There are many estancia hotels in Argentina but few offer as much to delight families than this all-inclusive near Buenos Aires.
A tree-lined gravel driveway curves off the highway toward Estancia La Bandada, taking guests past fields and grazing horses before reaching a large lawn and a low-slung house.
Located on 200 acres which was originally part of a much larger cattle farm, the hotel opened in 2009 after a farmhouse was turned into a hotel called Candelaria del Monte. In 2018, the property got a brand new owner and the name was changed to Estancia La Bandada. The word means "flock" and all five rooms are named after birds that are plentiful on the property, in part because of its ponds and natural wetlands.
Like the rest of the house, all of the rooms at Estancia La Bandada, which is about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive south of Buenos Aires, are decorated with antiques from the original estancia and new pieces added in 2015 as part of a renovation. There are no TVs.
The loft-like Picaflor (hummingbird) room seems even larger than it is because of its very high ceiling. A settee and two chairs are placed in front of a working fireplace and doors lead to a small back patio. The king bed is extremely comfortable, but the bathroom had some issues including fluxuating water temperature in the shower and a bathrobe too small to wear.
The Hornero suite (named after the national bird of Argentina) has air conditioning, a small patio, and a much more modern look thanks to impressionistic metal work art (made by the previous owner) playfully interspersed with the antiques. The Cardenal room is the smallest and simplest, but still perfectly comfortable for a solo traveler or a couple.
The two largest rooms, Las Garzas (herons) and Las Tijeretas (fork-tail flycatchers), are on opposite sides of the entrance hall and are referred to as apartments, but that's not entirely accurate. Each has two bedrooms with brass beds, one bathroom, and a small sitting area.
Some estancia hotels in Argentina don't accept children. But at La Bandada kids aren't just welcomed, they're accommodated. A croquet set provides hours of fun on the vast lawn which is also the perfect place for playing hide and seek. The pool and attached pool house with bathrooms, sun loungers, and shaded seating, is the place to spend warm afternoons. The hotel's stable of 20 horses includes many that are extremely docile and suitable for children (helmets are also provided). Family-friendly excursions to polo grounds in the nearby town of Monte can also be arranged for those who want to see a match or two.
Another highlight for guests of all ages is a classic Argentinean asado barbecue followed by traditional music from a pair of local musicians who perform around a bonfire after dinner. When families are at the hotel, staff members make sure there are marshmallows on hand for toasting.
All dishes are made with ingredients from the hotel's large and expanding kitchen garden and meals are served at communal tables at set times. Lunch usually takes place on the back patio and might include fish and salad or fork-tender slow cooked pork shoulder with pureed sweet potato followed by a light crepe filled with apple compote and topped with whipped cream.
Dinner (smoked salmon, pumpkin soup, and ravioli, for example) is served around a dining table in front of one of the two fireplaces in the genteel living room of the house. Come early to relax on the plump sofas with a glass of wine and one of the many coffee table books covering gaucho culture, local birds, polo, and much more.
Breakfast is served at 8:30 am (which encourages sleeping in) including coffee, tea, fresh orange juice, fruit, yogurt, homemade granola, and bread treats baked in house. They are accompanied by butter, homemade jams, and honey from bee boxes on the property. Breakfast on Easter Sunday also included chocolate bunnies and candy-filled eggs for everyone. More chocolate eggs were hidden on the back patio so the kids could do a bit of Easter egg hunting.
Important to know: Estancia La Bandada is closed from May through August. And because it takes the same amount of time to drive from the hotel to the Ezeiza International Airport as it does to drive to the airport from the center of Buenos Aires, Estancia La Bandada is a relaxing, authentic, and very family-friendly option upon arrival or before departure.
Web Address: labandada.com.ar
Total Number of Rooms: 5
Published rates: $600 to $860 including full board and a one horseback ride
Review by Karen Catchpole, photos by Eric Mohl