CALLING ALL WINE ENTHUSIASTS: Mendoza’s EPIC, larger-than-life 3-day Vendimia Festival is the Harvest Celebration you’ve never heard of, but the one that’ll leave you raving for years to come! Allow me to explain ?
You may think you love wine, but after attending Mendoza’s larger-than-life Vendimia I think you’ll conclude no one loves their wine as much as these Argentinians do!
“La Festival de la Vendimia,” or National Grape Harvest Festival, celebrates the region’s wine and wine-makers. Tens of thousands of visitors descend upon Mendoza in the beginning of March every year to kick off the new harvest season.
Tip: Remember, Argentina is in the southern hemisphere. So Mendoza’s autumn harvest season actually falls between March and May. Trippy, right?
Two weeks before I arrived in Chile, Boyfriend called practically bouncing out of the Skype frame. “Babe. BABE. I know how we’re going to celebrate our [belated] Valentine’s Day this year.”
When he suggested the Vendimia Festival, I admit I hesitated. This year it took place on the weekend of March 5-8, 2020. Literally one week after my arrival. But one Google search had me shouting “YES, YES, YES!” to this colossal, crazy and completely unique festival only a short 40-minute flight from Santiago.
Mendoza Malbec is world-renowned for a reason, so it’s incredible that its Vendimia is so little-known. Boyfriend and I recently attended the Harvest Celebration in Saint-Émilion, France last year, which was lovely in a simpler, more stately way. But I’ll be talking about Mendoza’s festival for years to come.
If you’re a wine-lover, do yourself a favor and Save this article for later. Because I’m going to let you in on all the in’s and out’s of How to Attend Mendoza’s Larger-Than-Life Vendimia Festival! Let’s get started ?
Thursday: Argentine Dinner & Dancing
If you can arrive Thursday evening, you’ll be glad you did. This is the night of the official start of the Vendimia Festival, and it’s a wild, wine-fueled block party. Let’s kick this thing off right!
Power up with an Argentinian steak at El Asadito
A visit to Argentina requires STEAK. There’s just no way around it. (Unless you’re vegetarian, of course.)
But if you’re not, you must know that Argentina is known for its prime cuts of beef slow cooked on the grill, or “asado.” And even locals recommend El Asadito (“the little grill”) as an excellent place to try it.
The restaurant is rather unassuming from the outside, but the inside is cuter and cozier than a steakhouse really has any right to be! The menu offers nine different cuts of beef, ribs and chicken that come with five non-negotiable sides (white rice, fries, potato puré, pumpkin puré and a fried egg), or you can order the “sampler” to try a bit of all the sausages and ribs. The wine list is its own double-sided menu and is, surprisingly, CHEAP AF!
Tip: If you’re traveling with a carnivore but aren’t really into the steak scene, yourself, El Asadito offers a whole menu of non-steak classic Argentinian offerings! Did you know Argentina was heavily settled by Italians? Therefore many restaurants like this one make great pastas, as well as Argentina’s popular Milanese dish.
The best cut of beef, by far, is the bife de chorizo.You can order it cooked how you like, but I would err on the side of less-cooked if you’re in the Medium-Rare camp like I am. You can always send it back to be cooked a little more, and it isn’t considered rude in Argentina!
Indulge at the Mega Degustación (Mega Wine Tasting)
Steps from Mendoza’s party street, Avenida Artistides, is Plaza Vergara (Google it for the exact location). And in this Plaza is the Vendimia’s 3-DAY Mega Degustación!
The Mega Degustación is a block-long wine tasting party featuring dozens of Mendoza-area wineries. And for AR$500 (Argentinian Pesos) — approximately USD$8 as of March 2020 — you have access to six 1.7-oz (50 ml) tastes of your choosing (plus two much-needed water bottle tickets).
Except this is Argentina. This is the Vendimia. And apparently rules don’t apply at the Mega Degustación!
So although you technically get only six tastes on your little tasting chart, literally no winery on the block gives a single damn. Don’t try to show them your paper; they’ll wave it away. They’ll ask which of their ten open bottles you want to try. And when you’ve finished that “taste” — which will be closer to 3 oz. than 1.7 oz. — they’ll quickly offer you another!
And then another!
