Long established as one of Córdoba Province’s major holiday destinations, and where many cityfolk have weekend or summer homes, the green Calamuchita Valley begins 30km south of Córdoba city at the Jesuit estancia town of Alta Gracia – a popular day-trip destination from Córdoba – and stretches due south for over 100km, between the undulating Sierra Chica to the east and the steep Sierra de Comechingones to the west. The varied vegetation that covers the valley’s sides provides a perfect habitat for hundreds of species of birds and other fauna. Two large and very clean reservoirs, Embalse Los Molinos in the north and Embalse Río Tercero in the south, both dammed in the first half of the twentieth century for water supplies, electricity and recreational angling, give the valley its alternative name, sometimes used by the local tourist authority: Valle Azul de los Grandes Lagos (“Blue Valley of the Great Lakes”). It’s believed that the area’s climate has been altered by their creation, with noticeably wetter summers than in the past.
The valley’s two main towns could not be more different: Villa General Belgrano is a chocolate-box resort with a predominantly Germanic population, whereas Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, the valley’s rather brash capital, is youthful and dynamic but far less picturesque. Both, however, are good bases for exploring the beautiful Comechingones mountains, whose Camiare name means “mountains and many villages”. One of these villages, the quiet hamlet of La Cumbrecita, would not look out of place in the Swiss Alps, and is the starting-point for some fine highland walks. All the villages offer a wide range of accommodation and high-quality places to eat, making them ideal for anyone wanting to avoid big cities like Córdoba. Frequent buses and trafics run along the arterial RP-5 between Córdoba and Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, some stopping at Alta Gracia en route.Read More
- Alta Gracia
Villa General Belgrano
Villa General Belgrano
Just over 50km south of Alta Gracia, reached along attractive corniches skirting the blue waters of the Embalse Los Molinos, and less than a couple of kilometres west of the RP-5, is the demure resort of VILLA GENERAL BELGRANO. The unspoiled alpine scenery of its back country, the folksy architecture and decor and the Teutonic traditions of the local population all give the place a distinctly alpine feel. Many of the townspeople are of German, Swiss or Austrian origin, some of them descended from escapees from the Graf Spee, the pocket battleship scuttled by its captain off the Uruguayan coast on December 13, 1939, after it was surrounded by Allied cruisers during World War II’s landmark Battle of the River Plate. The older generations still converse in German, maintain a Lutheran outlook and read the local German-language newspaper, while souvenir shops sell cuckoo clocks, tapes of oompah music and other such curios. Whether or not the place’s kitsch cosiness holds appeal, Villa General Belgrano is a decent base for the region if you’d rather avoid Córdoba itself, with plentiful and varied accommodation choices. However, if adventure sports or nightclubs are what you’re after, you’re better off heading for Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, a short way to the south.
Essentially a sedate place favoured by families and older visitors attracted by its creature comforts and hearty food – especially welcome during winter snow – Villa General Belgrano shifts up a gear or two during one of its many festivals. While the Feria Navideña, or Christmas festival, the Fiesta de Chocolate Alpino, in July, and the Fiesta de la Masa Vienesa, a Holy Week binge of apple strudel and pastries, are all eagerly awaited, the annual climax, during ten days at the beginning of October, is the nationally famous Oktoberfest, Villa General Belgrano’s answer to Munich’s world-renowned beer festival. Stein after stein of foaming Pilsener is knocked back, after which merry revellers stagger down Villa Belgrano’s normally genteel streets to their hotels.
Two streams, Arroyo del Molle and Arroyo La Toma, trickle through the town before joining Arroyo del Sauce, 1km to the south. Avenida Julio Roca, the town’s main drag, is lined with shops, cafés, restaurants, hotels and other amenities, many of them located in replicas of Swiss chalets or German beer-houses, and runs south from oval Plaza José Hernández, where the Oktoberfest takes place. Frankly, the town’s museums are not worth your time. The real attraction of Villa General Belgrano is its proximity to the great Sierra de Comechingones, looming to the west.
Santa Rosa de Calamuchita and around
Santa Rosa de Calamuchita and around
In 1700, a community of Dominicans built an estancia and a chapel dedicated to the patron saint of the Americas, Santa Rosa of Lima, after which nothing much else happened in SANTA ROSA DE CALAMUCHITA, 11km south of Villa General Belgrano, until the end of the nineteenth century. Then, thanks to its mountainside, riverbank location and its mild climate, the place suddenly took off as a holiday resort, an alternative to its more traditional neighbour to the north. Now it’s a highly popular destination, swamped by thousands of visitors from many parts of the country in the high season, and makes an excellent base for exploring the relatively unspoilt mountains nearby. Many of Santa Rosa de Calamuchita’s visitors use it as a springboard to experience all kinds of outdoor activities, from diving and kayaking to jet-skiing and flying, all located at Villa del Dique, 17km away. Noticeably less sedate than Villa General Belgrano but more bearable than Villa Carlos Paz, from Christmas until Easter Santa Rosa throbs with disco music blaring from convertibles packed with holiday-makers.
The town’s compact centre is built in a curve of the Río Santa Rosa, just south of where the Arroyo del Sauce flows into it. There’s no main plaza, but a number of busy streets run off the main Calle Libertad. You can take refuge from the hullabaloo at the northern end of Libertad in the beautifully restored Capilla Vieja – the ruined estancia was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century. It houses the Museo de Arte Religioso, where you can see a superb late seventeenth-century wooden Christ, crafted by local Jesuit artisans, and other works of colonial religious art.