The Andes absconds a whole world of adventure, and tucked higher into the altitude of the Andes mountains and its foothills are many delightful destinations to discover. Plan a couple days, hire a hardy car and try this route for a new view of the Andes – from within.
Head up via the Uco Valley into the high parts of the foothills where a special micro climate brings a whole different flora and fauna to the valley, and the skies are perfectly clear for star gazing at night, and endless sky views – only interrupted by the ever-so-close Andes mountains – during the day.
Escape for a couple nights in a mountain ranch where you can spend the afternoon on horseback and the evening retiring as a true gaucho with a home cooked meal and penguino of wine (highly recommended are Estancia La Alejandra and Estancia El Puesto).
Then drive up via the dusty back road to Potrerillos and up towards Uspallata. If you want to take a peek at Aconcagua (or climb it!) then take the hour detour to Aconcagua Park (Hotel Ayelen is the only choice in Aconcagua). There are beautiful colours in the mountain sides, and you can snatch a view of the swooping condors while you look up to the lofty peaks of the mountain range. From Aconcagua Park, on a clear day, you can view the peak which is the highest outside of the Himalayas. Taking the time to visit Aconcagua (even in a day trip from Mendoza) gives you a real insight into the isolation this great barrier creates.
On your return down to Uspallata, take the road to Barreal where you will pass more landscapes, stunning in their remoteness and mountain frame, and can even stop off for a little spin on the salt flats – watch out for the small buggies that rip up the salt flats in sporting races.
Once you reach Barreal, spend a night in one of the typical countryside dwellings and inns and get a feel for this traditional region. You’ll spot a few vineyards, and should try to get hold of a bottle of Cara Sur Criolla while you are there.
Take your pick how your return to Mendoza – whether you head back down through the vineyard lanes into Pedernal, or come via the Calingasta wine region, or keep heading along the mountains to discover further delights towards the windy regions of San Juan where the dams thrill kite surfers and windsurfers.
There’s a world to explore in the high Andes – get lost and enjoy it!