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San Rafael

San Rafael (650 m, 2132 ft) continues to be known among Mendocinos as a small town, but it has seen rapid growth in recent years. Today, more than 140 000 people call the city home, easily doubling the 1980 census. Despite the increase in size, the town maintains its small-town atmosphere and crime remains nearly non-existent.

San Rafael was founded at the confluence of the Rio Atuel and Rio Diamente in 1805. Although Villa 25 de Mayo became the department’s capital in 1810, it was reverted back to San Rafael shortly after when its rapid development became obvious. Villa 25 de Mayo, located only 25 km north, remains a historical landmark for its wealth of Swiss, Italian and French colonies, but San Rafael is the undisputed economical center.

The diverse economy is run by national tourism and wine exports. In fact, Bodega Bianchi’s New Age label is the number one Argentinean wine in the USA in terms of profit and sales. Many other wineries, all of which give free tours and tastings, compete on a similar level. Bodega Sutter, for instance, is world-renown for its extensive champagne cellar.

Large hydroelectric dams, run by the Edemsa Electric Company, have played a double role in the area, as well. The importance of electricity for the entire province and for the Argentinean power-grid is obvious, but the series of reservoirs has spawned the tourism market. El Nihuil, Los Reyunos and El Tigre all offer vast lakeside developments that give visitors the ability to sail, water-ski, and fish among a variety of other activities.

El Sosneado, located nearly 142 kilometers west, houses an amazing set of hot springs amid the same mountains where the ill-fated Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes and lived the epic survival tale known as Alive. Back in town, a handful of parks and plazas are spaced out among a growing business center.

Hotels and apartment rentals are abundant, but Solar Maiten seems to offer the perfect blend of both in a relaxing setting on the edge of town. Food lovers may be disappointed, as Cocina del Autor provides the only alternative to standard parrilla, pizza and pasta restaurants that are found through both San Rafael and all of Argentina.


Other places nearby San Rafael: Puente Del Inca, Malargüe , Las Leñas, Valle De Iglesia, San Juan, Las Cuevas, Calingasta, La Rioja, San Agustín Del Valle Fértil and Mendoza.

18 Jul 2011

Things to do in San Rafael

Plaza General San Martín

The central square in San Rafael is dominated by a huge bronze statue of San Martin, whose heroic crossing of the Andes started not far away. The plaza is well-lit, quiet and safe and full of ...
City Plaza
San Rafael, Argentina

Museo Municipal De Historia Natural

The Museo Municipal de Historia Natural sits across the street from Parque Mariano Moreno, some 7 km from downtown San Rafael. Although small in size, the museum remains dedicated to its original ...
San Rafael, Argentina

Cañon Del Atuel

140695The Canon del Atuel links Valle Grande with El Nihuil with an amazing display of turquoise waters and volcanic formed walls. Tours are available by bus along the 60 km stretch of gravel roads, but ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina

Los Reyunos

140694Formed from a massive Edemsa hydroelectric dam, Los Reyunos has become a summer destination for locals and tourists looking to cool off in its glacier-fed waters. Located a few kilometers from Villa ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina

Laguna Del Diamante

Situated in a provincial nature reserve, Laguna del Diamante is a treasured location few people manage to visit. The lagoon sits at the western limit of the province at 3250 m (10662’), flanked by ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina

Wine and Los Reyunos Lake Tour

This combined tour hits the main sights outside of San Rafael. Heading out through wine country on Route 143, the tour makes its first stop at the Bianchi champagne-making spread. It then goes ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina

Day Trip to Las Leñas Ski Resort

This 420-kilometer tour leaves early in the morning and makes the first stop outside the small town of El Sosneado where there are hot springs and a lake. It continues to cross the massive plain ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina

Spelunking in Caverna de las Brujas

There are many opportunities to go caving in the Caverna de las Brujas. Shop around to find the best price tour. This is a long tour–over 500 kilometer–so expect to leave early, around 6 a.m. You ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina

Adventure Sports in Cañon del Atuel

Excursions to the Cañon del Atuel can be arranged with most agents in San Rafael. They cover 170 kilometers and begin by passing through Cuadro Benegas and Los Terneros, agricultural areas with ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina


Nearly everyone gets around by bike in the incredibly bike-friendly city of San Rafael. To join up with the locals, the best rental spot is Bicipartes. Bikes cost $4.75 for a half day and $6.35 for ...
San Rafael, Argentina

Viñas del Golf: Ricardo Jurado S.A.

Started in 1995 by Ricardo Jurado, Viñas del Golf is just outside of the Cuadro Venegas, a scenic, remote area. A nine-hole course forms almost a square through the vineyards. There is also a ...
Other Activity
San Rafael, Argentina
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