Climbing the mountains on the way to the Chilean border, this excellent driving circuit leads past the magnificent vineyards of Mendoza to breathtaking vistas of the Andes. It is an all-day excursion (at least 5 hr. with no stops) that leads past the Uspallata Valley up to nearly 3,000m (9,840 ft.) at Las Cuevas and the entrance of Aconcagua Park. You can take one of two routes: The easier drive takes you past Potrerillos on the RN 7 -- a small area along the Mendoza River popular for its white-water rafting. The more challenging drive (due to winding dirt roads) takes you through the gorgeous natural-springs town of Villavicencio. (We recommend you go Villavicencio on the way and return via Potrerillos on the RN 7, since you don't want to be stuck above Villavicencio at night.) Whichever route you choose, the roads come together in Uspallata, where the circuit continues to Las Cuevas on the RN 7. You can do this tour on your own, but it is easier with a driver who knows the roads. Note that a 4WD is preferable, although not a necessity, for the route to Villavicencio. Expect temperatures to drop significantly as you climb the mountain; bring a sweater! It's also a nice idea to bring a picnic. In absence of any lovely restaurant for lunch on a terrace with a view of the peaks, a roadside pullout may be the better option.
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