October 02, 2015

Best Estancias near Buenos Aires


Just outside the city of Buenos Aires there are acres and acres of flat fields, which is home to Argentina Estancia traditions. This wild, untouched land of the pampas is a great place for eco-tourism adventures, for learning about the daily lives of the gauchos, to participate in all the works carried out in the Estancias, such as cattle marking, cow milking, cattle handling, sheep shearing and horse taming, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and other sports like Polo.

Many of the estancias offer their guests all of the amenities found in luxury hotels, but in the tranquility of a rural setting. While some estancias are known more for their horseback riding activities and facilities, others are famous for their Polo exhibitions.

Estancias play a huge part in Argentina's culture, economy and history. In the early days these establishments were responsible for making Argentina one of the biggest meat and grain producers in the world. They are large farms which are spread over extensive areas, often 10,000 hectares. Estancias in the southern South American grasslands, the pampas, have historically been estates used to raise livestock (cattle or sheep) estate.

These enormous ranches dotted the entire countryside and are to this day where the best steaks in the world come from. For Argentines, superlative beef is not just a pastime but a national obsession, with more than 50 different cuts of meat that are offered in many restaurants.
Estancias also give tourists a rare opportunity to stay as a guest at a working ranch and to experience the unique gaucho culture in a tranquil and beautiful setting of untamed countryside. Most estancias are over two hundred years old and still maintain a daily way of life that is firmly grounded in traditional practices and values. Many are restored colonial houses, and each is unique.

Estancias and the life of the Gaucho are entwined

Estancias also are known for their excellent cooking, especially when it comes to barbeque, which usually means fresh local meats of lamb and beef with vegetables from the garden. Some chefs may even let you in on their recipes. It is also common to see a group of people at a fire playing the guitar in the evenings. If you know Spanish and can hold a tune, expect to be asked to join in!
Gauchos, much like the American Cowboy, have become a national icon, their lives retold in stories and legends. However, what passes for myth in the United States is very much reality in Argentina. Today they are still very much an integral part of the working estancia. Also like the cowboys, gauchos are master horsemen. It is typical to see a jaw-dropping taming or a horse show arranged in many towns on a daily basis, as well as impromptu ones staged out in the fields during the cattle drives.


What to Expect on your Estancia Visit
While some are known more for their horseback riding activities and facilities, all estancias invite guests to experience their unique culture. You'll get a giant-sized taste of asado, traditional Argentine barbeque, empanadas (stuffed bread or pastry) and plenty of other local specialties, which often include dishes for which Argentina is not as well known for such as finest freshwater fish offerings.

The typical Argentine estancia is a mansion in a combination of French, English, or colonial architectural styles, with the main residence usually having been converted to receive guests. These elegant and historic buildings overlook vast expanses of countryside where cattle, sheep, goats, and horses graze.
Every estancia has its own special character and history; we offer several alternatives in excellent estancias to spend a day in the Pampas countryside see the vastness of the land and learn about the traditions and activities of these working estates. 


Specialized Estancias: Horseback Riding and Showmanship
Some estancias specialize in breeding horses and offer ideal conditions for travelers wanting the ultimate horseback riding vacation. Ranging from beginner to expert levels, these ranches usually offer guided trail rides, polo lessons, and a chance to ride along with the gauchos as they go about their daily ranch activities. There are even a few that will let small groups of guests take on roles almost to the point of being a gaucho for a week or more. At the other extreme, some ranches also have their own tack shops and will outfit a guest in gaucho apparel and equipment whether he or she ever rides a horse. Those estancias that cater more to serious riders tend to be located to the north and far south of Buenos Aires while dude ranches can be found on the outskirts of almost all major cities in Argentina.
Estancia located near San Antonio de Areco Town
Learn more about San Antonio de Areco
Other estancias, while offering horseback riding for guests, also have regularly scheduled events on site that demonstrate the unique skill of the estancia's gauchos. On these ranches, a visitor usually will see gauchos displaying their world-class horsemanship as they break a young horse or display showmanship of their considerable equestrian talents.

