Finca Santa Anita

Coronel Moldes, near Salta, Salta & Northwest, Argentina Book from US$120

Traditional family farm with award-winning cuisine and wonderful horse riding to the lakes and forest. Great value and ideal for families
This might look like a typical colonial finca: a pretty, pink adobe, 19th-century building with long columned terraces, 4 quaint bedrooms opening onto the lush garden, and a peaceful rural setting amongst green tobacco plantations and woodland.

But Santa Anita is like no other: accomplished and talented owners Valentina and Carlos have won awards for their organic Slow Food, their biodiversity, and the way they care for their staff. Their warmth and dedication to looking after people extend to a real delight in welcoming guests; even their 6 children get involved (the eldest fully employed in the family business). Watch goats cheese being made, explore Argentina’s first tobacco museum and a small archaeological collection, and ride their well-trained horses to the vast Cabra Corral reservoir. The food is delicious; the garden is a delight; the peace of this rural retreat complete - you’ll sleep deeply in the cosy atmosphere of this historical finca. And this is what Argentina is really about: forgetting urban life and sitting under the stars as the fireflies dance, chatting with a wonderfully warm Argentine family.

Highs

  • Pretty surroundings: a garden rich with flowers and bird life, cloudforest and the immense Cabra Corral reservoir
  • Heaps to do nearby: explore historic and crumbling Coronel Moldes; fish in the reservoir; drive the magnificent Quebrada da Cafayate; visit local wineries
  • Flexible accommodation with 2 self-catering barns as well as the 4 rooms; perfect for families as well as couples
  • You can easily get here by public transport from Salta (1hr drive south). The rural bus is an experience in itself!
  • Very well priced

Lows

  • There’s nothing luxurious about this place, although the charming rooms are perfectly comfortable and very authentic
  • Family-run finca not set up as a professional hotel operation (meals arrive when they're ready, don't expect slick service); that suited us just fine as we felt very at home and Carlos is very helpful
  • Plenty of space for you to feel private, but perhaps not the place for a romantic break
  • The bathrooms need a bit of an upgrade, as does the pool
  • There are dogs - but they're all friendly, like their owners!

Best time to go

The finca is open all year, except for 2-3 weeks in January when the family take their annual holiday. Christmas is magical, but reserve ahead. Also book ahead in the main Argentine holiday periods of Easter and July. The rainy season is January and February but it doesn’t tip it down all day, so you should be able to get out. Salta is warm and sunny most of the year, and winters (June - August) are mild, but it can get chilly in the evenings. You'd need a minimum of 2 nights really to relax into the slower pace of life; there's heaps to do here for longer stays.

Our top tips

Strong shoes and comfortable trousers for riding - gaucho bombachas are the ideal trousers and inexpensive from local rural outfitters. Bring good boots if you want to go walking in the mountainous terrain, and a hat, sunglasses, swimming gear and high-factor sun cream for summer. Waterproofs are a good idea all year round. There's no need to dress up for dine at Santa Anita but don't forget a warm jacket for evenings.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Ranch Guesthouse
  • 4 + 2 barns
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request); Self-Catering
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
  • Museum
Room:

Rooms

The accommodation consists of 4 rooms and 2 self-catering barn conversions. Tucked away behind the columns of a sunny galleried terrace, the simple rooms are decorated in the old-fashioned style used in all of Argentina’s estancias and fincas. Rooms are high ceilinged with big old beams, and whitewashed, and floors are the original terracotta and ochre tiles. Wrought iron beds, wood-burning stoves for winter nights and local weavings on the walls evoke life in the late 19th-century.

The private bathrooms, while not from yesteryear, do need an upgrade: our shower door was broken for example. There’s nothing flashy about the simple toiletries (soap and shampoo) provided, but plenty of hot water.

There are doors on both sides of the rooms, and it’s a pleasant surprise to throw open the original shutters in the morning and see hummingbirds hovering at flowers on the terrace, or a horse clopping by on the tree-lined lane. Step from the terrace onto the enclosed garden, fragrant with flowers and grand algarrobo trees. Cockerels wake you up in the morning, and tropical insects chirrup at nights (watch out for mossies), giving you a taste of sub-tropical Salta.

Two rooms sleep 4 (ideal for families), there's 1 triple, and 1 spacious twin. The first 3 are adjacent to each other on the galleried terrace, the twin (El Escritorio) is the other side of the dining room and opens onto the garden.

Self-caterers can take over the 2 old tobacco-drying houses on the finca. Just across the lane, these stout old buildings have been completely gutted, designed in modern style, and equipped with all mod cons for a large group. Very reasonably priced, they are also popular with couples and small families. You get mostly single beds, decent bathrooms, and an internet connection. Kitchens come with an electric oven, separate hob, kettle, crockery and cutlery, dining for 8, pots and pans and a BBQ.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Internet access
  • Terrace

Eating

Argentina has been slow to cotton onto organic produce, because they quality of what’s available is generally so high. But Santa Anita is special because much of what you’ll eat is produced in the biodynamic kitchen garden or raised on the finca. Their rich eggs are delicious, and their goat's cheese has won international prizes: it's delicate, fragrant and tangy.

Eat breakfast on the galleried terrace if the weather is fine; it’s a real pleasure to stroll directly from your room and lounge on the sofas here, watching morning birds flitting around as you sip your juice. You get leaf teas, good coffee, drinking yoghurt, goat's milk (not cow's), a selection of local pastries and breads (the flaky tortillas from the local bakery are particularly good), homemade jams (utterly divine), and cereals.

Lunch can be a picnic eaten out on your ride, with locally made salamis and Valentina’s goat's cheese. Back at the finca you may be invited to an asado - the Argentine way of cooking meat over an open wood fire; often there’s a group of people including Carlos and Valentina’s children and friends. Evening asados often end with guitar playing long into the night (far enough from the house not to keep you awake); the best introduction to the local folclore music you could have.

