A February 2007 trip
to Cordoba by Robert Raymond Ingledew
Quote: I live near Córdoba city. It is the second largest city in Argentina, and has all the features of a metropolitan city. The city is 5 centuries old, it has lovely pedestrian streets, huge shopping centers, and many historical places, some of them considered World Heritage by UNESCO.
You need tokens (buy at candy stores) for travelling on the local buses. The local bus costs less than half a dollar. A 10-block trip in a taxi will cost more or less .
FROM BUENOS AIRES (10 HOURS): Betel Ejecutivo, Mercobus, General Urquiza/Sierras de Córdoba, Nueva Chevallier, and many others. Some offer the premium bed service, and all others have bed and semi-bed services.
FROM ROSARIO: Same companies (6 hours travel).
FROM MENDOZA (10 hours): Andesmar, Autotransportes San Juan, San Juan-Mar del Plata.
FROM BARILOCHE: TUS (18 HOURS)
FROM PUERTO MADRYN (18 HOURS): Andesmar and TUS.
FROM MAR DEL PLATA (16 hours): Mercobus and Zenith. Betel Ejecutivo offers the best service but only runs during the high season. The others are also comfortable.
FROM SANTA FE AND PARANÁ (6 hours): Zenith
FROM SALTA (12) AND TUCUMAN (8 hours): Andesmar, FlechaBus, Mercobus, La Veloz del Norte, Balut, amongst others.
FROM LA RIOJA AND CHILECITO (6 hours): General Urquiza, Sierras de Córdoba, and SOCASA.
FROM SAN JUAN: Autotransportes San Juan, San Juan-Mar del Plata, SOCASA, and other companies.
FROM IGUAZÚ FALLS (18 hours): Crucero del Norte and Mercobus
FROM VILLA CARLOS PAZ: Many lines, 1 hour.
Walking through the commercial downtown of Córdoba city is a real pleasure. The pedestrian streets have been carefully decorated with plants and even overhead shade, and there are many fashionable shops, most of them small or medium. But if you want to see the latest fashion, a visit to its huge shopping centers is a must. The largest one by far is NuevoCentro, located on Duarte Quirós avenue 1400, next to the Cordoba Sheraton hotel. A taxi from the downtown to this shopping center or to the Sheraton hotel will cost you some two dollars and some eight dollars from Córdoba's international airport, where a number of international airlines arrive, mostly from the USA, Chile, and Brazil. The second largest shopping center is Patio Olmos, on Boulevard San Juan, just across the road from the Amerian Cordoba Park Hotel (4 stars), and the third one is the Córdoba Shopping Center, with 165 shops and twelve movie theaters. All have many options for lunch or dinner time, with at least a dozen of alternatives, including McDonald's (you will not find one single McDonald's at Villa Carlos Paz, don't ask me why...). Most of these shopping centers open every day at 10am (maybe later on Sundays) and close about 10pm. Yesterday I visited the NuevoCentro and Patio Olmos shopping centers and took some beautiful photos. I cannot tell you exactly the size of the NuevoCentro shopping center, but know that it is at least seven hundred feet long and that it has three different levels. The fast food shops are at the lower level, Neverland has many options of games for children in the intermediate level, and there are hundreds of shops in the intermediate and higher level, and more in the basement. You can find more information (in Spanish) clicking on these pages: www.nuevocentro.com.ar. Patio Olmos has some 150 shops, and boasts to be the center that marks fashion tendencies. It also has games for children, a fast food area and movie theaters. It has already some 20,000 square feet in three different levels and a new expansion is under construction. Their website give information classified by brands, shops in alphabetical order and many other options (all in Spanish, but you can see the photos): www.patioolmos.com/home.php.
