Argentina is famous for its vast and varied landscapes. The name Argentina conjures up visions of icy glaciers in Southern Patagonia, energetic tango dancers in Buenos Aires, Magellan penguins in Ushuaia, the mighty Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border, and delicious wine in Mendoza. But don’t forget about the hardworking gauchos in the north. Sheep and cattle herders still roam the pampas and work the land in estancias built by the elite criollo class, descended from the Spanish peninsula, in the 19th and 20th centuries. A vacation to Argentina is worth at least a few days exploring the pampas of Buenos Aires and the northern country of Salta.
Go off the grid at horse ranches in Patagonia
You can fly to Buenos Aires and start your Argentina vacation there, or you can head straight to Salta, a city near the north known for its Trains to the Clouds. You can fly to Salta airport and then transfer to your Salta hotel. The next day, take a city tour of Salta and get acquainted with this beautiful colonial city. Salta flourished as a road between Lima and Buenos Aires during the colonial era, and archtitecture, especially in the historical district, clearly reflects this heritage.
On a city tour of Salta, you can see colonial churches, museums and monuments. Neoclassical cathedrals are magnificent. The nearby San Bernard Hills give you views of the city nestled in the green Lerma valley. Also check out the Mercado Artesanal, a great place to bargain for treasure to take home.
The next day, take the train to the clouds at Tren de las Nubes. This train was used only for cargo delivery, and is now only a passenger train, because the scenery along the train’s journey is dramatic and beautiful. Starting in the Lerma Valley in Salta, the train climbs nearly 14,000 feet, high in the Andes bordering Chile. Alternatively, you can take a bus tour that follows the Train to the Clouds line, but allows you to stop and visit cities and take in the views along the way. In the evening, return to Salta.
The next day, fly to Buenos Aires. Spend a day or so traveling around town – a cycling tour is a great way to squeeze it all in – and leave a day or two out of town and touring the pampas and estancias where the gauchos roam.
History of the Gaucho
At Estancia La Porteña you can tour a 180 year old ranch which is a perfect example of Argentine tradition. The architecture of the estancia reflects the tastes of the elite criollos, or Spanish colonial descendants, who once lived here. You can visit the nearby town of San Antonio de Areco, the Ricoardo Guirales Museum, and the Estancia La Porteña Cultural Historical Monument on this sprawling farm and surrrounding area.
Estancia La Cinacina is another Buenos Aires ranch where you can easily spend a day. Located in the town of San Antonio de Areco just outside of Buenos Aires, La Cinacina estancia offers traditional home cooked food, horse riding and train tours from the ranch, and traditional Argentine dance performances. Enjoy empanadas before touring the ranch, then enjoy a traditional Argentine asado, or barbeque, for dinner while watching a folk dance performance. During summer, you can also swim in the pool.
Lastly, the Estancia La Alameda tour, which is located near the Chascomus lagoon, 120 km from Buenos Aires. The house is two centuries old, but is well preserved. There are sedans where Argentine folk dancers put on a pretty show, and you can also enjoy a traditional Argentine asado, or barbecue, plus coffee and desserts.