Ongamira Caves: land of the Comechingones and natural wonder of Córdoba

Another of the many spectacular natural settings offered by the province of Córdoba for those who visit it, located in the Ischilín department, are the Ongamira caves, a series of rock formations and natural overhangs of multiple shapes and colors, located at the edge of the route. provincial 17.

Declared in 2008 as “the fifth natural wonder” of the province of Córdoba, the caves and their surroundings also house a part of the history of the native peoples, the Spanish conquest and the resistance of the Comechingones, who were settled in the valley of Ongamira.

A surprising natural setting, where the Comechingones lived.  Photo: Fabian Aranda
A surprising natural setting, where the Comechingones lived. Photo: Fabian Aranda

The caves are made up of giant walls of reddish stone, eroded by the wind and rain, framed in a setting full of native flora and fauna. Espinillos, molles, carob trees, tolas, quebrachos, mountain herbs and other species abound, while the sighting of different types of birds such as condors, jotes, caracaras, falcons and birds is possible throughout the journey. The walk through the property is of medium difficulty and lasts approximately one hour.

It consists of three caves, the Cueva del Indio and a viewpoint, which is the site that presents the greatest difficulty, since the ascent is through some stairs, with handrails and a fence of steel cables, from where you can see a panoramic view of the Sierras Chicas. In this place, it is recommended not to look at the places that do not have the protection of the steel cable fence, since the terrain is very rocky and steep, and extremely high.

The viewpoint, a place to appreciate the Sierras Chicas and the Ongamira Valley.  Photo: Fabian Aranda
The viewpoint, a place to appreciate the Sierras Chicas and the Ongamira Valley. Photo: Fabian Aranda

Like any other walk in mountainous terrain, it is advisable to do it with good shoes and appropriate clothing, as well as to be provided with water to hydrate.

The caves are located within a 60-hectare field that is private, so to enter the tour, $500 per person is charged, although children under 7 years of age do not pay. Upon arrival at the house, there is a lot to park the vehicle and some food and drinks are offered at reasonable prices. A dozen empanadas at $1,000, a milanesa sandwich at $500 or a liter and a half soda at $300, are some examples.

High rocky walls, an ideal place for native birds.  Photo: Fabian Aranda.
High rocky walls, an ideal place for native birds. Photo: Fabian Aranda.

Horacio Supaga, owner of the place, told www.cba24n.com.ar that the place has toilets and that visitors can also bring their food to the place. “If they need tables and chairs, we lend them so they can eat in peace,” she assured.

The property is open to the public from the early hours of the morning until sunset, although it is recommended as a time limit to do the walk, between 4 and 5 p.m.

How to get

The Ongamira caves are located about 115 kilometers from the city of Córdoba, at 1,500 meters above sea level, a journey that can be done by car in approximately two hours.

To get to the place there are several options, since it can be accessed from the Punilla Valley, as well as from Dean Funes and from Jesús María. Access from Punilla appears as the easiest.

Those who leave by car from the city of Córdoba must travel along the Camino del Cuadrado to Valle Hermoso and from there take National Route 38 to the north. Passing Capilla del Monte, reaching kilometer 91 near Charbonier, turn right onto Provincial Route 17, which along this route is a dirt road.

The entrance to Provincial Route 17, at kilometer 91 of National Route 38. Photo: Fabián Aranda.
The entrance to Provincial Route 17, at kilometer 91 of National Route 38. Photo: Fabián Aranda.

After about 7 kilometers from National Route 38, the road forks. Turning to the right, you reach Los Terrones Park and to the left, you reach Ongamira, after traveling another 10 kilometers on a dirt road. This last journey takes approximately half an hour. It is perfectly signposted, although you must drive at low speed due to the winding path and the presence of saws and stones in some places along the route.

For those who do not have mobility and must travel by bus, they can do it from the Córdoba Bus Terminal in the Ersa and Sarmiento companies, to Capilla del Monte and from there hire excursions to the Ongamira valley. The bus ticket ranges between $500 and $700, while the costs of the excursions range from $1,500 to $2,500 per person, depending on the service provided by the tourist provider.

The walk introduces us in the middle of a spectacular and capricious natural architecture, where the Comechingones lived.  Photo: Fabian Aranda.
The walk introduces us in the middle of a spectacular and capricious natural architecture, where the Comechingones lived. Photo: Fabian Aranda.

About two kilometers further in front of the caves, you will find the Deodoro Roca museum where, among other things, you can find the typewriter on which the Liminary Manifesto of the University Reform was written, among many other relics.

The valley where the Ongamira Caves are located is protected by the Pajarillo hills, which are 1,700 meters above sea level, Áspero (1,640 meters above sea level) and Charalqueta or Colchiqui (1,575 meters above sea level), the latter located to the right of the road, a few kilometers before reaching the caves. The property is also private and is one of the entrances to ascend the hill through marked trails, in a walk that totals about three hours, between ascent and descent. According to the story, the hill was the scene of a bloody battle waged by the Comechingones against the Spanish conquerors.

In the background, the tip of the Colchiquí hill, another alternative for a three-hour walk to the top, at more than 1,500 meters high.  Photo: Fabian Aranda.
In the background, the tip of the Colchiquí hill, another alternative for a three-hour walk to the top, at more than 1,500 meters high. Photo: Fabian Aranda.

A little history

Around 1573, the Spaniards commanded by Blas de Rosales arrived at the place with the intention of extracting gold and silver in the province of Ischilín, commissioned for this task by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera.

But there the Comechingones prepared an ambush for them, with archers, axemen and lancers, under the command of chief Onga and exterminated the invaders. However, the Spanish returned in another attack perpetrated by 25 men commanded by Tristán de Tejeda, Miguel de Ardiles and Antonio Berrú, in 1574, and with horses, shields and armor, they attacked again, exterminating all the locals, although many of them , among women, men and children, preferred not to die or remain enslaved in the hands of the invaders and immolated themselves from above.

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