Binational wine tourism

Argentina and Chile make a good combo.

By Antonella Romano / FST
In autumn, the Andes provide a splendid snow-capped background for the wine countries of the Argentine province of Mendoza and Chile’s 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Regions on the other side of the Andes. The cities of Mendoza and Santiago, the Chilean capital, are separated by barely 340 km and a drive of six hours through some of the most spectacular high-mountain scenery on the continent — a good excuse to indulge in wine tourism in both countries. Snow won’t begin closing the Las Cuevas-Cristo Redentor pass between them until around June, and now is the time to go by bus to enjoy the views of Mount Aconcagua (6,959 m), highest peak in the Western and Southern Hemispheres. And when it snows, you can do Mendoza-Santiago by air in one hour.
Wineries have multiplied in this region during the past 20 years, to more than 450 in Chile and over 850 in just the province of Mendoza, the biggest Argentine wine producer. Hefty investments have been made on both sides of the border to expand and upgrade vineyards, and improve installations, processes and products. Multinationals that have started from scratch with new vineyards and wineries, or acquired well-known local wineries, co-exist with small family-run artisan establishments that have acquired modern technology.
The lodging of tourists in small luxury hotels installed in old family homes, or in new modern minimalist buildings in vineyards, the opening of gourmet restaurants that serve five-course meals paired to as many wines, and the organization of all sorts of tourist activities related to viticulture and enjoyment of wine and the good life are the most visible manifestations of a new tourist industry that adds value to wine-producing properties.
For the tourist unaware of these real estate-related considerations, it is interesting to note how grape varieties react to different soils and climates, taste blends produced by different wine-making philosophies, and observe how wine tourism is being developed on both sides of the Andes. Chile invented a Wine Train for one of its leading vineyard valleys. However, wineries that have their own gourmet restaurants and provide upscale lodging are more common in Argentina.
Several travel agencies in Mendoza and Santiago run bi-national wine tours.
Nowadays the wine tourism market in both countries caters to four kinds of visitors: tourists for whom a visit to a winery is a tour experience, young travelers who think that cycling through vineyards and tasting wines at different wineries along the way is cool, people who revel in the exclusive feel of accommodations offered by boutique hotels in or near vineyards, and wine connoisseurs who just want to taste a region’s best wines.

Wineries accept visitors all year round in both countries. Few are set up for spur-of-the-moment tastings, and reservations must be made in advance by telephone, or on the Internet.
An ordinary winery tour performed for a bus-full of tourists who may know little about wines, includes a look at the grounds and installations, explanations of the wine-making process and, usually, tastings that comprise small servings (“two fingers”) of one or more of the establishment’s most popular (i.e. “economical”) wines; if one wants something better, one pays extra.
Connoisseurs, who want to taste only outstanding products of top wineries, understandingly take a different approach. They may book a specialist tour, or hire a taxi for the day and head for two or three wineries recommended on the Internet grapevine, for the simple pleasure of sipping unique products in the places where they are made.
Those with little time to spare may also learn a lot just by staying in town and tasting a flight of wines recommended by the sommelier of a famous wine bar or a top restaurant with an outstanding wine list. Those with more time enjoy pairing wines with food at the gourmet restaurants at certain wineries.
Vineyard biking can also be done all year round, including winter if there’s not too much snow on the ground.
Remember that there’s a big difference between booking a guided vineyard bike tour, and getting yourself out into the countryside, renting a bike and pedaling about by yourself under the sun. The advantage of booking a guided tour is that it comes with in-out transfers between one’s hotel in the city and the point of departure in the countryside; medical insurance; mechanical assistance; arrangements for visits to wineries, olive oil factories and other establishments, and lunch, among other details.

In the province of Mendoza, the wine harvest takes place in different areas from mid-February to mid-April, depending on climatic factors.
During the first weekend of March, Mendoza City stages a National Wine Harvest Festival that has been one of Argentina’s greatest popular celebrations since 1936.
Mendoza’s main wine regions are Luján de Cuyo and Maipú near the capital in the north of the province, the Uco Valley to the south, and around the city of San Rafael further south still, in the center of the province. Its wine country occupies a variety of soils at different altitudes under an arid climate in an area that extends some 250km from north to south.

