Cordoba (province, Argentina)
Cordoba is located in the geographic center of Argentina. Its main tourist areas are the city of Cordoba (2nd largest in Argentina with 1.5 million inhabitants) and the mountainous area called Las Sierras.
The city of Cordoba is known for its preserved colonial neighborhood (with several Jesuit churches), its large student population (over 100,000 university students), its nightlife and a large park called Parque Sarmiento.
Las Sierras are actually three separate, parallel mountain ranges in the western third of the province. These ranges start in the outskirts of Cordoba, where many residents of the capital city own summer homes, and where people go for a day-trip to escape summer heat and bathe in one of the many small crystalline streams. Further away from Cordoba, the mountains become higher and wilder, with exciting hikes and nature reservations. A number of tourist cities are located in Las Sierras: from bustling Villa Carlos Paz near Cordoba, to Cosquin where a major Rock festival takes place every year, to German-influenced Villa General Belgrano in the south, to the remote pedestrian town of La Cumbrecita, and to more laid-back, traditional cities such as Mina Clavero in Traslasierra. Besides their scenic views and relaxed lifestyle, the Sierras are reputed for their benign climate: summer days can be hot but also drier than in the Pampas (and nights are generally cool), whereas winters are usually very sunny and pleasant during the day, with cold frosty nights. Temperatures during the fall and spring are ideal, but nights can still be quite cold.
The rest of the province is mostly flat. To the northeast, a giant, shallow lake with salty water called Mar Chiquita ("Little Sea") has some beaches. The south of the province has some of the most productive agricultural land of Argentina, as well as many lakes and ponds where the main tourist activity is fishing for pejerrey, the emblematic fish of the pampas.
Traditional foods from Las Sierras include Chivito (goat kid), grilled for several hours and served with chimichurri, as well as traditional alfajores (with dulce de leche or jam, especially quince jam), home-baked bread (sold by the side of the road), pejerrey (typical fish of the Pampas, found in the Sierras as well), trout (abundant in the streams of las Sierras).
In Villa General Belgrano and other towns in that area (Villa Alpina, Villa Berna, La Cumbrecita) one would also find gulasch with spaetzle, sauerkraut (choucroute), craft beers, chocolate and jams.
Otherwise, the entire province is known for its empanadas dulces (beef empanadas with raisins, olives and a touch of sugar), empanadas arabes (triangle shaped and cooked with lemon), lomitos (steak sandwiches), and high quality beef (asados / parrillas) although especially in Las Sierras it is always best to check beforehand where the best steaks are served: on touristy roads, there are many tourist-oriented parrillas which do not serve the best asados. Make sure to check on TripAdvisor, or on Google Maps, or to ask locals. This is less of a problem in the less touristy flat areas - you can generally identify a good, cheap parrilla when you see many trucks (lorries) parked there as the drivers are frequent customers who know where to go to.
Cordoba drinks Fernet (Branca is the most popular brand) with Coke. Most foreigners find it awful the first time they try it.
Otherwise, as in all of Argentina, red wine is very popular, and there are a number of wineries now starting production in Las Sierras where the climate is good for grapes. Still, most restaurants only have wines from Mendoza, San Juan and Salta.
There is a craft beer revolution going on in the province, with many new brands appearing - some from Cordoba and some from the rest of the country.
If you want to have the 'most authentic' Cordoba experience then try mixing some very cheap red wine (the kind that comes in boxes - called tetra-brick) either with sparking water ('vino con soda') or with Pritty (a local, lemony soda). Having tried this will make you not only the most authentic tourist to ever visit the province, but also more authentic than most of its middle and upper class inhabitants.