Until you tell them to stop, which you won’t because the wine is FANTASTIC!
Red, white, rosé, sparkling (“spumante”) — whatever you like, you will find it here. And if you’re not careful, my friend, you will get drunk. But because you have three days to come back and enjoy the Mega Degustación, you can pace yourself. The wine bodegas (which resemble companies lined up at a job fair, except with 4-12 wine bottles on the table in front of them) open around 8 PM, and serve until around 1 AM.
Dance all night
Night One is the crazy, wild, dance-til-dawn party right next to the Mega Degustación on Avenida Artistides. A DJ spins in an elevated booth while tipsy revelers jump and jive all down the block. It’s big, it’s loud and it’s free. Join in and fist-pump with visitors from all over the world.
The Mendoza Vendimia Festival has officially begun!
Friday: Wine Up on a Wine Tour
Now that you’ve sampled quite a few wines at the Mega Degustación, you hopefully realize not only how great but also how varied the wine from Mendoza can be. This is because it all (mostly) comes from many wine regions surrounding the city of Mendoza. The main three are: Maipú, Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley.
Each region has its pro’s and con’s, but it’s pretty much consensus that:
1. Maipú wins for convenience,
2. The Valle de Uco (Uco Valley) wins for landscape (it’s closest to the Andes mountains),
3. And Lujan de Cuyo wins for the best of both worlds.
Interestingly, after researching many, many, many wine tour companies online, I realized one very important thing: Mendoza wine tours are kind of expensive! With how insanely cheap everything else was (restaurants, accommodation, drinks), I was surprised.
But no worries! There are several ways for you to have a fun vineyard experience within any budget:
Private/Semi-Private Wine Tours from Mendoza
Several companies operate out of Mendoza to whisk you away to wine country in a car or small van. Running around USD$160 per person, this option allows you to make the very most of your day at the wineries while leaving the planning up to the experts.
Tours include, for example: a guide, transportation to and from your hotel, wine tastings/tours of three wineries in your region of choice and lunch with a wine pairing.
BUT each tour is different. Some don’t include the price of the winery tasting or lunch. Others (like ours) do. Make sure you read closely to understand what you can expect of your day.
After careful consideration, Boyfriend and I chose to spend the day in Luján de Cuyo on Daiana & Flor’s “Unique Wineries, Lunch and FUN!” AirBnB Experience. Which was everything we hoped it would be, and more.
Flor took us and one more guest to three very different, beautiful wineries in Luján de Cuyo, and to lunch at a private restaurant in Maipú. It was a full day of literally endless wine and great conversation.
I chose an AirBnB Experience because I wanted something more chill and personal, less structured, more like friends-touring-friends for our day in the country. I definitely found it ? More on our experience Wine Tasting in Luján de Cuyo coming soon!
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Each day, the hop-on hop-off Bus Vitivinicola takes a bus-load of visitors to tour the wineries of a different wine region: either Maipú, Luján de Cuyo or the Valle de Uco.
As I understand, the bus travels on a route with scheduled stops at several wineries on the way. These specified wineries know to expect you so you don’t have to call to make an appointment. In Maipú and Luján you actually get to choose between a couple of different wineries at each stop. However in the Valle de Uco they’re chosen for you (because they’re located so much farther apart).
A full-day transfer ticket is AR$1400 (~ USD$22) to Maipú or Luján, or AR$1800 (~ USD$28) to the Uco Valley. You also have the option of a Half-Day Morning (8:30 AM — 2 PM) or Afternoon (2:15 PM — 6:30 PM) Transfer ticket to Maipú or Luján for AR$1200.
The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is a great option for backpackers not wanting to blow their budgets on a private wine tour. BUT, this option DOES NOT include anything except transportation. This means you’ll be spending at each of the wineries and lunch.
This can be a good thing — if you want to skip a USD$10-20 tasting, you can. And if you want to bring your own lunch, you’re allowed to eat it on the bus. But it also means you could be spending up to USD$100 by the end of the day, especially if you want wine at lunch. And IMO our day with Flor was worth the extra cash for ease, personalization and experience!
Those who know me know bicycles are not my friends. But if they are yours I’ve heard GREAT things about self-guided biking wine tours around Maipú!
