San Rafael is one of those towns you could see in an afternoon, though you will likely stay longer. The city of less than 100,000 people is located 230 km south and east of Mendoza is great to use as a base to explore the surrounding vineyards and nature of the Mendoza province. Two major streets cross each other in the center of the town. My taxi driver told me that it was ground zero, the place where all the street numbers begin from zero. For a three block radius from the center, cafes, chocolate shops, restaurants, and tourist shops are easy to find. Beyond that, it is a quiet, residential town, with a few attractions that do make for a worthwhile afternoon walk—or bike ride.
Biking is an important aspect of both life and tourism in San Rafael. For people who live there, it is simply a practical way to get around the extremely flat city. For tourists, renting a bike can be a fun way to explore the city and the surroundings. It is not uncommon to see entire tourist groups bike by on their way to the Suter or Bianchi vineyards. Whether you want to bike by yourself or in a group, bicycle rental agencies and your hostel/hotel should be able to help you find what you want.
A few sights worth seeing in San Rafael are its park on Hypólito Yrigoyen, named Parque Yrigoyen, where on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights in the summer they hold a small craft fair. If you are there at the right time in February, the park also hosts a large festival for the Vendimia. There is also a small natural history museum and a museum of olive oil making, both also on Hypólito Yrigoyen.
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