Best 7 Things to Do in Chilecito La Rioja Argentina

We tell you things to do in Chilecito and Famatina, two of the main cities to visit in La Rioja Argentina, which offer many activities, stories and a spectacular natural environment.

The province of La Rioja is much more than visiting Talampaya. Chilecito is located on Route 40 and is an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the hills. The Famatina mountain range, famous for its large amount of metals and for the struggle of a people against mining, watches over the area from above.

There is a lot of history in Chilecito linked mainly to the old mining activity, mainly with the cable rail La Mejicana. It is also a spectacular place for children with large squares.

Map – Things to do in Chilecito and Famatina in La Rioja Argentina

Both Chilecito and Famatina are small towns that can be visited on foot. But to get to the farthest places (cable car stations 1 and 2 or the toll in Famatina) it is best to have a car or take an excursion.

🔝 Check out things to do in La RIoja Argentina in 3, 4 or 5 days in this article.

1. Cable Carril La Mejicana, one of the main places to see in Chilecito.

One of the main attractions to do in Chilecito is the La Mejicana rail cablea great engineering work of the early twentieth century, whose function was to transporting metals extracted in the Serranía del Famatina, at an altitude of 4600 meters, to the city of Chilecito, more precisely to the railroad tracks.

The La Mejicana cable car runs for about 35 kilometers, overcoming the 3600 meters difference in altitude from Chilecito to 4600 meters at the height of the Famatina hill, in the middle of high mountains.

Cable Carril La Mejicana

Built by a German company and put into operation by Englishmen, it made it possible to replace the transport of metals by mule and to make the journey in less time and with a greater load. Miners and food were even transported to the high altitude camps.

The great work is shown by the numbers: more than 250 towers and 650 transport cars, added to the nine stations, made it one of the longest railcars in the world. Of the nine stations, there are two that are easily visitable, station nr. 1 y 2.

Station No. 1 is located above the city of Chilecito and was used for unloading metals onto trains. All the machinery that used to turn the cable-rail from the base station is still preserved.

La Mejicana Mine Station Nº1 in Chilecito

Meters away from station no. 1 operates the Cable-Carril Museum, the old train station that houses elements used to build the great engineering work, photos of the new stations and even the telephones used for communications between stations. The visit to the museum is with a guide, an elderly person who knows absolutely everything you ask him, he is an open book. It is undoubtedly one of the places to see in Chilecito to understand more about the history of the Cable Carril and the Mine.

Cable Carril Museum, one of the places to visit in Chilecito
Cable Carril Museum

Station No. 2, located at 1540 meters, is reached by La Mexicana Avenue. Here you can see the transport cars, the engines used to move the cable rail and there are impressive views of the hills and the city of Chilecito from above. There is also a restaurant on site where you can have a drink.

La Mejicana Mine Station Nº2 in Chilecito

It is even possible to reach station 3 by car, but the road is already gravel. We did not.

It is possible to reach station no. 9 at 4600 meters above sea level, but for this it is necessary to hire an excursion with a guide and in a 4×4 vehicle.

2. “Santa Florentina” Foundry

At the end of the 19th century, due to the importance of the Serranía de Famatina for the extraction of metals, a large smelting furnace was installed in the city, which housed up to 1,000 workers.

Santa Florentina smelting furnace, one of the places to see in Chilecito.

Here the metal was smelted, partly to pay the miners and the rest for sale.

Today, only the ruins of the old Santa Florentina smelting furnace remain. You can walk freely around the site, always with caution, as many structures have collapsed.

The smelting furnace is located very close to station 2 of the La Mejicana cable track.

Santa Florentina smelting furnace

In the neighborhood of Santa Florentina there is also the beautiful Plaza de Los Mineros with games made with the old wagons that transported the cable car.

Miners' Square in Chilecito

3. Viewpoint of Cristo del Portezuelo

Another attraction to do in Chilecito on a weekend is the great sculpture of Christ of Portezuelo located on the top of one of the most central hills of the city.

Mirador Cristo del Portezuelo, one of the things to do in Chilecito

After climbing the 200 steps that separate the base of the Christ, the reward is a fantastic view of the city and the hills. Next to the Cristo del Portezuelo there are benches to sit and drink some mates with a view.

Cristo del Portezuelo Viewpoint

4. Parque de la Ciudad, a more “local” place to see in Chilecito.

This park is a large square in the center of Chilecito that has been recently remodeled. It has games for children, a beautiful fountain, wooden walkways and beautiful views of the hills.

In the afternoon and when the sun begins to set, it is an ideal destination for families and for drinking mates. The atmosphere is very local, so that’s why we also include it as one of the places to see in Chilecito.

City Park in Chilecito
City Park in Chilecito

5. Museum to do in Chilecito, the Samay Huasi

The Samay Huasi Museum is housed in an old colonial-style mansion that belonged to Joaquín V. González, who was a politician, poet and founder of the University of La Plata.

The mansion has an auditorium, art gallery, library and wine cellar. There is also a hotel on the site.

