Estancias ―the name of Argentina’s typical farms or ranches― are a central piece of the country’s traditions, economy and culture.
Many of them allow visitors to experience rural life and get an insight of a past which doesn’t seem so far away. They are also a place to relax, connect with nature and enjoy a real argentinian barbecue or ‘asado criollo’ with a glass of red wine, away from the hustle and bustle of a big city like Buenos Aires.
So if you’ve already wind your way through BA’s most gorgeous buildings and tasted some of the most popular street food in the city, it may time for some new sights and flavors. Thinking on traveling to Argentina? Check out our trips! And make sure you save a couple of days during your stay in Buenos Aires for an immersion in rural life.
More about estancias and where to find them
Mostly devoted to cattle and sheep, estancias rise on the horizon of the immense plain known as Argentine Pampa. Some of them have been there since colonial times, while others boast a French aristocratic flair from the times when the country became a massive exporter of grains and frozen meat by the end of the 19th century.
The countryside is also the land of ‘gauchos’, one of Argentina’s most iconic figures. Brave, nomads and excellent horse riders, gauchos shaped many of the country’s national traditions, like mate, meat, folkloric music (specially guitar playing) and dance. Famous pieces of ‘gaucho literature’ ―Martín Fierro and Don Segundo Sombra, for example― versed on the suffering and feats of this South American cowboy’s and turned them into a mythical character. Nowadays, visiting a estancia is the best way of getting to know the ‘gauchos’ of the present and the way their culture still remains alive.
You can find many estancias only a few hours away from Buenos Aires city. San Antonio de Areco, for instance, holds some of the oldest in the country and it’s one of the favorite destinations for a rural trip. Chascomús is another classic spot in the countryside, with many estancias where you can spend the night. Some places closer to the city allow visits during the day (include an ‘asado’ for lunch and some activities in the afternoon). However, the most interesting alternative is to spend the night at the estancia and enjoy all the facilities from the swimming pool to a relaxing massage.
Feeling inspired? Here are our picks for a estancia stay near Buenos Aires:
Estancia ‘La Candelaria’ (Lobos)
At only one hour drive from Buenos Aires, in a town called Lobos, lies Estancia La Candelaria, an imposing elegant castle ―a mix of normand, gothic and barroque style― built in 1884. This centennial building in surrounded by a garden with more than 200 tree species, designed by Carlos Thays, an iconic figure of landscape architecture in the country.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway, doors are open every day at La Candelaria for a ‘countryside day’, which includes a typical Argentine lunch, horse rides and sulky rides. Those who want a deeper immersion in old times can stay in one of the suites inside the main castle ―which still maintains its antique original furniture but includes modern amenities―. If you prefer to be surrounded by nature, you can opt to stay at the colonial suites or bungalows.
While week days are usually less-crowded, you may want to visit the estancia on a Saturday and catch the ‘fiesta gaucha’, featuring folkloric dances and gauchos showing their skills with horses. This is a great way to live the experience of staying for the night at a French castle in the middle of the Argentine Pampas.
Estancia ‘La Bamba’ (San Antonio de Areco)
Estancia La Bamba, a colonial building from 1830 and one of the oldest estancias and horse farms in Argentina, makes an exciting weekend getaway, surfing at the intersection between modern luxury and tradition. A 1.30 drive from Buenos Aires city leaves you at this countryside haven very close to San Antonio de Areco, the most beautiful and photogenic town in the Buenos Aires’ pampa, still preserving many of Argentina’s most deep rooted traditions.
Charming bedrooms with an antique flair, authentic ‘asados’ with a great variety of meat cuts (and the infallible empanadas as an entrance) and even a typical ‘pulpería’ ―a kind of rural grocery store which usually worked as a pub―, will make your stay a memorable journey. It’s possible to ride horses, take a stroll on a carriage, or witness the amazing skills of horse whisperers. The estancia is also home to an international polo team, so guests are allowed to glance at the regular competitions on the two polo fields.
Estancia ‘La Margarita’ (Tapalqué)
The route to Tapalqué ―a town three hours from Buenos Aires― makes its way through the vast plains of the Argentine Pampa. La Margarita―an estancia owned by an English man since 2006― awaits with a mix of quietness and effortless beauty. Swimming at the pool, riding horses in the surroundings, photographing some of the 60 species of birds, or going for a bike ride are some of the things you can do. But certainly the most compelling activity is taking part in the farm routine: how about waking up early in the morning and learn how to milk the cows? Because it’s a little further than other estancias, you may find less crowds here. By the time you leave ‘La Margarita’ ―and I’m pretty sure that will be a hard decision to make― you’ll get a nice portrait of everyday life in this Argentine latitudes. This is a true immersion in the countryside everyday life and a less touristy experience.