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This Estancia Ranquilco's special trip combines a luxury horse riding holiday with a unique adventure vacation. You will have a relaxing time at the Estancia Ranquilco's lodge combined with a four-day horse pack trip to a gorgeous alpine lake high in the Andes. Traveling on a horseback is the best way to get an inside glimpse of this raw wildland and the gaucho culture who spend summers tending their herds on the high ridges and valleys of the Andes. Join Estancia Ranquilco for a unique horse trekking excursion into Patagonian Cordillera's unparalleled landscape!
You will enjoy four nights' stay at Estancia Ranquilco's lodge and three nights' camping during the horse trekking adventure.
Built by Estancia Ranquilco's dear friend Hugo Manterola in 1978, Casa Grande is a stone-crafted, architectural masterpiece overlooking the Trocoman River. It is home to the lodge's beautiful kitchen, dining room with a cathedral ceiling and handcrafted stone fireplace, and patio overlooking the river valley. You can take in the view and savor the delicious aromas wafting out from the kitchen or up from the asado pit.
The Castle Room is a romantic two-room suite connected by a lovely stone arch. A queen bed offers spectacular views of the river canyon below. You may throw open the french doors to your private stone patio and enjoy a glass of wine while overlooking the river and surrounding mountains. The sitting room has a beautiful handcrafted stone fireplace. There is a private bathroom with a fire-heated shower. The cottage is surrounded by fruit trees and flowers, and is just a short walk down the path to the main lodge.
Dossie's House is infused with the gentle, peaceful energy of Ashley's mother Doss, for whom it was built. It has a double bed, single window bed / seat, and a comfortable sitting room. The spacious private bathroom has a stone crafted fireplace and fire-heated tub and shower. Dossie's House is just a short walk away from the main lodge. You can watch the river flow by from the window seat and listen to the horses clomp around in the pasture across the way.
The apartment is attached to the main lodge with views overlooking Casa Grande's terrace and the river. It is a three-room stone and wood suite with one double bed, two single beds, two stone fireplaces, and a sitting room. The spacious private bathroom has a fire-heated bathtub and shower. This is the perfect room for families as it allows space to spread out.
The Fountain Room is on the second floor of the lodge, up the spiral staircase. It is a quiet room with a queen bed and private bathroom with a fire-heated shower. At night you can hear the soft sounds of the fountain out the window mingling with the sounds of the river in the valley.
Although technically you could take a really tough four-wheel drive vehicle into the ranch, most guests and visitors come in Estancia Ranquilco's favorite way by far - on the back of one of their beautiful horses. Estancia Ranquilco pack your luggage in on horses (or mules) too. Their horses are mostly Argentine Criollos. Over the years, they have had Arabian and Criollo stallions as well as some polo (thoroughbred) bloodlines in the mix.
The horses are strong, sturdy, calm and surefooted, and are very familiar with the rugged mountain trails. They are fun, easy to ride, and dependable as good working partners. The Arabians amongst them are known to be more spirited and agile for those that are looking for a more challenging ride. Estancia Ranquilco offers guests the opportunity to care for their own horse, from catching it in the corral or nearby pasture, to grooming and saddling. Estancia Ranquilco has a horse to match every riding level - from safe and calm for children and first-time riders, to strong and spirited for the more advanced riders.
You and Estancia Ranquilco will meet in the town of Zapala in the Province of Neuquén at 10:00. You will then be driven for four hours into the foothills of the Andes to a place called Buta Mallin. This is a cattle outpost on the estancia and the end of the road for most vehicles. Here, you will have a mid-afternoon lunch with the gauchos - either an asado or traditional guiso (stew) served with fresh bread.
Then you will have your first experience saddling and packing the horses for a two and a half hours' ride into the heart of the estancia where the lodge is located. In the evening, you will settle into your cottage or room and then join Estancia Ranquilco on the terrace of Casa Grande for wine, traditional Argentine food, and good company.
You'll spend the day at Estancia Ranquilco, enjoying a day a ride with a riverside picnic and return for the evening to sip wine on the patio. You may enjoy swimming in the pool or relax in the riverside sauna. Lunch and dinner will be served family style and will feature traditional Argentine dishes.
After packing up, you will head out into the Cordillera. The first day will be an all-day ride up to Laguna Negra, a high mountain valley surrounded by jagged peaks, waterfalls, and hanging meadows. You'll ride about six hours this day - out of the Trocoman River valley, across a high plateau, and down a breathtaking trail into the valley. You will make camp at a gaucho's puesto and enjoy your meal around the fire ring. You will also learn to picket and care for your horse out on the range. You will sleep on your saddle blankets under the stars or cozy up in one of Estancia Ranquilco's tents.