Dinner is a set menu and can be eaten on the terrace or in the cosy dining room (let them know of any dietary requirements prior to arrival). Carlos will join you if he’s around, and he’ll give you an insight into Argentine life, local history and traditions, passionate about the area (he used to be the local mayor). Valentina is the chef, so she might be busy in the kitchen; one of the children may be your server.

The meal usually begins with light starters - all the produce is fresh and locally grown, there may be salads and home-made cheese or meat empanadas (pasties). Valentina is reviving traditional regional delicacies, and creates marvellous concoctions. Her puddings are amazing: pears steeped in Malbec were a favourite; we loved the array of home-made chutneys. There's a (home-made) pizza night once a week, we also had beef one meal and mildly spiced chicken another. There’s plenty of local wine; take your glass onto the terrace after dinner and look up at the stars.

The nearest restaurant is 2km away in Coronel Moldes - we had no desire to sample anything other than Valentina's cooking so didn't venture out.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Communal dining
  • Cooking classes
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Meal delivery service
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Horse riding: The finca has 25 well-trained horses, and the traditional tack: comfortable saddles padded with woven blankets. You’ll be accompanied by either Carlos or one of his children, or sometimes a local gaucho, (learn some Spanish!), perfect whether you're a beginner or more experienced. Choose from 2 hours of easy riding to Cabra Corral or a whole day’s ride up into the mountains through the cloudforest. You can even stay overnight in the rancho - a rustic cabin in the hills. A longer 3-day trip goes up to Potrero de Díaz, a lagoon in forest at 2,000m. Try your hand at cattle mustering at the right time of year

  • Go white water rafting in the nearby Juramento river, sailing, bungee jumping and kayaking on the Cabra Corral reservoir, or fishing for pejerrey

  • While UNESCO has honoured the Quebrada da Humahuaca, several hours North of Salta, nearer to hand are the (arguably more beautiful) rugged landscapes of the impressive Quebrada da Cafayate, easily explored as a day trip from Santa Anita. Head off early and you'll have time for a leisurely lunch in Cafayate itself which is full of wineries and tasting rooms, and there are artisan handicrafts in the galleries and market well worth a look. Or you could do the full circuit via Cachi, but you'd need to overnight elsewhere as it would be too much for one day

  • Visit the archaeological museum in the stable block - Carlos has a fine collection of pre-Columbian artefacts, painted ceramics, stone axes, and some beautiful funerary urns

  • Stroll around the tobacco museum - the only one in the country. Carlos is fascinated with the long history of the weed, which his family has grown for generations. See wonderful ancient clay pipes (some pre-Inca) and artefacts from tobacco growing and consumption, all housed in a traditional drying house

  • Meet the goats and watch them be milked (you'll need to be up by 8!). Kids will love to get close to these animals, and learn how cheese is traditionally made

  • Learn about Coronel Moldes through the eyes of its ex-mayor. Carlos is very proud of this traditional quaint town, with its rich history in Argentina’s struggle for independence. Founded in 1600 along with Salta, it retains some colonial architecture, with a few authentic old bars and cafés, and a marvellous procession once a year for the Fiesta Patronal when the gauchos ride out in all their finery

  • Have a cooking lesson from Valentina. Learn to cook authentic Salta recipes: locro, humitas and empanadas (stew, a blend of corn and cheese, and pasties), all baked in the traditional mud oven

  • Bird watching is excellent (more than 100 different species in the area); there are plenty in the garden you can sight from the terrace (such as Hepatic Tanager and White-vented Violetear), or head to the reservoir where we spotted Buff-necked Ibis and Rosy-billed Pochard

  • Visit rupestrian paints at the Ablome caves, this is a good half-day's excursion from Santa Anita

  • Go for a walk, or borrow a bicycle and explore the lane ways hereabouts

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Rafting
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children of all ages are made very welcome at this family-run ranch, which suits older active kids best. Carlos and Valentina's children are friendly and kind. On the finch itself, kids can play football, darts, swimming and enjoy messing around in the gardens. We were mesmerised by the life bursting forth all around us in the gardens: fireflies, dozens of beautiful bird species, toads, exciting insects and spiders.

Children over 10 can try riding - or younger if they have some experience - and the horses are very tame and biddable. Carlos will take special care of children on rides (and they'll be utterly impressed by the gaucho outfits!).

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

There are plenty of options for families. The Superior Triple has space for 3 people, The Superior Quad has a double bed and 2 singles, and the Standard Triple/Quad has 4 single beds. If you have a larger family or want to self-cater, the 2 old tobacco drying houses (Self-catering Barns) have been converted to modern barns sleeping 10 with decent kitchens and plenty of space.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

There are no specific provisions for children's meals, although the food on offer will suit even fussy types, with grilled cheese sandwiches, picnics and family-style communal dining some evenings. You can stay here on a half or full board basis.The nearest restaurant is 2km away in Coronel Moldes.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Unheated outdoor pool
  • Gardens and lawn for playing football
  • Swing with a pleasingly large parabola, climbing frame
  • Plenty of animals to get to know, including dogs, goats, chickens, ducks and, of course, horses
  • Bikes to borrow

Kids Activities nearby:

  • White water rafting on the Juramento River
  • Kayaking at the Cabra Corral reservoir
  • Birdwatching

Families Should Know:

Getting here from overseas involves flying to Buenos Aires, getting to the local airport and flying on via internal flight to Salta which is a good hour away - it's a fairly taxing journey. There are also heaps of mozzies, make sure you bring mosquito repellent.

Distances:

  • Airport 50 minutes (Salta, for internal flights)
  • Hospital: 50 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
6/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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