Mar del Plata has sea, forest and mountains, we were told. And lagoon too, we add. Sierra de los Padres is an ideal place to spend the day, have lunch, go for a walk, go shopping and be outdoors with family and friends. Want to know things to do in Sierra de los Padres? We tell you about it here.
For us Sierra de los Padres was a small town in the outskirts of Mar del Plata, but the truth is that despite having even the date of foundation (January 6, 1950), they define themselves as a residential neighborhood of the Ciudad Feliz. Hence the saying that Mar del Plata has “sea, forest and mountains”.
Don’t miss our article on things to do in Mar del Plata.
Whether it is a neighborhood or a town, houses and chalets began to be built around the Cumbre, where the Gruta de los Pañuelos is located, and the Circuito San Martín. A curiosity that we find is that the names of the streets correspond to proper names.
There is Juan Street and Florence Street, both intersecting and cornering ♥, but Benjamin Street is missing (despite having been the most chosen name for children born in the last decade). Let’s see if we can find it on our next visit.
Let’s delve into things to do in Sierra de los Padres, a place to relax and enjoy with the family.
📜 TABLE OF CONTENTS
Things to do in Sierra de los Padres
It could be said that there are two distinct areas in Sierra de los Padres, the town itself and the lagoon.
How to get to Sierra de los Padres
Getting to Sierra de los Padres from Mar del Plata is very easy. It is only 25 km from the city center, even more if you travel by car. You have to take Avenida Luro straight until it turns into Provincial Route 226, which then passes through Balcarce and Tandil.
At kilometer 16.5, turn left, where the first thing we find is the Tourist Office booth. They provide good information and a free map. In case you want to go only to Laguna de los Padres, take the exit a little earlier, at km 12.
From the turnoff it is 2 kilometers to the stone arch, which is the entrance to the residential neighborhood. Once there, continue along General San Martín Avenue, which makes a circuit around the Summit. The sierra is not very high, only 150 meters above sea level and there is no slope at the top.
If you don’t have a car and want to go by public transportation to Sierra de los Padres, you can take the 717 bus.
1) The Grotto of the Handkerchiefs
At the summit of Sierra de los Padres is the Gruta de los Pañuelos, a place where thousands of pilgrims go every year to make a request to the Virgin. The curiosity is that when ordering you have to tie a handkerchief to one of the thousands of handkerchiefs already there.
It all started with a miracle, and with a legend dating back to the middle of the last century that makes this one of the main places to see in Sierra de los Padres.
A young couple in love, who were Italian immigrants, climbed to the summit and among the rocks, on a natural pedestal in the grotto, they placed the image of a Virgin to whom they prayed asking for a son. Then, they tied their handkerchiefs next to it. After a few months the couple became pregnant, had that child, put another handkerchief back on as a sign of gratitude, and the news began to spread by word of mouth.
Today it is not known who the Italian couple and the child that gave rise to the legend were, but the believers decided not to miss the opportunity to visit this sacred place and also to ask for a wish to the VirginThe visitor can tie a handkerchief brought from home or buy one at the artisans’ stalls at the entrance.
📷 Book here the Sierra de los Padres day trip from Mar del Plata.
The truth is that there are kilometers of tied handkerchiefs and an image of the Virgin of Luján, making this a peculiarly colorful place. There are wooden benches outside the grotto where people can sit and pray.
There are also signs everywhere saying that this place is in danger of collapse and we have seen two things: that people still enter the grotto to see the Virgin up close and that there are people climbing on the roof of the grotto, so the danger is double. Caution is advised.
✏️ Admission is free of charge. There is a parking lot at the door with a guy who takes care of it at will (you can also leave it on the street). If you don’t bring a cloth scarf from home, you can buy it there.
2) Craftsmen’s fair and commercial strolls
Both at the entrance to the residential neighborhood and at the Summit there are stores and stalls selling handicrafts and regional products. There is everything to bring as a gift for yourself and your family: sweets, chocolates, honey, soaps, glass fusing, paintings, vintage furniture, jewelry, clothing and much more!
