Argentina’s estancias vary enormously from ostentatious mansions to simple colonial-style ranches that still work as cattle farms. Many now open their doors to tourists as paying guests, enabling you to experience traditional Argentine rural life.
There are two main types of estancia: those that function as rural hotels, and those where you’re welcomed as a guest of the family. The latter are particularly recommended as a great way to meet Argentine people. You dine with the owners and they’ll often tell you about their family’s history and talk about life on the farm, turning a tourist experience into a meeting of friends. Some estancias offer splendid rooms filled with family antiques. Others are simple affairs where you’ll stay in an old farmhouse, and the focus is on peace and quiet. They can be the perfect place to retreat and unwind for a few days or to try an activity such as horse riding or birdwatching. Whichever kind you choose, a good estancia will give you an unparalleled taste of traditional hospitality: welcoming strangers is one of the things Argentines do best.
Activities These depend on the estancia, but almost all provide horse riding, which is highly recommended even if you’ve no experience. Galloping across the plains on a criollo horse has to be one of the biggest thrills of visiting the country. If you’re a beginner, let your hosts know beforehand so that they can arrange for you to ride an especially docile creature. The horse-shy might be offered a ride in a sulky, the traditional open horse-drawn carriage, more relaxing, but just as much fun.
Cattle mustering, meanwhile, may sound daunting but is the best way to get into life on the campo. You’ll help your hosts move cattle while sitting astride your trusty steed. Gauchos will be on hand to guide you and by the end of the day you’ll be whooping and hollering with the best of them.
Access As estancias are inevitably located in the country you’ll need to hire a car, although many will pick you up from the nearest town if you don’t have one. If you’re visiting for a few days ask your hosts to arrange a remise taxi; some estancias will arrange transfers on request.
There are many estancias within easy access of Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, so it can be an ideal way to relax after a long flight at the start of your trip, or to spend your last couple of nights, allowing you to return home feeling refreshed and with vivid memories of Argentine hospitality.