Preparing a visit to the province of good sun and good wine? We show you things to do in San Rafael Mendoza, a city with many attractions.
San Rafael, Mendoza, is a city of wide avenues, leafy groves and lots of people riding bicycles, which makes it feel more like a quiet town than a city. It is ideal to visit on a trip to the province of wine and olives, because it has an interesting variety of natural attractions within walking distance of the city.
San Rafael is an oasis formed by the confluence of the Diamante and Atuel rivers. Its origins were as a frontier fort in 1805, but it began to progress and gain population only around 1903, when the first train arrived. Nowadays, it is an ideal place to base and make adventure excursions and enjoy ethno-tourism.
Map with the places to see in San Rafael Mendoza
Things to do in downtown San Rafael Mendoza
1) General San Martín Square
It is the heart of the city of San Rafael. It dates back to 1925 and it was Rodolfo Iselín who donated the land for its construction. Engineer Fiorini was in charge of the layout design.
The Plaza has a central bronze equestrian statue of General San Martin, where the hero can be seen pointing towards the Andes. It is decorated with plants, trees and shrubs, as well as water fountains. Around this square is located the building of the Municipality, seat of the executive and legislative power of the city, the Cathedral, some gastronomic establishments and banks.
Looking for more places to see and tips for traveling to Mendoza? Check this article about Mendoza in 5 days by car, Itinerary
2) St. Raphael the Archangel Cathedral
This cathedral of San Rafael is of neo-romantic style. Construction began in 1935 and it was inaugurated in 1952. It has a tower called San Marco that was donated by the Viñuela family in 1952. Inside you can see the cross of St. Andrew, which was painted by a local artist. In the left nave rest the remains of the parish priests of the cathedral.
📷 Book here tour of San Rafael with an expert guide. You will learn about the history of the place and the most outstanding places.
3) Natural History Museum
This small museum has a large number of mineral pieces from the region, as well as rooms dedicated to paleontology and zoology. You can see items from the cultures that enabled this region more than 2000 years ago.
Among the most outstanding pieces are pottery elements from the northwest and upper Peru, African and Easter Island masks.
4) Plazoleta of the immigrant
This square is dedicated to the Italian immigrants who arrived in the country at the beginning of the 20th century. Here you can find a locomotive dating from 1903, which was part of the first train that arrived in San Rafael.
In front of this square you can visit the Railway Museum, in the building of the old train station. It has three rooms: one with the history of the city, the railway room and a room with exhibitions of local artists.
5) Hipólito Yrigoyen Park
It is one of the largest green spaces in San Rafael and within it are the monuments to the Argentine gaucho, the grape harvest statue and the Delta square. In addition, there is the Chacho Santa Cruz amphitheater, where the departmental Grape Harvest Festival is held every year.
Within this park is the children’s park, a space with more than 60 games for the whole family to enjoy. It stands out for its entrance gate that simulates the towers of a castle. There are hammocks, handrails in the shape of animals, an adventure playground with climbing walls, bridges and large educational games.
6) Borges Labyrinth
At Finca Los Alamos, this labyrinth is a tribute to José Luis Borges. The owner inherited this 1830’s estate from her family, and was a personal friend of Borges.
When Susana passed away, it was her nephew Camilo who was left in charge of the place. When she began to clean and sort the things that remained of her aunt, she found a letter from Borges where he tells Susana that“a memory in her name should be a labyrinth“. It was then that Camilo decided to contact an English maze designer to bring the idea to reality.
Inside, the brave who visit it, go through 6-foot walled walkways to a tower where you can see how the word “Borges” is formed twice, although if you look at it more closely it says the author’s full name, and some other details such as his wife’s initials.
7) Wineries to visit in San Rafael Mendoza
Thanks to its low altitude and very stable climate, San Rafael became the birthplace of both large and boutique wineries. Most wineries invite you to learn about their production process and then to taste their products.