The deal is simple. Take a local bus or Uber/taxi to either Maipú Bikes or Mr. Hugo’s Bikes in Maipú, rent a bike for the day for AR$350 (~ USD$5.50), grab a map and take off!
Chances are there will be a whole group of you renting in the morning (and you will want to get there when it opens at 10 AM to maximize your time), which will make the day even more fun. Nothing like getting wine drunk with new international friends in a foreign country, amiright?
Tip: If you want to visit the famous Trapiche winery, make sure you tell your rental company so they can call and give you a reservation voucher. It’s the only one on the bike map that requires it, but it’s important. The rest will be expecting you ?
Spend the day winery hopping at your own pace. Obviously you’ll be paying for all the tastings and food, yourself, so hit as many or as few as you like. It’s your day!
The Whole World or Nothing wrote an excellent, super-detailed article about their Maipú bike tour experience here, if you’re interested.
Tip: Save the Uco Valley for another trip
I admit I was struggling to decide where to spend our vineyard day: Luján de Cuyo or the Valle de Uco. I ultimately decided on Luján because it was only 40 minutes outside of Mendoza, was cheaper to visit, and because we had more options for how to visit.
The Uco Valley is beautiful. No, really, stunning. Located at the foot of the Andes mountains, you’ll have snow-capped views for days from just about any winery you visit in the region. The cool climate combines with the clay-rich soil to produce rich Malbecs with almost floral aromas. It’s a destination you’ll be itching to visit as soon as you read about it.
But during the Vendimia is just not the time.
Why? I knew we’d feel rushed to get down to the Uco Valley, located almost 2 hours south of Mendoza. We’d only get to visit two wineries on a day trip, and we’d be paying double the price unless we rented a car. Of course, if we rented a car we’d have to plan the day ourselves, calling wineries to reserve tours, and wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy (read: drink ?) the wine on our visits.
My personal recommendation is to save the Uco Valley for another time. In fact, I fully intend to take another trip to Mendoza in which Boyfriend and I will find a little place in the heart of the Uco Valley to spend our entire weekend drinking wine and day-hiking in the Andes. Stay tuned!
Have a Nap
After a full day of wine tasting, you may need a nap. Seriously, no judgement. I actually recommend it! Nightlife doesn’t really pick up in South America until ~10:30 anyway. So find a spot in the Plaza de Independencia, or curl up at your hotel for a solid power nap.
Vía Blanca de las Reinas (Queen’s Procession)
On the Friday evening of Vendimia weekend, the reigning queens parade across Mendoza city in their horse-drawn chariots and parade floats to wave to the inebriated crowds before pageant day.
Ah, right. I didn’t mention the pageant part, did I?
A major part of Mendoza’s Vendimia Festival is the selection of a Queen of the Harvest from one of the 18 departments of Mendoza. She will be crowned “Reina Nacional de la Vendimia” at the “Acto Central” spectacle Saturday night. Her duty is to represent Mendoza wine throughout the world for the entire next year, and it’s a pretty huge deal if you win. Think Miss America, but for wine!
Boyfriend and I were completely surprised to see horses, queens and parade floats rambling past as we drank at our favorite Mega Degustación bodega. I’m pretty sure they were coming from Calle San Lorenzo, but don’t quote me on that — I was a lil’ tipsy ? You can definitely catch the procession on Artistides, though, so no worries! Just hang out at the Mega Degustación and you’ll definitely see it.
For more information on the Vía Blanca de las Reinas, check out this article by local news source, Cadena 3 (sorry it’s in Spanish)!
Nightlife: Take It Easy… Or Don’t!
When it comes down to it, Mendoza is quite a small city. As such the nightlife really happens on or just off of one single street: Avenida Artistides. Here you’ll find all kinds of bars, lounges and beer gardens, as well as the spectrum of (mostly over-priced) restaurants. Take a walk and find what you’re in the mood for.
Boyfriend and I woke up from our “power nap” later than we expected to. So by the time we were ready to head back out to the Mega Degustación it was already 10 PM! And after a few rounds of tastings (still without using any of the designated squares on our paper ?♀️) we realized it was past midnight and we were STARVING.
