Sierras Chicas: Day-Trip Mountain Escape

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Overview Of Trip:

The Sierras Chicas, along with their larger neighbor the Sierras Grandes, offer a change of pace just outside of the bustling city of Cordoba, Argentina. They can easily be reached and partially explored in a single day. Though if you have time to spare, you might want to pack a tent or book a hostel and spend a couple days and nights climbing in the mountains.

Getting There:

The easiest, most cost-efficient way to reach the Sierras Chicas is by bus or “colectivo” as the Argentines say. The bus system in Argentina is very extensive and serves as a highly reliable mode of transportation. Simply show up at the Cordoba Bus Terminal on Blvd. Arturo Illia 41 and you can expect to buy day-of tickets. You should buy tickets to Mina Clavero, which are sold by a variety of bus companies with ticket booths in the terminal. The best way to pay is with cash in Argentine pesos. There is an ATM in the terminal but, as with all Argentine ATMs, it often runs out of cash. Therefore, make sure to pack sufficient pesos and do not trust the prices posted online. The prices change very regularly. Ask the price and length of the trip at the desk before purchasing tickets.

In a single day:

Timing:

My best advice is to wake up early and make your way to the bus terminal around 7 in the morning. The Sierras Chicas are very doable for a day trip, but the journey is significant. Don’t spend precious daylight hours on a bus! Try and board by 8 am and sleep during the ride. This way you will maximize your time to explore the mountains.

Bus Journey to Mina Clavero:

Your tickets will say Mina Clavero and that is the ultimate destination of the bus. Mina Clavero is a small, touristy town between the mountains. For those of you who prefer civilization, feel free to ride the whole way there. In the town, you will find restaurant options, maps, bathrooms, and several kiosks to stock up on snacks. However, riding to Mina Clavero is a long trip that can take around 8 hours if you board a bus with lots of stops. Keep in mind that riding all the way to Mina Clavero might take up most of your day.

Creating Your Own Path:

For a day-trip, my recommendation is to take the bus about 2.5 hours up into the Sierras Chicas and tell the driver you would like to get off mid-mountain. It is there that you will find yourself completely isolated in a gorgeous rocky landscape. Of course, there are no cell towers, information booths, restaurants, or even marked trails in the middle of the mountains. Therefore, if you take this route, be sure to pack your own snacks, lunch, and water. Also be sure to keep your bearings. Being isolated on a mountain means that there will be no one to help you if you get lost.

Rock Climbing:

If you have extensive previous climbing experience, make sure to pack your gear as the Sierras Chicas offer some of the best rock climbing and rappelling/abseiling in the region. There are several canyons begging to be explored with refreshing, sometimes frigid, pools at the bottom. Also, the region contains natural rock walls for all levels: beginner to professional.

Guided Tour with Tuc Adventures (Recommended):

If attacking the Sierras Chicas alone sounds intimidating, do not despair. A company called Tuc Adventures offers affordable day trips to the mountains. The tour service is based in Cordoba city and offers tours in Spanish or English. The company provides bus tickets, rappelling and climbing equipment, a simple lunch, and a certified guide with most tours. I highly recommend the Tuc Adventures tour to “Paradise Canyon”. It is an all-day, physically demanding, small-group adventure including hiking, rappelling, swimming, and rock climbing in the Sierras Chicas. Don’t forget to pack both your sunblock and your sweatshirt because it is hot on the rocky mountains and freezing in the canyons! Tuc Adventures is probably your best and safest option if you only have a day to spare and minimal climbing experience. It is easy to find and book online.

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Getting back:

Now without an organized tour, the trek back to Cordoba city can be slightly questionable. Make sure you ask at the terminal or on the morning bus what times buses return from Mina Clavero to Cordoba. Your best bet is to climb back to the location where you were dropped off, which very well may be the side of a mountain highway. From there, you must attempt to flag down buses headed back into the city. Some bus drivers and bus companies are nicer than others so don’t be discouraged if the first few bus drivers refuse you. I am confident that eventually a kind driver will stop and let you aboard. Of course, do not wait until dark to catch a bus back. It is in your best interest to head back a couple hours before sunset in case it takes awhile to find a bus. If you go with Tuc Adventures the process is the same but your guide will know the bus schedules and sometimes specific bus drivers.

In a weekend:

Weekend in Mina Clavero:

If you have a weekend to explore, you may want to consider taking the bus all the way to Mina Clavero. There are several affordable hostels in the town that you can book online (recommended) or when you arrive.  Or, for the true adventurers and nature lovers, just pack a tent! Information booths, locals, and/or hostel owners can advise you on several mountain climbs beginning in Mina Clavero. There is easily enough climbing in the area to spend a weekend exploring.

Getting back:

Returning to Cordoba is much easier from Mina Clavero. It does not involve flagging down buses. Simply visit the Mina Clavero bus terminal, purchase tickets back to the capital, and meet the bus at the platform.

Time of Year:

Spring and Fall are the best seasons to visit the Sierras Chicas. Summer tends to be too hot. The Argentine sun is very strong and the climbing isn’t easy. If you chose to go during summer, be sure to pack vast amounts of water. Winter is only a problem if you plan to rappel into the canyons. Many of the canyons have water at the bottom, and it is water that never sees sunlight. The water is cold in the summer and intolerable in the winter. I highly advise against canyoning in the colder months.

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