Experiences usually vary in price whether they include only wine tasting or regional products or activities such as horseback riding through the vineyards. Although there are several wineries, we recommend the following wineries to visit in San Rafael Mendoza:
– Funkenhausen Winery: founded by Kurt Heinlein in 2003, seeking to realize his dream of having his own winery in honor of his family, he managed to settle in these 350 hectares of San Rafael, ideal for production. Its varieties are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It is possible to visit the vineyard, taste the variety of wines and accompany them with good local gastronomy.
– Suter Winery: Otto Suter and his wife Ana were pioneers in this industry. With more than 120 years in the Argentine tables, it has a wide variety of wines and sparkling wines. It has emblematic products such as Varietals and Bi Varietals, the classic Suter Brown Label, the Suter Privados line, and its Champagne line. A guided tour takes you through the family history, followed by a visit to the winery’s facilities, and ending with a wine tasting in the cellar.
– Bianchi Winery: undoubtedly one of the most renowned wineries in Argentina. San Rafael is one of two estates in Mendoza, the other is located in the Uco Valley. Depending on the time of the year, part of the production process in the field is visited: harvesting, pruning, plant weeding. Afterwards, the wineries themselves are accessed, where the different points in the production of these wines can be observed. The visit ends with the most awaited moment: a tasting in the family’s private wine cellar collection.
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8) Olive oil and olive route, one of the activities to do in San Rafael Mendoza
It is not only about good wine in San Rafael, because the excellent quality olive oil is gaining popularity and is added to the gastronomic routes of the city. Like the wineries, this soil and climate are the perfect combination to grow the best olive groves in the region. In your visit to San Rafael you can get to know:
- Elaia: a small company where you can see the complete process of oil production.
- Allolio: a family company founded in 1966, dedicated to canned olives and olive oil production. The sales room is visited and the products are tested.
- The Yancanelo factory: it began operating in 1942, in what is now the museum. It has the machines and tools with which production began. Guided tours and tastings are available.
Things to do around San Rafael Mendoza
The surroundings of San Rafael Mendoza are ideal for enjoying nature and outdoor activities. The main excursions to do from San Rafael are the following:
9) Brujas Cavern, one of the places to see in San Rafael Mendoza
In the Caverna de las Brujas Natural Reserve you can visit this wonder of nature, where you can see speleothems. The cavern was formed by the circulation of subway water from snow and ice. Of course, this is a very simple explanation for a process that has been going on for thousands of years. Today, stalactites, stalagmites, columns and lava flows are still visible.
The cave was used by the aborigines, who performed ceremonies and rituals with fire. The shadows on the walls, the cries of the children and the lights of the fire, made the villagers call this place“Caverna de las Brujas“.
To be able to enter the interior it is necessary to havean appointment and to be accompanied by an authorized tour guide. Keep in mind that you must bring it previously hired, because the park is not responsible for getting one for you. The walks are done throughout the year depending on the state of the access road and weather conditions.
✏️On the tour through the Witches’ Cavern you have to climb and pass through small gaps between the stones. It does not require a great physical effort, but this should be taken into account when planning the visit. Upon entering the cavern, you will be provided with a safety helmet with a flashlight.
📷 Ready to discover the subway galleries of the Witches’ Cave? Hire the excursion to the Witches Cavern from San Rafael. It has several interesting stops!
10) Los Reyunos
It is a dam near San Rafael, a beautiful spot with green waters. This reservoir created with the water of the Diamante River is surrounded by resorts, and adventure activities such as zip lining, kayaking and water skiing.
In the neighboring town of Villa 25 de Mayo, you will find the Nuestra Señora del Carmen church, an old chapel from 1805 and the ruins of the San Rafael del Diamante fort, declared a National Historic Monument.
📷 Hire here the excursion to Los Reyunos dam from San Rafael, a tour to get to know this turquoise water reservoir.
