Famous for its landscapes and many attractions, San Rafael is an obligatory stop on any visit to Mendoza. The area’s celebrated adventure tourism and wine routes through wineries and vineyards make for a complete experience.
One of the best options on your visit is to go cycling in San Rafael, a sustainable way to get to know the region and one that is becoming more popular every day because it can be done on your own, as a couple, or with more family and friends.
Cycling in San Rafael: sun, vineyards and tours
San Rafael is located to the south of the province, three hours from the city of Mendoza. It has its own airport and there are direct flights from Buenos Aires.
Flanked by the Atuel and Diamante rivers, the semi-arid landscape offers a range of different options for casual and keen cyclists alike.
The mountainous, uneven terrain, dykes and dry climate make it ideal for serious athletes as well as those looking for a gentler ride.
From urban tours along 30 miles of cycle lanes to guided tours to the local canyons and challenging mountain climbs, as well as visits to vineyards and wineries, the area is full of different possibilities.
You don’t need to bring your own bicycle, it’s one of the most popular means of transport in the city and so there are ample bicycle rental establishments to help you go cycling in San Rafael, offering both traditional and electric options.
There’s also a mountain biking school and regular duathlons, triathlons and pentathlons are held throughout the year.
Descending the Atuel, a challenging circuit
One of the most popular excursions for cycling in San Rafael is the descent down the Atuel Canyon. The trip lasts all day and is only recommended for experienced cyclists given its grueling nature.
One reaches the starting point by truck, although it can also be done by bicycle. From there, one descends down a 20-mile route along the Atuel River, passing power stations I, II, and III and the Valle Grande Nihuil station. In addition to the cycle route, there is also the option of an 8 mile stretch of rafting – one of the icons of the San Rafael tourist scene — and three treks by foot.
The path is paved with gravel – the same material as the roads – and there are steep inclines and descents that offer panoramic views of a unique mountain landscape with colorful slopes and the deep blues of the lake formed by the dam.
The Nihuil area is well set up for visitors with cabin complexes and camp sites for those wanting to spend the night.
A more intermediate option for cycling in San Rafael are the mountain paths. Villa Las Tinajas is one of the most popular sites in this range, located to the south of San Rafael, where the Aventura and La Paloma parks are connected by different circuits, with one major attraction being ancient cave paintings.
The geography encourages use of the mountain bike due to the rocky paths. This means that it also attracts serious athletes and is used as a competition venue.
Steep slopes, dry river beds and huge boulders are just some of the natural obstacles that have to be avoided along an 8-mile route that gets the adrenaline pumping. It lasts approximately two hours.
In contrast to the Atuel Canyon, the Villa las Tinajas circuit is exclusively for cross-country cycling.
Although it’s much shorter, it nonetheless requires a high degree of intensity. This is one of the reasons that it is so beloved by cyclists and professional event organizers.
Vineyards and wineries in the city
Those looking for a less demanding option, or who simply want to do a wine tour on two wheels, can choose the wine route.
The three wineries welcome cyclists along a route suitable for beginners which includes wine tastings, olive oils and other regional products. They all provide tours of the installations and guided visits.
This route offers an overview of different wine and olive production models, as one stop is an industrial facility, another a boutique winery and the third a family, artisanal venture. Each have their own history and distinctive qualities.
Otherwise one can choose the urban route along an extensive network of cycle lanes. The circuit is 11 miles long and goes through a productive corridor featuring the La Abeja, Rivier, Suter, Yancanelo, Murville and Camargo wineries, among others.
Whether you’re alone or in a group, a beginner or experienced cyclist, cycling in San Rafael has options to suit your needs.
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