The puesto in the Laguna Negra valley will be the base camp while you are exploring and enjoying the day adventure. You'll ride to the end of the valley and up to a ridge to see a spectacular view of the Cordillera stretching to the north and south of you and the Chilean volcanoes to the west. On the way back to camp, you'll stop in to visit with the local gauchos who spend their summers in the mountains tending their herds.
These are the only other people you'll see on the journey. One of the highlights of a trip out here is to stop at a twig hut and sip maté (tea) with these wonderful people. Riding back along the lake, you may stop to swim the horses. You will spend another stunning evening at the puesto, surrounded by the horses, slow roasting your asado over the fire.
You'll make your way back down to Estancia Ranquilco, following a different trail that will take you along the edge of the Picunleo Valley, experiencing sweeping views up the Trocoman River to the Copahue Volcano. This evening, you'll be reunited with the wonderful hospitality of the lodge with hot showers, cold beers and clean sheets, followed by a garden fresh meal and Argentine wines.
You'll have a full day to rest and relax and enjoy the comforts of Estancia Ranquilco. You can enjoy sauna, swim in the pool or the river, or just relax in a hammock. An optional afternoon ride up the confluence of the Picunleo and Trocoman rivers will be offered. On this last evening, you will invite the gauchos from all around for a traditional asado and a late night gaucho dance.
On the last day, you'll ride back to Buta Mallin and be driven back to Zapala to arrive by 16:00. From there, you can catch a bus back to Buenos Aires or head to Bariloche, San Martin, or even over to Chile.
This horse riding trip will take place in Argentina. You will ride along various trails around the Andes. The trip will start and end at Estancia Ranquilco's lodge and during the adventure, you will be creating a basecamp in Laguna Negra. Estancia Ranquilco lies in Northern Patagonia in the Province of Neuquén, Argentina. The nearest towns are El Cholar and El Huecú and the nearest city is Zapala. The Patagonian Cordillera is as unique a place as any to be encountered. It is incredibly vast with ancient mountains, abundant water, fierce winds, stark shadows, and strong, large-hearted people.
The entire central portions of the Trocoman and Picunleo rivers flow through the middle of the estancia. Fortunately, the rivers are of the exact size that does not permit rafting, which plagues many of the rivers to the south. They sustain large trout populations. Both rivers are filled with Pancora, a crawdad-type bottom-dweller and the main food source for the trout - providing their flesh with a bright red-orange color.
The rivers are wonderful with the trees and brush behaving themselves pretty well on the banks and a ton of personality to the waters. There are numerous beautiful sandy beaches with deep swimming holes within walking distance of the lodge. You can spend a perfect day swimming in the cool waters and relaxing on the banks.
Estancia Ranquilco is lucky to receive gifts directly from the land - fruit from their orchards, vegetables from their gardens, trout from the rivers, and meat from the meadows. Estancia Ranquilco often has fresh milk, homemade cheese, and yogurt from their cows' milk. You will enjoy three full nutritious meals a day. The chefs prepare a wide variety of foods, ranging in style from California cuisine to traditional Argentine dishes.
Delicious milanesas, empanadas, stews, fresh pastas, and garden salads are just a few of the foods one might expect. You might also eat with the gauchos, typically an asado (grilled meat) served with fresh bread or tortas fritas (fried bread). Breakfasts are continental style with homemade granola and bread, butter and jam, fresh milk and yogurt, as well as tea and coffee. Pack lunches are provided if you are venturing out by horse for a riverside picnic. Estancia Ranquilco also provides delicious Argentinean red table wines.
In addition, Estancia Ranquilco will introduce you to maté. This traditional South American tea is prepared by steeping leaves of the maté plant (Ilex paraguariensis) in a hollowed-out gourd. Drinking maté with friends from the shared gourd with a metal straw (a bombilla) is a common social practice in Argentina and one which you will enjoy throughout your stay with Estancia Ranquilco. Meals are served family style on the outdoor terrace with sweeping views of the Trocoman River, casually in the cozy kitchen or with crystal and fine china in the dining room.
Note: Please let Estancia Ranquilco know if you have any dietary restrictions.
Please book your flight to arrive at Zapala Airport (APZ).
Most of Estancia Ranquilco's visitors arrive via Zapala. Very few ever get to the heart of these lands, and when they do, it is usually on horseback, as it lies beyond all roads. There is a track into the place and even an airstrip, but most people come on horseback as befits a graceful arrival into the deep peace which resounds at Ranquilco.