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Ride with the gauchos in the Andes of Argentina

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ARGENTINE LUXURY HOLIDAY

Andes Horse Riding Vacation

Argentina Map
Argentina, Americas
8 Days
€ 1,540 combadi price

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Holiday Type
Open dates
Running Period
December to April

The Combadi Insight:

Ride with your horse deep into the heart of the Andes and experience the rugged life of the Gaucho, the Argentine cowboy!

Holiday Code: DZ1

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Deep in the heart of the Argentine countryside, nestled in the rugged Andes, is a family owned cattle ranch and its inviting rustic guest lodges. Unreachable by car, and with no cellular phone coverage, it's there that you'll enjoy an 8 day horse-riding holiday far away from the beaten path!

Your adventure will start at the foothills of the Andes where you'll meet Argentine cowboys called Gauchos, and share a traditional lunch. You'll then all pack your horses and head off for the 2 1/2 hour ride from the remote cattle outpost of Buta Mallin, to your ranch. Evening at the ranch will find you with good company, enjoying traditional Argentine cuisine and wine.

Once at the ranch, you'll set off on daily horse rides and fishing excursions, as well as on a three-day trip to Laguna Negra, a mountain valley surrounded by jagged peaks, waterfalls and hanging meadows. Your epic Argentine trip on horseback will take you through spectacular scenery while evening meals will be taken around a firepit, with the option to sleep under the stars! You'll also visit the Gauchos that spend their summers tending to their herds. Your return trip along a different trail features sweeping vistas of the Trocoman River and the Copahue Volcano.

After three days of horseback riding, you're going to want to enjoy the creature comforts of your ranch, swim in the pool and river, or relax in a hammock! You can also opt for an afternoon horseback ride to the Picunleo and Trocoman rivers. On your last evening, you'll experience culture, as Gauchos from around the area will take part in a traditional Asado, the Gaucho dance.

Day 1

Zapala and Buta Mallin

At 10am, we will meet in Zapala, a quaint town located in the province of Neuquen. A 4-hour drive to the foothills of the Andes will follow until we get to Buta Mallin. A cattle outpost, on the estancia, Buta Mallin is at the end of the road for most vehicles. We will have our mid-afternoon lunch in here with the gauchos. We will be served either asado or traditional guiso (stew) and bread. After lunch, we will saddle and pack the horses for a 2.5-hour ride to the ranch.

We will settle into our cottage or room by nighttime. We will also have a wonderful evening at Casa Grande with our fellow travellers and locals, feasting over authentic Argentine food and wine.

Days 2 and 3

Ranquilco

The next two days will be spent at Ranquilco. Here, we will enjoy day rides and picnics along the riverside. Our evenings will be tranquil, sipping wine on the beautiful patio.

We will have the next 2 days packed with fun activities – fishing, swimming, riverside sauna and gastronomic adventures. Homemade lunches and dinners will be served. Every meal will highlight the Argentine way of cooking.

Day 4

Cordillera

Today’s destination is Cordillera. Get ready for some thrilling experiences while going up to Laguna Negra, a pristine spot tucked at the heart of Andes. On our way are mountain valleys surrounded by rugged peaks, waterfalls and hanging meadows. We will ride for approximately 6 hours today, reaching the Trocoman River valley across the high plateau before finally descending the breathtaking trail into the valley.

We will set our camp at the gaucho’s puesto. Here, we will gather around a fire pit and enjoy a sumptuous meal. Before the day ends, we will learn to picket and care for our horses on the range. We will sleep on our saddle blankets under the stars just like our gauchos. We can also stretch out in the hut located at the puesto.

Day 5

Cerro Negro

The puesto at Cerro Negro will be our base camp for today. Our mission is to enjoy and explore this amazing place. We will ride up to the end of the valley. As we reach a ridge, we will be treated to a grandiose view of the cordillera that stretches all the way north and south from where we are. The Chilean volcanoes are located at our west side. These are marvels that we should not miss.

On our way back to the camp, we will stop and meet local gauchos who usually spend summers in the mountains tending their herds. This great experience will allow us to visit a twig hut and sip maté (tea) while socializing with these wonderful people. We can also stop by the lake and go fishing or swimming the horse.

The aroma of the asado cooking (slow roasting) over fire is the sign of an enchanting evening ahead. We will gather at the puesto surrounded by our horses.

Day 6

Ranquilco

We will leave for Ranquilco today. However, following a different trail this time around. We will pass by the edge of the Picunleo Valley and admire the spectacular views of the Trocoman River up to the Copahue Volcano.

In the evening, we will be reunited with the hospitality of the lodge–hot showers, cold beers and clean sheets. A delightful dinner paired with local wine drinking session, will follow.

Day 7

Ranquilco

We will enjoy an entire day of rest and relaxation at Ranquilco. We can choose from a variety of options – sauna, swimming in the pool or rover or just lounge on a hammock. If we feel like it, we can join an optional tour to explore the confluence of Picunleo and Trocoman rivers.

This will be the final evening of the trip. We will be served with the special traditional asado with the gauchos. We will cap the night with Gaucho dancing and entertainment.

Day 8

Buta Mallin and Zapala

Today, we will leave for Zapala via Batu Mallin. Our estimated time of arrival is 4pm. From here, we will catch a bus back to B.A. or head directly to Bariloche or San Martin. We can also go to Chile if we want to.

What are the Accommodation Options?

