Dating from 1591, Todos los Santos de la Nueva Rioja has managed to maintain a colonial ambience in a city that has somehow survived repeated political conflicts and natural disasters since its founding by governor and encomendero Juan Ramírez de Velasco.
Missionaries of several orders defused the earliest conflicts between the Spanish invaders and the indigenous Diaguita, while caudillos like Facundo Quiroga and his present-day counterparts have kept the city under their thumbs. In the meantime, earthquakes have leveled much of the city’s historical heritage, but the rebuilding effort has managed to preserve the feeling, if not every feature, of the Andean past.
At the foot of the eastern face of the Sierra de Velasco, 498 meters above sea level with a climate resembling that of Phoenix, La Rioja (pop. 143,921) is 1,153 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires via RN 9 and RN 38. It is 456 kilometers northwest of Córdoba and 154 kilometers southwest of Catamarca via RN 38, and 452 kilometers northeast of San Juan via a series of national and provincial highways.
Getting to La Rioja
Aerolíneas Argentinas (Belgrano 63, tel. 03822/42-6307) flies daily except Saturday to Buenos Aires’s Aeroparque.
From Plaza 9 de Julio, city bus No. 3 goes to Aeropuerto Vicente Almonacid (tel. 03822/43-9211), seven kilometers east of town on RP 5. A remise costs around US$4.
La Rioja’s Estación Terminal de Ómnibus (Avenida Ortiz de Ocampo and Gobernador Félix de La Colina, tel. 03822/42-7991) is now on the southern outskirts of town.
Sample destinations, times, and fares include Catamarca (2 hours, US$5), Chilecito (2.5 hours, US$5), Tucumán (5 hours, US$13), Córdoba (5.5 hours, US$14–19), Mendoza (8.5 hours, US$27–33), Salta (11 hours, US$38–44), and Buenos Aires (16 hours, US$41–63).
La Riojana (Buenos Aires 154, tel. 03822/43-5279) operates faster minibuses to Chilecito (2 hours, US$7). El Zonda (Dorrego 79, tel. 03822/42-1930) goes to Villa Unión, in the province’s western cordillera, for connections to Parque Nacional Talampaya.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition