Visiting an estancia is part of the Patagonian travel experience and one of the easiest day trips in El Calafate is to Estancia Nibepo Aike!
I have made it my mission to visit as many estancias as possible across Argentina and especially across Patagonia, so I couldn’t miss out on a visito to Estancia Nibepo Aike, one of the more famous working ranches in the outskirts of El Calafate.
Estancia Nibepo Aike is open to day visitors and overnight guests. I visited the estancia on a day trip and got to watch the gauchos herd sheep, attend a sheep shearing demonstration, hike in the property which is set in Los Glaciares National Park, marvel at the milky blue waters of Lago Argentino, and enjoy a feast of an asado!
I’ll be the first to admit that staying overnight at an estancia is always more fun as you get to relax, unwind and experience rural life. However, if you’re pressed for time, a day trip is a great alternative.
Spending the day at Estancia Nibepo Aike was a change of pace from El Calafate and I really enjoyed, so I’m going to share my experience with you to help you decide if a day at this Patagonian ranch is right for you!
Nibepo Aike Ranch Day
Spend a full or half-day in Estancia Nibepo Aike in Los Glaciares National Park and experience Patagonian rural life on this day tour from El Calafate.
Getting to Estancia Nibepo Aike
There are a few different ways to get to Estancia Nibepo Aike, but one thing is for sure, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! You have to travel down dirt roads most of the way and these roads are often in rough condition, so get ready to experience the washboard effect.
If you’re planning to stay overnight at Estancia Nibepo Aike and you’ve rented a car in El Calafate, then you can make your own way there travelling down Provincial Route 15. If you’re planning to spend the night but you don’t want to drive, you can arrange transportation in advance through the estancia.
Alternatively, if you’re visiting for the day, you can join either a half-day or full-day estancia excursion, which includes transportation to and from El Calafate by minivan. This was how we travelled and we really enjoyed the scenery along the way – if you’re lucky you might even see guanacos!
The journey from El Calafate to Estancia Nibepo Aike is 55 kilometres, which isn’t a lot, but it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes given the road conditions.
History of Estancia Nibepo Aike
The story of Estancia Nibepo Aike begins at the turn of the 20th century, when Santiago Peso, a Croatian immigrant arrived and settled in the lands along the southern arm of Argentino Lake. It would still be a few years before this area became what is today Los Glaciares National Park.
Santiago settled around 20,000 hectares together with some partners and founded what was then known as Estancia La Jerónima. Here he began raising sheep and cattle.
In 1924, during a trip to the city of Río Gallegos, Santiago met María Martinic, a young woman from his homeland, Croatia, whom he married the following year.
Together, they had four children: Adolfo, who sadly passed away a year and a half later; Radoslava, nicknamed Niní; Ángela, nicknamed Bebe; and María, nicknamed Porota.
After Santiago fell ill with tuberculosis and eventually passed away, his wife decided to rename the estancia in honour of their 3 daughters.
The name Nibepo Aike came to be by taking the first letters of the girls’ nicknames which were Niní, Bebe and Porota to form ‘Nibepo’ and adding the Tehuelche word ‘Aike’ which means ‘Place of’.
Visiting Estancia Nibepo Aike
When it comes to visiting Estancia Nibepo Aike on a day trip, you have two options: a full-day tour or a half-day tour. Full-day tours obviously depart in the mornings, and half-day tours often depart both in the mornings and afternoons (depending on the time of year and demand).
If you visit the estancia on a full-day tour, you’ll arrive in time for a country breakfast. You’ll then attend a sheep shearing demonstration. That will be followed by a traditional barbecue lunch, known as an asado around these parts, accompanied by red wine. Finally, in the afternoon, you’ll go on a 3-hour horseback ride through Los Glaciares National Park.
If you visit on a half-day tour, you’ll enjoy a similar itinerary but with a shorter horseback ride of 1 hour. Honestly, if you’re not an experienced horseback rider, 1 hour is plenty! At least that’s how my knees feel.
And if you don’t want to horseback ride, you can enjoy the trails at the estancia – walk down to the shores of Lago Argentino to see the icy blue waters or walk up the hill for panoramic views.
My Ranch Experience at the Estancia
We did the afternoon tour and arrived just in time for merienda, which is the equivalent of afternoon tea. There was a table set up with tea, coffee, and an array of cakes, pastries and a salty fried dough known as torta frita.
