Sol y vino—or sun and wine—is the city motto of Mendoza, the fourth largest city in Argentina, and it only takes a brief time there to understand why. The sun in this dry desert city (where humidity often hovers at 1 percent) is ever-present, and opportunities for enjoying the best of wine country—beautiful vineyards, amazing restaurants, and relaxing spas—abound.

The best part: visitors can experience it all for a very low price. Compared to other top wine regions, like California’s pricey Napa Valley...well, there really is no comparison. For the same level of service and comfort, Mendoza’s food, wine, and accommodations are a small fraction of what you’d pay in America’s most iconic wine destination.

Here’s why Mendoza, Argentina, should move to the top of any wine lover’s bucket list.

They’ve been perfecting wine for 150 years.

Mendoza has been producing wine for nearly two centuries and the word is definitely out, with local wines constantly garnering praise from top critics. There are now more than 1,500 wineries in the area, and while some export to the U.S., others are available only at the source.

While tasting fees in Napa Valley continually climb higher (with an average price around $25-$35)‚ those fees in Mendoza remain modest, at about $10 for several generous pours. And with a backdrop of the spectacular, often-snow-capped Andes mountains, the setting is as memorable as the wine. Here, many wineries also offer experiences beyond wine tasting. At Bodega Ruca Malen, for example, a five-course lunch with wine pairings costs just $55. And at Bodega Tapiz, it’s less than $10 per person for a comprehensive tour and tasting that includes a carriage ride through the vineyards. The winery also owns an outpost they call Club Tapiz, which includes a restaurant and a small inn with a pool surrounded by vines.

The bottles themselves are equally affordable, with excellent wines available in the $10-15 range— unlike Napa, where quality bottles generally start at around $40. Chinitas Wine Club, which features mostly boutique wineries, offers wine tastings and sells bottles, and the staff will happily make recommendations based on your preferences and price range. A few blocks away, flights of three wines at the Naoki Wine Garden are just $4, offering another option to taste a variety of wines for not much coin.

Getting to the wineries is affordable, too. A hop-on, hop-off wine bus serves Mendoza’s three main wine regions, and visits four to six wineries depending on the region and day. Cost of a ticket is $22 (wine-tasting fees are not included). Uber is another option. The service launched in Mendoza in October 2018 and a ride from the city center to local wineries costs around $10.  

There’s so much more do than drinking wine.

While Mendoza is best known for its vino, it also offers no shortage of outdoor adventures for enjoying the “sol” half of its nickname. The region’s arid climate and lack of rain means you’re almost guaranteed sunny days for adventures like horseback riding or river rafting in the Andean foothills, soaking in the waters of a local thermal spa, or biking through the vine-covered valleys.

Most activities include local pick-up and a guide and cost under $100 per person. A group bus tour into the Andes to see Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, is even cheaper, at about $40. Post-adventure, soothe sore muscles at the spa at the Park Hyatt in the city center, where an hour-long massage costs just $55 USD.

There’s fantastic food for a low price.

With great wine often comes great cuisine, and Mendoza is no exception, with excellent food in a range of price points. One of the “best restaurants in Latin America," 1884 Restaurant, is known for its spectacular grilled meats like the ribeye, Wagyu, or tenderloin steaks it serves alongside Patagonian potatoes and Andean corn. Entrees are a steal at around $25 — though the famed restaurant is one of the most expensive in Mendoza. Another great value is Azafran, where the cellar stocks more than 500 bottles of local wine and a three-course lunch costs about $20 per person. For something more casual, head to bar/restaurant El Palenque, where you can fill up on empanadas for less than a dollar each.

Cozy and chic accommodation doesn’t cost a lot.

While you could splurge and stay at the chic Park Hyatt in the center of Mendoza for about $300 per night, comfortable accommodations can be had much cheaper. The Intercontinental on the edge of town goes about $100 per night and boasts a spa, casino, fitness center, and two restaurants.

In the city center, on the edge of quaint Plaza Italia park, the family-run Plaza Italia B&B offers several homey rooms with ensuite bathrooms for around $100 per night. The parents run the inn and cook the hearty included breakfast, while their son operates private custom wine tours for guests.

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