Malargüe, Mendoza: What to do, where to stay and what to eat
Where to stay…
Upon arrival in Malargue, we were greeted by the most spectacular sunset that we have ever seen; pink, purple and peach hues painted the sky. After the glorious sunset we had a significantly less glamorous walk in the dark for an hour with our heavy packs and barking dogs. For the first time on our trip, we had booked into a hostel, Ecohostel Malargue and we arrived in one piece to be greeted by the friendly staff.
What to do…
We had seen online that there were many stunning places of natural beauty near Malargue, however did not realise that they were 30 to 206 km out of town and totally inaccessible without a guided tour or your own vehicle! We provisionally booked through our hostel, thinking that the tour was quite expensive at 1050 ARP (around £50 each).
Later that afternoon we hitched into town, not wanting a repeat of our night hike, in the heat of the day. We found out that the tour we were booked on was to visit only one cave. In fact we found all the tours on offer in Malargüe to be prohibitively and unnecessarily expensive. Weighing up our options and determined not to leave with a bitter taste in our mouths, we decided to rent bicycles the next day. We found a great bike shop on Avenida San Martin that rented good quality mountain bikes for 200 ARP for a half day, 4 hours. They also supplied helmets, water bottles, puncture repair kits and a lock.
We proceeded to cycle 27km to the nearest site, Castillos de Pincheira,. a natural rock formation that looks like castles growing out of the mountain. The roads in town were all paved and of relatively good quality. However as soon as we left town, on the only route to our destination, our hearts sank as we suddenly were faced with a rough dirt track leading to the horizon. Again we had chosen a poorly conceived departure time of 12.30 pm, so the going was gritty and unreasonably hot. Huge trucks passed us and showered us in clouds of dust… it’s fair to say that we were both feeling like we had made a bad choice.
After a gruelling 2 and a half hours, totally exhausted, we made it. We had only 100 pesos on us, reserved for a well-deserved glass of wine. To our horror, to enter the site cost a mandatory fee of 100 pesos per person. Luckily, the staff took pity on us, clearly realising that we had endured a challenging journey, and let us in for half price. Sadly this meant no celebratory drink (although in the end this didn’t matter as their restaurant/bar seemed totally deserted).
Thankfully we had brought a picnic and tucked in, followed by a nap in the shade with the perpetually friendly ducks. After a couple of hours we gritted our teeth, got back on our bikes and prepared for another few hours of unpleasant cycling. However, as soon as we started riding, much to our delight, we realised that the first leg of our trip had all been on a slight up hill gradient. The way down was surprisingly enjoyable and flew by.
Where to eat…
Malargüe is known for Chivito, which is goat meat cooked in various different ways. We sampled a couple of these dishes, Chivito al horno, which is essentially roast goat at El Bodegon restaurant. The meat was tasty, however it was a little dry and was served with only potatoes and no sauce. We were yearning for gravy! We enjoyed a much more satisfying dish at Vairoletto, on a corner of the clock tower crossroads. We opted for the casserole, Cazuelo de Chivito, which was delicious and went very nicely with their malbec rosé.
It’s fair to say that Malargue was not a favourite place of ours. If you do decide to visit, be sure to have your pockets well lined with dinero and be prepared to pay for your experiences. Or have your own car. Next stop Valparaiso, Chile!