The Cordoba Shopping Villa Cabrera has some 125 shops and a dozen movie theaters. Here is a drawing of its facilities. As far as I can see, its shops are in two different levels: www.cordobashopping.com/planoShopping.htm. Patio Olmos is in the downtown, only some three or four blocks away from the Jesuit Block and the City Hall (both declared World Heritage), nearer to the Monserrat Museum and the Cordoba University Museum, and some five blocks away from the walking streets in the downtown, while Nuevocentro is located about a mile and a half away from the downtown, and The Cordoba Shopping is probably some 3 miles away from the center of the city. However, if you are a bargain seeker, you will probably want to walk the four or five blocks of Ituzaingo street from Boulevard Illia towards Plaza San Martin. Nearly all these shops are wholesale dealers and although retail prices are slightly higher, they are substantially lower than in the "fashionable" shopping centers. To give you an idea, you can buy slaks on Ituazingo Street for less than 20 dollars. In the shopping centers you will pay nearly double that price. A good suit at Fallabella (NuevoCentro) will cost you probably 200 dollars or more. A pair of shoes will cost you less than 20 dollars on Ituzaingó street, and a good pair of leather shoes will cost some 60 dollars in the shopping center (Storkman, for example), and forty percent less in a factory outlet. At the shopping centers you can have a small coffee and a croissant for less than one dollar, while a capuccino will cost about two dollars and a half. In the downtown you will find many options for eating for 5 to 8 dollars, including all you can eat barbecue.
The best price value I have found for eating an abundant meal is Las Tinajas, where for less than ten dollars you will have an abundant meal, including wine. If you are a budget traveler, you can eat well for three to five dollars in front of the Cordoba Bus Station at La Esquina de Pepe. Cordoba is not a good place for buying photo cameras. A Canon Powershot A630 camera is costing 1715 pesos (some 570 dollars; while in the USA you can buy it for some 250 dollars); desk computers are not expensive, you will find them for some 400 to 500 dollars upwards, with DVD recorder, but probably they are only suitable for 220 volts, 50 cycles, and you could need a power transformer. Laptops are expensive in Argentina. TV set would not be suitable for you without a power transformer, and they would have to be suitable for NSTC. Films in Argentina are recorded in PALN, and you will not be able to see them on your video. Of course, DVD films should be able to be viewed in any DVD player. Argentine clothes are of an excellent quality, and leather products are also of first quality. Cordoba is the best starting point for any trip throughout the country. Salta and Mendoza are far nearer than from Buenos Aires, and Puerto Madryn and Bariloche are more or less at the same distance. Iguazu Falls will be further away. There are buses from Cordoba city to practically any point in Argentina. And sometimes flights into Cordoba city are cheaper than those that end in Buenos Aires. For bus services from Córdoba to other cities, check out these pages: www.andesmar.com.ar, www.mercobus.com.ar, www.flechabus.com.ar, www.crucerodelnorte.com.ar, www.zenit.com.ar, www.generalurquiza.com.ar, www.laveloz.com/transpor.html#horarios (Most of the services of this company go through Cordoba, you can check it out when you click on your destination). Have a nice trip to the heart of Argentina, Cordoba city.
Córdoba city (founded in 1573, and refounded in 1580) has real archaeological treasures, the oldest Jesuit church in Argentina, constructed in 1640, the Montserrat primary school (founded in 1693), the first building of the University of Cordoba (founded in 1613), the city hall, the cathedral... Most of these historical monuments form part of the Jesuit Block and have been declared Cultural Heritage by the United Nations (UNESCO). Surprisingly, most of these buildings continue to render services to the community. The Montserrat school still functions as a primary school, the first building of the University of Cordoba has been transformed into a Museum, the city hall still has municipal offices, and both the Cathedral and the first Jesuit church, constructed in 1640, continue holding their regular religious services. All these buildings are real architectural treasures. Most of the churches belonged originally to the Jesuits, until they were expelled from all Spanish territories by the Spanish Crown on March 31, 1767, and then handed over to the Franciscan order. I visited these buildings the day before yesterday and took some very nice photos that I would like to share with you. The first historical building we visit after leaving the Patio Olmos shopping center is the Montserrat school, founded in 1693, but moved to its present site in 1782, when what today is Argentina still belonged to the Spanish crown. The first printing press in what is today Argentina functioned here. The University of Cordoba was the first university opened in what is today Argentina, and the second in all South America. The building where the museum functions was constructed in 1613. To date, over 113,000 students have gone through its classrooms.
