A March 2006 trip
to Cordoba by Robert Raymond Ingledew
Quote: I really enjoy every single trip I take to La Cumbrecita. It is an alpine style village founded last century by German settlers, that had to go four days on horseback from Alta Gracia to reach their final destination. And they transformed this arid rocky ground into a real paradise.
A walk to La Hoya, where you can see (small) rainbow trout swimming in the pool is a must. Fly-fishing is allowed there (catch and release). Just in front of La Hoya, one of the popular spots for bathing, you will find a very nice restaurant. I really enjoyed their food, and spent some 6 or 7 dollars for my meal. That seems a lot of money here in Argentina, but not for a foreign tourist. They also had delicious German cakes, but I had spent enough already…
But the nicest walk is to the Cascada Grande (Large Waterfall). The best time of the year to go is Summer, because in Winter the stream is a trickle of water and you will not enjoy it so much. It is a walk of about a mile and a half in each direction, and the final part you have to go up staircases first and then literally climb over the rocks. It was told that I would not make it... so I am posting my photo at the waterfall for those who doubted that I would get there…
A walk through the woods in any direction is really enjoyable. In any case, the village is small, since it only has one thousand inhabitants.
Beautiful Alpine style constructions are throughout the village. There is at least one very nice 3-star hotel. The hotel La Cumbrecita, the hotel Las Cascadas and the Hotel Las Verbenas are the three best options. All these hotels, and most hotels in the village, have nice swimming pools. Prices are higher than at Villa Carlos Paz, but we are talking of two completely different options. To see the complete list of hotels, click here:
In few words, it is a beautiful spot for relaxing. If you are fond of nightlife, better go elsewhere, maybe to Villa Carlos Paz.
I am sure you will enjoy the photos.
Alta Gracia has many attractions, although the main one is probably the Virrey Liniers museum; it has this name because it was handed over by the Spanish Crown to Viceroy Liniers, probably as a reward for having leaded the resistance to the English Invasions to Buenos Aires. Originally it belonged to the Alta Gracia Jesuit Ranch, and is three and a half centuries old, including El Tajamar, a very important dam used at that for providing water and to the ranch and the original village, constructed over three centuries ago. The Alta Gracia Jesuit ranch is nearly four centuries old, and includes what is today the Virrey Liniers museum in the former Jesuit residence, the cathedral, and the complete water intake and distribution system called El Tajamar, with a very nice artificial lake that has a surface of nearly twenty acres. A walk through this museum (admission fee is minimal) is really worthwhile, because you will enjoy not only historical treasures of the Jesuits, but also testimonies of the Spanish Crown period in this area. Just think of this: at the time the United States became an independent country, these historical buildings were already over a century old. This "Estancia" was declared World Heritage by the United Nations (UNESCO). It is one of the oldest constructions of the Jesuits in Argentina, after the San Ignacio ruins in Misiones. In this case they have been well conserved. There are four museums in Alta Gracia, of which I have visited two: the Virrey Liniers museum and the Che Guevara Museum. I definitely prefer the first one; the second one is just the home of a revolutionary leader in whom I do not believe; I have never believed in Communism (nor in any political extreme) but it is another historical place in Alta Gracia, whether we agree or not with the teachings of the Che Guevara, who led the guerrilla in Bolivia, until he was finally shot dead by the Rangers of the Bolivian Army. (I don't agree with his teachings, but this is not a forum on Politics.) It has become a very popular place to visit amongst the people that follow his ideology, and although I do not agree with him (nor with George Bush), I must recognize the he gave his life for what he thought was just.
