In the longitudinal valley between the eastern Sierra de Velasco and the western Sierra de Famatina, Chilecito is a onetime mining town that’s now the center of a wine-producing area that also grows olives and walnuts.
Founded in 1715 as Santa Rita de Casia, it acquired its present name from the Chilean miners who worked the Famatina gold deposits for most of the 19th century. When caudillo Facundo Quiroga occupied La Rioja  in the 1820s, it briefly served as the de facto provincial capital.
With its refreshing climate, at an altitude of 1,100 meters, Chilecito (pop. about 42,000) is the province’s most appealing town and a gateway to Parque Nacional Talampaya , the province’s number-one attraction. At the base of 6,250-meter Nevado de Famatina, the town is directly west of the provincial capital, but reaching it requires a detour around the southern Sierra de Velasco via RN 38 and RN 74, a distance of 192 kilometers.
At the south end of town, Chilecito’s shiny new Estación Terminal de Ómnibus (Avenida Presidente Perón s/n and Formosa) is a big improvement on the old one, but it’s less central. Sample destinations, times, and fares include La Rioja  (2.5 hours, US$5), Córdoba  (8 hours, US$21), and Buenos Aires  (17 hours, US$65).
La Riojana (El Maestro 61, tel. 03825/42-4710) provides minibus service to the provincial capital (US$7). Facundo (tel. 03825/42-9171) offers minibus service to Villa Unión (2 hours, US$6.50), for Parque Nacional Talampaya , at 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.