Founded in 1610 by the Jesuits with the name of Collegium Maximum, it became a University in 1613, although it was still not authorized to give diplomas. It was ruled by the Jesuits until 1767, and until that date its teachings had mainly to do with Theology and Philosophy. Today it is one of the most prestigious universities in South America, covering all disciplines, from Law to Medicine. The University of Buenos Aires was founded two centuries later, in 1823... It is therefore not surprising that Cordoba city is called La Docta (The Learned). The next building we will visit is the Santa Catalina church, founded by the Jesuits in 1622, although the construction of the present building started in 1640. The architectural magnificence of the interior is impressive, with many altars in the front and in the galleries. The city hall, where some municipal offices still function, was constructed from 1588 onwards, and was remodeled during the next centuries. It has two distinct architectural styles: colonial in the ground floor, and classical in the second floor. The original building, part of which may be seen in the basement, had its own water purification system. Some public offices, like the Elections Board, and the Tourist Police, still operate normally in this building. A walk through the whole building is a real pleasure. An office of the local tourist board on the outside of the building provides information and printed material to the visitors. There are cobblestone pedestrian streets next to the City Hall, and the whole area conserves an historical atmosphere.
Only two blocks away you will find the downtown shopping center on pedestrian streets like 25 de Mayo. Finally, the Cathedral of Córdoba, the construction of which started in 1680, also deserves a visit. From the Square opposite the Church, you will observe the details of the front which seems a stone fortress. Since in the region there were no large-enough pieces of wood, a new way of building was created- the nave has a shape of an upside down boat hull or keel. There are guided tours that start from the City Hall, or "Cabildo" on Dean Funes street, that cover all these historical buildings, so that you can get a better insight of Cordoba’s history. In the tour you will hear the history of the Jesuit order, that arrived in Cordoba city in 1599, and will visit all these archaeological and historical treasures. The Jesuit Crypt, constructed in the 18th century as a "place for prayer" by the Jesuits, all constructed in natural stones, is another place you should not miss. You will find it where Avenue Colon crosses Rivera Indarte street. You will also find many museums in Córdoba city, that I should call the cultural capital of Argentina. As a matter of fact, Cordoba city has the well-deserved title of "The Learned City" (La Docta). Although most of these museums are open all day long, some close at 1pm. So it is wise to start your visit during the morning. You do not need to worry about finding places for having a coffee break or lunch; the whole area is full of cafeterias and restaurants and provide meals at very affordable prices; some charge as little as two dollars and a half for chicken with french fries. The Cordoba bus station is at a walking distance from this area (some 10 to 12 blocks away) and a taxi to the bus station will cost you less than a dollar and a half. Only one hour away form Córdoba city, you will have the chance of visiting the Jesuit Ranch of Alta Gracia, to which I will refer in a separate Experience. In any case, buses from the Sarmiento bus company take you to Alta Gracia for about a dollar and a half, and leave you just in front of the Jesuit buildings area and near the Sierras hotel, another place in Alta Gracia that deserves a visit. Cordoba has many attractions. Don’t forget to include it in your next trip to Argentina.
Alta Gracia is only 22 miles away from Cordoba city. However, the bus takes about one hour to get there. It has the most important Jesuit Museum in Argentina and -as far as I know- the only museum to the Che Guevara, a disciple of Fidel Castro with whom I do not agree, but that gave his life for a cause he considered just. Obviously, the most important attraction here is the Virrey Liniers Jesuit Museum and the Cathedral and its surrounding area. Unlike other Jesuit buildings in other parts of Argentina (like Santa Ana or San Ignacio), the Jesuit church and residence constructed here between 1640 and 1659 and the Tajamar, an important dam constructed in 1659 to supply drinking water to the area, have resisted the pass of centuries and are still in perfect condition.
The Virrey Liniers (Viceroy Liniers) Museum, inside the Jesuit residence has valuable historical information and relics, and is a must for whoever may be interested in history of the Jesuits or of the Spanish colonization, and also for photographers interested in taking valuable photos. Only photos on the outside were allowed, and in special cases photos without using a flash. I forgot to ask and took photos, and only found out this when I requested permission to go and buy some more films… So I want to share some of the photos I took inside the Jesuit residence. Alta Gracia is nearly a suburban part of Córdoba city. There are some car factories in the area (Kaiser was the first one many many years ago) like Sevel (Fiat-Peugeot) and others.
