In the shadow of the arid central Andes, modern Mendoza lacks Salta’s colonial charm or Bariloche’s scenic immediacy, but the provincial capital delights Argentines and foreigners alike as one of the country’s most livable cities.
Its dearth of distinctive historic architecture stems from its seismic vulnerability, but Mendocinos have compensated by creating sycamore-shaded streets, irrigated by ancient acequias, with broad sidewalks and verdant open spaces. In the words of Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, it’s “protected by a roof of leaves woven together like the fingers of a huge circle of inseparable lovers.”
On top of that, it has an active cultural life, thanks to its university, museums, and performing arts venues, and there’s a vigorous nightlife district between downtown and the green expanses of Parque General San Martín.
Much of Mendoza’s prosperity depends on the petroleum industry, but dozens of bodegas, open for tours and tasting, draw many visitors. That makes it an ideal place to organize activities like a white-water descent of the Río Mendoza or an icy ascent of Aconcagua and to celebrate them afterward.
On the eastern Andean piedmont, 761 meters above sea level, Mendoza (pop. about 112,000, but roughly 1 million when adjacent municipalities are included) is 1,073 kilometers west of Buenos Aires via RN 7 and 340 kilometers northwest of Santiago, Chile, via RN 7 to the Los Libertadores border complex. It is 168 kilometers south of San Juan via RN 40, 665 kilometers southwest of Córdoba via San Luis, and 825 kilometers north of Neuquén via a series of paved highways.
Getting to Mendoza
Mendoza has both domestic and international connections by air and road. There is also talk of reviving rail service to Chile, but this is unlikely for the near future.
Aerolíneas Argentinas (Sarmiento 82, tel. 0261/4204100) and close affiliate Austral fly several times daily to Buenos Aires’s Aeroparque, sometimes via Córdoba.
Mendoza’s only international connections are with LAN (Avenida España 1002, tel. 0261/425-7900), which flies at least twice daily to Santiago, Chile. LAN also flies to Córdoba and Buenos Aires.
Mendoza’s gigantic bus station, Terminal del Sol (Avenida Gobernador Videla and Avenida Acceso Este, Guaymallén, tel. 0261/431-3001 or 0261/431-0500, www.mendozaterminal.com.ar), is just over the departmental line. Provincial, regional, long-distance, and international services are available. There are also restaurants, shops, and even showers.
There are numerous carriers and routes that can take you just about anywhere you would like to go. In ski season, several companies go directly to Las Leñas.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition