Northern Patagonia is one of the last truly wild places on earth. And the best way to experience it is on horseback. Ride across arid plains, through ancient Monkey Puzzle tree forests, across lakes and rivers, and play polo on two masterpiece polo fields on this adventure of a lifetime!
Daily rides will take you to different areas of the 20,000-hectare estancia, which is set within the northern section of Lanín National Park in the most secluded and spectacular area of the Patagonia Lake District. You’ll explore canyons and valleys, climb mountaintops in the search for the best views, and relax lake- or creek-side, tucking in to glorious secluded landscapes for delicious picnic lunches.
Throughout your trip, you’ll have ample opportunity to bear witness to one of the most peculiar looking trees in the world – the ancient Araucaria Araucana, or Monkey Puzzle tree. This magnificent tree has been around for more than two hundred million years. The ones you’ll see on this trip are descendants of those that survived the great volcanic eruption that flattened most of Patagonia 150 million years ago. Truly a prehistoric survivor!
On this lodge-based adventure, you’ll sleep in our estancia set on a hilltop at the heart of the estancia, waking up each morning to spectacular views over the valley. After riding each day, you’ll welcome the opportunity to come home to a hot shower, cozy bed, fabulous Argentine wine, and delicious traditional home made cuisine. With four daily meals, and a traditional Argentine parilla (barbeque) one evening, you're sure not to go hungry!
DAY 1 ~ Arrival – Malalco Valley Warm-up Horse Ride
Arrive on a morning flight from Buenos Aires to San Martin de los Andes/Neuquen/Bariloche airport.
Arrangements can be made for private transfers to the ranch.
The road trip from the airport to the ranch is simply magnificent, following the Alumine River Basin. Throughout the drive, you will see spectacular natural changes – ranging from the arid plateau to the subtropical woods of the northern Andes.
When you arrive, you’ll enjoy a quick lunch at the ranch, followed by a short late afternoon ride to get comfortable with your horse and saddle.
After your ride, finish the day at Valley Lodge where a hot shower and delicious meal await, accompanied by delicious Argentine wines. Tonight you will go over plans for the days ahead. Then enjoy a good night’s sleep in the cozy rooms at the Valley Lodge.
(Please note: You will need to schedule your departure from Buenos Aires on mid morning flight the first day of the trip, so you will likely need to arrive in Buenos Aires the day before. Please let us know if you would like help arranging accommodation in Buenos Aires on arrival.)
D... Valley Lodge
DAY 2 ~ Las Tordillas Barn & Valley Ride
After breakfast, take a short stroll to the corral where your horse will already be tacked and waiting for you.
Today you will ride through the magnificent Quillen Valley, and enjoy an excursion along the valley, crossing the river several times, reaching a beautiful vast open plain – Los Corrales.
Enjoy a homemade lunch cooked over the fire at the barn. Dive into lamb or steak right off the parilla (barbeque) or al disco (a form of barbeque prepared in a round pan). After enjoying a siesta, remount for a thrilling ride up and down steep terrain across the mountainside, and take in the superb views of the valley with its winding river and the Lanín Volcano beyond.
B,L,D... Valley Lodge
DAY 3 ~ Lago Quillen
Follow your guide for a ride through the valley, winding up steep tracks and passing creeks where you can hop off your horse and drink fresh water or stop to take photographs.
Ride through a forest of Nothofagus Antarticus (Antarctic Beech) trees, which are native to southern Argentina and Chile, and are notable for the one growing on Hoste Island south of the Beagle Channel – the southernmost tree on earth. Continue riding down to Lake Quillen where lunch will be prepared for you.
You'll have time to take a refreshing swim to swim before lunch. Then enjoy Argentine steak or fresh trout from the river, washed down with a good glass of wine.
Most of the riding today will be at a trot and walk, with the occasional opportunity to canter.
B,L,D... Valley Lodge
DAY 4 ~ Los Mallines
The trail today leads us deep into the forest, again full of Antarctic Beech trees as well Roble Beech, imported in the mid-19th century from Britain, and Chusquea culeou, native bamboo canes. Throughout you’ll have breathtaking views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Enjoy lunch in the beautiful Mallin Escondido Valley, a hidden valley surrounded by ancient trees – the unique millenary Monkey Puzzle trees, Araucaria Araucana. Option to continue to the Mallin Largo and horseback to the Valley Lodge across the ridge of the mountains.