Wine tours
In Mendoza, 100 wineries offer wine tours. Some are free, others cost from 10 to 25 pesos.
Twenty years ago, the most famous wineries were López, Flichman and Weinert, all of them around Mendoza City. Now there are many more, among them Familia Zuccardi ( in Maipú, which in 2007 received the Global Net of the Great Wine Capitals “Relevant Experience in Wine Tourism” award; it offers everything from harvesting and pruning opportunities, to cooking classes and tours in a vintage car and a hot air balloon. This winery, Norton ( in Luján de Cuyo, and Bianchi ( in San Rafael are the ones that receive the most tourists.

Other well-known Mendoza wineries that offer tours are Bodega La Rural (, which has an important wine museum; Séptima (; Cavas de Weinert (; López (; Chandon (; Flichman ( and Lagarde (
The icons of wine critics at present are Salentein (, which has a spectacular visitors’ center with an art museum and gourmet restaurant; Catena Zapata (; Luigi Bosca (; Trapiche (, and Achával Ferrer (, among others.

Vineyard biking
Baccus Biking (0261-496-1975, operates guided bike tours in Chacras de Coria, Luján de Cuyo, and the Uco Valley. Indiana Adventures (0261-429-0002,, runs guided tours in Luján de Cuyo, Maipú and the Uco Valley. Bikes and Wines (0261-410-6686, offers both tours and rentals, which include motor bikes. City Bike in Mendoza City (0261-423-2103), and Mr. Hugo’s Mendoza Rental Bikes (0261-497-4067) in Maipú rent bicycles with maps.
Accommodation in vineyards
During the past ten years, several wineries have built accommodation for the growing numbers of foreign wine oenophiles who are visiting the country, encouraged as much by the quality of the country’s wines, as by a favorable exchange rate.
Among them are: Inti Huaco (Maipú), 0261-155652630,; Club Tapiz (Maipú), 0261-4900202,; Terrazas (Luján de Cuyo), 0261-4880058, 0261-4106001,; Nieto Senetiner (Luján de Cuyo), 0261-4980315,; Cavas Wine Lodge (Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo), 0261-4106927/28,; La Posada de Bodega Vistalba (Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo), 0261- 4989411,; Chateau D’Ancon (Tupungato), 02622-4235843,; Salentein (Tunuyán), 02622-423550,; Alto Cedro (San Carlos), 02622-4233314, Bodegas O. Fournier (San Carlos), (0261) 15-467-1021,; Finca La Celia (San Carlos), 02622-451012 or 02622-4610400,; and Algodón Wine Estates (San Rafael), 02627-429 020, or

Other activities in Mendoza
Rafting and kayaking are done around Mendoza City and San Rafael all year round, as are horseback riding, hiking and cycling – all of which can be half-day or full-day outings. Mount Aconcagua attracts mountain climbers, as well as hikers who explore its lower slopes, in the summer, and tourists who book day tours into the mountains to stare at its peak from afar all year round, weather permitting.

How to get there
Mendoza is 1,100 km from Buenos Aires via national routes 8 or 7. It is 340 km from Santiago, but the ride takes at least six hours, owing to the curves and the time needed to get through Customs.
The Andesmar, Ahumada and TAC bus companies also go to Mendoza from both cities.
LAN and Aerolíneas Argentinas fly there from Buenos Aires and Santiago. Sol Líneas Aéreas connects Mendoza City with Córdoba City and Rosario.

