The Central Sierras are the highest mountain ranges in Argentina away from the Andean cordillera. Their pinkish-grey ridges and jagged outcrops alternate with fertile valleys, wooded with native carob trees, and barren moorlands, fringed with pampas grass – a patchwork that is one of Argentina’s most varied landscapes. Formed more than 400 million years before the Andes and gently sculpted by the wind and rain, the sierras stretch across some 100,000 square kilometres, peaking at Cerro Champaquí. Colonized at the end of the sixteenth century by settlers heading south and east from Tucumán and Mendoza, Córdoba was the region’s first city. The Society of Jesus and its missionaries played a pivotal part in its foundation, establishing it at a strategic point along the Camino Real (“Royal Way”), the Spanish route from Alto Perú to the Crown’s emerging Atlantic trading posts on the Río de la Plata.

From that point on, the Jesuits dominated every aspect of life in the city and its hinterland, until King Carlos III kicked them out of the colonies in 1767. You can still see their handsome temple in the city centre, among other examples of colonial architecture. Further vestiges of the Jesuits’ heyday, Santa Catalina and Jesús María, are two of Argentina’s best-preserved Jesuit estancias, located between Córdoba city and the province’s northern border. Slightly north of Santa Catalina is one of the country’s most beguiling archeological sites, Cerro Colorado, which has hundreds of pre-Columbian petroglyphs.

Northwest from Córdoba city is the picturesque Punilla Valley, along which are threaded some of the country’s most traditional holiday resorts, such as La Falda and Capilla del Monte. At the valley’s southern end, close to Córdoba city, are two nationally famous resorts: noisy, crowded Villa Carlos Paz and slightly quieter Cosquín. By contrast, the far north of the province, particularly a stunningly unspoilt area roughly between Capilla del Monte and Santa Catalina, remains little visited: the dramatic rock formations at Ongamira and the lovingly restored hamlet of Ischilín are just two of the highlights. South of Córdoba, the Calamuchita Valley is famed for its popular holiday spots, sedately Germanic Villa General Belgrano and rowdy Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. Alta Gracia, at the entrance to this increasingly urbanized valley, is home to an outstanding historical museum housed in an immaculately restored estancia; Che Guevara spent much of his adolescence in the town.

Southwest of Córdoba a high mountain pass cuts through the sierras, leading to the generally more placid resorts of the Traslasierra, a handsome valley in western Córdoba Province, and some stunning scenery in the lee of Cerro Champaquí, accessed from the pretty village of San Javier. Along this route lies the province’s only national park, the Quebrada del Condorito, whose dramatic ravines provide a breeding site for the magnificent condor.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Argentina features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Mendoza: 9 outdoor activities in Argentina's adventure capital

Mendoza: 9 outdoor activities in Argentina's adventure capital

Travellers on a tour of Argentina often zip through the city of Mendoza, pausing only long enough to down a glass of Malbec at the famed vineyards before rushin…

29 Aug 2018 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
On the trail of Bruce Chatwin in Patagonia

On the trail of Bruce Chatwin in Patagonia

Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia has served as a bible for those travelling through South America since its publication 40 years ago. Four decades on, Stephen Kee…

08 Nov 2017 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
Reaching new heights: what does it take to be a mountain guide?

Reaching new heights: what does it take to be a mountain guide?

For anyone who loves the outdoors, being a mountain guide might seem like the world’s coolest job – in both senses of the word. To find out what it’s rea…

08 Aug 2017 • Ros Walford local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs