Visiting Estancia El Ombú de Areco | A Gaucho Tour from Buenos Aires

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Want to enjoy an estancia day and gaucho tour from Buenos Aires? Here’s our experience visiting Estancia El Ombú de Areco and why you may enjoy it too!

No trip to Argentina would be complete without a taste of the gaucho experience. But what do you do if you’re only planning to visit the city of Buenos Aires?

Well, fret not, because enjoying an estancia day and visiting the pampas is something that can easily be arranged on a day trip from Buenos Aires!

There are many estancias in the city outskirts and fortunately for you, some of them welcome visitors for the day and even overnight.

Estancia El Ombú de Areco runs an estancia day and gaucho tour program where you can spend the whole day at a countryside ranch horseback riding, enjoying an Argentine barbecue, and learning about gaucho culture and traditions.

We recently spent a few days in San Antonio de Areco, the town known as the craddle of gaucho culture, which is where Estancia El Ombú de Areco is located and it was one of the highlights of our visit!

This day tour to Estancia El Ombu de Areco is a best-seller! It includes transportation to and from Buenos Aires, a town tour of San Antonio de Areco with a guide, horseback riding, a traditional Argentine BBQ, live folklore music and dancing, and a gaucho horse-whispering demonstration. This tour has over 800+ reviews and 5 stars.

The ombu is not a tree but a tree-like bush that grows in the pampas of Argentina

Visiting Estancia El Ombú de Areco

While there are many things to do in San Antonio de Areco, the activity we were most looking forward to was an estancia day trip where we could enjoy the countryside and learn more about the gaucho culture.

We spent several days in the town of San Antonio de Areco (we even stayed at an estancia just a short walk from the centre of town!), however, on our last day we decided to visit the most famous estancia around: El Ombú de Areco.

Estancia El Ombú de Areco is located on the outskirts of town and it is a working estancia that has also been welcoming guests since 1993.

Their Día de Campo or ‘Countryside Day’ program is one of the more popular tour offerings in the area. It’s a full day gaucho tour where you spend the day at the estancia and it’s also a fun day trip from Buenos Aires.

Since we were already in the area, we booked this gaucho day tour directly through the estancia and organized our own transportation there, however, if you’re coming from the city, you can book this estancia day tour from Buenos Aires which includes your transportation there and back plus a visit to several landmarks in the town of San Antonio de Areco.

Now without further ado, I’m going to tell you all about our estancia day at El Ombú de Areco so you know exactly what to expect!

A brief history of the estancia

As soon as we arrived at Estancia El Ombú de Areco, we were greeted by a member of the staff who shared a brief history; we learned the estancia dates back to 1880 and that it’s been in the hands of the Boelcke Family since 1934.

The estancia stretches out over 300 hectares which are divided between grazing cattle and agricultural land. They have 350 heads of Aberdeen Angus livestock and their fields are planted with soy, corn, wheat and oats depending on the time of year.

As for the name, Estancia El Ombú de Areco is named after the ombú tree, which we were surprised to learn, isn’t even a tree!

This tree-like plant is actually a type of bush that grows in the pampas and requires very little water to thrive.

If you knock on the trunk, it sounds hollow, and the branches are quite soft and spongy to the touch. This makes the ombu capable of storing water within itself, which protects it from both droughts and wildfires that can occur in the plains.

And can we take a moment to appreciate the size of the ombú and the amount of shade it provides? This is why gauchos revere it.

Welcome drinks and empanadas

After that fascinating introduction to Estancia El Ombú de Areco, we were offered a welcome snack: an empanada and a beverage of choice.

If you’re new to Argentina, an empanada is a savoury pastry that can have numerous fillings, however, the classic is ground beef.

It can be baked or fried (in my opinion fried is best as it enhances the flavours!) and it can be served as an appetizer or as a meal.

I’m happy to report that the empanadas at the estancia were fried, juicy and absolutely delicious. We each had two, but I could’ve honestly devoured half a dozen.

We were also offered drinks and were able to choose from wine, beer, soda, water or juice.

Horseback riding or a carriage ride

Once we had a snack in our bellies, it was time for the first activity: a choice between a horseback ride or a carriage ride.

We’ve done a lot of horseback riding in Argentina (our most ambitious expedition was crossing Cordoba’s Sierras Chicas on horseback!), so this time around, we opted for a carriage ride since it’s something we hadn’t done before.

The carriage is locally known as a sulky or carruaje and it’s a small lightweight cart pulled by a single horse.

Our carriage ride was enjoyable but brief. Those who opted to go horseback riding enjoyed an in-depth tour of the estancia grounds, however, we’d had a lot of rain just before our visit which explains why we couldn’t venture too far with the carriage. Keep that in mind when making your selection!

The terrace where lunch is served at Ombu de Areco

Traditional Argentine BBQ lunch

Next up, it was time for lunch! Part of the estancia day experience is that you get to enjoy a traditional Argentine BBQ locally known as an asado.

Sam and I went investigating and asked to visit the parrilla where they were grilling the meat.

The traditional way of grilling in Argentina is by making a wood fire to one side and then taking the coals as they form and sliding those underneath the grill.