11) The Atuel Canyon, a must to do in San Rafael Mendoza
One of the excursions that you cannot miss from San Rafael Mendoza. The Atuel River is the main protagonist of this circuit, and along its length there are several reservoirs and dams that gave life to this area.
In Valle Grande reservoir, thanks to the wall of the dam of the same name, a beautiful emerald green water lagoon is formed. There are many water activities such as diving, rowing, jet ski rides and even catamaran rides. Particularly in the area of the Atuel River Dam, the most adrenaline activities such as rafting are carried out.
As the road progresses, the Atuel Canyon begins to take center stage in the landscape. Throughout the kilometers, rock formations with a mix of reddish, green, white and yellow colors can be seen on the side of the road, to which, with imagination, locals and tourists give shape. Some of them are known as the Wax Museum, the Rivadavia Armchair, The Lizard, the Enchanted City, The Beggar, The Monsters and The Hanging Gardens.
The next stop is Villa El Nihuil, where the homonymous dam is located. Not only does it have a spectacular lake with green and blue colors that leave you speechless, but there are sand dunes that exceed 300 meters.
📷 Book here the excursion to the Atuel Canyon from San Rafael. You will trek through the canyon with the option to do adventure sports such as rafting or rappelling.
12) Las Salinas del Diamante
The salt mines are an open-pit salt mine that are being exploited by an Argentinean company. They can be seen from the road, although if you want to know a little more about this interesting natural attraction, you have to access the property, where you can park the car to walk around at your leisure. You can also see the Salt Museum and the Chapel of Our Lady of Schoenstatt.
13) El Sosneado
If you take Route 144 and then Route 40 from San Rafael, you will arrive at El Sosneado Lagoon. Here you can enjoy fishing, bird watching or just relaxing.
The interesting thing is the open-air thermal wells. In fact, in this small town there was a thermal hotel inaugurated in 1938 with thermal pools that are still working. It is not clear if it was an avalanche or administrative problems that led to the closure of this hotel, but the ruins are still standing today. Some brave people take the opportunity to swim in the pools to enjoy the properties of the thermal waters.
📷 Book here the excursion to Sosneado and Las Leñas ski resort, one of the largest in South America.
14) Laguna del Diamante, 4×4 only
If you are up for it, another activity to do in San Rafael Mendoza is the Laguna del Diamante, located within the provincial park that protects it. It is at the foot of the Maipo Volcano, about 200 kilometers from San Rafael.
Its name is due to the fact that if we look at it from above, the shape of the lagoon is diamond-shaped and thanks to its blue and green colors, it looks like a precious stone. Its water comes from the thaws of the volcano and nearby mountains, glaciers in the area, rainfall and the waters of the El Gorro stream. It has a depth of about 70 meters and is the source of the Diamante River.
The roads are not in good condition, it is necessary to enter with a 4×4. It is advisable to do it by excursion, because reservations are also required.
Where to stay in San Rafael Mendoza
San Rafael has a variety of accommodations, from central hotels, to cabins on the outskirts of the city, to exclusive mansions surrounded by golf courses and vineyards.
Our recommendations where to stay in San Rafael Mendoza are the following:
- Suter Petit Hotel: on the outskirts of the city, it is an accommodation with a chalet, a large garden and an outdoor swimming pool. Excellent decoration, very good service and varied breakfast.
- Hotel San Rafael: located in the center of the city, it is ideal if you don’t have your own vehicle to move around. It is a three-star hotel with a good quality-price ratio.
- San Jose del Atuel Cabins: comfortable cabins in the middle of nature and away from the center of San Rafael. Beautiful garden, outdoor pool and mountain views.
- Algodon Wine Estates & Champions Club: an exclusive lodging for relaxation, surrounded by golf course and vineyards. Elegant decoration and quality service for the most demanding customers. Ideal for resting!
🏨 Want to see other options? Find here the best hotels in San Rafael Mendoza
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