Cuyo is the region with the highest production of wines in Argentina.
The two main provinces are Mendoza and San Juan, in the western part of the country, the competition between these two provinces is quite insane!
My initial plan was to only visit Mendoza, but one morning waking up in Cordoba, I decided to change my course, so I bought a cheap bus ticket to San Juan and eight hours later here I am.
I could not have made a better choice, the San Juan area is just incredible. It is not a common tourist destination for travelers that are not Argentines : the climate is semi – desert and the heat can become unbearable ; the position of this town is remote ; to speak in English is virtually impossible and there are no “fashion ” restaurants in these parts. Apart from these limitations, San Juan has a lot to offer, but you often have to find your own way to get to the various points of interest. The main attractions are:
- The Ishigualasto Provincial Park, the land of dinosaurs known also as Valle de la Luna. It is part of UNESCO heritage sites. It contains the remains of the late Triassic and some of the oldest dinosaur fossils (highly recommended the tour of the park with the full moon).
- The Ullum dam. The dam itself is not very interesting, but in its vicinity there is an area for trekking called Cerro Tres Marias, which is pretty amazing. It crosses two different types of landscape, one of which is entirely in red clay rocks. The view of the lake from the top of the mountain is spectacular.
- The pagan sanctuary of Difunta Correa. I would like to write a separate article about this fascinating and also pretty disturbing place.
- The San Guillermo National Park, where it is possible to catch sight of foxes, guanacos and Andean condors.
- Various places in the desert where you can watch the stars … and when I say all I mean the entire Milky Way with the various constellations!
- The Wine Road … and here I dwell on because it’s my area of interest!
Ruta del Vino de San Juan (Wine Road)
San Juan is the second largest wine producer in Argentina, accounting for approximately 15 % of its production. It is located less than 200 km north of Mendoza and most of its vineyards are planted between 650 to 1400 meters above sea level. Thanks to the dry climate and the high altitude, the diseases that normally attack the vines are rare and, therefore, less chemical treatments are necessary, with consequent use of organic grapes . Syrah thrives particularly well here.
The ” official “ Wine Road is 370 km long and includes 12 wineries. Most of them (if not all), offers free wine tasting (Bonus!).
To travel the Wine Route there are currently four methods at disposal:
- Renting of a car. Rental prices are very reasonable and you can choose which wineries to visit. But the driver cannot drink !
- Book a wine tour, if you manage to find a travel agency available … Strangely they are still not very well- organized, and it can be a very difficult job to find a tour. It depends on the minimum number of persons available ( there are not many tourists around here! ). There are only a couple of travel agencies, but they are closed on Sundays, Saturday afternoons and during siesta hours ( 13:00-17:00 ) … I know, it’s crazy !
- Pay a taxi driver and let yourself be taken around. This is a good option and is quite cheap, but be prepared to haggle.
- Use public transport and visit the wine cellars around the city. This is by far the cheapest way to get around: a bus ticket costs between 5 and 15 Pesos ( less than 1 Euro ).
In short, the motto in San Juan is ” Get out and explore! ”
This city remains one of my favorite places in Argentina!