What is an Estancia?

What is an Estancia?

The word estancia is widely used in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and in the south of Chile to refer to a vast agricultural area, it is quite similar to the notion of ranch in North America. But is it not quite the same.

A little bit of history will be helpful for you to understand the meaning of an authentic estancia in Argentina. 

The first ranches and farms (farms are much smaller than ranches), appeared in Argentina in the 16th century, during the Spanish colonization. The conquerors and explorers were rewarded with large tracts of land. They accepted these lands as “payment” for their efforts.

The lots from the farms were used for agriculture, while the lots from the ranches specialized in breeding. The lots of the stays had to measure at least half a league by a league and a half, which is about 2025 hectares of land. This area was calculated so that between 800 and 1,000 cows fed on natural pastures, which is equivalent to about 2 to 2.5 hectares per animal. But some ranches reached 250,000 hectares.

Originally, the Pampa estancias were used to raise sheep for wool, but also cows for meat, fat and tallow. Tallow, a residual product obtained from the melting of animal fat, was used to make soap to clean, but also to soften and waterproof leather.

From generation to generation, these territories remained within the same families by inheritance, making Argentina a great land of great landed aristocrats. Those aristocrats are very known families in Argentina and they still own many estancias.

Those lands, recently occupied by the Creoles since the 18th century, were still inhabited by different indigenous tribes such as the Tehuelches, the Mapuches and the Araucanians. But the Indians began to fight to defend their land so the ranchers had to resist their regular attacks, building huge wells and placing cannons around their properties.

Throughout the colonial period, the farms were more numerous than the ranches, but from 1820 things were reversed. In fact, in those days large export and breeding farms were developed in the country. Around 1850, ranchers had to acquire the entire Argentine countryside, modernizing barbed wire facilities and corrals, buying sheep shearing machines, building stables…

From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the phenomenon was reversed again. Through the sale of lots and the succession of inheritances, the lands were divided and the size of the estancias was reduced. In order to get as much profit as possible from their farms, these large landowners began to hire gauchos (Argentine cowboys), giving them the opportunity to gradually settle down by allowing them to use their land in exchange for a share of the crops produced on their land.

Since then, the rancher has been in charge of accounting and marketing, while the gaucho has been in charge of production and later receives a part of the profits; half, a third or a quarter following the contracts. Likewise, the production of the ranches became mixed, combining the production of cereals with Pampas livestock, at the same time that sheep farming was developed in Patagonia.

Today, many ranches continue to be active throughout Argentina. Many ranches have opened their doors to tourism and have an additional income from their main activities.

What to Expect on your Estancia Visit

While some are known more for their horseback riding activities and facilities, all estancias invite guests to experience their unique culture. You’ll get a giant-sized taste of asado, traditional Argentine barbeque, empanadas (stuffed bread or pastry) and plenty of other local specialties, which often include dishes for which Argentina is not as well known for such as finest freshwater fish offerings.

Every estancia has its own special character and history; they offer several alternatives in authentic estancias to spend a day in the Pampas countryside see the vastness of the land and learn about the traditions and activities of these working.

Some fun activities you can do at an Argentine Estancia:

  • Take polo lessons
  • Go horse-back riding
  • Take a cooking class
  • Wine tasting
  • Witness Gauchos do their daily activities such as herding, cutting, roping and taming animals
  • Play Taba and other gaucho games
  • Have a Reiki and Shiatsu massages
  • Learn how to dance Tango
  • Relax by the pool
  • Play Tennis or Pickle ball

Specialized Estancias: Horseback Riding and Showmanship

Some estancias specialize in breeding horses and offer ideal conditions for travelers wanting the ultimate horseback riding vacation. Ranging from beginner to expert levels, these ranches usually offer guided trail rides, polo lessons, and a chance to ride along with the gauchos as they go about their daily ranch activities. There are even a few that will let small groups of guests take on roles almost to the point of being a gaucho for a week or more. At the other extreme, some ranches also have their own tack shops and will outfit a guest in gaucho apparel and equipment whether he or she ever rides a horse. Those estancias that cater more to serious riders tend to be located to the north and far south of Buenos Aires while dude ranches can be found on the outskirts of almost all major cities in Argentina.

Other estancias, while offering horseback riding for guests, also have regularly scheduled events on site that demonstrate the unique skill of the estancia’s gauchos. On these ranches, a visitor usually will see gauchos displaying their world-class horsemanship as they break a young horse or display showmanship of their considerable equestrian talents.

Finding an Estancia near Buenos Aires

For many visitors, a trip to Argentina means a stay in and around Buenos Aires. For those looking for equestrian showmanship or opportunities to soak up the estancia culture without the need to test their horseback riding skills, there are dozens of locations within an hour’s drive west and southeast of the city.

Some of the oldest estancias in Buenos Aires are found in San Antonio de Areco. If you visit Buenos Aires, make sure you make time to get to know the estancias and learn about the typical activities and traditions.