We ended up at LeRot on Artistides because it was comfy, cheap, the playlist was nice and the outdoor patio had a few tables still open. We enjoyed a chill couple’s dinner before crashing back at our place.
But there were definitely people out partying! Gingger cocktail bar, the techno-vibey Birra House and the elevated-backpacker bar, Barijho, were all popping off when we passed by. Artistides really has something for whatever you’re looking for.
Saturday: “Celebramos La Vendimia” All Day, All Night!
This is it, dolls. The big game. Are you ready? I hope so, because this is going to be an all-day event!
Carrusel Vendimial (The Vendimia Parade)
Jump out of bed and line up on the wide, tree-lined Avenida Emilio Civit for a parade that begins at 10 AM and doesn’t end until around 2 PM!
Having absolutely NO IDEA what we were getting ourselves into, Boyfriend and I joined the frenetic crowds on the sidewalks… and were immediately pelted in the head with grapes from the passing floats! Like, WHAT??
Tip: Bring an extra bag for loot!
Glancing up we spotted the queens of each department, accompanied by their courts (runners-up), standing on huge, colorful, over-the-top floats. These floats are designed to represent whatever is special about their particular region of Mendoza. And, because the “Reina” is chosen partially by popular vote, the court passes out flyers with their queen’s face to the crowds.
They also throw goodies, which is why I recommend you bring a bag with you. Some people even had baskets attached to long poles (pictured above) so the queens could reach them easier! ? Pears, plums, candies, tote bags… even full-sized melons: you could catch any of these along the route. So, erm, stay alert or you might get a peach to the face by accident!
However, the parade isn’t only for the queens. It’s also a celebration of South American culture as a whole. Men and women on horses in Gaucho-type costumes fly their country’s flags. Dancers in the flashiest costumes I’ve seen outside of RuPaul’s Drag Race dance their butts off to the music of their accompanying bands. Even traditional dancers join the parade to showcase their cultural moves, like the Bolivians pictured above!
Tip: Don’t worry about staying for the whole thing. We showed up around 11:30 and bailed by 1:30 and didn’t feel like we missed a thing.
Lunch on Paseo Sarmiento
Paseo Sarmiento is Mendoza’s charming pedestrian street full of lunch spots with shaded outdoor patios. Tall leafy trees provide respite from what may be a very hot sun, as do ice cold pints of Stella ?
We stopped at Bocca, a super cute minimalist-designed restaurant with a full board of appetizing lunch specials. We both ordered huge salads with parma ham, sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar for AR$380 (~ USD$6), and they were just as fresh and delicious as we’d hoped.
But you have lots of places to choose from on this street. Whether you’re looking for a light lunch, a full lunch, a fast-food lunch, or even just a coffee or glass of wine, Paseo Sarmiento is a great place to find it.
Optional: Walk it off at Parque San Martín
Tip: If you’re short on time, this park can be skipped.
I’ve been to parks all over the world. Some are 100% worth the effort of exploring. This one… wasn’t. It was nice, but not amazing. So take a lap around the lake if you feel like some exercise. In fact, you can walk right next to the water under the shade of the willow trees.
Wine & Chill at Plaza Independencia
Time to rest your feet and enjoy a bottle of wine. You’ve earned it. And fun fact: All of the fountains in Mendoza are dyed a sort of raspberry red for the Vendimia Festival! Take some photos, try not to get the pink water on your clothes, and just chill in the grass.
There is also a very cute little craft fair in the Plaza you can browse through if you’re interested. It’s full of homemade jewelry, toys, tea, decorations — the kinds of things you’d find at your town’s local craft fair, but with a South American flair.
It’s nice to sit and people watch sometimes, and the park is a safe, breezy place to do so.
Attend the Alto Central (The Central Act of the Vendimia)
The one thing that requires advance planning is the one thing you do not want to miss at the Vendimia Festival: the Alto Central.
The “Central Act.”
THE SPECTACLE of the Vendimia!
This two-hour celebration of Argentinian wine and culture feels kind of like a cross between the most epic Latin dance recital you can imagine, a Walt Disney World fireworks show, and a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert.
25,000 people crowd into the Frank Romero Day Greek Amphitheater on the outskirts of Mendoza to watch the Alto Central. There are about 30 different musical numbers, all full of color and energy and heart and life. There are lights, fireworks, smoke, fire, acrobats, jugglers, musicians, mimes, opera singers, solo dancers, couple dancers, ensemble dancers. And it’s all happening at once!
