On the eastern slope of the Andes, comprising the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan, San Luis, and La Rioja, the Cuyo region can claim two world-class features: mountains and wine. At 6,962 meters, Cerro Aconcagua’s soaring summit is the highest of countless peaks that trap the snowfall in winter whose spring thaw irrigates the sandy soils of three-quarters of Argentina’s underrated—but rapidly advancing—vineyards.
Under bright desert sun, the same snowmelt fills the rivers where rafters and kayakers battle white-water waves and rapids, and the reservoirs where windsurfers race across the surface and fishers troll for trout.
Cuyo is a year-round destination. As the western hemisphere’s highest peak, Aconcagua draws climbers from around the world, but exploring the Andes on foot or saddle is not just for peak-baggers. The provincial capital of Mendoza, for its part, is one of Argentina’s most livable cities, its numerous wineries and fine food a bonus.
In winter, skiers frequent international resorts such as Las Leñas, and others explore fossil-filled desert parks like San Juan Province’s Ischigualasto and La Rioja’s Parque Nacional Talampaya (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and San Luis’s Las Quijadas. All of these have seen major paleontological discoveries but can be deadly hot in summer.
To the east, San Luis Province shares Argentina’s central sierras with Córdoba Province, whose namesake capital is arguably Argentina’s “second city.” Relatively few foreigners stop here, but overland explorers will enjoy the province’s Jesuit ruins, as well as off-the-beaten-path places like Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition