South America offers so much more than the mysterious Machu Picchu, the beaches of Brazil, Iguazu Falls, and Chile and Argentina wine tours. For horse enthusiasts and nature lovers there is no greater playground than Patagonia. Jacqueline Spencer explains.
Its scenery consists of dramatic cliffs and resplendent marine life on the Atlantic Coast, followed by the mind-blowing vastness of the deserted steppe inland and finally the jagged glacier-cleaved Andes mountains as they make their last dramatic flare before plummeting into the South Pacific.
Patagonia is not only legendary for its natural beauty, but also for the unique history of the original pioneers who were brave enough to inhabit these wild lands.
This rugged land was once considered worthless by Argentina and Chile, but clever and resourceful immigrants heard the call for adventure and were inspired by the possibility of land for all those willing and strong enough to weather the unknown.
On the Atlantic coast, the bay of Bahia Bustamante lured original founder Lorenzo Soriano with its prolific amount of seaweed.
This industrious man was a hair gel manufacturer and saw the possibility to use the seaweed’s gelatinous properties in the hair gel manufacturing. He built an industry out of harvesting the seaweed and formed a small village out in the middle of nowhere, to house workers throughout the year.
Now in the hands of Soriano’s grandson, Bahia Bustamate has remodeled itself to become an small and utterly unique eco lodge experience and a private wildlife reserve.
What is so special about Bahia Bustamante? Many things, but most of all the amazing amount of marine wildlife seen throughout its private shores.
Walk alongside hundreds of penguins, navigate to get up close and personal with sea lions, elephant seals and dozens of species of birds. Guanacos, choiques (Darwin’s Rhea) and large hares roam the deserts and the petrified forests that lie inland.
Bahia Bustamante offers amazing horse rides throughout the territory. We recommend riding in the peninsula, along secluded beaches and inlets with dramatic high cliffs and sparkling azure Atlantic waters.
Traveling further southwest into the mountains and glaciers we reach the Estancia Nibepo Aike, whose location inside the Los Glaciares National Park is envious and whose history and original inhabitants go back to the early 20th century, when Croatian immigrant Santiago Peso settled into a 20,000 hectare property near the southern branch of Lago Argentino.
Now in the hands of his grandson, the Estancia maintains its family history as well as its sheep and cattle ranching heritage, and has opened its doors to visitors from all over the world.
Horse riding through the immense property of Nibepo Aike is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can never be forgotten.
The journey is simply breathtaking – ride through undulating fields of golden grass bordering the turquoise lake with the dark dramatic Andes on one side and the rolling green hills on the other side.
Descend to the Rio Cachorro for a picnic lunch among the wildflowers, or soak your feet in the crystal clear waters of the stream to refresh yourself before continuing onwards.
From here the journey opens up with possibilities and, if you are willing pick up the pace to a gallop, let your hair down and fly through the tall grasses and sun-swept valley that leads to the romantically rustic Puesto (outpost) Laguna 3 de Abril.
Framed on all sides by mountains frosted in snow and ice, the Puesto appears to be something out of a storybook. It is delightfully cozy and rustic, featuring weathered wood and a corrugated steel roof.
Once inside it is warm thanks to the antique wood-burning stove and the booming fireplace. The accommodations are simple, but the experience is priceless.
Try the traditional Argentinean tea “yerba mate” with the gauchos, go for a walk to spot the wild Potrillos (colts) that roam free in these lands and frequently descend to greet visitors, and enjoy the rest of your afternoon soaking in the impressive scenery as the sun descends behind the mountains.
Dinner will be something delicious and home-cooked from the wood-burning stove or from straight inside the fireplace. If it is a clear night, head outside to see the most dazzling night sky of your life!
On the following day, saddle up early and ride deeper into the horizon, heading towards the hidden glaciers. Descend into an impossibly beautiful valley with huge erratic rock formations carried down by glaciers from millenniums past.
Leave the horses and continue on foot on a trail bordering a river until you reach the dazzling blue-green Lago Frias, which has a picture-perfect view of the three hidden glaciers: Dickson, Frias and Gorra. Breath deeply, you are one of very few people that has ever reached this amazing place!
Many people visit Patagonia, lured by its mystique and plethora of adventure activities and mountain climbing.
However, one of the best ways to experience these vast lands is in fact one of the most traditional: on horseback.
There is no greater feeling than galloping into the Patagonian winds, or cresting a hill for a view that opens up 360 degrees of mountains and glaciers all around you.
We have a feeling that after a few days out in the wild with the gauchos, you’ll be back for more!
- The Hidden Glaciers horseback ride includes one night in the hosteria of the estancia and then two nights in the rustic Puesto Laguna 3 de Abril
- To extend your Patagonia horse-riding experience we recommend crossing into Chile and visit Torres del Paine National Park. If you are willing to splurge on a bit of luxury after going rustic at Nibepo Aike, we recommend the amazing Explora Hotel which boasts of its very own stables (the only ones in the National Park itself!) and horse-breeding program.
- For wine and food enthusiasts, don’t forget to ask your travel consultant to include Chile and Argentina wine tours in your itinerary.