And after the cultural show comes the beauty pageant and the subsequent crowning of La Reina Nacional de la Vendimia! The crowds go WILD for the girls from their departments. For more about this year’s winner and the pageant, see this article from Cadena 3 (sorry, it’s in Spanish).
I can’t impress upon you how totally unique and COMPLETELY EPIC this show is. If we were staying another night I would’ve gone to see it again! It was that special. However, it does require a bit of planning if you want to do it right:
Tip: LEAVE EARLY. At least 1.5 hours before the show begins. The Frank Romero Day Greek Theater, where the show takes place every year, is farther from the city center than it looks on Google Maps.
Another Tip: Bring food and drinks with you — yes, even alcoholic ones are allowed to be brought into the theater! Take a picnic and make it a thing to be there early because you DO NOT want to be caught in the absolute horror of traffic that begins a full hour before the show does.
How To Buy Tickets
The Alto Central is insanely popular, and as such sells out most of its tickets the day they go on sale!
But the good news is that there are three shows: Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Each night features a different “second act” that follows the main Alto Central cultural show. Saturday, the Primera Noche, is always the crowning of the Queen. But Sunday and Monday usually feature popular Argentinian music groups to bring crowds back for the Segunda Noche and Tercera Noche.
Boyfriend and I attended the Segunda Noche because 1) that was the only night still selling tickets when we arrived, and 2) because tickets for Sunday night were 1/3 of the price of the Primera Noche! We bought ours for AR$130 (yes, that’s ~USD$2, folks) and were treated to Argentina’s Elton John, Fito Páez! We didn’t know any of his music, but the crowd sure did, and sang along to many of the songs — a very cool experience for us.
Tip: Unless you have an Argentinian bank account, you won’t be able to purchase tickets online. It’s sh*t, but that’s kind of how I’ve realized everything works down here in South America. If you want tickets, try coordinating with your accommodation in advance to buy them for you. As for us, we got our Walking Tour guide at Viví MZA to buy ours last-minute and paid him in cash. I believe it was also possible to buy them directly at the Teatro de Independecia right next to the Plaza Independencia before 3 PM!
How to Get There/Back
Ask your taxi/Uber driver to take you to the venue via Avenida del Liberatador. I know it looks roundabout on Google Maps, but you must trust me on this. Traffic through the Parque San Martín will make you miss the show. Go around.
When you get close there will be police directing traffic. There will also be signs letting you know where your taxi can drop you off. There’s a separate line for people who want to park, but that’s not you. Thank your driver and be on your way.
At the drop off just follow the crowd to the Frank Romero Day Greek Theater. You won’t get lost — there are people all along the route selling food and drinks. Although my advice is not to buy drinks outside, but to bring them. OR you can buy cocktails inside — they were cheap AF and absolutely delicious. Don’t let the sellers outside trick you into thinking prices inside are expensive. They’re not!
When the show is over the crowds will be pouring back out to the parking lots.
If you want, leave your seat when you feel like the show is ending soon. You can actually stand on the walkway between the upper and lower levels, no problem at all. Watch the rest of the show standing, then beat the crowds out as soon as it’s over.
Retrace your steps back to the drop off and simply wait for a taxi to drive by. They know there will be Vendimia attendees needing rides back into the city. Just wait and flag one down.
Tip: Ask another waiting couple to join you so you can split the cab fare, which will be slightly higher and probably a fixed price (not a meter).
I know it seems like a bit of a hassle, but it’s really not. I promise. And getting to attend the Alto Central is totally, completely 100% worth it.
Sunday: City Tour + Optional Wine Tour
Because you’ll most likely be heading back home on Sunday, I’ve kept activity light. But if you have a full day, by all means look into other activity options in the area such as wine tours in Maipú, day-hiking in the nearby Andes and even river rafting!
Breakfast at Beirut
Nothing like a satisfying breakfast the morning after a party! And since the only thing on the schedule for the day is a walking tour, start the day right with breakfast right across from its meeting place!
