We took an 11 hour bus ride from Mendoza, arriving in Cordoba on a Sunday night. Along the way the scenery varied drastically. After a few hours of very poor, dry areas of scrub and desert we passed through a very pretty little town with colourful adobe houses and two guys riding in a 3-horsepower cart. We then arrived in the hilly, almost alpine-feeling and touristy towns surrounding Cordoba.
Cordoba is the second-largest city in Argentina. It is known for its historic central district with beautiful buildings, in particular the Jesuit quarter. In the centre of this area is Plaza San Martin. It’s a great little spot for people-watching, complete with obligatory dude-on-a-horse (covered in pigeons) statue. We visited the helpful tourist information centre located along one edge (Indepencia) where we were given maps and tips on day tours out of the city.
Cordoba is compact enough to walk around. We explored the historic area with its paved pedestrian streets and then headed down the main diagonal road (Av Hipolito Yrigoyen) which has beautiful buildings, museums and art galleries. We visited the Mueso de Bellas Artes Evita Palacio Ferreyra (AR$15 entry), located right down near the park. It had some beautiful landscape paintings by Argentinian artists as well as some more…modern…exhibits featuring nudity and ropes. Since the descriptions were in Spanish it was entirely lost on us! I really enjoyed a small exhibition on the top floor made up entirely of post-card-sized images (many used as actual postcards). I’m kicking myself that I didn’t write down the artist’s name (in my defence, I was extremely hungry by this point).
We also visited Parque Sarmiento, which honestly isn’t much to write home about. The lions aren’t very helpful with directions and it was a bit dirty and scary-feeling. There were some pretty ducks, though. The tour of the old University campus in the historic district is supposed to be good – we tried to go but the tour times were 30 minutes earlier than we read in the guide book so we missed out (they also don’t run on weekends, so we didn’t get a chance to go back).
We stayed 5 nights in Cordoba, so had enough time to take a couple of day trips out of the city. The first was to Mina Clavero, a Sierra town with rivers and beaches, and the second was to Villa Carlos Paz. We caught both buses from the main terminal in Cordoba – but from the newer, second terminal building, not the one that the long-distance buses operate from.
The bus to Mina Clavero was about 3 hours, and cost AR$67 per person each way (US$9) – we went with Ciudad Cordoba but they were horrendously late both ways, so we had a lot of waiting around. The scenery is spectacular – the road goes through a national park, and climbs high into the Sierra where condors can be spotted. Being on a public bus however we didn’t get to stop for photos, which was a real shame. The town itself is nice. There are lots of places to eat and drink and some souvenir shops, and the river going through the town is pretty.
We found Villa Carlos Paz somewhat underwhelming. We had read that it was a cross between Las Vegas and Disneyland but the only thing remotely Disneyland-ish about the place was the swan boats. Yes, you heard me – glorious, fibreglass swan boats with little paddling feet at the back. They were the only good thing about the town in my opinion – it was a grey day however and not much was going on. The main street has bars and restaurants and lots of souvenir shops. It had a more commercial feeling than Mina Clavero, but the lakefront didn’t have the cafes and prettiness I was hoping for. The bus ride was one hour from Cordoba, and we went with Fonobus (AR$16 per person each way; US$2.30). They had very frequent buses and you just hopped on the next available one, rather than booking a seat on a specific timed service.
Cordoba has a nice vibe to it. We felt safe walking around (except for in the park but we might just be paranoid!), and we enjoyed the relaxed feeling in the evenings as people wandered around before dinner (which is served late in Argentina – like 10pm-is-early late). We must confess to having ice-cream for dinner on a couple of evenings as we were too tired to stay out late! The ice-cream was very good though. We would recommend taking day-tours rather than going it alone to outlying towns, just so you can stop for photos of the great scenery and perhaps get to some less central locations (such as the beaches around Mina Clavero).
OUR ACCOMMODATION IN CORDOBA:
Mate Hostel, on General Alvear, AR$185 (US$24) per night for a double room, shared bathroom. We liked this place – it doesn’t have great reviews so we were a bit nervous but it’s really good value. The staff were friendly – particularly the Venezualan guy – and the breakfast was pretty good. The wifi worked really well, and our room was large. The only downsides would be the noise from the street at night (either everyone in Corobda is a boy-racer or they just have terrible, noisy cars) and the bathroom which often had a very wet floor and paint (and sometimes plaster) coming off the ceiling. We liked the location – close enough to walk everywhere (even to the bus station at a push) and we felt safe walking around after dark.
BUS FROM MENDOZA TO CORDOBA:
We took a bus with Cata Internacional from Mendoza, AR$438 (US$57) each, approximately 11 hours. I think there are faster buses that go a more direct route…we were comfortable enough though, just in the regular seats upstairs. They brought us brownies and lemonade about 3 times but no lunch – we bought sandwiches from a vendor who came on board.
By Rosie and Nick