Argentina’s Riding and Wilderness Adventures at my favourite Estancia Los Potreros
Argentina: an estancia experience like no other
When considering a holiday to Argentina the same common images are nearly always conjured up; tango, red wine, steak, and … Buenos Aires! These experiences are of course popular for good reason; there really is nothing else quite like strolling through the capital city’s atmospheric districts, people-watching in pavement cafes and taking in the spectacle of one of the world’s most passionate and dramatic dances being performed on the very streets it originated from.
There is always more to a country than its capital city however, and – as travel tastes evolve ever further towards getting under the skin of a destination and experiencing the ‘real’ country – there is a place you can easily escape to that offers an immersive slice of rural Argentina like no other.
Whilst the gateway to Estancia Los Potreros is Argentina’s second city, Córdoba, a scenic 45-minute drive from here takes you to somewhere truly off-grid. Argentina’s Central Sierras are located around halfway between Buenos Aires and the Andes, but the climate here is much more forgiving than South America’s most famous mountain range, characterised by long warm summers and mild and generally dry winters. The estancia itself is located in the Sierras Chicas (or ‘small hills ’), a region of gentle verdant hills which attract abundant wildlife, birds and – most enjoyably – very few visitors! Unlike the flat, grassy lowlands that characterise much of the land around Buenos Aires, the Sierras just invite you to dive in headfirst – walking or riding through hills and streams, taking a cooling dip in a nearby waterfall or watching a memorable sunset over the hills.
The location of the estancia is not just special for spectacular landscapes and opportunity to reconnect with nature. This is also a land steeped in rich history. Jesuits from Spain first began farming the land here during the 17th century, where mules were bred to work in Bolivia’s silver mines. The farming at the estancia today is Aberdeen Angus cattle rather than mules, and during your stay here you will hear just how this has become the case – the fascinating story of the Begg Family who arrived from Scotland in the early 19th century, and once they had bought land in the area transformed the estate in to a thriving working farm that also pioneered rural tourism in Argentina.
This early concept of a working farm that welcomes guests with warm hospitality and rural Argentine traditions has carried through to this day. Still proudly family-owned and run, your hosts for this Argentinian homestay experience are Kevin Begg (great great grandson of the original settlers) and his wife Louisa. They welcome you to their home with genuine warmth (not to mention copious amounts of delicious food and wine) as well as stories of life in Argentina past and present.
A typical day at here is very much down to how much energy you wish to exert. The estancia lends itself equally well to a relaxing and indulgent break after a busy tour around Argentina as it does to an active adventure, hiking or riding through the hills on one of the estancia’s exceptionally well cared for horses (over 100 at the estancia at any one time). Most guests opt for something in the middle; a scenic ride in the morning (where beginners and advanced riders are equally well catered for), a siesta in the hammock or by the pool after a delicious 3-course lunch washed down with Malbec, perhaps rousing in time for afternoon tea and cake, freshly baked every day by the estancia’s talented chef. Activities not to nap through are helping the gauchos in their work rounding cattle (note on the gauchos: these are the real deal, not just dressed-up city dwellers!) or having a go at polo – a sport at which the Argentines excel. Competitive spirit optional!
Gauchos and polo. Just two of many fine Argentine traditions. And it is immersing yourself in these traditions that a stay at Estancia Los Potreros really is about.
I stayed here a few years ago with photographer friend, Astrid Harrisson, and she captured the essence of Los Potreros in her beautiful photos