Villavicencio Natural Reserve is a great alternative or addition to the wine tourism that is the backbone of Mendoza’s tourist attractions. It is easily visited in a half-day tour, though at nearly 175,000 acres, if you have more time, you’d find much more to explore. A visit to the reserve usually starts with about an hour’s drive from Mendoza to the springs for which the reserve are named, and in fact, this is the source of much of Argentina’s bottled mineral water.
The reserve itself has a varied topography, with mountains ranging from 900 to 3200 meters in height and deep ravines between them. Wildlife spotting is likely here, including eagles, condors, rheas (relative to the ostrich), as well as herds of the llama-like guanaco. Lucky viewers may glimpse a puma. One of the highlights of the trip is the view over the Los Caracoles viewpoint, so named for the winding road seen below (caracol means snail), which is said to have 365 twists and turns.
There is also time to visit a nearby monument called Canota, which marks General San Martín’s crossing of the Andes along with 5,000 troops to Chile to liberate Argentina from Spain.
Bring a bottle to fill up with the natural spring water at the now-defunct old resort spa at Villavicencio.