did you know that the Aconcagua is the highest peak of America?
    Any adventure? Raffting, zip line, trekking, paraglading ?

    If you ever have the chance to come back I would be happy to guide you for free 😉

    Thanks anyway for you point of view it always help to improve 🙂

    Kind regards

    Free lance tour guide

    • Javier, thanks for your comment and again this is just our opinion. It’s not so much that Mendoza isn’t great but that your country has so much else to offer that we found more rewarding. We spent a month in Patagonia and two months in Argentina overall, so yes we learned a lot abou your culture/history/economy, etc. (probably more than any other country besides our own). Maybe we’ll climb Aconcagua someday, at which point we’ll take you up on your free tour.

  5. Personally I loved my first experience in Mendoza so much I moved here! I´m an American from the east coast and have done Sonoma, Napa and even travelled to France and Austrailia. I´m a wine fan, obviously, and Mendoza maintains all of the standards I expect on my tours. I see you went to Chandon (famously touristic) which was probably an option the commercial travel agency on calle Las Heras provided for the price of about 30 Austrailian dollars I´m assuming. You also have to consider the price. In Mendoza you can find the 5 star treatment, quality of wine and accomodations for half the price of Napa Valley for example. Lastly, I would have to completely disagree with the city being dirty. I have never seen so many street sweepers working round the clock in any city in my life. My experience in Melbourne for example seemed to be a much dirtier city (especially for a ´developed´country). Although they do claim to have the best coffee in the world and it is pretty good! It´s unfortunate you didn´t manage to find any of the splendor Mendoza has around every corner, but like you said, it´s all just a matter of opinion.

    • Hey Eric, thanks for your comment. I agree that the wine tours in mendoza are way cheaper than other areas (probably even much less than half vs. cali/NZ). We’d just prefer to not be on wine tours next to poverty stricken areas (we’ve seen plenty of it all over the world but it’s just a weird dynamic next to a winery). Next time we’ll avoid Maipu. FYI Chandon cost us 40 pesos per person (~$3US at blue mkt rate) – we just showed up. That’s awesome that you live in mendoza – I’m always impressed by Americans who jump into expat life.

    • Hey Brian — I appreciate your honest post about Mendoza. Makes me a little nervous since I’m heading there in a few days, but hoping to be pleasantly surprised 🙂 I’m not sure if this is appropriate to post on your blog, but I’d actually love Eric’s opinion… Eric, My boyfriend and I are in Chalten right now, heading back to Calafate Tuesday and flying up to Mendoza on Wednesday. We’ll be in Mendoza for two full days and would love your recommendations! Where to go, where to stay, etc. We’re from California and appreciate good wines too 🙂 Thanks!

  6. I stumbled upon this blog randomly through Google. Anyways, I just wanted to chime in. I went to Mendoza in the mid 90’s for a study abroad. I spent the summer there studying spanish for University. I agree with a lot of your points. Mendoza was a dirty city. It was also really backwards.

    I felt like I went back in time when I was there. A lot of it felt so anachronistic in a bad way. It didn’t feel historic like one would get from some place like Rome. It felt like I went back to the 70’s, and for me, that’s just far enough away to not be cool and be somewhat depressing. I can’t speak much about the wine (I wasn’t much of an alcohol drinker back in those days), but I thought the food was meh.

    I’ve heard all about the grass fed beef before going there. But, if you’re coming from somewhere like the US, you should DEFINITELY acquire a taste for it before heading over there. I personally can’t stand the taste of grass fed beef, and I remember when I went there, I thought a lot of the beef tasted really gamey and weird–almost metallic, like iron. I’ve had a ton of terrible food there, and I can’t really speak positively about Argentinian cuisine or their food culture.

    I would love to go back, though, some day before I die. It’s been about 20 years since, and it would be a really neat trip down memory lane. But, I suppose life is too short for that as well. Too many places to go, too many things to see. I might have to forgo Mendoza and Argentina as well.

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