Casa de Mendoza in Buenos Aires (Callao 445): 54-11-4371-0835
Casa de San Rafael (same address): 54-11-4374-3408.
Until the 1980s, most of the Chilean wineries that produced fine wines were close to Santiago. During the past 20 years, the wine growing area has been extended to 13 valleys in four regions (Coquimbo, Aconcagua, Central Valley and Bío Bío) which stretch 1,000 km from the desert in the 5th Region in the north to the humid forests of the 8th Region in the south.
The wine harvest in the valleys around Santiago takes place in March and April. The Ruta del Vino wine festival held in San Fernando in the Colchagua Valley in mid-March claims to be the biggest in Chile.
Chile’s best-known wine estates are in the Maipo, Casablanca, Colchagua and Aconcagua valleys, which are nearest to Santiago. Concha y Toro ( in the Maipo Valley, Undurraga ( in Talagante, famed for its ceramics, like Pomaire, which is also on the road to San Antonio; and Cousiño Macul (, which tours tend to pair with a visit to the eponymous mansion in the metropolitan area, are traditionally the ones most visited by tourists. However, travel agencies nowadays are also combining visits to others in the Casablanca valley with tours of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, and horseback rides in the coastal range. The star, however, is the Colchagua Valley with its picturesque Wine Train tour that is run from Santiago, and the Colchagua Museum of regional and universal history that is a unique experience for people interested in paleontology, archaeology, vintage cars and trains, among other specialties.
Wine critics speak well of Casa Lapostolle (, Montes ( and Neyen ( in the Colchagua Valley; Errázuriz ( in the Aconcagua Valley; Concha y Toro and Almaviva ( in the Maipo Valley; Altaïr ( in the Cachapoal Valley; Matetic ( in the Rosario Valley in the San Antonio area; and Echeverría ( and Alta Cima ( in Curicó, among others.

Vineyard biking

Bikes & Wine Chile (, a specialist in vineyard bike tours in the Aconcagua, Casablanca, Colchagua and Nilahue valleys, works with Grado Sur Expediciones (0056-2-209-1342, in Santiago. La Bicicleta Verde (, which became famous for its specialty bike tours in Santiago, works with Chip Travel ( in the capital and does the Maipo and Casablanca valleys. Paseos en Bicicleta, (, another Santiago bike tour specialist, does the Maipo Valley.

Lodging in vineyards
Lodging in and near vineyards in Chile is available, if not as advertised as in Argentina. Among the most visible options in the Colchagua Valley are Viña Casa Silva (, which also offers polo and Chilean rodeo shows on request and Casa Lapostolle with its luxury Residence and four bungalows for visitors.

Hacienda Los Lingues (, a 400-year-old ranch house 18 km from San Fernando — 125 km (1 ½ hours) south of Santiago — and 65 km from Santa Cruz, is also in the Colchagua Valley. It is near Rancagua, epicenter of the huaso (Chilean cowboy) culture. The owner raises pedigree criollo horses and provides a Chilean rodeo show on request. It is not in a vineyard, but it is a unique place to stay.
Viñedos Matetic ( has a guest house in the Rosario Valley between Santiago and Valparaíso. Their harvest lasts from the end of February to mid-May. They offer horseback rides.

The Wine Train
There are three to five Wine Train excursions per month, all year round. Oenophiles taste the produce of three or more wineries on board a vintage that takes them through the Colchagua Valley 125 km south of Santiago. The prices of the excursion have to do with the activities additional to wine-tasting on offer. One travel agency ( offers three 12-hour tours, and a two-day tour. All begin the same way: a bus takes passengers from Santiago to San Fernando, where they board the train that takes them through the valley. They disembark in Santa Cruz, where they have lunch in a winery. Before returning to Santiago, there is a choice of a gondola car ascent to a theme park of Indian villages atop a hill; a stop at another vineyard for an additional winetasting in the Cachapoal Valley; or a brief look at the Colchagua Museum in Santa Cruz. The fourth option lodges them for the night at a luxurious hotel so they can have plenty of time to see the Colchagua Museum the following day before returning to Santiago. The museum is large, comprehensive and fascinating, dealing with both regional and international history. It has one of the world’s best amber collections, complete with imprisoned prehistoric insects, and a truly impressive carriage collection. It takes a long time to see the museum’s 17 collections, and history enthusiasts should not miss it. The tour costs US$144 when the first two options are included; US$206 with an hour in the Colchagua Museum, and US$292 in the two-day version dedicated to seeing the museum at length.
The Wine Train itself offers other options, including a “Rosé” half-day tour which leaves passengers at the Santa Cruz train station at noon, after which they can tour the region and continue on to other destinations at their own pace.

You can also return to Santiago on board the Metrotren ( from San Fernando.
For some time now, the mayors of three cities near the capital of Mendoza have been wanting to set up an Argentine wine train, but have thus far been unable to interest national authorities in footing the bill for acquiring the train and replacing most of the tracks that disappeared when rail transport was discontinued in much of the country during the 1990s.

