Sights

La Rioja is a major devotional center, so many landmarks are ecclesiastical.

Festivals & Events

El Tinkunaco is one of Argentina's most interesting ceremonies.

El Tinkunaco – Conflict Resolution in the 16th Century

The fascinating and moving El Tinkunaco ceremony is a symbolic representation of the resolution of clashing cultures that occurred at the birth of La Rioja. When Juan Ramírez de Velasco founded the city in 1591, he blithely ignored the fact that the land was owned and farmed by the Diaguita, who naturally took exception to their territory being carved up among Spanish settlers. They rebelled in 1593, and a bloody conflict was averted by the mediation of the friar Francisco Solano, later canonized for his efforts. The Diaguita trusted the cleric and listened to his message. They agreed to down their arms on two conditions: that the Spanish alcalde (mayor) resign; and that his replacement be the Christ child. The Spaniards agreed and peace was made. The new mayor became known as Niño Jesús Alcalde.

The Tinkunaco (the word means ‘meeting’ in Quechua) commemoration commenced not long afterwards. Every year at noon on December 31, two processions – one representing the Spaniards, one the Diaguita – cross town to the Casa de Gobierno. The processions meet, and solemnly all fall to their knees before the image of the Niño Jesús Alcalde, then embrace. It’s a powerful moment with its message about cultural differences and compromises. It seems an especially poignant morality tale given the extreme nationalism that is swirling around the world.

Sleeping

La Rioja’s hotels are a mediocre bunch. That's the nicest way we can say it. Discounts are offered for cash, but unless you book into a hostel, you'll be hard-pressed to find good-value lodgings here.

Eating

Regional dishes include locro (spicy stew), juicy empanadas, chivito asado (barbecued goat), humitas (tamales), quesillo (a cheese specialty) and olives. Area restaurants include some standouts if you're willing to splurge.

Drinking & Nightlife

Being a devotional center, La Rioja doesn't have a party vibe, though a new craft brewery was set to open off the main plaza at the time of research. Local wines dominate restaurant wine lists. Most are affordable and quite good.

Shopping

La Rioja is famous for weaving and silverwork that combine indigenous techniques with Spanish designs and color combinations.

Fitting for a place named after Spain’s most famous wine region, La Rioja has a national reputation for its wines.

Guided Tours

Several operators run excursions around the province, including visits to the Parque Nacional Talampaya, which normally include nearby Parque Provincial Ischigualasto (‘Valle de la Luna’) in San Juan province. These companies also offer excursions to remote corners of the Andes.