Near Alta Gracia, at Falda del Carmen, Condor missiles used to be manufactured, until at the request (or pressure) of the USA, the project was abandoned. Today satellites are manufactured in the same plant. A tour through Alta Gracia is delightful: the Jesuit church and residence, the parks, the Sierras Hotel, recently reopened, are places that deserve a visit. The Virrey Liniers museum occupies completely the building of the former Jesuit residence. It is just next to the Cathedral that still opens normally and holds services. The admission fee to the museum costs 65 cents of a dollar, and access to the church is free. There are frequent bus services from Alta Gracia to Córdoba city, and also direct bus services from Alta Gracia to Villa Carlos Paz, La Falda and other destinations. These last buses run about three times in the day, so check the timetables. Sarmiento is the bus company that operates them, and has comfortable buses.
Alta Gracia is on the road to the Los Molinos dam, a beautiful place not very far away, to Villa General Belgrano, home of the Argentine Oktoberfest, and to La Cumbrecita, a beautiful Alpine village founded by Germans about a century ago. Come and discover Córdoba… Although the Virrey Liniers museum is the main attraction here (in the Jesuit Residence constructed in 1659), the Tajamar (across the road) is worthwhile visiting. This dam, about 70 feet high was constructed three and a half centuries sago by the Jesuits, and its solid construction has resisted perfectly. The Sierras hotel, constructed a century ago by the British, and recently reopened, is another interesting milestone in Alta Gracia. Eating in Alta Gracia is slightly more expensive than in Cordoba city, but prices are moderate. The tour to La Cumbrecita comes through here early in the morning, when light conditions are not optimal for taking photos.
It continues along the Los Molinos dam, that forms a beautiful lake, where silverside fishing is very popular. The "floating trailers" on the lake are something maybe unique in Argentina. They were originally fishing barges mounted on gas oil drums, and evolved until they became real residences with dining room, kitchen, and bedroom. They can be rented by the day or per week. All the road to La Cumbrecita is beautiful, and this is probably the most complete tour you can take in all Córdoba, together with Mina Clavero and Los Túneles. These tours operate more from Villa Carlos Paz than from Cordoba city, but I am sure that you can get them there also. All bus services from Córdoba to Villa General Belgrano (Sierras de Calamuchita, Valle de Calamuchita, LEP...) go through Alta Gracia, and run about once an hour. The trip from either Córdoba or Villa Carlos Paz takes about one hour, and costs about a dollar and a half. Sarmiento has a regular local bus service to Córdoba, and also direct bus services to Villa Carlos Paz and La Falda, but these run about three times in the day. In most cities in Córdoba, taxis cost about 65 cents of a dollar initial rate and about one dollar per mile. For longer distances, it is better to take a remise (car with driver) and negotiate the rate before you get on the car. In front of the Jesuit residence you can hire a horse or donkey ride, and also a trip through this historical area in a century-old horse driven carriage... Enjoy your stay in Córdoba city, but also explore the surrounding areas. There are many historical relics, and the landscape is beautiful. Welcome to the heart of Argentina, the province of Córdoba.
Villa Carlos Paz is the third tourist center in importance in all Argentina, after Mar del Plata and Bariloche. It has a permanent population of sixty thousand inhabitants, and probably over four hundred hotels. I moved to Villa Carlos Paz over a year ago. Since I am a freelancer, I could have moved to any city in Argentina, including my other two choices for living: Mendoza city or Salta. Although Bariloche is by far the most beautiful spot in Argentina, I would not go to live there because it is far too cold in winter for my taste. And Mendoza has become quite more expensive than Córdoba. Being in the center of Argentina Villa Carlos Paz has a moderate climate, a dry season from April to November with sunny weather, and it was a far better choice than where I lived previously during eight years (Mar del Plata) where winter can be rainy, windy and cold. Living in Villa Carlos Paz, in fourteen months I have not seen everything yet. Although I am fairly acquainted with the area, there are a few places that I have still not visited. Villa Carlos Paz is located along the coast of the San Antonio River and lake San Roque. You can take beautiful photos without even leaving the downtown.
