The Central Sierras
Nowhere near as visually spectacular as the nearby Andes, the Central Sierras more than make up for it by being way more hospitable. The area is dotted with little towns that are worth a quick visit or a longer stay, and is connected by an excellent road network with frequent bus services.
San Luis & Around
The little-visited province of San Luis holds a surprising number of attractions, made all the better by the fact that you’ll probably have them all to yourself. The province is popularly known as La Puerta de Cuyo (The Door to Cuyo), referring to the combined provinces of Mendoza, San Luis, La Rioja and San Juan.
The pace of life slows waaaay down in this alpine-style village, nestled in the forest in the Valle de Calamuchita. The tranquility is largely thanks to the town’s pedestrian-only policy. It’s a great place to kick back for a few days and wander the forest trails leading to swimming holes, waterfalls and scenic lookouts.
At the top of the Valle de Conlara, the mountain town of Merlo is a growing resort known for its gentle microclimate (the local tourist-industry buzzword) in a relatively dry area. The town is located 200km northeast of San Luis, tucked into the northeast corner of San Luis province.
Villa General Belgrano
More a cultural oddity than a full-blown tourist attraction, Villa General Belgrano flaunts its origins as a settlement of unrepatriated survivors from the German battleship Graf Spee, which sank near Montevideo during WWII. The annual Oktoberfest held here during the first two weeks of October draws beer lovers from all over the world.
Really jumping in summertime, Mina Clavero pretty much empties out for the rest of the year, leaving visitors to explore the limpid streams, rocky waterfalls, numerous swimming holes and idyllic mountain landscapes at their own pace. Mina Clavero is 170km southwest of Córdoba via RN 20, the splendid Camino de las Altas Cumbres (Way of the High Peaks).
San Marcos Sierras
San Marcos got an injection of life in the late 1960s when the hippies began flocking here for its mild climate, way-off-the-grid isolation and good farmland. Over the following decades, curious tourists began appearing, having heard about the hippie town in the Sierras, and eventually the town’s emphasis shifted from agriculture and handicraft manufacture to tourism.
A woodsy resort town, La Falda is busier than its neighbors and not quite as interesting. It’s worth a day trip to roam the grounds of the defunct Hotel Eden. La Falda’s main plaza is a charming, tranquil affair, all the more so for being removed from the main drag. On weekends, and daily in summer, there’s a feria artesanal (artisans market) here.
Cosquín is known throughout the country for its Festival Nacional del Folklore, a nine-day national folk-music festival that's been held in the last week of January since 1961. The town gets packed for the festival, stays busy all summer and goes pleasantly dead the rest of the year.
Nestled between the banks of the Río Grande and the foothills of Cerro Tomalasta (2020m), Carolina is a photogenic little village of stone houses and dirt roads. Take away the power lines and you could be stepping 100 years back in time. The region boomed in 1785 when the Spanish moved in to exploit local gold mines that had first been used by the Inca.
Sleepy little Jesús María earns its place on the map by being home to one of the most atmospheric Jesuit estancias (ranches) in the region – the Unesco-listed Museo Jesuítico Nacional de Jesús María. The church and convent were built in 1618 and are set on superbly landscaped grounds.