 Finding an Estancia near Buenos Aires

For many visitors, a trip to Argentina means a stay in and around Buenos Aires. For those looking for equestrian showmanship or opportunities to soak up the estancia culture without the need to test their horseback riding skills, there are dozens of locations within an hour's drive west and southeast of the city.

For a more complete visit, you can stay for a number of days in the acres and acres of the rolling fields known as the Pampas, arguably the true home of Argentina's estancia traditions.

Contact our experienced Travel Advisors and share your thoughts with them. Taking your preferences into account, they will help you plan your visit to the Estancia that will meet your expectations.


July 08, 2015

San Antonio de Areco: On the Trail of the Gauchos


Gauchos Parade at El Ombu de Areco 
 San Antonio de Areco is one of the delightful towns closest to Buenos Aires that provides visitors a sense of gaucho tradition. San Antonio de Areco is nearly 70 miles northwest of the Argentine Pampas Region. It’s a great 1½-hour day trip by car from Buenos Aires—or the perfect jumping-off point for those who choose to visit at a nearby estancia, or a traditional large rural ranch and estate.

The town’s only real sights are a couple of museums, the most important of which is the Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes. But what really makes Areco memorable is the harmonious architectural character of the town’s centre: all cobbled streets and faded Italianate and colonial facades punctuated by elaborate wrought-iron grilles and delicately arching lamps. There are also some excellent artisans working in the town in talleres (workshops). Weaving and leatherwork are well represented, but the silversmiths are the highlight.

The must-visit place is Centro Cultural y Taller Draghi, named for the famed silversmith Juan José Draghi, who called both President Bushes and Ronald Reagan clients. The museum is dedicated to the man who revived silversmithing in Argentina. You should see the historic collection of astonishingly detailed belt buckles, knives and containers for making yerba mate tea. It costs 50 pesos to get in to the museum and workshop areas; admission includes a short film on gaucho culture featuring an interview with Mr. Draghi himself (with English subtitles), and a look at the workers fulfilling custom orders that come in from around the world.
Of their work bench, silver pieces and gold are born; trails, knives and matés are used by neighbors of san Antonio de Areco, it glimpsed a personal, new and different style. This fact doesn't escape to visitors that arrive to the district of Areco: who begin to converge assiduously to their shop with special orders: candlesticks, marks, alhajeros, pitchers, cutleries, machetes ( gaucho knives) etc.

The machete (or gaucho knife) is a tool made by former gauchos , native to the pampas. Besides being a cutting element as a working tool , it is used to kill animals and remove the skin of the animals , make thongs and leather working , woodworking , etc. , used by the gaucho in their crafts. He has also developed as a weapon of self defense style for protection in such Pampan regions. Along with his poncho and his horse form the best alliance to fend off possible attacks , using it as their own very particular laws and philosophies as in some Western martial arts.
Gaucho Boots made with horse feet rawhide. 
San Antonio de Areco, the national capital of gaucho traditions, hosts the annual Fiesta de la Tradición, the country’s most important festival celebrating pampas culture.( This year will take place on November 7th and 8th). Despite its modest promotion as a tourist destination, playing on its appealing setting by the banks of the tranquil Río Areco, the town has retained a surprisingly genuine feel. You may not find Areco full of galloping gauchos outside festival week, but you still have a good chance of spotting estancia workers on horseback, sporting traditional berets and rakishly knotted scarves, or of coming across paisanos propping up the bar of a traditional boliche establishment.

Annual Tradition Day Festivities in Areco

The festival, during which gauchos who still actually work in the fields and those who have desk jobs but keep their skills (and knives) sharp in their spare time, participate in parades, giant cookouts and demonstrations of horse-riding skills.
Areco has a prestigious literary connection: the town was the setting for Ricardo Güiraldes’ Argentine classic Don Segundo Sombra (1926), a novel that was influential in changing the image of the gaucho from that of an undesirable outlaw to a symbol of national values.

