Cordoba and Central Sierras

Shutterstock/2351072/SDCCórdoba, Argentina's second biggest city, has an entirely different character from Buenos Aires. The sparky Cordobeses are known for their quick wit, warm welcome, and are understandably proud of their city's history. The Jesuits established the country's oldest university here in the 17th century, with a centre of learning funded by estancias all over the province. These magnificent estancias, tucked away in the Sierras Chicas, are the main tourist attraction and best visited by car, while the mountains themselves are best explored on horseback. Here, at hilltop Estancia Los Potreros, you can live the real gaucho life in comfort, or steep yourself in presidential luxury at grand Estancia La Paz, before heading north to the remote reaches of Cerro Colorado, where there are amazing displays of rock art in a bizarre rocky landscape.

South of the city in Alta Gracia is Che Guevara's childhood home, but don't miss the best Jesuit museum inside the spectacular
in the centre of town. Nearby Villa General Belgrano remains a German stronghold, with chalet-style architecture and endless microbreweries and
. Escape from the crowds to Córdoba's most stunning scenery, high along the Camino de las Altas Cumbres into the Traslasierra Valley. Hike into the mountains and gaze at condors in flight at the Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito, where majestic birds wheel above the dramatic peaks, and teach their young to fly.

Further west, the sleepy provincial capital of San Luis lies at the foot of its own magnificent sierra which intrepid travellers can explore in Parque Nacional Sierra de las Quijadas, with its dramatic red sandstone canyon. At sleepy villages El Trapiche and Carolina, you can even mine for gold.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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