Estancia Huechahue

Neuquen, The Lake District, Argentina Book from US$800

Fabulous horse riding in the foothills of the Andes at this working cattle ranch in the Northern Patagonian Lake District
This is the real thing: a 15,000-acre Patagonian cattle estancia (ranch) where you can live life on the land. Ride into the Lanín National Park or over the border into Chile, muster cattle with the gauchos, eat succulent home-reared beef roasted over an open fire, and return home to cosy rooms, great cooking and abundant red wine.

It's thanks to an Englishwoman that Huechahue (way-cha-way) is such a special place. Jane Williams built this estancia with her husband, who was born here, breeding horses and cattle for 20 years before taking guests. It's with a real passion for the place that she takes you on incredible rides to see condors and visit Mapuche communities, and on gallops through virgin mountain landscapes: all spectacularly beautiful. Comfortable wooden guest cabins look out to orchards, and everyone gathers in the main house for dinner - as riotous or sedate as you want. This is a place where all are made to feel welcome and included, and firm friendships are made.

Highs

  • Unbeatable horse riding. Novices are looked after, but seasoned riders will also find plenty to challenge them
  • This is an utterly authentic cattle and horse ranch - nothing is forced or touristy. It's only 2 hours from Bariloche, but it feels a world apart
  • You don't have to be a rider: birding, hiking and fishing are also on offer
  • A maximum of 16 guests (and rarely more than 12), ensuring a great private-house feel - everyone seems to feel immediately at home. But there's plenty of space when you want to be alone
  • Your host and guide, Jane, is a remarkable woman - kind, funny and a brilliant horsewoman

Lows

  • Don't expect luxury or chic accommodation. Prepare for life on the land - but with rather more home comforts than any gaucho enjoys!
  • You'll need to allow at least 3 or 4 days to get the best out of Huechahue
  • At 200km northeast of Bariloche, this is (wonderfully) off the beaten tourist track - but there is a small airport 50km away and transfers from there are included

Best time to go

The estancia is normally open from September to the end of May, and late spring, summer and autumn (November to April) are all spectacular.

Our top tips

Make sure your trousers are comfortable for riding, and bring at least 2 pairs. Bombachas, the traditional gaucho trousers, are by far the most comfortable. You can pick them up cheaply in Junín or San Martín de los Andes. Riding hats can be provided at the estancia.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Working Ranch
  • 8
  • All meals included
  • Over 16s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
Room:

Rooms

In keeping with the traditional estancia feel, accommodation is simple but comfortable. The 8 double and twin rooms are spread across 3 wooden cabins, and lead off a central sitting area with a log fire. Each cabin also has a veranda for sitting out and admiring the view.

Décor is homely and welcoming: lots of wood, polished floors, indigenous woven rugs, wooden bed frames, pretty patterned curtains and bed covers, and duvets - a rarity in Argentina. Your private bathroom is spotless, though not luxurious, with plenty of hot water - which you'll need for aching muscles after a long ride. Don't expect direct-dial phones or TVs, but you'll sleep well in the silence and wake to sunshine through large windows overlooking the apple orchards outside.

The main house has a slightly English feel, with its brick and pitched roof, and a pond surrounded by lavender and roses. Inside, though, it's the Argentine rural life: big leather sofas to sprawl on, huge wood fires, and wonderful gaucho prints all over the walls. There are quiet places to sit everywhere, and always a thermos for taking tea in your room if you need it.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Plunge pool
  • Terrace

Eating

Food really is a feature here. The great thing about riding around outside all day is that you feel you've earned a great feast for dinner. Though you'll start the day with a seriously hearty breakfast: organic free range eggs, bacon, sausages, muesli, yoghurt, freshly baked bread, fruit jams and compotes, all produced on the estancia.

Day rides always stop for a good picnic, perhaps eaten on a picturesque bank on a curve of river. You'll get homemade quiches and salads, followed by pudding and freshly brewed coffee, or perhaps a traditional asado (barbecue) - there's nothing like the taste of home-reared beef sizzled on an open wood fire.

Dinner is a jolly affair: everyone gathers for olives and nibbles with copious quantities of wine to chat over the day's adventures, and then the whole group sits around a big table for a huge feast. There's almost always beef from Huechahue's own cattle, venison from local deer (carefully managed), or salami and sausages made from the farm's own pigs. Vegetarians are well catered for with delicious quiches and flans. Dining together might sound daunting, but this is the magic of Huechahue, and Jane makes you feel immediately at home and amongst friends.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Coffee tea making
  • Communal dining
  • Organic produce
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Head off on amazing day rides on Huechachue's 15,000 acres in the foothills of the Andes. Ride to the Mapuche Indian reservation, to see condors roosting, along rivers to find ancient burial caves, or to see gauchos working the cattle

  • Highly recommended is the 3-day pack trip across the forests and mountains of the Lanín National Park, camping out in the wild for 2 nights. You'll experience incredible landscapes and real adventure - a dream for the intrepid. There are usually between 4 and 6 hours of riding a day with breaks for rests and lunch, although hours are flexible

  • Longer trips are also available, including a 10-day programme which combines a 3-day pack trip with local rides, and a 9-day estancia to estancia ride, moving from Huechahue to the nearby farms of Cerro de los Pinos and Estancia Collun Co (2 nights in each)

  • Working the herd of 900 Hereford cattle - mustering, lassoing, helping with the branding - is another amazing experience

  • If you don't fancy riding, there are wonderful places to hike directly from the estancia

  • You can also go bird-watching. Amongst the wildlife to be seen are black-necked swans, ibis, eagles, the Andean condor, red deer and wild boar

  • World-class fishing on the River Alumine, which borders the property, can be arranged (mainly wet fly-fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout, from mid-November to mid-April). Experienced guides can be organised for an extra charge

  • Back at the ranch, play tennis on the court near the house, or relax in the hot tub, sauna and plunge pool. This is a great place to chill out. If you want a massage Jane can arrange for someone to come in

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

There are no discounts for kids, and children are normally only accepted if they can ride and are over 16 - they will have a fabulous adventure here. Younger children are sometimes invited if they're part of a family group. There are no extra beds.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

This hotel has not yet been reviewed by guests

Rates for Estancia Huechahue