It has a few large commercial galleries, mostly on its main shopping avenue (General Paz). Some of these galleries have literally anything between fifty and over one hundred shops. Even though during the high season prices increase substantially, even then you can find a double room in a good hotel with cable TV and a small swimming pool for some forty to fifty dollars. And prices drop substantially from March to December, although not as much as on the Atlantic Coast, where hotels are practically empty during the winter season. Prices of restaurants vary drastically, so you need to compare prices. In some places you can have a full meal, including wine, for four dollars, while in others you will pay nearly that price for a serving of french fries… I have given my recommendations in my overview "Villa Carlos Paz for Budget Travelers".
There are many beautiful places near Villa Carlos Paz. For example, I had been living in the city for nearly a whole year before I discovered Bahía Los Mimbres, a Caribbean style resort facing lake San Roque. I had heard about the waterfall in Tanti, but had not visited it yet. Six months passed before I visited the Quebrada del Condorito National Park (50 miles away from Cordoba city and only 25 miles away from Villa Carlos Paz), which is a very good area for condor and eagle watching. I had heard about Playas de Oro with its beautiful beaches on the San Antonio river…
Mina Clavero is only two hours away on the bus…(3 hours from Cordoba city) and the list continues… Villa Carlos Paz is an ideal center for touring the whole province. There are direct buses to Alta Gracia, Villa General Belgrano, Mina Clavero, Cosquín, La Falda, Capilla del Monte, and there are over half a dozen local travel agencies inside the small bus station that offer full-day tours to La Cumbrecita, Mina Clavero and Los Túneles, Cosquin/La Falda/Capilla del Monte and many other options. A full-day tour costs normally twenty dollars, excluding lunch, which can cost another 5 to 8 dollars per person. You can also buy prepared food at Disco Supermarkets, in which case you can buy 3 generous portions of chicken pie for some two dollars. In the case of the tour to Los Túneles the meal includes all-you-can-eat grilled goat for some six or seven dollars, and if you go to La Cumbrecita, you can have German cuisine at La Cumbrecita and/or at Villa General Belgrano, home of the Oktoberfest. I prefer to eat at General Belgrano on the way back, because La Cumbrecita is charming and I prefer to spend my time walking around the village and up to its beautiful waterfall (Cascada Grande). Or even enjoy seeing the rainbow trout swimming in the stream at La Hoya. There are buses about every twenty minutes from Córdoba city to Villa Carlos Paz, and travel lasts slightly less than one hour.
There are also direct buses from Villa Carlos Paz to Mendoza (mostly during the high season), San Juan, La Rioja, Catamarca, Mar del Plata, Rosario, Santa Fe, Parana and Buenos Aires. In some cases, during the low season, you need to change buses at the Cordoba city bus station, from where there are bus services to practically all Argentina, including Puerto Madryn, Calafate, Tucumán, Salta, and even Iguazu Falls. If you have a glance at a map of Argentina, you will notice that Cordoba (and Villa Carlos Paz) are located in the center of Argentina, and this explains the popular slogan: "Cordoba, the heart of my country." Villa Carlos Paz has a number of theaters, movie theaters, tearooms, even discos, and is one of the places preferred by the young people for their graduation tours. I really don’t know why they even pay for a hotel room, since they generally return to the hotel at 7am… And the inhabitants of Cordoba city often come to spend their weekends over here. If you come to Cordoba and you do not visit Villa Carlos Paz, you are missing a lot. Have a look at the photos, and make up your mind. I know you will enjoy it. From here, the bus takes you in 8 hours to Tucuman, 12 hours to Salta, 6 hours to La Rioja or Catamarca, 10 hours to Mendoza, 6 hours to San Luis, 18 hours to 20 hours to Puerto Madryn or Bariloche… It is the ideal base for touring all Argentina… Welcome to the province of Córdoba, the heart of Argentina.
Robert Raymond Ingledew
Villa Carlos Paz (Cordoba), Argentina