Once we were well-fed, we headed out with our guide to explore the estancia. There was an option to go horseback riding, but we opted to do a hike. (We had done a lot of horseback riding in Argentina at this point!)
During our hike, we got to see a giant hare, stroll the shores of Lago Argentino which has milky blue waters, and try calafate berries. Local lore says that if you eat these berries you’ll come back to Patagonia so eat up! The berries weren’t quite ripe yet, but that didn’t stop us from having some to aid our return.
Then we all gathered to watch the esquila which is the sheep shearing demonstration. I was impressed by the skill of the gauchos who do this work. They were so gentle with the sheep and you could see that the animal was relaxed during the process.
Lastly, it was time for dinner. We enjoyed a traditional Patagonian lamb barbecue, plus chorizo, salad and bread rolls.
The food portions were abundant! They came around offering us various cuts of meat multiple times until we had to decline because we just couldn’t eat anymore.
We were also given our own bottle of wine to share (between myself and my husband).
And when we thought we were done, it was time for dessert! We managed to find a little bit of room to enjoy flan with dulce de leche.
We then had some free time after dinner to walk around the estancia, snap some photos, and befriend a few of the working ranch dogs. It was a great way to end the day!
If I had to come up with one point of criticism it would be that once we arrived at the estancia, our small group got combined with another large group of visitors.
This large group of international visitors was teetering a fine line between tipsy and drunk by the time they reached the estancia. It certainly didn’t help that after having wine for lunch, they pulled out bottles of vodka from their backpacks. Let’s just say it was a bit rowdy…
Now, this isn’t a point of criticism for the estancia or the tour operators, because what can they really do about a large group of adults misbehaving?
I think this was just an isolated incident that coincided with the day of our visit, but I wanted to be honest about our experience. Aside from that, it was a great day and I would recommend this day trip to anyone travelling in El Calafate.
Other excursions at Estancia Nibepo Aike
So far we’ve talked about the classic day trip to Estancia Nibepo Aike, however, there are a few other options to consider.
- Horseback riding to Hidden Glaciers: This is a 5-day / 4-night or 4-day / 3-night excursion on horseback with the first night at the lodge before continuing to an outpost.
- Navigation to the Glaciers: From the ranch, you can embark on two navigations to explore different corners of Los Glaciares National Park.
- Los Baguales Trekking: This is a 3-day / 2-night excursion with an overnight stay in a ranch post where you can enjoy a rugged Patagonian experience and visit some epic lakes and glaciers.
These three excursions are currently operated by Glaciar Sur Aventura.
Spending the night at Estancia Nibepo Aike
If you want to stay the night, I would recommend booking your stay at The Lodge in Estancia Nibepo Aike for the end of your visit to El Calafate.
Stay in El Calafate at the start of your trip so you can do all the sightseeing around Los Glaciares National Park, see the Perito Moreno Glacier, go on a glacier trek or glacier boat tour, do your souvenir shopping in town and get it all out of your system, because once you arrive at the estancia you won’t want to leave!
Also, given how remote the estancia is, you won’t want to be travelling back and forth from El Calafate for different tours and activities. You’re coming to Estancia Nibepo Aike to disconnect, enjoy nature, go horseback riding, and learn about life on a working ranch.
I would suggest giving yourself at least 2 days at the estancia with zero plans to go elsewhere.
The lodge itself has 10 rooms and offers full room and board for guests. That means breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, so you’ll be well-fed.
Keep in mind that the estancia welcomes visitors seasonally from mid-September to mid-May.
You can visit Estancia Nibepo Aike’s official website for information on how to book your stay.
GROUP TOURS – If you’d rather join a group tour to travel in Argentina, check out Gadventures.
CAR RENTAL – To explore Argentina beyond the cities, the best way to do so is by renting a car. Discover Cars offers rentals across the country.
BUS TICKETS – Bus travel is a great way to see Argentina. BusBud offers numerous routes.
TRAVEL INSURANCE – Don’t leave on your trip without booking travel insurance. You can get a quote on SafetyWing.
HOTELS – Booking.com offers accommodations to suit all budgets and travel styles.
TOURS – For a variety of tours and activities, have a look at Viator.