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Córdoba is the second largest city in Argentina, and famous for its location deep in the rolling hills of Las Sierras de Córdoba. It’s another university city like Rosario, with around 200,000 students, so expect to feel old when walking down the street. During our time there, we accidentally joined a Law graduation party (lots of students finish in November/December), in which graduates are stripped to their underwear, covered in egg and paint and sent off into a bar to down tequila at 3pm. Beats our end of year parties!
It’s not all drunken bashes though; the city of Córdoba is steeped in history. Although the area was originally inhabited by the indigenous Comechingones, in true colonial style that history has been wiped and the settlement is said to have been founded in 1573. In the 17th century, the Jesuits had a huge influence on the city, erecting churches, monasteries, universities and schools. They also had a big hand in the farming of the surrounding land of Las Sierras de Córdoba.
In modern history, Córdoba was a significant city for Argentina’s industrial growth and educational development and known for its protests for a better social and political system. Che Guevara actually grew up in a nearby town called Alta Gracia, and most likely soaked up some of the revolutionary spirit down in the city. Certain neighbourhoods in Córdoba, such as Güemes, famously grew to become bohemian in both their architecture and their thinking. In the early 20th century, Córdoba experienced an influx of Germanic Europeans searching for a better life (or a rumoured escape from their involvement in the wars), and therefore several of communes and towns were set up in Las Sierras de Córdoba to mimic a Bavarian style.
Smush all this together and you get a very interesting place to explore!
How to pronounce Córdoba: COR-doh-bah (not cor-DOE-bah)
Where to stay in Córdoba, Argentina
Firstly, we need to get this off our chest. Happy Happy Hostel was the worst hostel we almost stayed in. It still gets us heated now to talk about it, but the staff were horrible to us, tried their best to overcharge us, lied repeatedly about reasons we couldn’t pay on card, said we couldn’t pay cash instalments for our 7 night stay (remember, ATMs only let you take you £90 a day, so we couldn’t physically pay cash if we wanted to) and left us with a $39 USD cancellation fee for Booking.com (they told us to cancel the online booking to adjust our booking manually, then refused to waiver the cancellation fee, which they had every power to do). We didn’t let on that we could speak Spanish so we could hear all of the BS they were openly saying about how to screw us over. On top of this, the hostel felt dirty and the breakfast looked beyond basic, so in the end we were happy happy to pay to not stay there.
We stayed at 2 other hostels, Babilonia, which was very basic but had a decent vibe, and 531 Hostel, which was much more central, clean, modern and was easy to make new friends in. Out of the 3, we’d definitely recommend 531 Hostel!
Things to do in Córdoba
Walk it out
First, get yourself on a walking tour. La Docta is the tip-based option and offers a historical centre tour at 11am and and bohemian neighbourhoods tour 5pm each day, but you can also book reasonably-priced private tours of the city for a more personalised experience. You can hope to learn all about the long Jesuit history there as well as some of the terrible past of dictatorships and how they affected the local people.
Delve into the churches
Córdoba is a goldmine for beautiful churches and monasteries, if you’re into that. Some popular ones to visit are:
Monasterio Santa Catalina de Siena
Iglesia y Convento de las Teresas
Basílica de la Merced
Iglesia de Santo Domingo
Get smashed with the students
Did you expect any more from us?! Most of the nightlife happens in the Bohemian area of Güemes, which is very artsy-fartsy and not the cheapest place to get a drink (the centre is cheaper but has a less cool vibe). We met some past students here who showed us around, and they whole-heartedly confirmed that for clubbing the place to be is Maria Maria, near the river. Reggaeton and noughties classics all night long! Just remember that nightlife in Argentina happens a lot later than it typically does in Europe or North America.
Find some cheap grub
Yes, reasonably-priced sit-down meals do exist in Argentina! Córdoba is getting into ‘Menu del Dia’ territory, where you can get a 2-3 course lunch with a drink for usually less than 200 pesos (alert, a recent dive in Argentinian economics may have changed this, but the cost of everything should still be relative). If you haven’t gotten into the Merienda yet, now is your time! It’s a snack of pastry or cake with coffee as a late afternoon meal occasion. Lots of offers to be snapped up at this time!