It is an ideal museum to learn more about Gonzalez’s life. There is also an archeological, paleontological and mineral exhibition.

6. Visiting Famatina from Chilecito

About 30 kilometers north of Chilecito, the town of Famatina is surrounded by hills, valleys and ravines. It is ideal to spend a day in contact with nature and learn about their struggle against mining activities that pollute the waters of streams and rivers.

Nevado de Famatina, one of the places to see in Chilecito

– The main square of Famatina and its parish church

The San Martin square is the core of the town of Famatina, around which are the main administrative buildings and, of course, the parish of San Pedro.

Both inside and out, the church has a colonial and simple appearance. You will be struck by a life-size crucified Christ behind a glass case for its care and conservation. It is a figure that was brought to the town in the middle of the 19th century from Alto Peru and is an example of colonial sacred art. It is mainly made of wood, but it has parts that are made of natural elements, such as the leather that allows the articulation of the arm and neck, the crown of thorns and the hair.

Christ Parish Famatina

The town also has the best views of the Serranía del Famatina and is one of the main places of walnut production in the country.

– Famatina is not to be touched (access toll to La Mejicana mine).

Famatina became known in the country years ago due to its struggle against large multinational mining companies and the provincial government. The people rose up to prevent mining activity from continuing to contaminate the water springs that flow down from the Famatina mountain range.

Famatina Murals

Roadblocks were set up, which are still in operation today, to prevent mining company machinery from reaching the hills, extracting metals and polluting the water. In fact, when you get to the cut-off barrier, they take the vehicle’s data in case they are “infiltrators” of mining companies.

La Mejicana Mine Toll

You can get to the toll or barrier from Famatina on Route 11 to the north and follow the signs that lead to the town of El Carrizal or La Mesada. In case GMaps doesn’t show it for you, has it, which is one of our favorite travel apps.

From this tollbooth it is possible to make a short drive or hike to the Gredas Dam that, I quote from the Mountain Culture page (which has a lot of information on this area), acts as an ochre settler and is part of the Famatina irrigation system in the Alto Carrizal.

50115269057 5303be31ee b

– 4WD tour to visit La Mejicana Mine

If you travel with your own car, they will not let you pass much beyond the toll and the Gredas dam. But the road extends much further because it is one of the ways to reach station 9 of the La Mejicana Mine.

The route is not at all easy, so it is not possible to access it unless you are in a 4×4 truck and driven by someone who knows the area, that is, with a tour or excursion of a local company.

Along the way there are several stops with incredible scenery as you enter the Sierra de Famatina.

  • Los Corrales: an 1870 hacienda that was used as a smelting plant.
  • Petroglyphs: where there are figures engraved in stone made by the original inhabitants of these lands.
  • Union de los Rios: it is the confluence of two rivers of different colors due to the minerals that each one of them carries. The Yellow River carries Ochre and the Marco River is gray and white bringing volcanic ash and gypsum from the summit.
  • Los Pesebres: geoforms of incredible colors produced by the oxidation of minerals and sulphates such as iron, ochre, copper sulphate, sulphur, gypsum, etc.
  • Ochre Canyon: this canyon follows the course of the Amarillo River that originates in the vicinity of the Perez Cave.
  • La Mejicana: it is station No. 9, the last station of the Cable Car that connects the mine with the city of Chilecito. It is located at an altitude of 4,430 meters above sea level and you can see all the buildings from the early 1900s.

– Inca Trail Qhapaq-ñan

This road is a World Heritage Site and involves the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja, Catamarca, Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy, and then all the mountain range countries from Bolivia to Colombia.

In this area the Inca Trail goes from Los Corrales to Las Pircas, descending the western slope of the Sierra de Famatina. On the main summit, General Belgrano at 6,180 masl, there are two high altitude sanctuaries. In addition to the layout, this road still preserves the retaining walls and cobblestones built by the Incas.

🔘 Check out the rest of the World Heritage Sites we have visited.

7. Cuesta De Miranda

Culminating our visit to Chilecito and already on the way to Talampaya, on route 40, the road runs between reddish mountains, in a landscape called the Miranda slope.

In the place, the Miranda River flows between the hills producing a striking mixture of shades. The maximum height of the road is 2000 meters, where there is a viewpoint with beautiful views.

Cuesta de Miranda

Where to stay in Chilecito

  • Huellas del Trapiche Apart: modern cabins with mountain views and surrounded by a large garden. It has an outdoor swimming pool.
  • Posada Nocenta Pisetta: is also located on the outskirts of Chilecito, about 4 km from downtown. It is located in a large house with a long history of the Pisetta family, who settled here and were the first winemakers in the region. Rich breakfast and country and colonial style rooms.
  • La Martina Cabin: excellent place surrounded by a large park and an outdoor swimming pool. They are cabins and apartments 1.5 kilometers from downtown. Excellent attention from the owner. Ideal for relaxing and resting.

🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best hotels in Chilecito.

Pint it!

Things to do in Chilecito and Famatina in La Rioja

Did you like our article about things to do in Chilecito? You can leave us a comment or share it on your social networks.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.