The Castle Room

The Castle Room exudes a natural romantic atmosphere. The two-room suite is connected to a wonderful stone arch. Guests are offered raised double beds that allow an uninterrupted view of the river canyon where eagles are nesting.

The French doors will be your gateway to the private patio. This location is another perfect spot to sip a wine and relish the breathtaking panorama of the river and the mountains. The main lodge is just striking distance from the Castle Room. A handcrafted stone fireplace with naturally occurring heart-shaped stones are found in the sitting room. The comfortable bathroom has a wood heated boiler and shower. Fruit trees and flower gardens border the cottage.

Testimonial:

“Our last evening was spent on our balcony where the estancia had laid out a feast of trout from the river, vegetables from the garden, sumptuous Argentine wine served on silver and crystal and prepared with lots of love.” - Tom and Alice, 2008

The Castle Room in Ranquilco is an all-time favorite of honeymooners from around the world. Couples staying in here would usually engage in horseback riding and outdoor activities.

Dossie's House

Dossie’s House features high ceilings and skylights within a large wood-crafted suite. The overlooking views of the stunning river and horse pastures will greet guests every morning. Each suite is well lit and infused with tranquil and gentle energy of Ashley’s mother, Doss. The main bedroom is equipped with a double bed, day-window bed and a small comfortable sunroom or sitting room. Stone crafted fireplace, dressing room, shower and wood-heated tub are found inside the enormous bathroom. The main lodge is very close to Dossie’s House.

Testimonial:

“Oak furniture and silver heirlooms, crisp linen, B&W photos of the family, day bed, and bathroom with an open fireplace that heats the water, plus a bottle of house wine… I felt like I’d melted into heaven. ” – Guest, 2012

The House was built to honor the matriarch of the family, Dossie.

The Apartment

An addition to the main lodge, the Apartment is built right above the library. This accommodation gives a guest the best seat in the house to view spectacular panoramas of Casa Grande’s terrace and the river. The three-room stone and wood suite also has a stone stairway just outside. It offers one double bed, two single beds, two fireplaces, and a sitting room. The bathroom has a bathtub, shower and wood-heated water.

How to Get to Ranquilco?

Horseback is the most common way to go to the heart of the land of Ranquilco. While there is a track and airstrip, most people would choose to come here on horseback – a definition of a graceful arrival into the peaceful space of Ranquilco.

Estancia Ranquilco is located in the northern region of Patagonia, a province of Neuquen in Argentina. Neighboring towns include Zapala (nearest) El Cholar and El Huecu. Most travellers would arrive at Zapala first.

Entry to the Estancia

Here’s a direction on how to get to Ranquilco: drive as close as possible to the ranch using a car or 4x4, and then switch to horses and mules for the remainder of the trip. Two entry points where you can switch to horseback:

Buta Mallin

  • a gaucho camp on our property
  • requires a 4x4

Puesto Casares

  • a family puesto (rural home)
  • located near the road between El Huecu and El Cholar

Travel via Buenos Aires and Zapala

Zapala is a quaint city found in the northern region of Neuquen in Argentina. It is located conveniently near main bus routes between Buenos Aires (capital city) and San Martin de los Andes (lake district) and Bariloche.

For this reason, most travellers would take an overnight bus from Buenos Aires. We encourage you to take the bus line via Bariloche. The bus leaves at around 4pm and arrives next day at around 8am.

Important Reminder: While in Zapala, pick up any personal supplies that you will need for the next few days like toiletries and cigarettes. Once you arrive in Estancia Ranquilco, you will have to travel 5 hours to get to the nearest town.

For convenience, you can book a bus trip via Bariloche from Buenos Aires to Zapala online. However, all texts in the site are in Spanish. To make it easier, click option for where to get the ticket and then choose “Boleteria 121, Retiro.” Travel via Neuquen to Zapala.

There is also a commercial flight from Buenos Aires into to the provincial capital Neuquen. If you prefer flying, we suggest that you book in conjunction with an international flight to B.A. from Neuquen, and rent a car or taxi to Puesto Caseres via Zapala and El Huecu. This bundle would make overall cost cheaper.

Travel via San Martin de los Andes and Zapala

There are daily flights or overnight bus rides from Buenos Aires to the ski and beach destination of San Martin de los Andes. From here, you can take a bus or car going to Zapala. Approximate travel time is 4 hours.

Travel via Las Lajas and Chile

A shorter route going to Ranquilco (compared to Zapala) is via Las Lajas. However, the bus service is only available if you are arriving from Temuco in Chile. You may take the train or fly from Santiago (capital city) to Temuco. From Temuco, a bus service over the Andes can take you to the small town of Las Lajas. Ride a taxi from Las Lajas to Puesto Casares.

Travel via Santiago to Puerto Montt to Bariloche to Zapala

Landing in Santiago is an ideal way to jumpstart your South American trip. From here, take a bus going to Puerto Montt and then cross the Andes on a boat before taking a bus that will take you to Brailoche in Argentina and to Zapala.

Note on traveling from the United States

It’s a great thing to note that flying from North America would not require you to cross too many time zones. If you are coming from the United States, you will not suffer much from jetlag. Most of the flights depart at night. Take this time to rest and get some sleep as you prepare to land in Buenos Aires or Santiago in the morning.

What is the Currency?

The Argentinian Government defines the exchange rate between U.S. Dollar and the peso. This is also the same rate you get when withdrawing pesos from ATM or using your credit card. Please take note that the ATMs do not dispense dollars.

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