Estancia Day Trip to San Antonio de Areco
Step into a world of riding boots and leather chaps
San Antonio de Areco is a historic town that gives visitors a taste of the life of an Argentine Gaucho, or cowboy. Located about an hour and a half northwest of Buenos Aires, San Antonio de Areco also offers a peek into a unique facet of Argentina’s immigration history.
Despite being in a country of mostly Spanish and Italian immigrants, San Antonio de Areco has a strong Irish heritage. At the center of the town’s beautiful square is a statue dedicated to Hipólito Vieytes, who was born in San Antonio de Areco and played a prominent role in the May Revolution of 1810 and the first independent government of Argentina. Below the statue is a plaque commemorating the visit of then Irish president Mary Robinson in 1995 and inside Areco’s main church, next to the square, there is a long list of O’Reillys, Malleys and Maguires who helped build the church and the town’s identity.
Pull up a stool and drink with the locals in Argentina’s oldest pulperia
Surrounded by flat wetlands that constitute some of the country’s richest soil, San Antonio boasts a picturesque town center, where modern life mingles with Argentine traditions. A few blocks from the town square, the oldest gaucho bar in Argentina stands as a historical monument and a community’s commitment to its past. When the bar’s foundation, originally made of clay, was deemed hazardous, the citizens of Areco cobbled together the money for a new, concrete foundation that would support the building and not alter its facade or interior. They succeeded.
Guillermo Guereño provides a short tour of San Antonio de Areco. A longtime citizen of Areco, Guillermo knows the historical roots of the town, as well as the little quirks. The town’s first library was founded by women, who held the power to choose which literature everyone could read. In addition to knowing the people at each stop on tour, many passers-by greet Guillermo warmly. After the hour long tour of Areco, Guillermo escorts his guests to an elegant estancia, or ranch.
A taste of the high life at the grand estancia El Ombu
Located about 10 minutes from the town of San Antonio de Areco, El Ombu de Areco is a magnificent, family-owned estancia. Originally built in 1880, the mansion is the centerpiece of the property, serving as a Bed & Breakfast that’s maintained its gaucho character. Enrique Boelcke purchased El Ombu in 1931, and his granddaughter, Eva, is the estancia owner and manager today. In 1993, she expanded the property’s services to include a B&B.
The brick architecture is laced with ivy and dotted with a variety of flowers. After driving down a dirt road for a few kilometers, the tree-lined entrance prefaces the rustic yet well-manicured property.
Upon arrival, visitors walk onto a beautiful lawn with wooden tables and benches under a large oak tree. The classic setting is further enhanced when wine and beverages are brought out to start your estancia experience. After the welcome drink, the gauchos invite their patrons on a horse ride around the estancia. With very tame horses, the ride is enjoyable and leisurely. The gauchos have exceptional command of the horses and also know enough English to offer riders instructions on how to guide the horse. El Ombu’s expansive beauty becomes clear to visitors on the horse ride.
Once back at the mansion, the asado, or Argentine BBQ, begins. Served with several delicious side dishes – salad, tomatoes and onions in a vinaigrette dressing and rice with vegetables – the asado at El Ombu offers the best cuts of meat, from cattle raised either on El Ombu’s property, or the adjacent farm. The asado includes chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), bife de chorizo (sirloin steak), costillas (ribs) and lomo (tenderloin).
Horses roam freely to the sound of strumming guitars
The gauchos not only serve the asado, they also provide the entertainment, displaying first their guitar skills, and then their intimate bond with their horses.
The gauchos put on a unique display of tricks with the horses, ranging from slowly kneeling the horse down, to doing a handstand on the horse (above) to putting the horses rear foot up against the gaucho’s chest – a daring tactic that garners much applause. Another impressive gaucho feat performed on some occasions is when one gaucho, leading a horse with a cowbell around it’s neck, has about a dozen horses in unison following him. The horses come right up to everyone’s table and “mingle” with patrons. It’s a fascinating sight. A dozen horses – completely free – roaming peacefully around a group of people.
Camino Pampa Tours and El Ombu
Guillermo, who runs Camino Pampa tours, or one of his expert bilingual guides accompanies his clients from their accommodation in Buenos Aires to San Antonio de Areco and El Ombu de Areco. Guillermo’s driver, who speaks English well, brings all clients back to their accommodation in the city. Tour pick up is at 9am and return time is approximately 6pm.