Year after year, agro-tourism lures those tourists interested in getting a more complete view of Argentina by drawing them to some of this country’s great estancias. One of the best ways of getting in touch with a different side of Argentina, these estancias connect you with the roots of Argentine customs and tradition. All over the country, estancia owners and staff receive their guests with traditional asados a la parrilla, wine, and mate (an energetic beverage, you drink with a metallic straw in a pot), all gastronomic icons of the country.
Unlike the hacienda, which could be any type of agricultural venture, estancias have historically grown up as livestock (cattle, sheep, horses) estates. Thus, these Argentinean estancias are the homelands of the gauchos, with a similar importance to national folklore and identity as is the cowboy in North America.
A typical stay at an estancia will include transportation, traditional asado (barbecue) and activities or trips to other interesting spots nearby, including museums, natural reserves and hiking. Swimming, horseback riding and cycling are just a few of the many activities the estancia traveler may find on such a trip. Some estancias even have internet access and satellite TV, an inevitable sign of modern times.
Other traditional meals, like empanadas (a kind of pastry with mixtures of different ingredients like meat, corn, olives and cheese) or locro (a stew consisting of corn, vegetables and some form of meat, usually beef or sausage), are commonly served at estancias in Argentina. To accompany the meat, you’ll also find chimichurri, made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, vegetable oil, vinegar, and red pepper flakes (be prepared for the kick). Some estancias even offer tastings of delicious, sweet homemade red wines called vinos pateros, which are made by smashing the grapes with the feet.It is said that the stinkier the feet are the better wine you get!
Estancias can serve as that special occasion for regrouping during your travels. After too many wild nights of Buenos Aires nightlife you may find yourself worn down from the city lifestyle (which could be happening because you are visiting The Darkside of this webpage too much). These small towns in the countryside are peaceful and have special celebration days you can participate in if you’re lucky. Depending on where they are located, each place has a special festivity, like National Calf Party in Ayacucho in March, where they celebrate and compete for the biggest/nicest calf in the area, or the Fiesta Nacional del Chancho con Cuero (literally: National Party of the Pig with Leather) in San Andres de Giles in January, where everybody in town eats pork until they’re sick.
The magic of estancias really is the joy countryside living and the relishing of life’s simple pleasures. La Payasada, a 123-acre estancia located near La Plata, dedicates their ranch to horse breeding. They are currently ranked 63rd in the national horse ranch catalog and have a herd of 50 horses. La Payasada offers a genuine Argentinean estancia experience, especially for photographers, who like to capture the essence of the countryside or this type of pago (Gaucho slang for zone). I recommend visiting this very special estancia in the spring, when the horses are giving birth.
El Rocio Estancia is another Argentine estancia that focuses their attention on horses, but rather than breeding they focus on polo. An estancia located about 45 minutes from the Buenos Aires international airport, El Rocio teaches polo to their guests and host polo games and other assorted events through out the year. They boast some of the finest lodging possible at an estancia with gourmet chefs on staff.