Beyond Aconcagua: Best Outdoor Adventures in Mendoza

Ana RosbergJanuary 30, 2020

Among mountaineers, Mendoza is synonymous with Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America and one of the Seven Summits. For those that are not mountaineers, Mendoza is synonymous with wine, most famously, Malbec and Torrontés. But although climbing Aconcagua is something you should definitely do (and still in time for this year!), and tasting wine is something you will probably enjoy when you get back from its daunting summit,  Mendoza has even more to offer outdoor enthusiasts. 

The Argentinian province of Mendoza is flanked to the west by the Andes Mountains, which separate Argentina from Chile. The majestic mountains stand tall over the valleys that are covered in vineyards, orchards, and beehives. Year-round, visitors come to Mendoza to explore the Andes, and taste both the wine and the delicious high-end cuisine that the region is also famous for. Hiking, rock climbing, horse-back riding, rafting, skiing, and even ice-climbing are all great options to work up an appetite during the day.

To help you plan your visit to this awe-inspiring Argentinian province, we’ve put together a selection of programs by some of our certified mountain guides. Try them on their own or pair them, and you are bound to enjoy an active holiday you will never forget!

Top 5 Outdoor Adventures in Mendoza

Crossing the Andes

Cordón del Portillo, Mendoza
Cordón del Portillo. Photo courtesy of EPGAMT alpine guide, Joaquín.

Crossing the Andes from Argentina to Chile and vice-versa is a popular outdoor adventure all along the mountain chain. Trail running is a demanding option for this feat, whereas horse-back riding and trekking are the most common options. From Mendoza, the crossing takes approximately a week, and many programs follow some of the historical crossing paths that San Martín took.

EPGAMT mountain guide, Martin, leads a 5-day trek with all logistics covered that takes you in a short span of time through Paso del Portillo (Portezuelo de Piquenes), which joins Tunuyan, located in Mendoza’s Uco Valley, with San Gabriel, located in the San José del Maipo commune in Chile. This path that connects both countries opens every year during the warmer months for tourism and adventure sports. A 5-day trek along this amazing route is enough to give you a feel of the immensity of the mountains, and of the beautiful lakes, rivers, wildlife, and starry night skies.

When is the best time to cross the Andes? Paso del Portillo is open from November to April. The best time to go is in February, which is also the time of the grape harvest and its corresponding festivities. The next open group date for this adventure is from the 22nd to the 27th of February, 2020.

Level: Intermediate. Although it is not a deeply technical climb, it does require a good level of fitness.

Book your place now on this unforgettable 5-day trek and cross the Andes from Mendoza to San José del Maipo!

Rock climbing in San Rafael

The San Rafael rocks. Photo courtesy of AAGM mountain guide, Waldo.

San Rafael is located to the south of Mendoza and has become a rock-climbing hotspot over the last few years. It is mostly a sports climbing haven, however, you can practice trad and mixed climbing, as well as top rope and bouldering as well.

Popular spots to go rock climbing in San Rafael include the “Estación Sismológica” in the Valle Grande, which was the birthplace of rock climbing in the region.  Atuel Canyon is another top spot among outdoor enthusiasts. This stunning canyon is pierced by the emerald green Atuel River, which is also a great place for rafting and is worthy enough to visit for its sheer beauty alone. “La Frazada” is the most popular spot to practice rock climbing in the Atuel Canyon.  “El Santuario”, a newer spot that gets its name because it’s close to a cave where people gather to pray, was discovered by bouldering enthusiasts and boasts plenty of great climbing options as well.

When is the best time to go climbing in San Rafael? During the cooler months when the sun is not scorching down on the rocks. Anytime between May and September will allow you to enjoy some superb winter climbing in Mendoza.

Level: Everyone can enjoy a rock climbing adventure in San Rafael. If you are a beginner, there are courses to take your first steps on the rocks, and if you are advanced, then you will have a blast rock climbing in Mendoza.

Join a short rock climbing course in Mendoza or a longer 1-week rock climbing adventure in San Rafael today!