How to get to the Chilean wine regions
In winter, the best bet is to fly to Santiago from Mendoza City or Buenos Aires. During the rest of the year, it’s nice to do the Mendoza-Santiago trip by bus in the daytime and enjoy the landscape without having to drive, at least once in a lifetime.
For further information on wine tours in Chile, see:,, and

Posada Salentein, Mendoz
a: Bonnie Tucker. Wine casks, Bodegas López, Mendoza: Bodegas López. Restaurant, Bodega Lagarde, Mendoza: Bodega Lagarde. Vineyard in Mendoza: Bodegas Achával Ferrer. Rafting in the Atuel Canyon, Mendoza: Bonnie Tucker. Bodega Bisquertt, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Bonnie Tucker. Bicycles in vineyard: La Bicicleta Verde, Santiago, Chile. Huasos at Hacienda Los Lingues, Chile: Bonnie Tucker. Chile’s Wine Train: Tren del Vino.

Salta City on foot

A self-guided city tour.

Downtown Salta is one of the prettiest — and easiest — Argentine tourist spots to explore on foot. Native son Hernán Uriburu, the dean of the trail ride operators in this northwestern province, gives newly-arrived clients a piece of paper with the following self-guided walking tour to orient them in the city before or after accompanying him on a long horseback ride to outposts in the mountains:
”First of all, get your geographical bearings. Take the gondola lift one-way to the top of Mount San Bernardo. From there you will get an idea of the city’s size, its buildings, its churches, squares, soccer pitches … everything that can be seen from above.
Then descend the stairs of the Stations of the Cross to the Monument to General Martín Miguel de Güemes, from where you will begin a historic and religious itinerary that takes you down Paseo Güemes, Calle Virrey Toledo and Calle Caseros (the city’s oldest street), past the San Bernardo convent, the San Francisco Church, the Uriburu Museum, and all the way to the Plaza 9 de Julio main square. Around the square are the Cathedral, the MAAM (Museum of High-Mountain Archaeology), and the Cabildo , among other landmarks.
The Peatonal Alberdi pedestrian mall that branches off the main square is a good place to pick up on the city’s ethnic side, noting how salteños look and dress, and how they arrange their shop windows displays.
When you get to Avenida San Martín, walk a block and a half to the San Miguel popular market. There you will see what fruit, vegetables, fish and meat are produced and eaten in the region.
Three and a half blocks from there, at Avenida San Martín and Calle Islas Malvinas, is the Patio de la Empanada, a pasties mall that will put you in touch with one of the mainstays of the province’s gastronomy.”

Kayak sabbatical

All their expeditions across the River Plate and up the Uruguay River during the past few years were not enough. This year Luis and Agustín García Albarido, owners of Tigre kayaking outfitter A Remar!, have taken a sabbatical to attempt, with their photographer friend Diego Lamas, an odyssey between La Quiaca and Ushuaia. They will cycle from the northernmost point in Argentina to Aguas Blancas, and from there kayak down the rivers to the sea, where they will find an environment completely different from the Delta. Follow their progress on the “De cara al viento” link of

Córdoba photo safari

Photography teacher Marcelo Gurruchaga will be leading a photo safari to Córdoba’s wild Pampa de Achala and Quebrada del Condorito National Park during the May 23-25 long weekend.
They will be snapping pictures of condors and plant and animal species that exist only in this biological “island” between three ecosystems by day, and enjoying the spa of the Posta del Qenti by night. Cost: 1,580 pesos. Info:


For those interested in seeking the spark of life on Earth in the Universe, Astroturismo organizes astronomy excursions to interesting pollution-free places with clear skies throughout the year. In early May, a group will be scrutinizing planets and constellations from the salt flats behind Las Grutas (Río Negro). Later this year they will be going to places in Córdoba and San Juan.
Information: 54-11-4861-8420;

Comfortable Catamarca

The Puna has a new hotel.