The other two museums in Alta Gracia are the Manuel de Falla Museum and the city Museum. I may add that Viceroy Liniers was the governor of the Virreynato del Río de la Plata that included what is today Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru). The twenty minutes that the tour stops at the Jesuit ruins are not enough to explore carefully all its history. I have tried to capture it as well as possible with my photo camera. Of course there are local buses from Villa Carlos Paz (Sarmiento) and from Córdoba (Valle de Calamuchita, Sierras de Calamuchita and Lep Buses) so you can always go back and explore it more carefully, as I did recently. Alta Gracia was the second tourist city in all Cordoba, founded nearly four centuries ago, and the Sierras Hotel, opened in 1908 and now partially restored, was very frequented by the British community and by famous people. It has the only casino in the town. The only tourist city that existed in Córdoba before Alta Gracia, was La Falda, with its Eden Hotel founded by German businessmen in 1898. Being near Cordoba, about half an hour away, many people from the second city of Argentina have moved to Alta Gracia to enjoy a quieter life here, especially those that work in the nearby car factories. Fiat and General Motors manufacture their cars and pick-ups near Alta Gracia. On this tour to La Cumbrecita we will also pass through a number of vacation villages, including Villa Ciudad America, that according to the tour guide was founded during the Peronist government in case Buenos Aires were attacked by any of the countries involved in World War II. Argentina remained neutral until the outcome of the war was certain, and then declared the war to Germany, confiscating its properties in Argentina, including the Eden Hotel at La Falda (Cordoba). You can also take a tour of this historical area on a colonial-style carriage. I will dedicate the next section to the Los Molinos Dam and Lake, a very nice area of this Province. Then we will continue through Los Reartes to La Cumbrecita, and will come back through Villa General Belgrano. I have already written a separate report on the Oktoberfest, their annual celebration. If you are fond of car racing, the Alta Gracia National Rally will take place on December 8 to 10, 2006. Enjoy the tour.
Most of the area and foothills surrounding the lake are green, with pasture lands and low vegetation, but there is a very nice part where there are a number of campgrounds, that belong to employees of FIAT, the Energy Trade Union and other associations, with beautiful pine trees, abundant shade and where there are some lodges where you can rent a room or bungalow. Of course, you can also rent a floating house by the day or week, if you wish. As far as I know, you will only fish pejerrey (silverside) and maybe catfish. You can fish rainbow trout in Los Reartes river (very near Los Molinos) and also at La Cumbrecita. My next review will be on the road to La Cumbrecita, going through Los Reartes, and the last one will be on Villa General Belgrano. The tour to La Cumbrecita only stops at two different parts of this lake, where you can take beautiful photos, but I wanted a better insight of the area, so I took the local bus from Cordoba city (Sierras de Calamuchita, that runs once every hour), got off the bus, and walked four miles along the lake, choosing the nicest spots for taking good photos. I am posting some of them here. Enjoy this tour, that offers you four completely different alternatives in only one day.
The rocks outcrop here and there, but in any case the scenery is beautiful. We will also go through Villa Berna, another very nice alpine style village, but far smaller than La Cumbrecita, where there are also a couple of good hotels. You may imagine what this area was like seventy years ago. Now you drive from Alta Gracia to La Cumbrecita in two hours, making stops on the road. At that time, it was a two-and a half day horseback trip. The German people that bought the lands in La Cumbrecita thought that they were buying lands fit for agriculture, and when they arrived there they found that the land was stony and not fit practically for anything. Any other person would have given up, undone the deal and sued the seller. But these people persisted and transformed the wilderness into a paradise... So you will enjoy this tour not only for its natural sceneries, but for its history and the admirable effort that the German settlers put into this area, making it such a beautiful place that today it is probably the main off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction in Cordoba, Argentina.
Villa General Belgrano was founded in 1940 by the German Community and still has an alpine traditional flavor. It is a medium-sized village (not yet a city, since it has 6,500 inhabitants) and a very pleasant place where to be. Hotels are not cheap, and this is probably to conserve the "status" of the village with medium and high-income tourists. The first two weeks of October they hold the Oktoberfest, that really fascinated me by the colourful parade. It is also an ideal place for tasting delicious Alpine cakes, German food, or drinking beer (they manufacture 14 different artisan varieties there). You will find very few economy hotels in this area. But there are dozens of apart hotels and bungalow complexes, with very nice swimming pools and one of them even has a small golf course. Amongst the hotels, you will find a 3-star Howard Johnson, but there are also four-star hotels and even a resort. All the province of Cordoba has the best climate in Argentina. A very dry winter season, where the sun warms up during the afternoon, and a rainy season in Summer, when weather is very warm.
Villa General Belgrano is not an exception. You will find that starting in November the mountains become greener, until the dry season comes back in April. Even if you do get wet with a shower, weather is so warm that it will not bother you. Quite different to the climate on the Atlantic coast in Argentina, where rains generally come combined with cold weather and wind... When you see my photos of the cabin complexes, you will notice that they are ideal places for relaxing. Just let me sort out some of the photos I look this month and share them with you.
Robert Raymond Ingledew
Villa Carlos Paz (Cordoba), Argentina