Riding and Hiking in Cordón del Plata

Cordón del Plata, Mendoza
Cordón del Plata, Mendoza. Photo courtesy of EPGAMT alpine guide, Joaquín.

The Cordón del Plata range is a sub-range of the High Andes and boasts inspiring views of the whole region. Some of the most famous peaks in this range include the Cerro del Plata (the highest of the group), Cerro Vallecitos, Cerro San Bernardo, Cerro Adolfo Calle, and Cerro Stepanek, all over 4000m. Local mountaineers and guides consider the Cordón del Plata to be a top Aconcagua training ground, and in fact, you will be able to catch sight of the giant from the top of any of these peaks. However, those that are not training for a great mountaineering feat can also enjoy the beautiful mountains of this stunning range either on a shorter hiking or horseback riding adventure.

When is the best time to go hiking in the Cordón del Plata range? Hiking and horseback riding in the del Plata range are best done during the warmer months, between October and May, however, it is also possible to practice these activities in the colder months. Skiing is also possible in this area if you visit in winter.

Level: Hiking and riding adventures in the del Plata range are open to all levels. However, many of the longer treks in the range are for more advanced mountaineers.

Enjoy an unforgettable horseback riding day in Cordón del Plata or book your place for this easy-going 1-day 3 peak trek with EPGAMT alpine guide, Joaquín!

Heliskiing in Uco Valley

Skiing in Mendoza
Skiing in Mendoza. Photo courtesy of Hernan.

In winter, Las Leñas (in Luján de Cuyo), Penitentes (close to Aconcagua) and Vallecitos (in the Cordón del Plata range) are popular ski resorts in Mendoza. However, those that want to access more remote slopes on a more exclusive adventure can go on a unique heliski trip in Valle de Uco and stay at a renowned luxury resort with a top of the line gourmet restaurant led by chef Francis Mallman. 3-day and weeklong options are available, as well as group and private alternatives. Trips include an avalanche and safety clinic, and daily heli-rides to find the best untracked terrain in the Andes.

When to go skiing in Mendoza? during the winter months, between June and September.

Level: Intermediate, trips are tailored to the skills of participants.

Discover the amazing snow of the Andes on a 3-day or 6-day heliski adventure in the Uco Valley!

Ice climbing in Cerro Agua Salada

Mendoza ice climbing
Ice climbing in Mendoza. Photo courtesy of Hernan.

Located in the Aconcagua Provincial Park, the Cerro Agua Salada is a lesser-known peak in the region, and one worth getting to know. This peak near  Puente del Inca is famous for its icefalls in winter and a great place to practice ice-climbing if you have some prior experience with the sport. On the way, you will enjoy the amazing views of Aconcagua. Once there, you will enjoy climbing 20 to 120 meters falls. Options include 1 and 2-day programs.

When to go ice-climbing in Mendoza? During the winter, between June and September.

Level: Intermediate to advanced. Keep in mind that you will need a good fitness level and prior ice-climbing experience to join this program.

Discover the amazing ice-falls near Aconcagua on a unique ice-climbing trip in Mendoza! Start planning your adventure!

Mendoza Climate

Mendoza is a very dry and arid province with very little precipitation, even in winter. In the summer, average temperatures are 25 °C (77 °F), however, they can go into the 30°C (90°F) range too, during the day. At night, temperatures drop dramatically to the 5°C (40°F) range. In the winter, temperatures are a little lower, although they don’t always drop below freezing at low altitudes. Snow is usually reserved for the mountains.

How to get to Mendoza

Getting to Mendoza from Buenos Aires is pretty straightforward, and flights usually leave from the Aeroparque Jorge Newberry airport in Palermo and take around 2 hours. Long-distance buses are also an option and takes around 14 hours from Retiro. Flying to Mendoza from the city of Santiago in Chile takes around an hour and a bus ride takes between 7 and 8 hours.  Once there, depending on where you decide to go you can take a bus, a taxi or drive.

Mendoza is an amazing location with all kinds of options to enjoy the outdoors. Don’t miss the chance to discover the beautiful Andes Mountains year-round in this amazing Argentinian province. When you’re done, you can pour yourself a well-deserved glass of wine.

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