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My Personal History with Villa Belgrano
Seventeen years ago I made a stop here on the way to Paraguay from Buenos Aires, with my friends Sarah and Arturo. Because it was so many years ago, it was hard to remember details, but once I got there, small memories started popping up, and several places felt very familiar. Everything was new yet familiar all at once.
Córdoba Capital to Villa General Belgrano
While actually getting there was easy, getting information online about how to get there was not so easy. I spent hours online trying to find bus schedules from the main bus terminal in Cordoba, or any bus routes at all around the province of Cordoba, and all I could find was vague information about which bus companies go where, on the Tourism of Cordoba website.
Ultimately, I walked the 40 minutes from my apartment to the bus terminal, the week before I wanted to go. From there I went down to the basement where tickets are sold, and wandered around the hallways reading the signs of each bus company until I found one sign that read “Villa Belgrano.” Then I stood in line, asked questions, and bought my tickets ($560 pesos each way, $1120 pesos round trip) for the following week. Because the ticket stated the bus would leave from bus terminal #77 to Villa Belgrano, I walked over to the new section of the station to find #77 in advance. As much as I travel, I still get travel anxiety, and prefer to be prepared whenever possible.
Five days later, I was back at bus terminal #77 waiting for my delayed (by 15 minutes) bus to Villa Belgrano. I chose the 10am bus, but there were a few other options throughout the day as well. The drive took about 2 hours from Cordoba Capital up to Villa General Belgrano.
Arriving to Villa General Belgrano
Because we arrived just before 12:30, and I couldn’t check in to my hotel, Cabañas del Milagro (just 5 minutes from the bus station), I headed to the downtown area of VGB for lunch. It’s only about a 10 minute walk from the station. I found a very German inspired restaurant by the name of Cafe Rissen, and for $1250 pesos ($6 USD), I got the lunch menu – sorrentinos, bread, wine, dessert – and waited until 2pm when I headed back to the cabañas.
Where to Stay in Villa General Belgrano
I actually found my hotel (well not really a hotel, but a large space with cabins and one big building that contains a dozen rooms and breakfast lounge) originally on booking.com. Unfortunately a lot of the places on booking.com require that you pay in advance with a credit card. In any other country, I have zero problems doing that. However, Argentina operates with two monetary systems: the official ($100 pesos = $1usd) and the dolar blue ($200 pesos = $1usd). Credit cards used to charge you the official rate, which means you are essentially paying double than what you would if you paid in cash using the dolar blue rate. (Update Feb 2023: Argentina began to accept Visa and Mastercard in mid December 2022 at the MEP rate, which is near the blue rate). Therefore, I found Cabañas del Milagro online, sent them a whatsapp message, and they allowed me to provide a credit card as collateral, but pay in cash once I arrived.
The Cabañas del Milagro has a swimming pool, free breakfast, and both cabins and rooms. It is a great place to stay for families, and I believe in the high season, it would be very beautiful.
The town of Villa General Belgrano
After dropping off my things, I headed back out into the town. Villa General Belgrano was founded by Germans in 1930, hence the strong Germanic influence everywhere you look. The architecture, the statues, they even have a park dedicated to Oktoberfest, which is actually home to the third largest Oktoberfest in the world (first is in Munich obviously, and second is Blumenau in Brazil). VGB has a population of only around 6000 inhabitants, however, it sees more than that on a weekly basis, as several tourists flood in from around Argentina to enjoy the alpine forests.
Cerro de la Virgen
If you head east, leaving the downtown and heading for the highway, you’ll find a trailhead for a hike called Cerro de la Virgen. At the peak (el cerro), you’ll find a metal statue of the Virgen Mary. It’s more like two giant intersecting metal sheets with a crown on top. The hike took me about one hour, and was more difficult than I had anticipated, but completely worth it. The view from the top was stunning, and I took about 30 minutes to enjoy the breeze up there. Coming down was much quicker, and I made it back to the cabañas just before sunset.
Villa General Belgrano to La Cumbrecita
The next morning I headed back over to the bus station in VGB, where I bought my bus tickets to La Cumbrecita. They suggest you arrive to the bus station at least 30 minutes before the departure of the bus to purchase your tickets. You select the “ida” (going there) time, and then you can purchase the “vuelta” (return) ticket, but they’ll give it to you without a precise time. Once you arrive to the bus station in La Cumbrecita, you’ll need to go straight to the “boleteria” (ticket office) to select your return time. The bus takes about 50 minutes between VGB and La Cumbrecita. I arrived at 11am, and selected the 5:30pm return and I feel that it was sufficient time.
The Town of La Cumbrecita
La Cumbrecita was founded by two German brothers in 1934. They planted trees and turned the area into an alpine forest. They also built the roads to a few surrounding areas. La Cumbrecita is similar to VGB, in that it also has that huge Germanic influence, which is obvious by the architecture, signage, restaurants, etc.
There is quite a lot to do around this village. Peñon de Aguila is one of those things, which is a theme park, and of which everyone talks about. However, it is apparently only open on the weekends, so I did not go.
The majority of the sights are at the very edge of the village once you pass through it. You’ll follow along a dirt road, which eventually leads you to a fork. It’s at this fork that nearly everyone gets confused. It’s unclear which direction to go, left or right, as it is not marked. I’ll tell you now- go left!
Once you go left, all the signs will become much more obvious. Which way to the Cascada Grande, La Olla, Lago de las Truchas, El CerroWank, etc.
I first went to la Cascada Grande (big waterfall). It’s about a 30 minute hike to get there, around fallen trees, over stones. You’ll hear the water falling as you get closer. It was a very hot day when I went, and several people were wearing swimsuits, even though the water was quite cold. It is definitely a great place to relax with friends.
Next I headed to La Olla (the pot), which is a smaller waterfall ending in a small pot-like swimming hole. There were no swimmers here, and the vibe was much less party-like than at the Cascada Grande; it was much more relaxed as you could hear more clearly the water and nature surrounding you.
After La Olla, I grabbed a snack and headed down to Lago de Las Truchas. This area was less lake, and more giant rocks. It was actually quite cool to wander around and jump over these massive rocks in the river bed. Lots of people here reading, relaxing, having picnics.
Continuing on, I began the ascent to the CerroWank. I passed by a couple to ask how long it would take to reach the peak- over an hour. I did not have that kind of time left in the day. If you would like to do more extensive hiking in the area, I suggest heading here first, and doing it earlier in the day before it gets too hot. Because I knew I wouldn’t have time to reach the peak, I walked up just a bit further, played around with my drone, and headed back down to the town center for lunch.
I was really hoping for something German, but it seemed that the restaurant I had selected was German in facade only. They offered the standard Argentinian touristy options of hamburgers, salads, and french fries. I did have a beer however, it only seemed right.
Once I finished lunch, I grabbed my book and sat near the river for an hour before the bus arrived to take me back to VGB. Six hours was actually the perfect amount of time I felt. However, next time I might rather choose to sleep up in La Cumbrecita to feel a bit more surrounded by nature all day.