Pampas & Estancias -- San Antonio is a popular base for exploring Argentina's famous estancias, which doubled historically as both farms and fortresses, built throughout the country along trails from Buenos Aires as a means of conquering and stabilizing territory originally controlled by the Indians. The majority of Argentina's estancias date from the mid- to late 1800s. After General Roca's Campaign of the Desert in the 1870s, in which he murdered most of the Indian population within 150 miles of Buenos Aires, the land gave rise to estancias and their cattle and grain production. Despite the bloody history that gave birth to them, today they're seen as a retreat from the chaos and stress of Buenos Aires. They are popular among Porteños on weekends or for day trips. With the increasing boom of tourism to Argentina, many foreigners are beginning to delight in them as well.
Most of the estancias listed here are a half-hour from San Antonio, and no more than 2 hours from Buenos Aires. You can drive to all of them on your own, or use a bus service from Buenos Aires to San Antonio, and then catch a taxi from there. For a fee in the range of $80 to $100 (£54-£70), almost all the estancias will also provide transportation from your hotel or the airport in Buenos Aires. Because many estancias are accessed by dirt roads, it is advisable to rent a 4WD vehicle if you decide to drive yourself, especially if rain is predicted during the time of your visit. The websites of the estancias listed here post detailed driving maps.
Services and features vary, but the atmosphere at most estancias is a cross between a rustic resort and a bed-and-breakfast. Nothing relieves stress like a few days in the country, and horseback riding, trekking, lounging by the pool, and eating and drinking aplenty are all part of a day in the Pampas. In general, the rates for estancias include a full board of four meals -- breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner -- and sometimes all drinks, including alcohol. Lunch, the highlight of dining on an estancia, is usually an asado, or barbecue, where everyone, including the workers, gathers to socialize. Day rates generally include only lunch and limited activities. Most estancias are real working farms, with hundreds of acres and cows, horses, and other animals attended by real gauchos (not all of whom dress in the traditional way). If you're in the mood to milk a cow or watch the birth of colt, you just might have the chance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.