Off the beaten path, usually at the end of rough dirt roads, lie some elegant havens of warm hospitality—the luxury estancias of Argentina.
Here is a round-up of some of the best Argentine estancias and ranch hotels, where you can enjoy luxury service as well as the thrill of outdoor activities and the homey comforts of life on the ranch. If your idea of the perfect vacation is fresh air, good food, horseback riding, and beautiful landscapes, these four estancias will fit the bill perfectly.
© Estancia Peuma Hue
Estancia Peuma Hue
Arriving at the Bariloche airport from Buenos Aires, we're greeted by guide Martin who drives us to Estancia Peuma Hue, pointing out the sights along the way. It's early springtime and there's still skiing on nearby Catedral Mountain. In less than an hour, we turn off the paved highway and bump over 1.5 miles of rough single–lane gravel track to the property, spotting colorful ducks, wild hares, horses, and sheep along the way. Clouds soon hide the sun and the weather turns cool and windy. But the warm welcome at the estancia, at the far end of Lake Gutiérrez from Bariloche, more than makes up for the day's moody weather. Owner Evelyn Hoter and manager Marcelo Marpegán join us for a late lunch and, over homemade pasta and a glass of wine, we're introduced to our surroundings and the activities that are offered.
This 500-acre lakefront property sits within Nahuel Huapi National Park's near — pristine forests, amid creeks and waterfalls. The Mapuche words "peuma hue" mean "place of dreams." The estancia's beautifully-decorated rooms and common areas are in several buildings scattered over the property. All have been custom-built and lovingly furnished, often with pieces crafted in the estancia's carpentry shop. And all enjoy spectacular views.
The main house has four bedrooms as well as dining and sitting rooms. Wide windows offer stunning views in almost all directions including up—there's a unique glass ceiling over the tub in the master suite. A guest house is reached over a hanging bridge and the creek cabin is the original house on the property, appropriately restored. Another cabin well up the mountainside is totally secluded and suitable for honeymooners or others seeking privacy. At 2,500 feet above sea level, it's pleasantly cool here in summer and winters are almost snow-free. Guests here can go trekking, horseback riding, kayaking, fishing, bird-watching or rope-climbing right on the property.
La Bamba de Areco
Opened in 2011, La Bamba de Areco was originally an estancia that produced corn, soy, and wheat, and raised cattle. In 2016, this luxury ranch hotel became part of the Relais & Chateaux group. Located 75 miles from Buenos Aires, La Bamba combines good food and wine with fun activities and luxury amenities.
The property's 11 rooms are cozy and quaint but if you want to pamper yourself, upgrade to a suite like the lovely Jabalina suite that is located in a standalone structure. It includes two bedrooms (one with a four-poster bed), lots of space, plenty of light, a fireplace, and a huge bathroom with a tub. There are no TVs or Wi-Fi in rooms, but we think you will want to be outside anyway.
Guests can take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the property, as well as go biking, birdwatching, horseback riding, or swimming in the outdoor pool (unheated). You should also arrange a visit to the polo pony stables if you love polo as much as the hotel's owner does. There are cooking classes with the hotel chef if you want to learn to make traditional Argentine dishes and a gaucho show, where local cowboys show off their horse wrangling skills.
See our full review of La Bamba de Areco
Estancia La Bandada
This 5-room ranch hotel is one of the best estancias in Argentina for traveling families. Originally part of a cattle ranch, the hotel and grounds extend 200 kilometers, all reachable on horseback. Of the many horses owned by the hotel, several are extremely docile and great for kids. About an hour and a half drive from Buenos Aires, this estancia is closed from May to August.
Rooms are spacious and a hodgepodge of decor from modern to traditional, blend seamlessly to create welcoming spaces and cozy retreats. The rooms range from small but comfortable (the Cardenal room) to two-bedroom suites with bathrooms and sitting areas (Las Garzas and Las Tijeretas). Special treats include a traditional Argentine asado with local traditional music afterward. If kids are on hand there are sure to marshmallows at the ready for roasting.
Other activities at the estancia include croquet, swimming in the large outdoor pool, and family-friendly excursions to the polo grounds in the nearby town of Monte that can be arranged for those who want to see a match or two. The meals at Estancia La Bandada are each excellent in their own right and there are lots of nooks and crannies throughout the hotel to relax with a glass of wine or top-shelf liquor.
See our full review of Estancia La Bandada.
Founded by English immigrant Joseph Masters before the turn of the century, this former sheep farm is the only concession inside of Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park. Each day a custom-made catamaran brings guests and day-trippers from a small dock in El Calafate to experience the incredible landscape surrounding this ranch. While the sheep are long gone, there are still over 40 horses to ride through the park, as well as world-class fly fishing, hiking and climbing.
The green-roofed cottage-like buildings of Estancia Cristina occupy a bucolic valley meadow a few hundred feet from the lakeshore. Glacier-scraped rock walls and snow-capped mountains provide a rugged ring around the setting and serve as a reminder that you are inside a national park. Each of the hotel's cottages has four identical rooms with a common sitting area. Each room has a spacious bathroom and lots of natural light. With no Wi-Fi or television in the rooms, you can truly disconnect from it all and spend some time reading in front of the massive picture windows.
The food here is hit or miss with the best being the simple buffet lunch and a DIY picnic service where guests can make their own sandwiches that are packed for them in reusable containers to take on the go. A new hut on Anita Lagoon also serves up lunch on a parilla (outdoor grill) alongside salads and charcuterie. If your idea of a good vacation is fossil hunting, guided hikes, fly fishing, or wildlife spotting, Estancia Cristina might just be your favorite Argentine estancia.
See our full review of Estancia Cristina.
Text by Lorie Bennet, Karen Catchpole, and Lydia Carey Photos by Eric Mohl except where indicated.