Having lived in London’s urban jungle for three decades, the countryside holds a unique fascination for Paul Joseph. And so it was with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation that he visited one of the cornerstones of country life in the Las Pampas region of Argentina – an estancia…
“Estancias, also known as ranches, play a massive role in Argentine culture, history and economy. Centuries ago these establishments were responsible for making this unique country one of the largest meat and grain producers in the world. The venues are scattered across the entire Argentine countryside and are the source of, in my opinion at least, the best steaks in the world.
Estancias also offer tourists a chance to experience a working ranch and to enjoy the unique gaucho culture in a relaxed and attractive setting. Most estancias date back over two centuries and still retain a way of life that is strongly grounded in traditional practices and values. Many of them are actually restored colonial houses, and each has unique elements to them.
Gauchos, much like the iconic American Cowboy, have become a national legend, their lives retold in fables down the years to children who long to follow their way of life. However, what is merely myth in the United States is actually reality in Argentina. Today, gauchos are still an important part of the working estancia.
Estancias are also renowned for their fantastic cooking, particularly when it comes to their barbeques, which generally means fresh local meats of beef and lamb with home-grown vegetables. We were treated to a stomach-busting taste of asado (traditional Argentine barbeque), empanadas (stuffed bread or pastry) and plenty of other local specialties.
Visiting an Estancia
The estancia we visited was located just an hour outside of the capital of Buenos Aires, but they can be found literally all over Argentina, from Las Pampas to the mountains of southernmost Patagonia. Being positioned in such a picturesque natural setting makes estancias superb places for all types of outdoor activities, including horseback riding on trails or, for the more intrepid, with the gauchos on a cattle drive. Other activities such as whitewater rafting, bird watching, hunting, fishing, golf and tennis are often also available.
Horseback riding plays a major role in life at an estancia. Some specialise in breeding horses, but many offer the opportunity for visitors wanting the ultimate equestrian experience.
The estancias also have regularly scheduled events on site that demonstrate the unique skill of the gauchos. Visitors are treated to gauchos displaying their world-class horsemanship. Many of these activities incorporate other cultural aspects of ranch life, such as songs, dances and games, into group activities.”
Paul Joseph is a London-based journalist and writer. You can read more about his experience at an Argentine estancia at MyTravelBug.co.uk
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* photo by Paul Joseph