The stunning landscapes that surround the vineyards and wineries of Mendoza allow visitors to be in close contact with nature and enjoy a lot of fun doing Nature Tourism in Mendoza. To the north of the province the pick of these attractions are to be found in Aconcagua Provincial Park and the Villavicencio Nature Reserve, seductive beauty spots that generously share their treasures with travelers with intrepid and contemplative intentions alike, offering unforgettable experiences to everyone.
Nature Tourism in Mendoza: Aconcagua Provincial Park
Here the horizon appears to have been turned on its axis: rising to a height of 6962 meters (22,840 feet), the summit of the Aconcagua mountain is a goal for some and picturesque background for others. An unavoidable part of any visit to Mendoza, the Provincial Park that surrounds the highest peak in the world outside the Himalayas contains glaciers, flora and fauna that have enchanted generations past, present and future.
Aconcagua Park is located 115 miles from the provincial capital and is reached along RN7. You can visit by car, bus (which run regularly) and on guided visits. It spans 71,000 hectares and contains several Incan sites of great archaeological value. The name Aconcagua is derived from the Quechua term Akon-Kahuak which means “stone sentinel”.
Nature tourists in Mendoza will find coirone grasses, ice-melt creeks and small prairies that provide habitats for guanacos, pumas, foxes, mountain mice, lizards and species unique to the area such as the Andean toad whose presence is an indicator of the extreme purity of the water while falcons and condors circle in the skies up above.
Apart from mountain climbing, which is the sole preserve of experts, the Park offers plenty of hiking and trekking trails. The most popular take you to the Plaza Francia viewpoint (at a height of 4200 meters [13,800 feet] on the southern face, it is the highest in Aconcagua) and Plaza de Mulas, which is the base camp for both the Northern and Southern approaches to the peak and takes another two days to reach on foot. These expeditions, which require great physical fitness, also provide excellent views of the Laguna de Horcones glaciers.
For those visiting the park by car or with a guide, the best option is the Alta Montaña Route, which runs along the Mendoza River and takes you through the Cachueta Hot Springs, the Potrerillos Dam (an excellent spot for water sports) and the town of Uspallata.
One can then move on to Las Bóvedas (very well preserved historic adobe buildings where Fray Luis Beltrán cast the cannons and weapons with which General San Martín would liberate Chile), the Los Penitentes Villa, Puente del Inca and, close to the border with Chile, a magnificent natural viewpoint from which to admire Aconcagua in all its splendor.
Villavicencio Nature Reserve
Captain Joseph Villavicencio was an adventurer who explored the mines of Uspallata around 1700. On this land, three centuries later, the natural treasures remain. The bounty includes forests, ravines, waterfalls and a natural aquifer rich in mountain minerals with a purity level 11 times higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Villavicencio Nature Reserve is just 30 miles from the capital of Mendoza along RP52. It contains an old Norman-style hotel built in 1940, which is surrounded by gardens that feature an environmental information and research center and the only geo-paleontology path in the province.
The reserve also contains the winding Road of Snails, or Road of the Year, because it has 365 curves, a viewpoint known as El balcón (The Balcony) and a geological formation about 300 feet high, the highest point in the Andean foothills, known as Cruz de Paramillos, which offers a panoramic view of Aconcagua.
Villavicencio Park: adrenaline for all ages
During the winter vacations, the Reserve puts on its helmet and harness to open Villavicencio Park, which offers all manner of adventure activities. Forest adventures (a circuit with 15 activities set among the tree tops), ziplines, extreme ziplines (the longest descent in South America with a “Superman” stage 1500 meters long), overlanding (4×4 trekking along mountain routes), mountain biking (downhill from Cruz de Paramillos, at a height of 3100 meters (10,100 feet) above sea level), horse riding and glamping in domes.
Nature tourism in Mendoza: something for everyone.