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713km (442 miles) NW of Buenos Aires; 721km (447 miles) NE of Mendoza

Stand on the corner of Yrigoyen and Buenos Aires streets and you'll see firsthand Córdoba's heady mix of religion, education, and modern industry. Argentina's second city has a bland backdrop of red-brick high-rises and boxed balconies punctuated with the occasional Gothic spire or colonial facade. Don't be deceived by first impressions of a dull Legoland. Beneath it all lies a young, vibrant city with lots of heritage, great bars and restaurants, and a considerable student population intent on having a good time.

This city of 1.3 million inhabitants was created as a stop for Spaniards traveling between Peru and the Atlantic coast. It was founded in 1573 by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera. The Jesuits arrived at the end of the 16th century, opening Córdoba's university in 1613 and financing their projects by establishing six large estancias throughout the region. Today you can follow the "road of the Jesuit estancias" by arranging a tour with a local travel agent.

La Cañada, a waterway created to prevent flooding, is one of the city's symbols. Córdoba's most important historical sights line up around Plaza San Martín, including the Cabildo, cathedral, Marqués de Sobre Monte's residence, and the Jesuit Block. The Manzana Jesuítica, as the Jesuit Block is called in Spanish, developed not just as a place of worship, but also as an intellectual and cultural center that produced Argentina's top doctors and lawyers. It includes the Jesuit churches, the university, and a prestigious secondary school. In 2000, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and became a historic museum. The city still serves as an intellectual center, increasingly popular to foreign students who wish to study Spanish outside Buenos Aires.