The Sierra de los Padres Shopping Center is divided into different promenades among which are the Summit, the Goats and the Cedar, so there is no excuse, you have to let yourself be tempted and go shopping in Sierra de los Padres. Then at the entrance to the Gruta de los Pañuelos there are craft stalls in wooden booths.
3) Laguna de los Padres Integral Reserve
This lagoon, which used to be called “de las Cabrillas”, occupies a total surface of 687 hectares and its surroundings are ideal for bonfires (there are places available), picnics, drinking mates and spending a beautiful time with the family. Fishing and water sports are also available (there is a place to rent boats). We loved it!
It can be visited by car, the road is not paved and you can almost go all the way around it. In the surroundings you can see the José Hernández Museum and the Reducción del Pilar.
✏️ Laguna de los Padres can be accessed either from Route 226 (km 12) or take a detour from the access road to Sierra de los Padres.
📷 Check here the Laguna de los Padres hiking tour from Mar del Plata (or if you have mobility, from Sierra de los Padres itself) and make a reservation. There are routes of 8 or 18 km and you will be accompanied by a local guide.
4) José Hernández Municipal Museum
When the author of Martín Fierro, José Hernández, was a child, he spent a few years at this Estancia. Did it help you lay the groundwork for the book? Probably because everything around it is very rural and “gaucho”.
From the old mansion, to the wagon and the mill that can be seen from the outside. If you are able to enter, it has an exhibition of regional objects related to the countryside, the gauchos and the indigenous people who inhabited these areas. There are old photographs, weapons and typical clothing.
Too bad we couldn’t go in because it is closed to the public during the month of December.
To the right of the Museum, on a slight hill and camouflaged by the vegetation behind it, is the Monument to the Horseman, created by the sculptor Hidelberg Ferrino at the end of the last century. Just that day there was a jineteada just a few meters away and you could hear the people’s jollification.
5) Our Lady of the Pilar Reduction Chapel
Another of the places to see in Sierra de los Padres is the Reduction of the Pillarwhich is not the original but a replica, but it is worth to pay homage to the first Jesuit settlement The first of its kind in the middle of the 18th century, which was carried out with the aim of evangelizing the indigenous tribes, so that they would settle down and leave their nomadic ways behind. It did not work for a long time, but about 5 years.
6) Activities to do in Sierra de los Padres
Among the activities to do in Sierra de los Padres are:
- Horseback riding, or attend a horseback riding event.
- Farm visits
- There are adventure tourism places such as “La Casualidad”.
- Sailing in the Laguna de los Padres
- Fishing, especially for silverside
- Bird watching, such as coots, ducks, herons, black-necked swans and 140 other species.
- Playing golf
- Rock climbing
- Camping in authorized sites
7) Restaurants where to eat in Sierra de los Padres
The main gastronomic offer of Sierra de los Padres is the grill, so both before going up to the summit and at the top you will find many restaurants. Some of the best known are El Ciervo Rojo, El Jamón, La Aldea, although we went to one that was recommended to us, La Delfina, which is located 1 km before reaching the arch, less touristy, more local, where we had a very good lunch. They had a farm to see animals and games for children.
Where to stay in Sierra de los Padres?
Although it is very close to Mar del Plata and you can get there and back in a day, Sierra de los Padres has that particular charm that is worth enjoying for more than a couple of hours.
There are many cabins and houses for rent scattered around the city. Two places we recommend to stay in Sierra de los Padres are:
- Hotel Sierra de los Padres: surrounded by a large garden with swimming pool and spa, it is one of the best lodging options. Its modern facilities are complemented by a breakfast with homemade products.
- Mini Complex El Encuentro: apartments surrounded by greenery with swimming pool and barbecue. They are simple but with everything you need to have a pleasant and quiet stay.
Take a look at this article if you want to stay in Mar del Plata and visit Sierra de los Padres from there.
Discounts and useful resources to save on your trip
- Cheap flights with Skyscanner
- Rent a car with Auto Europe
- Interrail Pass
- Eurail Pass
- Train Tickets with OMIO
- Bus tickets with OMIO
- Ferry tickets with OMIO
- Asia tickets with 12Go