Cordoba is known in Argentina for its proximity to nature. Las Sierras. Cumbrecita. Villa Belgrano. People travel to Buenos Aires for city life, Mar de Plata for the sea, and Cordoba for the mountains. While Cordoba Capital has a lot to offer, the surrounding nature is the real draw to the area. It’s easily accessible, and affordable too.
A few weeks ago I went to drop off my laundry at the lavanderia, and started speaking with the women who worked there. They were excited to meet a foreigner who wanted to discover their country, so they began to tell me about several trips I could do. Tren de las Sierras was one of them. I immediately went home and began to research it. Just two days later, I was on that train!
The train leaves Monday-Friday at precisely 8:08 from the Estación Córdoba, on the south east side of the city center. If you plan to stay the night in the sierras, there is also the train option that leaves at 2:50pm from Estación Córdoba. On weekends, the schedule differs slightly, and trains leave only from the Alta Córdoba station at: 6:26am, 11:26am, and 2:30pm. Please see the diagram below for more details.
If you have a DNI (the National Argentinian ID), you can purchase your tickets online. If you’re like me, and you do not have a DNI, you’ll need to purchase your tickets at the station. I went the day before, just in case. However, it is entirely possible to purchase the tickets the morning of your trip, just get there a bit early. If you’re planning to travel on a weekend, I suggest getting your tickets in advance.
The price of the tickets are ridiculously inexpensive: 20 pesos each way. That is 10 USD cents. That’s it, practically free. I did purchase round trip tickets, though I only ended up using one way, on the way up. Because the only return train back to Cordoba leaves at 1:42pm from Valle Hermoso, that only gives you 1-2 hours up there (depending on train delays). That is definitely not enough time to spend in the sierras after a 3-4 hour journey. There are several buses leaving Valle Hermoso headed for Cordoba (some via Carlos Paz), and take around 2 hours. The buses leave every 40-45 minutes, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting back.
Make sure you arrive to Estación Córdoba on time. They start allowing people on the tracks just before 8am. Shortly after they check tickets, and allow you to enter one of the two train cars- they’ll tell you which one to get on. You do have a seat number on your ticket, but you can disregard that and sit wherever you like.
Most people sit facing the direction the train goes, which leaves the other half of the train virtually empty. Inside the train, there are no bathrooms. Make sure you go before you get on. In the summer and fall, the air conditioning is pumped into the train, so make sure you also bring a jacket for the ride, to avoid suffering through the cold like I did. There is no food sold on the train either, so I suggest bringing some snacks.
One of the oddest things I found was that the windows were covered with a million black dots. I’m not sure the reasoning for this- shade? Avoid scratches? I don’t know. But for a ‘scenic train’ ride, they certainly make it difficult to see out the windows.
On the way up, the train made two extended stops. The first stop was at La Calera. I’m not entirely positive if this was a planned stop that happens every time, or if it was a coincidence and happened only on the particular day I took the train. They announced there would be a 20-30 minute delay (which ended up being closer to 45 minutes), which I was grateful for because it allowed me to use the bathroom.
The second stop was at La Casa Bamba. I can see this is definitely a planned stop, as there were people at a table selling cafe con leche, cake, snacks, etc. There is also a bathroom just down below, but this stop is less than 10 minutes, so you may not have time to both get snacks and go to the bathroom. It feels quite panicky as there are several people trying to buy food (myself included) at once, and the train is constantly honking its horn to remind you to hurry up! I was super grateful for this stop because by the time we arrived here, I was starving and the coffee and cake saved me.
The previous last stop was at Cosquin, which I have heard very positive things about. However, in the last year, the line has been extended, and the newest last stop is at Valle Hermoso. We arrived to Valle Hermoso just after 12:30pm, a 4.5 hour journey, extended abnormally due to our delay at La Calera. However, this was the reason I decided to definitely take the bus back. I had no desire to stay in Valle Hermoso for just one hour, then return to a freezing cold train for a potential 4 more hours.
The bus stop is easy to find. It is literally across the street from the Valle Hermoso station. There are several small cubicles with the poles painted green. Buses back to Cordoba pass by all day long. If you want to take the bus back, this is where you’ll need to go.
Then just across the street from the bus stop is a small cafe called “La Sole.” It seemed to be the only place to eat around. I did walk for several minutes around this small, but bustling town, before coming back to La Sole for lunch. I asked a local about where to eat and this is where they pointed me to. There didn’t seem to be any other options besides a small market on the corner, and an ice cream shop around the block.
Just to the east of Valle Hermoso is the Reserva Natural Vaquerias, which was recommended to me to visit. However, the day was quite rainy so I didn’t want to go too far. Also, I met a couple Porteñas at the bus stop who told me they had tried walking there, for over an hour, and just couldn’t find the entrance. So after talking to these women, and a local I had met, Diego, I decided to walk down to the “Dique de la Isla.” Fortunately the rain stopped and the clouds went away for a while, so I was back in adventure mode.
Diego explained to me how to get to the dam (“dique”), which was quite easy. Cross the train tracks, go through the poles, walk down the street a couple blocks, which will twist and turn like a snail. Then once you get to the bottom of the hill, you’ll see a stream. You can cross the stream, and follow the path to the left. After just a few minutes, you’ll find the dam. This entire area is beautiful and worth spending a few hours there.
If I were to do it again, I would have brought a blanket, and packed a picnic lunch. I met a woman and her son who told me that because it was March, summer was ending, so it wasn’t very crowded. The woman told me that in the summer, the place is packed. This same woman also told me Cosquin is actually better than Valle Hermoso, so that is where I’ll get off next time!
I spent a few hours walking through the greenery, down paths that led to the river, climbing on rocks, flying my drone, and reading my book in the grass. It was incredibly peaceful, and I was very grateful the rain had gone away to let me have this experience.
Just before 5pm, the sky started to turn grey once more, so I gathered my things and headed back up to the center. Almost as soon as I arrived to the bus stop, a bus rolled up. This bus was passing through Carlos Paz, which would add about 20-30 minutes on to the trip back to Cordoba, but that was okay with me. Two and a half hours, and 380 pesos later, I was back in Cordoba.
A one day trip on the Tren de las Sierras a success!