Estancia Caballadas | Riding in Patagonia
The Low Down: Estancia Caballadas is a 20,000 hectare private estancia nestled in the foothills of the Andes in Argentine Patagonia, close to the border with Chile. Caballadas offers some of the most breathtaking horse-riding adventures in the country across pristine Patagonian wilderness.
Family-Owned, Family-Run: Family-owned and run for over a hundred years, the Lagos-Marmol family have a common goal, to protect the natural beauty of Estancia Caballadas for future generations to enjoy. Guests are welcomed by Isabel Lagos-Marmol, who runs the Swiss-chalet style lodge, a cosy home from home with amazing valley views, and her husband, Santiago Uriburu, who guides guests on outdoor adventures across the estancia.
20,000 Hectares To Explore: Space beyond space of unspoilt land; Estancia Caballadas’ wild, beautiful scenery is its greatest appeal. Partly Lanin National Park land, there’s a stunning variety of terrains to explore on horse-back or foot. Ride through prehistoric monkey-puzzle forests, hike mountain-peaks, stopping for a picnic lunch by a fresh-water creek or dramatic canyon, or discover pristine lake-side beaches with stunning volcano views as you roam to the far stretches of the estancia.
Valley Lodge: Estancia Caballadas’ secluded hilltop lodge is tucked into a circle of trees, protecting it from the strong Patagonian wind, but leaving it with a stunning panoramic view across the Quillen valley. The lodge is styled like a chalet, with a traditional Oak wood finish and simple, cosy interiors. An open-plan dining and living room is the heart of this home, with a fire roaring at one end, gentle music on in the background, and a wrap-around veranda offering beautiful views. Most guests come here to relax and read with a glass of wine before dinner, and a night-cap afterwards never goes amiss!
Hand-carved signs, homemade soaps and family antiques and heirlooms give the lodge a rustic, Patagonian feel; that combined with sumptuous white linens and comfortable beds, creates a relaxing, homely environment. With only 7 bedrooms, the lodge is exclusively for families or small groups of friends looking to spend time together, completely disconnected from the rest of the world in the most relaxed, peaceful setting. On return from an adventurous full-day ride, a hot bath with the luxury of fluffy white towels, followed by a siesta before dinner, is highly recommended. Then when you retire to your turned-down bed, you’ll be spoiled with a dulce de leche petit four and bottle of fresh spring water waiting for you. Sleep tight!
Horse-Riding Heaven: Horse-riding is the best way to explore the estancia and with a variety of terrains to cover, the experience is more suited to confident riders. With over 70 horses roaming free on the property, it’s a horse lover’s arcadia. You can either stay at the lodge to enjoy daily explorations of the estancia, or opt for a longer cabalgata, a few days of exhilarating riding across the most remote parts of the estancia, camping out each night. Caballadas is a working farm, where guests are able to help the gauchos, herding cattle and moving livestock into different corrals. There’s also a polo pitch and your guide will be happy to teach you the basics of one of Argentina’s most famous sports.
Riding Expeditions Into The Andes: The estancia organises multi-day horse-riding trips into the Andes, passing through spectacular landscapes, crossing steep mountains with extraordinary views, fording rivers and galloping along pristine lake-side beaches lined with emerald-coloured Patagonian pine trees. You’ll camp out in a different location each night, with the comfort of a top quality tent and sleeping bag, along with plenty of sheepskin rugs. After a delicious traditional asado, sharing stories around a well-stoked fire, gaze up at the stars and take in the peace and quiet you can only encounter in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilisation. Far from ‘roughing it’, you’re treated to hot showers waiting for you at each camp-site, a cool G&T’s as soon as you dismount, and sensational scenery – this is the ultimate gaucho experience in the wilds of Patagonia.
Fly-Fishing: Exclusive access to the estancia’s 14km of pristine river waters, private creeks and the stunning Lago Quillen make this an excellent fly-fishing destination, with brown and rainbow trout as the catch.
Meet Your Guide: Under the guidance of passionate horseman, Santiago Uriburu, you will learn about life in the Patagonian ‘campo’. As well as being a brilliant horseman, keen polo player and passionate about breeding horses, Santiago is an adventurer and loves taking guests to the most stunning parts of the estancia. You can explore by foot, horse-back, 4×4 (depending on the terrain), or visit remote lake-side beaches by speed boat. Santiago will gauge your abilities and interests and tailor your daily adventures to show you the best of the estancia, whilst keeping to a pace that you’re happy with. Santiago is a warm, enthusiastic guide with a passion for the great outdoors and brings joy to every excursion he guides.
Hearty Patagonian Cooking: Wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread from Head Chef, Erika, and you’ll always find a bowl of dulce de leche nearby (delicious on toast). Erika serves up traditional Patagonian soups and stews, and gourmet extravaganzas using local ingredients, such as wild boar or deer served with wild mushrooms, fresh trout salads, or roast lamb with wild raspberry and soya sauce. Almost everything will be homemade and we’d particularly recommend not holding back when you’re treated to Erika’s ice cream. A delicious afternoon tea will be waiting for you on return from an exciting ride. And at least once during your stay you’ll enjoy a traditional Argentine asado (BBQ’d lamb). Whilst Argentine meat is notoriously delicious and high-quality, thankfully Caballadas include more fresh fruit and veg in their meals than most places, where the general view is that anything other than meat is a waste of stomach space…
A Hike with A View: The size of the estancia allows for beautiful walks, whether gentle strolls across flat pasture land to sit by the river and have a refreshing dip, or challenging hikes in the mountains surrounding the property. One of the most beautiful viewpoints is just a few hours’ walk from the lodge (or 20 mins in 4×4 and 15 mins walking). Reaching a ‘Pinohuacho’, an orphan tree, you have a stunning view over Lago Quillen and on a clear day, Volcan Lanin in the background.
Rise And Shine: We’d recommend leaving your curtains ajar to enjoy amazing sunrise views. There’s no street lights to worry about here and the night is pitch black with a twinkling of stars. The house is perfectly positioned on a hill, and in the morning, the sight of distant mountains and forests greets you as the sun trickles its orange and pink hues across the vast landscape, gently depicting the scenery before you as the day dawns and the birds begin to sing. The comfy chairs out on the veranda are also perfect for watching the sunrise, and if you ask the girls in the kitchen for a traditional Argentine Mate, they’ll be very happy to prepare this for you to experience a real Patagonian morning ritual.
Day On The Lake: If the weather’s playing ball and you feel like a day out of the saddle, Santiago will drop you off on a beautiful, remote lake-side beach with a picnic basket, bottle of Champagne and radio. Spend the day relaxing, sunbathing and enjoying the solitude. You could even go skinny-dipping, you’re so far from civilisation! When you feel like returning to the lodge, just give Santiago a call on the radio and he’ll pick you up whenever you’re ready.
Date For The Diary: The Rural country show is a highlight of the Patagonian social calendar and takes place every January, offering a real insight into the gaucho way of life and Patagonian traditions (these shows also take place throughout the country on different dates). The show takes place over a few days with horse riding competitions, horse sales, rodeo, lassoing, la Sortija, fare games, crafts tents, kids musical chairs (in pairs jumping from pony to haybail!). There’s also plenty of partying, daily asados and music performances.
PSA’s Content Editor, Sophia Constant, recently stayed at Estancia Caballadas. Check out the highlights from her trip >