The government of Catamarca Province recently used mining royalties to build ten new provincial inns in different parts of the province, and is looking for concessionaires to run them. Among the new properties is the 24-room Cortaderas Hotel complex in the San Francisco Pass, which is paved to the border with Chile.
Located at 3,300 meters above sea level 100 km northwest of Fiambalá on National Route 60, the complex lies at the entrance to the trail leading to the base camps of the province’s famous volcanoes and peaks more than 6,000 meters high.

Turrell at Colomé

James Turrell, the US artist of light, space and perception, recently inaugurated a museum dedicated to his work at Donald Hess’ Colomé high-altitude winery in the province of Salta, giving travelers an additional reason to book in at the property’s exclusive lodge.
Above: Photo courtesy of Estancia Colomé / Robert Russo. Below: Photos courtesy of Estancia Colomé / Florian Holzherr.

BA bus

The BA City Hall offers tours in open-top double-decker buses that leave every half hour from Florida and Diagonal Norte. A day ticket costs 25 pesos. The route includes 12 hop-on hop-off stops


Buenos Aires residents love eating out, and they have a special soft spot for bodegones, restaurants that dish out generous portions of popular Argentine versions of traditional Italian and Spanish food at reasonable prices. So when Italian-born food critic Pietro Sorba published Bodegones de Buenos Aires (Planeta, 2008, 109 p.), his guidebook to these eating establishments in the city was snapped up so quickly that bookstore clerks didn’t even have time to arrange displays, and it quickly went out of print. But a second edition, with the same good English translation of the first, has just hit bookstore shelves, making it worthwhile to try to get a copy.

Salta - Iguazú

Andes Líneas Aéreas plans to offer a domestic air link between Salta City in northwestern Argentina and Iguazú Falls in the northeast on April 29. Three times a week, one of the Salta-based airline’s MD 80s will be flying 180 passengers from Buenos Aires to Iguazú and back, with stops in the cities of Córdoba and Salta. This is a welcome decentralization measure for all passengers, because until now someone wishing to go to the falls from Salta has had to drive more than 1,000 km, or fly south to Buenos Aires and take another plane north from there, owing to the lack of direct air connections between the two popular destinations. The only other exception to the BA monopoly has been Sol Líneas Aéreas, whose 34-passenger SAAB 340A turboprops stop in the city of Córdoba on flights between Rosario for the city of Mendoza five days a week, without passing through Buenos Aires at all.

Folk music & criollo flavors

A pleasant combination in the Northwest and Buenos Aires

By Bonnie Tucker / FST
“A friendly get-together” is the Spanish dictionary definition that best describes peña, this way of listening to live folk music that originated in the provinces of northwestern Argentina and also has its fans in Buenos Aires.
Nowadays, a peña is a restaurant or bar when people get together to listen to music and play or sing it between servings of regional food such as empanada meat turnovers and locro stew washed down with several glasses of wine. In the most authentic peñas, you begin the night listening and, if you have singing and guitar-playing skills, you just might end up entertaining others. But you usually have to take your own guitar.
There are all sorts of peñas. The admission to some is free, in others you pay. Some are outright tourist traps, but there are others without professional singers, where common people just go to sing. In some towns, the places where the next peñas will be held are advertised on small pieces of paper stuck on shop windows.
In Buenos Aires, the two most famous peñas are both in Palermo. Los Cardones (Jorge Luis Borges 2180,, is the favorite of polo players and other sons of ranchers. The restaurant of La Peña del Colorado (Güemes 3657, is open day and night on weekdays and has a yerba mate bar for non-drinkers and curious tourists. When the show is over at night, guitars are handed around to guests who want to sing.
The food served in these places brings together the flavors of the original peoples of the region and those of the conquistadores of the Americas. Barbecued meats, stews such as locro, humita (corn meal boiled in corn husk packages), and hearth-roasted potatoes go well with empanadas, a dish that the Spaniards inherited from the Arabs, and stews that use ingredients brought from Europe.