Beirut is an adorable café with outdoor seating in the form of comfy colorful living room furniture. Take a seat and order one of their amazing breakfast deals, like an OJ + omelette for only ARS$70 (~USD$1.10), or a coffee + scrambled eggs (huevos revueltos) for only ARS$95 (~USD$1.50).
Boyfriend and I both ordered fresh-squeezed juices (strawberry-banana and strawberry-apple if you were interested) for ARS$60 (~USD$1.00)!
Tip: Allow some time to eat. As a general rule, South American service is slow and leisurely. Even the simplest meals will take an hour from start to finish. Just relax and enjoy!
Take a free walking tour of Mendoza city
A free walking tour is a great way to not only see the main sites of a city, but also to learn about its history and cultural influences.
Viví MZA is Mendoza’s “tour for tips.” The 2-hour tour begins at the Plaza Pellegrini, conveniently just a few minutes from the Plaza Independencia, near which you’ll likely be staying.
Your guide (either English- or Spanish-speaking, there will be two available) will take you around the “New City” to the main squares, like Plaza Italia, Plaza España, and of course Plaza Independencia, down the pedestrian Paseo Sarmiento, and finally down Artistides to the Parque San Martín Gallery.
Of course, the interesting part will be the stories s/he has to tell about the founding of Mendoza, the battles and major earthquakes the city has endured, as well as the current economic and political climate!
I always recommend taking a walking tour in a new city. And, great news, this one comes very highly rated!
Optional: Visit Maipú’s Antigua Bodega Giol
If you have time before you have to leave Mendoza, consider a short trip to another wine region, Maipú. Only 40 minutes out of town by public bus, we literally decided to go when we spotted “Maipú” on a passing bus, looked at each other and said, “Eh, why not?”
I hadn’t read amazing things about Maipú, and having now visited I suppose I can see why. The town itself was built for factory and wine workers, so it has a sort of low-key, practical, almost industrial vibe you don’t expect in wine tourism.
Of course, you can visit the actual vineyards a few kilometers outside of the city for greener vibes. O. Christine wrote a nice blog post about her experience with Kahuak Tours actually visiting the vineyards in Maipú if you’re interested. But we didn’t have time for that.
Instead we hopped off the bus at Antigua Bodega Giol, a former-winery-turned-museum-slash-tasting-room. It was the only place open by the time we got to Maipú since everything closes on Sundays. (The famous Bodegas López, located just down the street, was also open in the morning, FYI.) But we had a great time touring the slightly eerie underground wine cellars and old warehouses! Our guide was super fun, and at the end took us through a tasting of three local wines in the inviting, spacious tasting area.
Tip: How to Take the Public Bus
If you want to take the public bus, you’ll need a Mendoza Redbus card BEFORE boarding.
You can buy it/top it up at mini-marts/kiosks around town, and you can use one for multiple people. However, if you’re like us and spontaneously jumped on a bus without knowing this, just ask a fellow passenger if they can scan for you and pay them back in cash (ARS$18, or ~USD$0.40). Apparently it’s done all the time ?
But that’s only your first challenge. Frustratingly, the bus numbers proved super unreliable in Mendoza. We were given so much conflicting info about which buses we should take, we literally just started flagging down buses on Rioja Street (between Garibaldi and Catamarca streets, where all the buses to Maipú pass) and asking if they were going to “Maipú para vino.”
Hey, it worked! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Planning a trip to Mendoza, even last-minute, proved relatively easy! We felt a bit spoiled for choice in terms of accommodation, and there were plenty of options for transportation. Still, because this is the popular Vendimia Festival weekend, the small city will be inundated with celebrating Argentinians. Therefore some pre-planning will be required. Here are some things to consider:
How To Get There
Argentina is relatively easy to access, as is Mendoza. Most countries do not require pre-obtained visas to cross its border, and are issued free 90-day visas upon arrival.
As of March 2020 some of these countries include: the USA, Canada, all European Schengen countries, all European Scandinavian countries, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan, Russia, and most South American countries.
As always, of course, check your country’s government travel site to either be sure you do not need a pre-approved visa, or to begin taking the necessary steps to obtain one.
Mendoza’s Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport (MDZ), better known as El Plumerillo International Airport, is located only 8 kms from the city center. It’s quite small, but very clean and modern.
