Guide to Horseback Riding in South America: 10 Best Ranches

Guide to Horseback Riding in South America: 10 Best Ranches

It’s time to saddle up and frolic around the South American countryside, gaucho style. From the pampas of Argentina to the jagged cliffs and foothills of the Andes, witness the wild terrain from a different perspective. At one of these authentic ranches, or as the locals call estancias, experience one of the world’s last frontiers in the centuries-old tradition of the early pioneers. The hard-working ranch hands still round up cattle in the vast grasslands of the pampas and enjoy a rustic, simple country life.

10. Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas, Salta, Argentina

For an authentic estancia experience, Argentina style, head to Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas in Salta, a 400-year old ranch and the oldest of its kind in the country. It’s also a great spot for exploring the foothills of the Andes and the nearby Lerma Valley by horseback. After a ride with a local gaucho who knows every inch of the terrain, head back to the luxurious estate for some asado, the traditional Argentinian barbeque. This estancia, which still serves as a working ranch, is perfect for experiencing an authentic day in the life of an Argentinian cowboy. Join the gauchos for a cattle round up and a trail ride through the beautiful and romantic countryside of Salta. Established in 1609, the estate’s historic tradition of warmth and hospitality also comes with all the rustic trappings of the early pioneer days.

9. Estancia Puerto Consuelo, Puerto Natales, Chile

At Estancia Puerto Consuelo in Puerto Natales, Chile, you’ll have the chance to explore the romantic shoreline filled with flamingos and swans on horses that are as laid-back as the Chilean countryside. Once the gaucho shows you the ropes, get ready for a glorious, unforgettable gallop through Patagonia, one of the last frontiers. In 1893, the explorer Captain Herman Eberhard first arrived on the shores of the magnificent terrain and shortly after the Estancia Puerto Consuelo was established, one of the first ranches of the Ultima Esperanza Province. With the peaks of the snow-capped Andes and foothills, there is no shortage of breath-taking views, especially by horseback. After a day of riding the trails and exploring the rustic, pristine landscape, rest your sore legs and sip on a glass of Malbec at the Bories Hotel, a charming country house situated on the shores of Last Hope Sound.

8. Posada de la Laguna, Argentina

Posada de la Laguna is a working ranch in the heart of the Ibera Wetlands and a popular spot among nature lovers and horseback riders for its wild, beautiful landscape and Argentinian horse riding traditions. If you’re feeling adventurous, head out onto the trail bareback with gauchos leading the way. The ranch also offers accommodation in their elegant lodge, which is situated on the shores of the Esteros del Ibera Lagoon, a haven for caimans, capybaras, and exotic wildlife. Venture out for an evening gallop along the shores of the lagoon while taking in sights of the boggy wetlands. For those looking for an eco-vacation filled with scenic tranquility and natural wonders, this pastoral estancia provides a comfortable hangout in between trail rides and boat tours. And like the cowboys will tell you, when you’re in doubt, let your horse do the thinking.

7. Estancia Dos Lunas, Cordoba, Argentina

Deep in the heart of the Ongamira Valley is the 3,000 hectare Estancia Dos Lunas, a remote, hidden gem in Cordoba, Argentina. With big skies, inspiring sunsets, and rolling foothills, it’s as romantic and untamed as you can imagine. Like many working ranches in the country, Dos Lunas offers an authentic experience at their lodge filled with relics of the early pioneering days. The ranch still evokes the spirit of the adventurous soul and the cowboy riding out into the sunset. The gauchos and ranchers might work hard during the daylight hours, but in the evening, everyone sits back and relaxes with a glass of local Malbec wine, and in this case, poolside. In the tradition of the South American countryside, you can finally escape the bustling urban areas of Buenos Aires and find peace and serenity in the heart of Ongamira.

6. Sayta-Cabalgatas, Salta, Argentina

Another great spot for a horseback riding vacation is Sayta-Cabalgatas in Salta, Argentina. Situated among the ancient tobacco fields of Chicoana, the estancia is housed in a grand, whitewashed colonial style estate. In a place that literally means “where time stands still,” get swept away on a horseback trail ride through mountainous panoramas, big canyons, and trickling streams. At night, cowboys and visitors rest their tired legs over a glass of red wine and excellent Argentinian steak or barbeque. That way, when you climb into the saddle the next day, you’ll be ready for the ride. Because of its proximity to the remote areas of Bolivia and the Andes, explorers will get to witness up close the indigenous tribes that still live the simple, ancient way of life carried on by centuries of generations. In this rural, isolated region, you’ll feel miles away from the harried, bustling urban centers like Buenos Aires.

