Mendoza is a city in Argentina’s Cuyo region and the heart of Argentina’s wine country, famed for Malbecs and other red wines, and one of the eleven Great Wine Capitals. It hosts many wineries, including Zuccardi, ranked the world’s best winery for three straight years.
But there is more to do than drinking wine. This post provides all the information you need to add some adventure to your trip, enjoying an amazing ride on the Mendoza river.
What is Potrerillos?
Potrerillos is a district of the Luján de Cuyo Department of the province of Mendoza, Argentina. It includes a number of small settlements along Provincial Routes 82 and 89, National Route 7, and the rivers Blanco and Mendoza. The centre of Potrerillos is 63 km south of Mendoza City.
Potrerillos used to be a group of farms and agricultural facilities. It then became a residential area, as well as a rest area for temporary residents, and a tourist resort. A large dam on the Mendoza River forms an artificial lake that measures 12 km in length and 3 km in maximum width. Uphill near its shore, there is a settlement of Villa Potrerillos, over 1,380 meters above mean sea level, where there is hiking (in the hills surrounding the area), rafting in the river, and paragliding.
How to get there?
The easiest way to get there is by car. It takes around an hour (+/- 15 minutes) from Mendoza city, the roads are in a very good state and the signs and super easy to follow.
There are two routes:
- Via RP182 (Ruta provincial). I recommend this one as it passes Cacheuta, where you will be able to look at a popular bridge and also where The Cacheuta Spa is; which exploits the natural hot springs from the Mendoza River. It is the one on at the top of the map above. It is shorter (52km) but slower (1 hour and ten minutes). You will also enjoy better views of the dam and river.
- Via RN7 and RN40 (Ruta nacional). It is longer (70km) but slightly faster (1 hour). So it could the the right option if you are in a rush to start your tour.
The bus takes 1 hour and 25 minutes. Andesmar is the company which runs the service and the tickets are available on the official website. Buses run all day, starting at 5:55 hs and the last one being at 20:00 hs.
The cost is currently ARS 155 (USD 1.45) for a single journey, and it departs from the Mendoza bus terminal.
There are a few companies offering rafting on the Mendoza River in Potrrillos, and there are others offering the same in Cacheuta as well (lower difficulty).
We went with one small company called Mendoza River Expeditions and we had such a great experience that we totally recommend them. They started just a few years ago, but the guides are experienced, fun and easygoing. They make your experience super friendly and safe. It is run by two brothers, German and Cristian, who are super cool and make your experience excellent.
How does it work?
You normally arrange a date/time with them on the phone. You meet at their premises in Potrerillos where you dress up and leave your stuff for later. You then take a bus with the team that takes around 40 minutes. On the starting point, you get all the safety instructions, which are super clear and easy, and then you are ready to go. You spend around 1 hour in the water, including one stop in a small cascade to get some pictures and drink some water. And finally, in the end, you enjoy a drink (soft or beer) and you return back on the same van.
We paid only ARS 3500 (USD 32), which is cheaper than other bigger tour operators. And both the drinks and the pictures were included. The service was amazing end to end and we liked it so much.
All the staff was very knowledgeable. We got useful information about all the rapids in the river (with their own names), a bit of history about Potrerillos, the river, the abandoned rails and more.
The official level of this rafting on the Mendoza River is 3. However; it is considered 3+ (or “between 3 and 4”) as some of the rapids of the river are closer to level 4.
Bear in mind that the levels in rafting are the following:
- Class 1 and 2 are float trips.
- Class 3 is a typical beginner level for rafting.
- Class 4 is intermediate to advanced and good for adventure rafters.
- Class 5 is advanced and recommended only for experienced rafters.
- Class 6 is unrunnable by most people and presents an extreme level of danger.
Other tour operators
If you prefer a full tour with pick up and everything, these are some available on Viator:
- Mendoza River Rafting Tour
- Half-Day Rafting Adventure on the Mendoza River
- Full Day Cacheuta Hot Springs + Intermediate Rafting
Travel tips and recommendations
- To know the best wineries, visit “Best wineries to visit in Mendoza for tasting and food“.
- For the best accomodation in Mendoza, visit “Best Wine Hotels in Mendoza”.
- For a good selection of value Malbec wine, visit “Best value Malbec wines from Argentina“.
- To know the best Argentine food, visit “Top 10 foods you MUST try in Argentina“.