Traditional Argentine BBQ at Estancia El Ombu in San Antonio de Areco

The lunch setting was beautiful – the high ceilings, the colonial floor tiles, the balcony and columns covered in ivy. The tables were set up all along the terrace for al fresco dining so we still had protection in case of rain.

Every table had a bottle of Malbec wine and the grilled meat was the star of the meal. We got to try chorizo, morcilla, and various cuts of beef, chicken and pork.

This was accompanied by multiple salads and side dishes including a tomato, lettuce and cucumber salad; a carrot, corn and egg salad; and potatoes au gratin.

Samuel eating lunch on the terrace at Estancia El Ombu

The food was abundant! The waiters kept walking by with trays of meat offering us new cuts fresh off the grill to the point where we had to decline.

For dessert, we opted for flan with dulce de leche, a classic Argentine dessert. It was the perfect way to end a feast of a meal!

Note: The estancia can accommodate vegetarians, vegans and celiacs, however, you must let them know of your food restrictions at the time of your booking.

Live folklore music and dancing

I should mention that halfway through lunch, musicians set up on the terrace and we got to enjoy live folklore music or música gaucha.

This paved the way nicely because, by the time we were done dessert, we were invited to come and learn one of the traditional folklore dances.

At this point most tables had already consumed their bottle of wine so everyone was feeling extra jovial and uninhibited – in fact, not a single guest declined dancing!

Having spent part of my childhood in Argentina, the music and dances brought back lots of memories since we used to learn these at school and perform them for special dates and assemblies, so it was fun to relive the experience.

Doma India or horse whispering

Then, it was time for the doma india or horse whispering. The bond between a gaucho and his horse is truly something special and this is one of the things you get to witness on this estancia day tour from Buenos Aires.

The true gaucho’s approach to taming a horse is a gentle one built on trust.

“Around 1600, the Indigenous people of Argentina discovered horses and soon created their own method to tame them, completely void of outside influence. They demonstrated an uncanny ability to gently train their horses which surprised the Conquistadores, who underestimated them and in general treated them with contempt.”

History of Indian Dressage via Areco Tradition

During the demonstration, we got to see how a gaucho calmed his horse and moved him into various positions without any force or struggle. The horse laid down on its side, then on its back, and also put its legs up in the air.

We all sat in a semi-circle and watched as the horse melted from one position to the next following the gaucho’s guidance.

It’s important to be very quiet during the doma india to not startle the horse. We were asked not to make any noise, sudden movements or even use flash on our cameras.

Free time at the estancia

If you’re visiting the estancia on a day tour, this is probably where your tour ends. However, because we had booked directly through the estancia, we still had a bit more time to enjoy the grounds.

For those visiting during the summer months, bring your bathing suit and a towel because the estancia lets you make use of their swimming pool. You’ll likely be craving a dip during a hot summer’s day in the pampas!

We visited a bit later in the season, so it wasn’t swimming weather, but we still had lots of different activities to keep us busy. The estancia has soccer fields, volleyball courts, pool tables, ping pong tables, mini foosball, sun loungers and more.

We befriended the estancia dogs, then plopped ourselves on a lounger in the shade and enjoyed an afternoon siesta.

An afternoon snack and farewell

Finally, it was time for merienda which is a light afternoon meal. I can’t say we were the least bit hungry after the copious lunch we had, however, that didn’t stop us from accepting a small dessert.

We opted for lemon squares and a beverage out on the lounge chairs.

It was a nice way to end our day at the estancia and bid San Antonio de Areco farewell before travelling back to Buenos Aires.

Booking your tour to El Ombú de Areco

As I mentioned earlier, because we were already staying in San Antonio de Areco, we booked this estancia day and gaucho tour directly through El Ombú de Areco. We arranged everything via Whatsapp (this is commonly done in Argentina) but alternatively, you can send them an email via their contact form.

Because we booked directly, this does mean we were responsible for arranging our own transportation to and from the estancia. As a heads up, half of the drive is on paved roads and the second half is on dirt roads.

We booked a taxi and arranged a time for drop off and pick up. However, because it had rained quite heavily for days leading up to our visit, the dirt roads were intransitable. The estancia coordinated a meeting point where the pavement ends and then they sent one of their own drivers in a pick up truck that would be able to handle the mud.

If you’re booking the estancia day tour from Buenos Aires, you won’t need to worry about transportation since hotel pick up and drop off are included.

Final thoughts on the gaucho tour

We loved the experience! The staff at Estancia El Ombú de Areco are super attentive and thoughtful.

We’ve done a lot of estancia day tours (like this one in El Calafate) and overnight estancia stays across Argentina and I can honestly say this one was a notch above the rest.

The Día de Campo itinerary had a good pace; there were plenty of activities to fill the day but it wasn’t so much that we were exhausted at the end of it all.

The combination of horseback riding or carriage rides, a leisurely BBQ meal on the terrace, live folklore music and dancing, and the gaucho horse demonstration were just perfect.

At the end of the day, we got to experience a wonderful day in the countryside, learn about gaucho culture and traditions, and it was a nice change of scenery from Buenos Aires.

There’s a reason why this tour has 5 stars and over 800 reviews, so I would highly recommend it!

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