Feria de Mataderos

The countryside comes to Buenos Aires on Sunday
By Bonnie Tucker / FST
May 25, one of Argentina’s most important national holidays, draws nigh, the Mataderos Fair is preparing enhancements to its usual program dedicated to popular rural customs. In addition to zambas and chacareras, dancers in 19th-century attire will perform the pericón, a local dance that was the rage during the independence period. Gauchos from the best rural tradition clubs will run ring races, and kids and their parents will enjoy sapo, taba, sack races and other children’s games of yesteryear.
Since 1986, this municipal crafts and regional food fair has been offering city slickers free gaucho horsemanship shows, folk music recitals and the opportunity to join popular street dances in front of the centenary building of the Buenos Aires Stock Yards.
Located about an hour by bus from downtown, and less by motorway, the fair is for local consumption and does not attempt to attract large contingents of foreign tourists; everyone arrives by regular bus or by their own means. Despite the fact that big-name singers attract tens of thousands of fans, the only bathrooms available are inside the Museo de los Corrales and the restaurants around the Plaza del Resero.
The ideal thing is to go after midday, buy a tasty torta frita (fried sweet dough), empanada meat pie or chipá (manioc and cheese bread), and browse the crafts stalls until the ring races, the main attraction, begin around 3pm. Sand thrown on a street serves as a track for successive riders who gallop their horses beneath a frame from which they attempt to snatch a suspended ring with a pencil-shaped device. As the competition progresses, the rings get smaller and smaller.
The fair is held at the intersection of Av. Lisandro de la Torre and Av. De los Corrales from 11am to 8pm on Sundays from April to December and from 6pm to midnight on Saturdays during the hot summer months.

Buenos Aires-Tigre by boat

Downtown to the Delta in an hour

On weekdays, Sturla offers a comfortable scheduled Tigre-Buenos Aires "Proa Urbana" commuter service on the River Plate that can be booked by both suburbanites and tourists. The one-hour trip to the Tigre boat terminal from the dock beside the Ferrylíneas terminal in Puerto Madero in BA costs 15 pesos one way, including refreshments and a free newspaper. But that's if you wish to travel from Tigre to Puerto Madero at 7.30am, or from Puerto Madero to Tigre at 6.30pm. At 10am they run a two-hour Delta tour from Puerto Madero that costs 62 pesos. Information:, or 4731-1300.

Inside ‘La Rosada’

Free guided tours on weekends in Buenos Aires

On weekends and holidays, Argentina’s Government House, popularly known as “La Rosada” (Pink House), offers tourists free half-hour guided tours of a venerable building that underwent many changes over a period of more than 300 years, if the calculation begins with the fort that was built on this spot in 1595. One of the first things that visitors learn from the guide, a San Martín Regiment presidential honor guard soldier in a period uniform, is the real reason why “La Rosada” has always been painted pink. The first group enters the building at 10am, the last at around 7:30pm.

About Far South Travels

Welcome to southern South America

Far South Travels is a travel planner for Argentina, Uruguay and Chile with written and electronic components that suggest ways in which travelers interested in local culture and nature-oriented outdoor life can combine destinations in this part of the world to suit their tastes, available time and budget.
We are a team of experienced Argentine- and US-born travelers who have explored the three countries of the so-called “Southern Cone” of South America repeatedly over the past two decades. We feel that their geographic and cultural diversity is precisely what makes them such an interesting combination, and we want to share our experiences.
We figure that if people come this far south just to spend a few days in one place, or ply only classic itineraries, it’s because they have no idea of everything this region can offer them. We intend to change that.
We are not a guidebook. We merely want to orient people who have allotted themselves sufficient time to pursue the above-mentioned specific interests as to how to get around, and what accommodations and activities we think will be up their alley along our itineraries in and among these countries. So if it is complete lists of hotels, restaurants, pubs or travel agents that you want, and the opinions and rankings applied to them by travel writers, you will find them in the books, travel guidebooks and Web sites we recommend.
Nor do we aim to replace reputable travel agents or qualified local guides. No written guidebook in hand can replace the company and knowledge of a local resident who knows and loves his or her turf. And the best way to ensure that your travel experience in our region will be a pleasant one is, precisely, to entrust the details to a local travel agent.
The tours, excursions, expeditions and road trips outlined in our free bilingual periodical are developed at length with color images in This material will eventually end up in a picture book that will also provide information on the region’s flora and fauna, as well as geological, paleontological, archaeological and historical background information additional to that in our blog.