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.