Cordoba is Argentina’s second-largest city, located close to the geographic centre of the country. Boasting 7 universities, it’s a youthful town with plenty of natural attractions close at hand, especially in the mountains to the west.
In April/May 2016, I spent 5 weeks in Cordoba in a modern AirBnB apartment on Avenida Duarte Quiros, about 6 kilometres from the city centre. Though I am based in Brisbane, Australia as a freelance writer, I travel at least a third of each year, sometimes to conduct remote river explorations, sometimes to have a ‘normal’ vacation and sometimes to play digital nomad in a new destination.
As a location-independent copywriter, I’m picky about accommodation. I wanted to see the sights of Cordoba but I also needed to get a solid chunk of writing work done for existing clients. Reliable Wi-Fi was the first priority. Fortunately, I was able to find this AirBnB apartment on the fourth floor of a fairly new building, away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area in a pleasant local neighborhood. It was clean, well-maintained and averaged out at less than $40 per night for the 33 days I spent there (it’s cheaper when you book a longer stay).
There were supermarkets, fruit and veggie shops, a butcher and even a gym within easy walking distance of my apartment. The gym cost me $34 for a month’s worth of unlimited workouts. Flagging a taxi or hopping on a bus was as easy as stepping out the building’s front door. There was also a small rooftop pool and deck area, which I put to good use on warmer days. I was always the only person up there.
Cordoba is quite spread out and doesn’t have the endless clumps of big skyscrapers than many similarly-sized cities do. It’s a laid-back, friendly place and the Cordobese (residents) love chatting to people from other countries. I was the first Aussie most of them had ever met. On weekends, all the city’s parks are filled with families enjoying the outdoors and ‘cafe society’ is alive and well here. I had no problems with crime and always felt perfectly safe during my stay.
What to see and do in Cordoba
One of the simplest ways to see the main sights of Cordoba is to jump on one of those red double-decker tour buses that leave from Plaza San Martin. Or just grab a tourist map and walk through town to check out the Cathedral, the Jesuit Block, the Ferreyra Palace, etc. The ‘happening’ neighbourhoods are Guemes and Nueva Cordoba, where you’ll find some inviting cafes, craft markets, antique shops, bars and restaurants. If you’re not used to Argentina nightlife, be aware that it starts late and ends late. Some restaurants don’t even open before 8pm and clubbers don’t really get going until 11pm – and might stay out until dawn.
One place definitely worth visiting on a sunny afternoon is Parque Sarmiento, the city’s largest public park. There’s always something happening here on the weekends – running marathons, bike races, dancing competitions and more. There’s also a get-fit circuit with exercise equipment spread around for anyone to use.
I loved the food in Cordoba, from the cheap but filling lunchtime empanadas (meat pies) to the superb grass-fed steaks in the ritzier restaurants. If you like Italian food, make sure you try Mamma’s restaurant – it’s exceptional. Another brilliant restaurant is the one at the Windsor Hotel. Speaking of hotels, the best in the city is the Hotel Azur Boutique on Jeronimo Street. It doesn’t look like much from the front but inside it’s world-class. As a Jet-setting Copywriter I can afford to stay in nicer places these days than I used to but if your budget is tight, there are some great hostels and family-run pensiones in the city too.
For me, the real plus about being in Cordoba wasn’t the city itself but all the interesting places you could get to within 1-4 hours on a bus. Buses are convenient, frequent, comfortable and dirt-cheap. Because I had so much writing work to complete, I didn’t get to half the places I wanted to – but that’s my excuse to go back one day. There’s a good reason so many Cordoba residents jump in their cars and ‘head for the hills’ on weekends – there are some truly beautiful areas in the mountains.
Here are some of the more fascinating places to check out, whether on a day trip, an overnighter or a longer stay:
Villa Carlos Paz
This is an attractive (but touristy) town on a large lake. It’s a quick bus trip out of Cordoba and a popular weekend getaway. If the weather cooperates, hire a kayak or one of those little pedal boats to explore the lake. Shoppers will find plenty of malls and trendy shops to satisfy their need to spend money.
Cosquin and Cumbre
Cosquin is accessible from Cordoba by train, so it makes a quick little day trip if you want to see somewhere different. Further north up the road you’ll find La Cumbre, where you can walk along the river and (between November and April) try some trout fishing.
Capilla del Monte
I quite liked Capilla del Monte. It has plenty of character and a really pleasant vibe. There’s a dam close to town that’s worth a look if you like rugged, rocky scenery. This place is famous for its UFO sightings, apparently.
If religious history is your thing, you can tour a number of villages featuring beautiful churches and historic homesteads. Canonga and Ascochinga villages and the town of Jesus Maria are all part of the ‘Jesuit Trail’. Take an organised tour if you want to see the most places in one day.
Villa General Belgrano
This good-looking town has a heavy German influence with Bavarian-style buildings, German beer and apple strudel all in evidence. There are lakes, vineyards, pleasant hikes and picturesque valleys in the vicinity, so I’d recommend staying at least a couple of nights here.
The further you get from Cordoba, the better the natural surroundings – and Mina Clavero is worth the extra time to reach. There are some outstanding trekking areas with waterfalls, subterranean chambers and a lot more to choose from. When you’ve had enough of Cordoba’s concrete and need a ‘get-away-from-it-all’ place, Mina Clavero is just the ticket to reconnect with the outdoors.
Quebrada del Condorito National Park
This large, high-altitude park has a variety of interesting plant and animal species and majestic views. It also offers a great chance to spot an Andean condor soaring in the thermals above the peaks.
I had a thoroughly relaxing time in Cordoba and can highly recommend it as a digital nomad destination. Argentina generally allows lengthy visa stays (6 months at a time for Aussies like me) and it’s one of the safest and friendliest countries in South America. Be aware that some of the far northern parts of Argentina have a Zika virus risk, but Cordoba is perfectly okay. Check typical seasonal temperatures before you visit – it gets cold here in winter.
My entire 5-week Cordoba trip cost a little over $4000, including return airfares from Brisbane, accommodation in a very nice apartment (plus three days in a hotel), all food, taxis and other incidental expenses. I’m not a drinking or nightclubbing man, so I found it a very economical place to live. I invoiced $6700 worth of writing work while I was there, so I had a nice long vacation, saw some cool sights in and out of the city and made a tidy profit on the journey as well!
Kevin Casey is a professional freelance writer and author of The Jet-setting Copywriter: How to Fund All Your Overseas Adventures through Freelance Writing.