Exploring the Heart of Argentina- Cordoba
Often times when travelers think of Argentina, they immediately think of tango in Buenos Aires, the epic Iguazu Falls in the northeast corner, and Patagonia in the South. However, in recent years, Cordoba has been moving up on the list with its beautiful nature, vibrant city life, gastronomy, and much more.
Cordoba offers a perfect combination of urban and rural activities and is easily accessed from all corners of the country. Argentina is re-opening its borders and here is why Cordoba should be added to your Argentina bucket list.
Just northwest of Buenos Aires (a mere 1 hour and 25-minute plane ride) is the province of Cordoba, whose capital city shares the same name. The province of Cordoba is known as “El Corazón” (the heart) of Argentina, given its geographic location, shape, and people. Los cordobeses, or people from Cordoba, are charming, witty, and have a well-marked accent, that sets them apart from the rest of the country, which they are extremely proud of.
Cordoba has roughly 1.5 million inhabitants almost a sixth of which are university students. Driven by the youthful population, Cordoba is one of the most active and energetic cities in Argentina. In contrast, it is also one of the oldest cities in Argentina and is the former capital. Stunning colonial architecture coupled with new modern additions and cobblestone streets pose as magnificent backdrops while travelers and locals alike bustle through this historic city and its charismatic neighborhoods.
There are many distinct neighborhoods that only add to the colorful mix of old and new in Cordoba. At the heart of the old city center, one will find the Jesuit monastery and cathedral surrounded by bars and cafes. Though this area once held some heavy ties to the former Argentine dictatorship, it is now a center of remembrance for the lost victims during those years and an integral site for learning about the history of Argentina. In the southwestern corner of the city, the bohemian neighborhood, known as Güemes, is home to the Paseo de las Artes where artists display and sell their work. Finally, a few blocks from the famous España Square is the Nueva Cordoba neighborhood where there are excellent museums and photography galleries and the primary spot for trasnochando, or partying all night (yes, the Argentine’s have a word for that!).
If you decide to party with the locals, be sure to try the unofficial/official national cocktail of Fernet and Coke, invented in Cordoba. Like it or hate it, this sugary, herbal mix is a must-try for the true Argentine nightlife experience.
The Cordoba capital is an incredible urban venue but it is also the gateway to the rustic treasures and well-kept secrets found throughout the rest of the province.
The most famous natural gem of Cordoba is the Sierras de Cordoba mountain range. These mountains are older than the Andes and are much lower in altitude. The climate is wet and hot in the summer and mild in the winter. This mountain range can be visited all year long but best to visit from November to April during the southern hemisphere’s warmer months. Three absolute must-see places in the Sierras are: Mina Clavero, Los Terrones and Pocho Volcano Field, and Taninga Tunnels.
Just southwest of the city of Cordoba is the breathtaking region of Mina Clavero. Surrounded by rust-colored mountains, blue skies, natural swimming holes and lakes, this is a must when in Cordoba. Deep, crystal clear pools with soft, sandy beaches in the valleys of the Sierras offer the perfect relaxing environment. Natural granite water slides cascade into the pools from the melted snow off the peaks above, while the large flat rocks around the water’s edge offer the perfect places to sunbathe.
At the northern end of the Punilla Valley, just beyond the town of Capilla del Monte is Los Terrones National Park. These stunning rock formations are vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow and green and have created a backdrop for many legends and tall tales in the region. It is truly a place that is not talked about nearly enough and is one of the best-kept secrets of the region. For people wanting to explore off the beaten path and hike along ancient trails through the sandstone formations, nestled in the Sierras, this is the place to be.
Pocho Volcano Field and Taninga Tunnels
Poncho Volcano field is an inactive volcano field. The drive there is simply magical and it is practically unknown to travel guides from outside of Argentina. The field is reached by a road leading through a series of five tunnels, known as the Taninga Tunnels, which were built in the 1930s. Embarking out on the dry, flat, land, sprinkled with palm trees, you slowly begin to ascend into the Sierras and through the tunnels to suddenly be confronted by an almost perfect pyramid volcano that dominates the horizon. As other volcanoes in the area begin to appear, you also have views of deep emerald valleys and the Sierras Grandes beyond. The warm breeze running through the valley and the sleepy towns you pass through provoke a feeling of time standing still and will have you never wanting to leave.
Beyond the natural and urban delights in Cordoba, the province is also home to numerous traditional estancias, or ranches. Here you can learn about the lives of modern Gauchos and enjoy the serenity and beauty of the Cordobese countryside. Opt to stay for a few days at one of these peaceful ranches and find some much-needed calm as you wrap yourself in a cozy, traditional wool blanket in the evenings and sip malbec while watching the sun go down.