Spend a long weekend in Cortaderas, a small town in San Luis close to Merlo. There, on July 2nd 2019, you’ll be able to see the solar eclipse.
On Friday afternoon we set out for Cortaderas, 20 km from the city of Merlo in San Luis province. Unlike other trips, we planned this one in just 48 hours. We decided to take a car – although it’s a 10-hour drive, the idea was to make few stops, with my husband and I alternating driving duty. We have two wonderful children, 7 and 12 years old, who were incredibly well-behaved during the long drive.
We were advised to take Route 9, fill up on gas in Rosario and from there return to the highway and head towards Córdoba. In Villa María we had to take a detour through Rio Cuarto, then we took Route 3 and arrived in San Luis. Another possibility would have been to fill up the tank again in Achiras, because after that point the road becomes quite curvy, with many mountainous switchbacks. These roads are in excellent condition (unlike those in the last segment of the Córdoba route) but there are no gas stations.
In Cortaderas Gabriel, Nati and Vicky were waiting for us. Their cabin is on a plot of land in a wooded area. On the same plot they built another, smaller cabin to rent (capacity for 5 people), although we found it just as cozy, practical, comfortable and well-equipped as the bigger one.
We needed to get away from the noise and the pollution of the city, and in Cortaderas we found everything we were looking for and more. Gabriela and Nati are wonderful hosts, who made us breakfast every morning (cakes, bread, orange juice and homemade jams) with lots of love. When they saw that we were awake, they brought it directly to our cabin, hot and fresh, and we ate and sipped our tea while looking out at the mountains.
My kids really enjoy being here. The younger one, Nacho, loves exploring and throwing stones into the streams, while Guada likes the calm of the water and taking pictures. The town of Cortaderas is tiny, making it an ideal place to rest and connect with nature. But nearby Merlo is much bigger – it even has a casino. Merlo is famous for its microclimate – during the day it maintains a stable temperature, and its high ozone levels make the air particularly clean and beneficial. Maybe that’s why on the first day you might feel a bit tired, but after acclimatizing and taking a nap you’ll feel better.
Here there are a number of places to see. But always with hiking boots! Our hosts assured us that they knew of many beautiful places that we could go (and we know that there are even more).
On the first day we went to the Benites arroyo and climbed up to the Parrilla dam. It was a great hike, and the path was scattered with fruit trees so we treated ourselves to wild apples, peaches and raspberries along the way. Of course it’s all uphill, simple. It’s important to bring a hat, water and a backpack with some snacks since there’s nowhere to get supplies on the route.
Another nice place to visit is the Chorro San Ignacio, a waterfall in Villa Larca. Children 6+ and adults are charged a $40 entrance fee, plus another $40 if you’re going with a car (it’s worth it). It’s a 700 meter walk (approximately) along the water, sometimes crossing the stream. It’s a manageable walk even with small children. After the waterfall, you can continue until the laguna Medalla Milagrosa, where there are even more waterfalls. The water is incredibly transparent and not as cold as we expected. Getting to this are is a bit more physically demanding.
For a great view of the sunset, go to Piscu Yacu dam or Filo. Piscu Yacu is an artificial dam, made to retain a water reserve for the local towns. You can rent canoes or horses, and there are some food stands.
As an alternative, in the same area there’s a small river, with pools and waterfalls. It’s ideal for an afternoon picnic or to drink mate.
On the last day we hiked to the Mirador del Filo. You can get there by car or through a guide that takes you to the top of the mountain. This is also the border between Córdoba and San Luis (Altas Cumbres). Halfway up, there’s an overlook and several stands that sell regional artisan goods. Bring warm layers because the temperature drops significantly.
Merlo and other nearby towns
In the afternoon we went to Pasos Malos and Piedras Blancas in Merlo. Of all the rivers that we saw this was the coldest, but also the clearest. We recommend trying the tortafritas (fried snacks) sold there – they’re delicious. There are also many stands selling artisan products and “No tire Godoy,” a famous restaurant where you can try the traditional food of the region, chivito.
This part of San Luis is populated by small towns like Papagayos, Carpintería and Los Molles, which are just 5 km from each other. It’s easiest to navigate by car, but you can also hire guides with their own vehicles who can show you the area’s most beautiful views.