Travel writer Nora Walsh gives us her guide to a successful family vacation in the remarkably scenic province of Mendoza.
This year a wedding prompted my immediate family to spend a week in Mendoza. The challenge with family vacations is keeping everyone simultaneously entertained. Fortunately, Mendoza offers a wide range of activities that cater to an array of interests and I was able to ensure each member of my family had an unforgettable time.
A Great Wine Capital of the world with over 1,300 wineries, one can spend an entire vacation wine-tasting their way through Mendoza, and many oenophiles do just that. I escorted my family to the province’s most popular regions to sample the destination’s renowned Malbec wines and enjoy gourmet winery lunches in the Uco Valley, Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu.
Often described as Latin America’s Napa Valley, the Uco Valley is prized for its high-altitude terroir located at the base of the Andes. Its fertile soil has inspired the industry’s most illustrious winemakers to erect state-of-the-art wineries across the valley’s three districts—Tupungato, Tunuyan, and San Carlos.
Lujan de Cuyo is one of the largest wine producing regions in Mendoza, which includes the charming towns of Chacras de Coria and Vistalba, as well as pastoral Agrelo. Dubbed the ‘Cradle of Malbec’, Lujan de Cuyo is brimming with quaint family-owned operations, historic boutique wineries and modern upscale establishments.
Maipu is a region steeped in wine-making heritage and rustic charm. Blanketed with longstanding vineyards and deep-rooted olive trees, this terrain is home to several prominent wineries that continue to produce some of Mendoza’s most highly-regarded wines.
For an outstanding Mendocenean golf experience, I took my father to Tupungato Winelands, a rustic 18-hole golf course nestled in the foothills of the Andes. The 145-acre course is built into the existing topography and irrigates only the fairways and greens, thereby preserving the native vegetation, dry river beds and rock outcroppings.
Part of a larger development that includes polo fields, Tupungato Winelands offers a pro shop within a charming restaurant, golf clubs and carts, golf lessons and a driving range. Every hole has a minimum of five tees, ranging from championship to junior. The service is extremely friendly, but it’s still evolving and has not reached the level of a first-class luxury course. However, the panoramic mountain and vineyard views are some of the most spectacular you’ll see around the world.
Pedro Rossell has devoted the last 25 years to helping travellers and mountaineers ‘Discover the Andes‘. For a family-friendly hike, Pedro recommended an all-day excursion in Vallecitos. Before the hike, Pedro personally met with my whole family to familiarise us with the itinerary, explained what to expect on the mountain and advised us on the proper clothing to wear and pack.
The following morning our good-humoured and knowledgeable guides accompanied us on the two-hour drive to the trailhead. Together we embarked on a dirt path running alongside a freshwater stream until we reached a fertile clearing dotted with wild horses and bound by a series of commanding mountain peaks— including the 18,000-foot Mount Vallecitos.
Continuing on, we hiked until we reached a small plateau next to a picturesque snowmelt stream where our guides laid out a beautiful picnic spread. After lunch and a snooze in the midday sun, we trekked back to basecamp where we enjoyed coffee and mate (a traditional Argentine drink of infused herbal leaves) in a cosy mountain refuge.
Potrerillos is the adventure capital of Mendoza, from rafting and paragliding to zip-lining and horseback riding the rugged mountainous terrain. Argentina Rafting, Mendoza’s premier adventure outfitter, has a base camp overlooking Potrerillos Lake, which is actually a 7.5-mile reservoir formed by a dam in the Mendoza River.
I sent my father and brother off an adrenaline-pumping three-hour guided rafting trip down the river’s class III and IV whitewater rapids. They came back beaming with tales of adventure.
A desirable way to conclude any journey is a day of relaxation. My dad read by the pool, my brother kayaked the placid Potrerillos Lake and I took my mother to the hot springs of Cacheuta.
TermaSpa is a series of indoor/outdoor thermal baths tucked into a small canyon overlooking the Mendoza River. The spa circuit features natural waters ranging in temperature from 73 to 105 degrees.
We kneaded our tight muscles on rocky footbaths, bubble beds and a therapeutic water volcano. In the Natural Solarium we lathered ourselves from head to toe in a mineral-rich mud mask and baked ourselves on the sunny pool deck. After scrubbing ourselves clean in the bithermal hydrojet shower, we relaxed in robes on the shady Andaluz patio.
A buffet lunch serves an extensive spread of salads, roasted vegetables and succulent grilled meats. An adjacent garden is an idyllic place to unwind after enjoying a large delicious meal. We quietly chatted on chaise lounges under a giant pine tree until we were ready for another healing soak in Cacheuta’s curative waters.