Several low-cost airlines will get you here from one of two major South American hubs: Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. It’s a 2-hour flight from Buenos Aires on LATAM, Aerolineas or jetSMART (to name a few options). And for us it was a 40-minute flight from Santiago on SKY Airlines over the Andes mountain range.
Check Skyscanner for prices when you’re ready. And remember booking at least a month in advance will give you more and cheaper flight options! We paid USD$120 each for round-trip airfare, but it was at least $20 cheaper two weeks before we actually ended up buying.
It sort of boggled our minds but… people we met in Mendoza LOVED this option. Coming from Santiago, CATA Internacional will drive you through the scenic Andes mountains and, as long as you come prepared with snacks and e-books, you’ll be treated to a pleasant and beautiful 8-hour ride! A one-way ticket will cost ~ USD$30.
I can’t speak to the scenery on the ride from Buenos Aires, but the Andesmar night bus can get you to Mendoza in around 16 hours. A one-way ticket will cost ~ USD$46.
Where to Stay
Mendoza is a wealth of awesome accommodation options! And whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or as a group, as long as you plan a few weeks in advance you’ll have your pick!
Hotels are amazingly cheap in the Mendoza city center. You can find a private room in an excellent, highly-rated hotel for USD$50-80/night! Perfect for couples or BFF’s splitting the bill who enjoy having their own bathrooms ?
Check out Booking or Agoda for up-to-date availability!
I may have mentioned before that Boyfriend and I are AirBnB loyalists. There’s just something so cozy about coming home from a full day of touring to an actual, well, home!
We stayed in an AirBnB across from the Plaza Independencia for our 4-day trip. It had a full kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom and was located in a secure apartment building.
The thing was, there were other AirBnB’s available but definitely not as many as you’d think. Especially not right in the main tourist area. So if you want to stay in a private apartment, best begin your AirBnB search as soon as possible to secure one.
In Mendoza you have a few handfuls of super cute, highly rated hostels in the downtown area! Almost all rated at an 8.0 or higher on Hostelworld, dorms run between USD$6 and USD$11 per night on average. Private rooms for one go for around USD$25 per night — also a great option for those who want to meet people but also value their privacy!
A few options that come highly rated are:
A beautiful house in the middle of Mendoza, Gorilla Hostel features a huge grassy garden, outdoor pool, foosball table, BBQ and free breakfast. It’s located just two blocks from the Artistides bars and restaurants!
Chill Inn also features an outdoor pool, BBQ and free breakfast. The entrance to the hostel is located directly on Artistides, right next to the popular brewpub Chachingo Craft Beer.
Hostel Internacional Campo Base
The party hostel of Mendoza, Hostel Internacional Campo Base has a fun event scheduled every night! Think “Empanadas & Wine,” “All You Can Eat BBQ,” and “Pizza Night.” People report really bonding with fellow travelers and the friendly staff.
They also have a nifty “Weekly Plan” calendar listing the types of (paid) activities you can sign up to join! Think paragliding, mountain trekking, rafting, and horseback riding. This hostel is part of the International Hosteling Group.
When to Begin Planning
The Mendoza Vendimia Festival is a HUGELY popular Argentinian affair. However, Boyfriend and I only booked everything two weeks in advance and had an incredible time! So here’s all I’ll say:
The only things YOU MUST book in advance are your tickets to the Alto Central show. Especially if you want to go Saturday for the pageant! Tickets go on sale sometime between mid-January and early-February. Keep checking on Facebook for more information about tickets. I found the info on the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia Mendoza Page.
The rest — accommodation, transportation, wine tours — you’ll be fine booking 3-4 weeks in advance. We lucked out in finding the perfect accommodation and tour last-minute, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Same goes for flights.
Mendoza’s larger-than-life Vendimia Festival is so unique I can’t believe it isn’t more widely known. But with its plentiful wine-tasting opportunities, gorgeous neighboring countryside, vibrant cultural street celebrations and wild cultural dance spectacle, it’s really only a matter of time!
So if you find yourself thirsty in South America in March, get your butt over to Argentina to catch the one-of-a-kind Vendimia celebration! I hope this itinerary has given you a solid basis on which to enjoy the 3-day festival in all its glory.