There are many crossing points between Argentina and Chile and the most impressive of them involve travelling over the Andes at altitudes well over 3.000m. Possibly the most breathtaking one is when going from Santiago de Chile to Mendoza. Thankfully, there is also a direct service from Valparaisso, which takes around 9h, by bus as usual :)
|already at +2.500m altitude and going up....to the highest point of 3.300m|
|.....through very, very twisty roads full of trucks & buses, overtaking like crazy !!!|
|Aconcagua is visible only for a few seconds during the bus ride.|
At 6.962m is the second tallest peak after Everest.
Temperature difference was a pleasant surprise. The Andes sierra separating Chile and Argentina cuts most of the cool air and humidity coming from the Pacific Ocean, which translates in 8-10 deg.C of temperature difference between Valparaiso & Mendoza. I checked in at Lao Hostel, a very popular choice among backpackers and for a very good reason. Nicely located, with very helpful staff and a welcoming backgarden.
|They didn't have available rooms the first night, so that's where I slept....cannot complain really :)|
Although there are a lot of things to do around here that can keep you busy for at least a week, like horse riding, rafting, trekking, etc, what really made Mendoza famous is its vineyards. Malbec is a grape variety, originated in France, producing some really fine, complex tasting, very dark colored, red wine.
|The latest excellent year of Malbec produce in Argentina was 2004.|
The altitude of Mendoza at 800m above sea level, the heat and dry climate of the region are ideal for Malbec grapes.
With over 20 large bodegas and many more smaller ones around Mendoza (mainly in Maipu area), a bike ride around is one of those not to be missed "activities". It takes most part of a day to get there and back, but is so much worth it. Not for the ride, but for getting back half-drunk :)
|Even the best ones, fail sometimes....|
|Mendoza really shines at night....;)|
This is the second largest city in Argentina with population well over 3m people, however it manages somehow to keep all the fun and action in a very compact area.
After walking in the city for a while, it becomes obvious that some of the country's wealthiest families live here. Soya & corn corps are the main economic engines of this region, almost all of which goes straight to Rosario for export.
Not vastly overloaded with tourists, Cordoba manages to maintain its local character very successfully. It's a city in its own right and doesn't show any signs of dependency.
|Some really worth visiting museums of contemporary and colonial style|
can keep you busy for a whole day.
With no doubt, what makes this city set itself apart from the rest of the country is its enormous student population. Cordoba is the educational capital of Argentina with around 10 Universities of all possible disciplines. This directly translates to a very lively and vibrant nightlife for every taste.
From mainstrem clubs, to live stages and traditional argentinian music corners. One thing I have given up hope in Argentina is...coffee. I have yet to find a decent coffee shop. A simple, plain, nice, espresso shot...!
It is really strange because Argentinians do drink coffee. But for some reason they are used to that instant "black-extract-of-whatever-origin", with a Coffee label on the box.
|that's what happens if siesta time finds you on the streets :)))|
|2nd & 3rd generation Greek-Argentinians learn Greek dances !!!!|
|Just accross the road is the Orthodox Church. The hospitality I received was way beyond my expectations !!!|
|Preparing the church chorus for the night of Jesus Resurrection. |
Only Mrs Georgalos speaks Greek, however, they will sing in Greek
Personally, I found Cordoba as appealing as Buenos Aires but much more compact in size.
Everything you wish, you can find it here...theaters, opera houses, museums, open markets, adventure trips,....you name it.
And the climate is great, at least during this time of the year.
I stayed in Cordoba for 4 days in total and I enjoyed every single one f them. I could easily stay longer if I had the time.
But I have to move further north to the NorthWest part of Argentina...a region so much different from the rest of the country.