Famous Gaucho: Don Segundo Sombra

Just behind Fierro in terms of recognition and fame is Don Segundo Sombra, a fictional character and protagonist of one of Ricardo Güiraldes’ novels written in 1929. Don Segundo has a mythical aura around him and represents in many ways the ideal gaucho as seen by those in search of symbols of Argentine national identity at the start of the 20th century. He is strong, elegant and honest but as his name indicates he has a sombre, lonesome side to him.

Don Segundo Sombra 

The gaucho is a legendary figure of Argentine society, a rebel reminiscent of ‘Che’. His elegance is supposedly inherited from the Spanish conquistadores and his freedom is intrinsically linked to the symbol of the country’s pampas.

Gauchos, the Argentine version of the cowboy, had their heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but much of the culture, from horseback riding to silversmithing to bringing your own knife to dinner, still survives and stirs national pride.  His elegance is supposedly inherited from the Spanish conquistadores and his freedom is intrinsically linked to the symbol of the country’s pampa.
In 1866, an English rancher by the name of Wilfred Latham wrote: “I cannot conceive of anything more exhilarating than a gallop across the plains.... a cloudless sky of deep azure, an atmosphere marvelously light and pure communicating a sense of indescribable buoyancy and pleasurable existence – a soft breeze flowing, as it were, over the vast plain, boundless as an ocean – contribute to engender an irresistible feeling of joy.”

Ricardo Guiraldes Museum in Areco Town.

Ricardo Guiraldes Museum

It takes the name of Ricardo Güiraldes to honor the novel Don Segundo Sombra, published in 1926. Definitely worth a visit - recommend a guided tour as it is very interesting to find out some of the stories behind the artefacts. Entry is free. Everything related to the life and work of this remarkable writer is on display there. Visitors will learn about the life, customs and routine of the countryside people from their origins until today.

The “pulperia” (grocery store) was until the early twentieth century the typical commercial establishment of the various regions of Latin finding widespread from Central America to the southern cone countries. Its origin dates back to the XVI century, and provided everything then was indispensable for everyday life: food, beverages, candles (candles or candles), coal, medicines, textiles and others.
It was also the social center of the humble and middle classes of the population, there characters typical of each region would gather to talk and see what’s new. The “pulperias” were places where you could drink alcohol, cockfights were held, were playing dice, card games, etc..
The main square has La Esquina de Merti on a corner and this is a pulperia (a former grocery and bar) that has been converted into a restaurant, but with all the old, genuine interior and items from its former function. There is seating outsdie and inside, but eat inside to appreciate the full experience. We highly recommend baked meat empanadas and a “picada”.

Preparing the "picada" - Salame - 

Picadas, which are consumed at home or in bars, cafés, "cafetines" and "bodegones" are also popular; they consist of an ensemble of plates containing cubes of cheese (typically from Mar del Plata or Chubut), pieces of salame, olives in brine, french fries, maníes (peanuts), etc.; picadas are eaten accompanied by an alcoholic beverage ("fernet", beer, wine with soda, to give some common examples).

In San Antonio de Areco we invite you to discover:

         Almacén Los Principios (Moreno y Mitre)
         Bar San Martin (Moreno y Alvear)
         Boliche de Bessonart (Segundo Sombra y Zapiola)
         El Mitre (Mitre y Alsina)
         La Vuelta de Gato (Camino R. Güiraldes, frente al museo)
         El Tokio (Mitre y Arellano)
         La Esquina de Merti (Arellano y Mitre)
         La Pulperia de Areco (Bolivar 66)

Areco’s traditional gaucho atmosphere extends to the surrounding area, where you will find some of Argentina’s most famous estancias, offering a luxurious accommodation alternative to staying in Areco itself.
Estancia La Bamba - near Areco Town.
If you don’t feel like planning your own itinerary, we will happily coordinate your visit to Areco and arrange your estancia stay. For further information, please contact us.