San Rafael (population 175,000) is the second largest city in Mendoza. Wide avenues lined with leafy sycamores and tall poplars fed by streetside canals give it a bucolic charm, but the bodegas are reason enough for many visitors to make the trip. Winemaking took off here in the late 19th century when immigrants from Italy, Switzerland, and France came with advanced viticulture skills and new grape varieties. When the railroad arrived in 1903, the fledgling industry was connected to Buenos Aires and the rest of the world. Today the city has about 100 wineries. Although most are small, family-owned operations, a number do have tourist-friendly facilities within walking or cycling distance of the center. If you’re looking for more active alternatives, local tour operators can arrange rafting, riding, and hiking excursions in the surrounding mountains and lakes. About 75 km (47 miles) west of San Rafael, the Cañón del Atuel (aka the "other" Grand Canyon) can also be explored.
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