Guide to Reserva Villavincencio, Hotel Villavincencio, and following General Jose de San Martin into the Andes Mountains. Mendoza, Argentina

I went this morning to visit Reserva Villavicencio, Hotel Villavicenci0, and the foothills of the Andes Mountains northwest of Mendoza City, Argentina.  Along the way we visited a monument to Genera Jose del San Martin (Reserva Villavicencio is the source of all water used by the largest bottled water company, Villavicencio, in Argentina.  Their water has been provided for me a countless several times over the years when I have been in Argentina.

The foothills of the Andes we visited today would seem like giant mountains to most of his in the US today.  We reached an altitude of almost 10,000 ft.  There are only twelve states in the US with mountains higher than 10,000 ft.  There are a couple states that do not have any hills over 1,000 ft.  Anyway, here in the Andes, these were just the foothills.

Our trip today followed Ruta 52 to the north and northwest from Mendoza City.  A little way outside of Mendoza we stopped at the monument to General San Martin, a small park, several places to look down at where we a come from, and then after reaching almost 10,000 ft elevation on Ruta 52, we started back down and visited Hotel Villavicencio, and then returned to Mendoza.

Below is a map showing out travels on Ruta 52 and the places we visited.  There are actually two maps in one.  The main map shows the general area of Reserva Villavicencio, and the location of Hotel Villavicencio.  The secondary map is an aerial view of the area around Hotel Villavicencio and show the winding roads that are necessary to reach the hotel, and to proceed on Ruta 52 into the Andes.  We actually went a few kilometers past Hotel Villavicencio until we reached almost 9,500 ft elevation.  We stopped there to get a view of the valley below, Hotel Villavicencio, and the winding roads we had taken to get there.

Maps showing the general area of Reserva Villavicencio & Hotel Villavicencio. The aerial view shows the area around Hotel Villavicencio, and Ruta 52 which winds into the Andes from Mendoza to Upsallata.

Reserva Villavicencio is water source for the largest bottled water company in Argentina.  It is 165,000+ acres (about 67,000 hectors) in size.  From high to low, the highest point on Reserva Villavicencio is about is almost 10,500 ft (3,200 meters), and the lowest is 2,950 ft (0– meters)  During the many years that I have traveled to Argentina I have had Villavicencio bottled water served to me in restaurants, and seen advertisements for them on television.  Visiting the area that Villavicencio gets their water just adds a little something to the water when you drink it from one of their bottles.  Below is a photo of a bottle of Villavicencio water sin gas (without gas – CO2).

Villavicecio is largest bottled water company in Argentina. It is owned by DANONE of France.

In the center of the picture of each bottle of Villavicencio is Hotel Villavicencio.  Hotel Villavicencio was built-in 1940 and in the Reserva Villavicencio, but is not being used.  The hotel is 52 kilometers (about 32 miles) from Mendoza.  It was closed several years ago. The hotel was to be reopened in 2012, but when I was there in October 2012, there was no sign was no sign when it would reopen.  Supposedly, one of the reasons the hotel was closed, and remains closed is to insure the quality of the water used by Villavicencio.  We will discuss more about the hotel later.

Just after leaving Mendoza we stopped to visit a monument for General San Martin better known as Jose de San Martin.  He is generally considered the liberator of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru.  He was the major force in driving the Spanish out of Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia, and along with Simon Bolivar drove the Spanish out of Peru.  Mendoza was the site of San Martin’s preparations for  his army to liberate Chile.  When his army was ready to liberate Chile, his army was divided into 6 columns to cross the mountains.  The monument where we stopped was one of the routes followed by San Martin’s army.  Below are some pictures of the monument to San Martin.

Our tour bus stopped at the monument to General Jose de San Martin
Argentine flay at the monument to General Jose de San Martin looking back towards Mendoza City, Argentina.
Looking northwest at the route followed by one of the size columns of General Jose de San Martin’s army into the Andes Mountains to cross into Chile. 

Can you imagine a group of several hundred men walking and on horses dragging their wagons and canons across those mountains?  If it were me, I think I would go to the beach.

As we head further to the north and northwest from Mendoza City it becomes obvious that we are in a dessert.  The countryside reminds me of my trips through the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, or California.  Below are some pictures of the countryside we met before entering the foothills of the Andes and Reserva Villavicencio.  Below are some pictures of the countryside between Mendoza City and entry into Reserva Villavicencio.

A view of the dry countryside between Mendoza City and Reserva Villavicencio

Just after starting up the winding roads into the Reserva Villavicencio we stopped at the part headquarters.  The park rangers seem to be stationed here, and there are several buildings here with displays and small museums.  The headquarters area also has some springs so there is some nice vegetation and number of trees which is quite different from the surrounding area.

We stopped with the tour bus at the entrance to Reserva Villavicencio headquarters
Entrance to the Reserva Villavicencio park headquarters and park
A map inside the small museum at Reserva Villavicencio showing the general place of the roads though the part, and the place of Hotel Villavicencio

After a half hour of walking and looking around the Reserva Villavicencio headquarters, we headed up Ruta 52 into the foothills of the Andes.  The road climbs into the mountains into through a multitude switchbacks.  We stopped several times as we were climbing to view the valley.  We passed the Hotel Villavicencio,  which we would stop at on the way down, a couple small herds of guanaco’s (animals like a llama), and go up to an elevation of 9,500 ft before proceeding down to Hotel Villavicencio.  Below are some of the views and things we saw up Ruta 52 into the foothills of the Andes.


I can’t believe that we are going up there!

One of our stops on the way up Ruta 52 to see where we had been


A herd of guanacos could be seen on the other side of the valley from Ruta 52

More guanacos


Looking back where we had come from, and would return


I am not really sure that I wanted to go back down the mountain

This guy really has come a long way.  He start at about 2,900 ft, and will have to get over 10,000 ft before he gets to the top.

I am sure glad the brakes were working on the tour bus
Ha Ha, I am taller than you are. 🙂
Looking down on Hotel Villavicencio

Leaving the highest point we reached at Ruta 52, we descended down to Hotel Villavicencio, and spent about an hour visiting the grounds around the hotel.  Some pictures of the unoccupied Hotel Villavicencio and the grounds around the hotel are shown below.

Entrance to Hotel Villavicencio
Approaching Hotel Villavicencio


Garden pools in front of Hotel Villavicencio
Villavicencio sign
Balcony in front of Hotel Villavicencio
On the paths you can tour on the grounds of Hotel Villavicencio
Virgin Mary on one of the trails at Hotel Villavicencio
Another trail you can visit on the grounds at Hotel Villavicencio
Wild flowers on the grounds at Hotel Villavicencio

After touring the grounds around Hotel Villavicencio for about an hour, we boarded our bus, and returned directly to our hotels in Mendoza.

Our trip was supposed to be a half day, but it really took about two hours longer.  I was picked up at the hotel about 8:30 AM in the morning, and returned to the hotel about 2:30 PM.

I arranged this tour through BSAS4You.  I purchased six tours in Argentina for both Ushuaia and Mendoza.  All of the tours showed up at my hotel as planned.  I think that you might want to use BSAS4U when you need to find tours for your trip to Argentina.

The gallery with photos I took the General Jose de San Martin monument, Reserva Villavicencio, Hotel Villavicencio, the climb into the foothills of the Andes, and my old supervisor Steve V on Ruta 52 is available for viewing at the bottom of this article.

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