5. Estancia Cerro Guido, Puerto Natales, Chile

On the border of the Torres del Paine national park in Chile is Estancia Cerro Guido, a typical style ranch that follows in the old pioneering traditions of the first gauchos. Ride to the top of the heaped stone cairn surrounded by snow-capped peaks and feel on top of the world. Experience the Patagonian tradition at one of the country’s grandest and most beautiful estancias. Besides horseback riding adventures, the estate also offers a menu in the old world tradition of barbeque lamb, fine steaks, and lots of South American red wine. Founded in the 19th century, the ranch was built as part of the “Sociedad Explotadora Tierra del Fuego,” and the establishment as Chile’s premier sheep-farming trade. It might be the 21st century, but in this remote part of the continent, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back in time to the pioneering days.

4. Pampa Estancia, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

The setting of the Pampa Estancia in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia is impressive with the surrounding jagged foothills of the Andes and the dense, exotic Amazon rainforest. Saddle up and head out into the countryside and explore the vast, open grasslands of the Reyes pampas as the poncho-wearing gauchos make their cattle wrangling rounds as they have done for centuries. In a fantasy of a lifetime, visitors of all riding levels get the chance to be an authentic South American cowboy for an entire week on their popular eco-tours. So, get on your chaps and ride out into the sunset to discover hidden lagoons, a thriving wildlife habitat, and unchartered terrain. The ranch house also offers riders a peak into the life of a Bolivian cowboy as they go about their daily chores. Prepare yourself for adventurous days of horseback riding through the pampas, evenings with traditional Bolivian food, and beautiful crimson sunsets.

3. Estancias Los Potreros, Cordoba, Argentina

For a horseback riding adventure in the Sierras Chicas, head to Estancia Los Potreros, a working cattle ranch in the Cordoba region of Argentina. Stretching across the western border, the Central Sierras is one of the highest mountain ranges outside the Andean cordillera. Situated on top of a mountain, the estancia is an oasis of dramatic scenery, riding trails, and the traditional way of life of the Argentinian cowboy. For centuries, the gauchos have been perfecting their horse handling skills, including breeding methods. At Los Potreros, horse riders will get the chance to ride the Paso Peruano, a Peruvian horse that is considered to have the smoothest gate of any horse breed. After a day of adventure, take an evening gallop over to Potrero de Loza, the main guesthouse, and relax by the fireplace in a room decorated with charming relics from the old days.

2. Estancia Huechahue, Argentina

For exploring the Patagonian Steppe of Argentina, locals recommend crossing the rugged, wild terrain on horseback, a tradition carried on by Estancia Huechahue for over four generations. Follow the cattle hands on trails through the mountains and witness up close the natural beauty of Argentinian Patagonia. With a rich history of horse riding, the gauchos know every cliff, foothill, and grassy plain of the Andes, and their horses probably know it even better. In a world of vast, untamed terrain, it’s the perfect spot for a glorious gallop across the valley. After a day of trail riding, head back to the lodge, a cottage that encourages rest and relaxation with big trees and a tranquil pond. In a land of homegrown food and a thriving cattle business, visitors have the rare chance of experiencing one of the last remaining cultures that cultivate a simple, wholesome way of life.

1. El Galpon del Glacier Estancia, Argentia

In the heart of the dramatic landscape of Argentina is the El Galpon del Glacier Estancia, a traditional style ranch in the El Calafate region of Santa Cruz. With the word glacier in their name, you can expect spectacular horseback rides through the jagged glaciers known for their magical, iridescent hue of aqua blue. With such a varied landscape, riders have the chance to see impressive panoramic views of iceberg-filled lakes and vast pampas of the grasslands. On a peaceful ride at the edge of the world, you’ll be far away from the smog and noise of the urban centers like Buenos Aires. El Galpon del Glacier is a joyous departure from modern life and the typical vacation. Visitors will get the rare treat of seeing the challenges and bliss of estancia life. From the shores of the Argentinian Lake, hop on one of their sturdy horses and gallop along the waters.

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