Visitors can learn to cook the typical Argentine barbecue, walk through large areas of the pampas, ride horses, learn to play polo, listen to authentic music from the region, meet silversmiths in their workplaces, visit historic houses and museums

Contact our experienced Travel Advisors and share your thoughts with them. Taking your preferences into account, they will help you plan your visit to the Estancia that will meet your expectations.

Experience an Authentic Estancia in Argentina

Experience an Authentic Estancia in Argentina

If you have time to venture into Buenos Aires province, Patagonia or Cordoba, a visit to an estancia (ranch) allows a glimpse of Argentina's rural culture, its horses, gauchos, grand houses and elegant traditions.

If you're looking for the best estancias to visit in Argentina, look no further, for we've compiled the working list of the best ones to visit.


The historic compound of the estancia includes a superb Tudor-Normand rural palace that was built in 1927 by the prestigious architect Alejandro Bustillo, and which today works as a boutique hotel and estancia.

Located just 45 minutes from the City of Buenos Aires, and only 15 minutes form Ezeiza International Airport. Estancia Villa Maria’s historical ranch houses, ground, ample plots of lands, urban design and services make this Estancia an unique venue for a stylish event. This estancia offers a traditional barbeque, horses for back-riding activities, swimming pool, football field, volley and croquet facilities.


An estancia in San Antonio de Areco, member of the Relais & Châteaux community: which means that even if we arrive in sneakers – we are talking about a true ‘heels’ luxury experience. Hang out at the Pulpería, the oldest building: from the XVIII century. An authentic place with the addition of several art pieces and unique local decoration. You can spot Aldo Sessa’s photographs and Alejandro Moy’s paintings.


With the Sierras de Córdoba in the background, the Estancia El Colibri – member of the Relais & Châteaux – synthesizes the Argentinean dream of Stéphanie and Raoul Fenestraz. With its dark parquet floors, its colonial style and mottled furniture, this charming hotel is primarily inspired by the Argentinean estancias of the beginning of the prior century. Horseback riding, polo lessons or lazing by the pool precede delicious culinary experiences, with the asado (bbq), empanadas and typical Argentine pastries.


It is now time for the Tres Rios Casa de Campo: a typical Patagonia style building overlooking the Alumine and Colloncura rivers. The main concept is privacy, guests are few and that is something to be really thankful for! Gourmet cuisine is part of the Experience. Every day whenever fishermens return (yes, this is a hot place for fly fishing as well) everyone is expecting you at the bar with a deluxe ‘picada’ snack before dinner time.


This authentic ranch lies 72 miles out of Buenos Aries in historical San Miguel del Monte. The property has been in Angel Estrada's family for over two hundred years and he inherited it more than 35 years ago. It is a full working estancia, breeding cattle and horses and producing feed crops. Los Patos offers guests the opportunity to hunt in season; ride; and play polo on ponies bred on the property. But there is so much more in the Los Patos ambience – open skies; night stars; grasslands; wetlands; water birds; cattle; dogs; and horses with all the attendant sounds and smells. Angel is the complete host who takes the word ‘hospitality’ seriously.


It is just one quick motorboat ride away from Tigre, province of Buenos Aires. You will arrive at this oasis in the middle of the Rio Paraná Delta region. Completely isolated and private, with only 15 bungalows available, right in the middle of this natural environment. You will feel like you are in the middle of the jungle, only living a king’s life. Good gastronomy, an incredible pool with a river view, and please do not miss the spa! I can give my honest statement: these massages are worth every single penny to add to this experience.


Estancia Arroyo Verde is not only paradise for anglers, there are incredible, majestic hiking, walking and riding trails. The 10.000 thousand acre property is crisscrossed by numerous paths, some taking you to the high peaks overlooking the lake, valley, river and offering spectacular views of the Andean Condor in flight.


Just two hours away from Buenos Aires City by plane, Puerto Valle is the ideal destination to combine with a trip to the Iguazu Falls, stopping over at the San Ignacio Miní Ruins, which are conveniently located at a 1.5 hour-ride from the hotel.

Puerto Valle offers guests an exclusive gateway to the wildlife of Iberá National Park, the world’s second largest wetland, in the most extensive natural reserve of Argentina. Puerto Valle is the only luxury lodge in the Iberá Wetlands, an authentic Argentine estancia built in 1868 on the Paraná River bank, an exceptional location where nature meets tradition, high-end personalized service and superb regional cuisine to provide you with a unique experience.

Known as the “river tiger” fishing the dorado is one of the most exciting and challenging fishing experiences due to it’s fighting abilities. The dorado, with it’s great weight and strength, is a powerful fighter who strikes aggressively, leaps high and runs hard. Once on the hook the dorado will fight until the end with its impressive stamina and give you a battle unlike any other you’ve experienced. Join us for the ultimate fresh water fly fishing of the golden dorado in the Corrientes and Parana Rivers of Argentina!


Modernized to a high standard, Helsingfors offers a level of comfort and service a step above many other estancias. From its grounds you can see Mount Fitzroy, glaciers, snow-capped peaks, and bright blue lakes, and this accommodation is so exclusive and remote, you're likely to have the views almost to yourself.

How do I choose the right Estancia for my holidays?