The Real Argentina Guide to Cordoba

Sierras Córdoba

“From the city of the most beautiful girls/of Fernet and the beer/and nights without end/Soy Cordobes/and I travel without Id/because I have the accent of Córdoba Capitaaaaaaaaaal.”
– Rodrigo

It is Córdoba’s most famous musical export, Rodrigo, who best summed up the city in his ode Soy Cordobes – ‘I’m from Córdoba’. Rodrigo, a kind of Argentine Robbie Williams (when he was big), sadly died in a car accident about 10 years ago, but his legacy endures.

In the song, he wrote about his hometown’s reputation for, well, the party. “Mondays we have to relax for all we have danced/because on Tuesday we’re going out again/You’re going to have to clean your shoes, because we’re going somewhere”.

Mention to anyone from Buenos Aires you’re going to Córdoba and they’ll make a drinking notion with their hand, and usually a sound like ‘wa-hey’. They like to PARTY – just have a look at that YouTube clip above.

Argentina Travel: Street Art
Street art in Cordoba – Photograph by Carlos Adampol

Córdoba is located 700 kilometres north west of Buenos Aires, in almost the geographical centre of Argentina. It’s a city of more than a million people – the second largest in the country, and just about everyone you meet loves the city and loves the people. Cordobeses have a reputation, as we have seen, as being fun loving, something that is compounded by their accents, which, to Argentines, have an amusing song regardless of what they are saying. It probably accounts for the disproportionate number of comedians from the city. People from Córdoba are like the Irish (in a stereotypical sense, at least): they love to party, they talk funny and they actually are funny. But what of the city itself?

Argentina Travel: Estancia Jesus Maria
Estancia Jesus Maria – Photograph by Beatrice Murch

Tourists who long for a bit of Argentina travel will often jump on the comfy coaches directly to Salta or Jujuy often overlook Córdoba. It has none of the immediate attractions of the shift to Andean culture in the north, the wine of Mendoza or the scenery of Patagonia. It’s a large, modern city with some colonial monuments and buildings. The main attraction is the Jesuit City Block – Manzana Jesuítica, which was declared a world heritage site in 2000. The remains of the Jesuit presence is all over the north west of Argentina. Arriving in the late 1500s, they befriended (OK, it wasn’t all that friendly) the local population and built vast towns, unlike anything the locals had ever seen. The remains, especially around Iguazu Falls, are being reclaimed by the jungle – perfect for indulging those Indiana Jones tendencies.

In the provincial capital of Córdoba, things are much better preserved, including the country’s oldest university, the forth oldest in the Americas. Indeed, partly the reason for its hedonistic reputation is the amount of students in the city. In 1767, the Jesuits lost favour with the King of Spain, who expelled them from the country. When independence was declared in Buenos Aires in 1810, Cordobeses were distinctly unimpressed, remaining loyal to the king for a few years longer. During the early 1900s, the pattern of the city, with its wide boulevards and green spaces, became defined. It even had a tram back in 1909.

Today, the city is notably relaxed after the chaos of Buenos Aires. People here, like in much of provincial Argentina, will linger over a long lunch with wine in one of the city’s parrillas (steak houses) such as Faustino (Paseo del Buen Pastor, Av. Hipólito Yrigoyen 349, or the proudly Córdoban La Nieta’e La Pancha (Belgrano 783). Kid goat, a speciality in the area, is excellent here.

Argentina Travel: Cordoban Sierras
Cordoban Sierras – Photograph by Carlos Marro

Yet many travel to Córdoba not for the city itself, but its environs. The rolling hills, the green forests, tall sierras and quaint towns make the province of Córdoba a stunning destination. No wonder the aristocratic families flocked to the area during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They built Argentina’s grandest estancias (Jackie O stayed in one of them for a 20 day retreat back in the 1960s), many of which are now open to visitors. Whether you want the ultimate relaxation, or an extreme adventure, Córdoba’s natural landscape can provide it. Córdoba’s estancias are an ideal place to immerse yourself in the Argentine countryside traditions: indulge in an asado surrounded by nature and fresh air, or enjoy a day of spas and pampering, followed by a glass of wine on the veranda watching one of the sunsets the sierras are famed for. There’s also fly-fishing in the clear rivers, horse riding, or more adrenalin-pumping sports such as paragliding or mountain biking.

The best-known place for activities and sports is La Cumbre, a small town with high aspirations. Here you’ll find centres offering all manner of outdoor activities, while nearby Cosquín is famed around the world for its huge folk festival held in January.

Yet, if it all seems a little too quiet, then return to the city and follow the sound of cuarteto – Córdoba’s own music, which Rodrigo updated and exported to every club and bar in Argentina. Like the people, it’s upbeat and designed for one reason: to dance with the opposite sex. And that makes Córdoba a very fun place indeed.

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Daniel Neilson

Daniel Neilson

Daniel Neilson is a freelance writer and photographer, and lived in Buenos Aires for five years eating too much meat, going hoarse at football games and thoroughly failing to learn a step of tango. He edited Time Out’s Buenos Aires guidebook and has contributed words and photos to a variety of publications about Argentina for Four Four Two, The Wire, CNN Traveller, Real Travel, Adventure Travel and the Observer among others. He now spends his days drinking imported mate and planning his return journey.
Daniel Neilson

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