We found that the city centre is the best place to eat. Further out, it in becomes increasingly difficult to find anything open before evening, even in Güemes on a Saturday.
Learn the painful history of Museo de la Memoria
From 1976-1983, Córdoba sadly found itself very much caught up in the witch-hunts of the military regime (the same dictatorship that the mothers in white headscarves protest every day in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires). In the quest to eliminate all who spoke against the regime, it was a regular thing for people to just go missing in the night and never be seen again, with rumours that some were drugged and then dropped from a helicopter into the sea. For those unlucky enough to be targeted, the jail just off Plaza San Martín became a significant place of misery, and has now been repurposed into a museum investigating the mysteries that still surround that time. It’s a poignant museum decorated with photos and letters of the missing. If you take the 11am La Docta walking tour, this is one of the stops.
As previously mentioned, legendary Che Guevara – who is often vilified by the Western world but hailed as a legitimate hero across South America – spent 11 years growing up in Alta Gracia, a town out in Las Sierras de Córdoba. If you travel up here (by bus, rental car or Che Guevara tour) you can visit the museum set up in his childhood home. It features plenty of anecdotes, photos and even his old motorbike. The museum is open from 9am-6:45pm Tuesday to Sunday, but has reduced hours on Mondays, only opening at 2pm. Plus, Alta Gracia is just a generally nice town!
Do not miss Las Sierras de Córdoba!
But by far the best thing we did in Córdoba – and potentially the whole of Argentina – was to get out into Las Sierras de Córdoba. Oh. My. God.What an incredible day! Las Sierras de Córdoba are a range of lush green hills that roll out for miles and miles around the city.
We visited several Sierras de Córdoba towns along Ruta 5 and Ruta 109 (many of which have a distinctly Bavarian feel due to the post-war exodus in which German communes were set up to look just like home), including:
Alta Gracia, home to a large Jesuit monastery and the Che Guevara museum
Villa General Belgrano, which even has its own permanent wooden Oktoberfest banner
Villa de Dique
La Cumbrecita, our favourite! It has an easy hike round a mountain path to a waterfall
How to get to Las Sierra de Córdoba
We got to Las Sierras de Córdoba by renting a car for a day (from £36 with Priceline). Though there are public buses, having a car allows you to visit places difficult rural bus routes don’t go, and stop wherever you like for photos. You can also take a horse-riding trip out to Las Sierras de Córdoba which would be magical as hell.
Driving in Las Sierras de Córdoba, Argentina
Just remember that even during the daytime in Argentina you need to have your car’s headlights on; we only realised after got pulled over by the police for it! There is also a toll road that you need to have some cash for.
When renting a vehicle, you’ll need a credit card to guarantee the deposit to hire the car (around £600 for the one we hired), and make sure you check age limits on drivers as some are 25+ only – not a problem for us fogies, of course!
Some more photos of Las Sierras de Córdoba for you as we couldn’t possibly pick just one:
How to get to Córdoba
From Buenos Aires, there is one flight to Córdoba a day with Jetsmart from AEP airport. The flight is around 90 minutes, but remember to factor in time to get to and through the airport.
By bus, there are plenty of operators connecting going to Córdoba from Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Rosario, Bariloche and more, multiple times a day. Córdoba is a pretty major transport hub, meaning you don’t have to worry about not finding a bus route. The buses in Argentina tend to be pretty good quality too, so don’t worry about the long journey times! Take a look at our guide to night buses in South America for some tips on the longer journeys.
For a real alternative journey from Rosario or Buenos Aires to Córdoba, you can actually get the Trenes Argentinos night train at 9pm every day. It is generally cheaper than doing this journey by bus or flying, but we’ve heard there can be significant delays (because Argentina).
Recommended stay to enjoy Córdoba: 3-4 days
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