Summertime in Mendoza gets a little bit hot. One way to escape the heat is to head up to some serious altitude and thankfully with the highest summit outside of the Himalayas right outside the door, altitude breeze is pretty easy to achieve!
Three hours in car from the city, visiting Aconcagua Park and nearby attractions are a perfect city break for a day or a couple nights. This is the season for climbers who want to take the two to three week trek up to the summit, but it’s also the season for those who want to explore the Andes at a slightly more manageable altitude.
Within Aconcagua Park you can do an hour long route which is an easy walk for any fitness level visiting little lakes, marveling at the massive ‘wandering rocks’ that were dragged from the summit a thousand years ago and taking that all important ‘Aconcagua’ photo shot in front of the peak. You can also trek up to Base Camp in around 7 hours where you can spend the night camping in the small community and then make your way back down the following day. You need to visit the park guards at the entrance to pay the different visiting fees and let them know your plans if you are hiking.
However trekking doesn’t just need to be done in the Provincial Park, there are a billion routes around this stunning part of the Andes including a two day hike on Penitentes and a couple day walks where you can visit waterfalls and mountain peaks. Hotel Ayelen is a good point of contact for organizing treks and staying overnight in the area, it also has the best restaurant in the area and you can buy packed lunches for the mountain outings.
A couple kms down the road from Aconcagua Park is another natural wonder – Puente del Inca. A naturally formed sulphuric bridge, it joins a dilapidated century old hotel to the ‘mainland’ over a river of hot sulphuric waters. In all its orange glory, it is a rather weird sight to behold and even stranger are the touristic souvenirs being sold outside. A dozen of artisan stands sell llama wool clothing, special stones with alleged healing powers and old shoes solidified from sulphuric treatment. The artisans are the only ones that can cross the bridge to go over and dip their artifacts in cages into the water where they leave it for a week until a thick sulphuric crust forms. Without a doubt one of the most unusual souvenirs to bring home from your trip to the high Andes!
Amanda Barnes is a British journalist living in Mendoza and escaping to the mountains regularly to stare at the heights of Aconcagua!