B,L,D... Valley Lodge
DAY 5 ~ Ruca Choroi Mountain
Today, the trail leads you through spectacular scenery set below the mighty Lanín Volcano and the towering Andes Mountain Range including Mount Ruca Choroi (3,000m / 7,545'). The trail goes through the Malalco Valley and then heads uphill through the mountains. Spectacular views, Monkey Puzzle forests, and beautiful green swamps will delight you along the way.
Weather permitting, you will ride to the base of Ruca Choroi, leave the horses, and hike on scree up to the summit ridge. Near the top, there are two small lagoons that are old volcano craters: the black hole of each crater disappearing in the middle of the beautiful blue water. We will have our picnic lunch here, with the option for the brave to take a swim, or hike to the top of Ruca Choroi and enjoy the superb surrounding vistas: the Andes, nearby volcanoes Lanín, Villarrica, and Mocho-Choshuenco, and spectacular views of Lago Quillen and Lago Ruca Choroi.
Aperitif and final dinner at the lodge!
B,L,D... Valley Lodge
Optional Recovery Day ~ Las Caballadas by Truck & Hike to the Green Lagoon
The day-long experience can be included as a recovery or rest day from horse riding; we will include this day during the trip as needed.
This spectacular adventure day takes us to the heart of the Caballadas Valley. It begins with a drive down one of the private gravel roads at the ranch, built in the late 1930s by the Lagos Mármol family. The valley used to have a wood mill, where trees would be transported by trucks and tractors using these roads.
We’ll leave the trucks at the site of the old wood mill, and start the hike to the Green Lagoon. After 300-meters (984-feet) uphill through forests of Monkey Puzzle trees and Chusquea culeou, you’ll arrive at the lagoon, with a spectacular view of the Lanín Volcano and surrounded by more trees and canes. Weather permitting, you can have a swim in the lagoon. We will carry some sandwiches for lunch, and in the afternoon return to the base where trucks are. Enjoy a coffee, tea, or glass of wine by the fire before heading back to the lodge.
After breakfast, pack your things and say goodbye to the ranch. Upon request, arrangements can be made for guests to be picked up at the ranch and driven to the airport. During the journey back to the airport, you’ll have time to reflect on your amazing trip to Northern Patagonia!
Expect to ride for five-to-six hours each day, covering approximately 40 kilometers (24 miles). You will set out each morning after a nice breakfast, stop for lunch at a nice spot somewhere in the mountains next to a river or creek. After lunch, you resume your ride and finish the day at the lodge. The trip itinerary may vary based on weather conditions, fitness levels and riding abilities of participants, and/or the recommendations of your guide.
The Valley Lodge is located at the heart of the ranch, set on top of a hill providing panoramic views of the entire valley and surrounding area. It can sleep 12 people in 8 double and single bedrooms, with 5 shared bathrooms. A large communal living room with a fireplace, dining room, and a large playroom for the kids with a ping-pong table are also available throughout your stay.
The lodge includes:
Caballadas is home to about 60 beautiful horses that roam free on our 55,000-acre ranch. You will ride well-schooled, local stock horses mixed with anglo-normando, criollos and polo ponies. We have a large selection of horses, which allows us to cater to all riding abilities and confidence levels. They are neck-reined, sure-footed and usually well behaved, making our riding trips safe and enjoyable.
The horses of Patagonia are different. They are a rare breed. What makes them unique is their strength, endurance, and, most importantly, their ability overcome obstacles. A “regular” horse would struggle when confronted with the challenges of the Patagonian terrain. They would hesitate and perhaps become flightly and dangerous for both itself and its rider. But the horses in Patagonia, our horses, stay calm. They look at any obstacle, and, whether it be dense brush on a steep climb or deep water during a river crossing, they move through it slowly and surely, delivering the rider safe and sound.
Caballadas has a large selection of saddles and tack. Our saddles include Chilean saddles (designed with comfort in mind for long days in the saddle), “pato” saddles (similar to a U.S. Western-style saddle with a horn), old army saddles, and polo saddles. To ensure you have a more comfortable experience, they all have sheepskins on top, secured with a rawhide over-girth.
Our bridles, halters, and over-girths are handcrafted from rawhide leather. At Caballadas, we care very much for our horses, which is why all our girths and pads are made from braided sheep wool, handcrafted by local Mapuche Indian women.
We ask our guests to provide us with details of their riding experience before each visit. This way we can begin thinking about which horse would be best suited to you.
The riding pace in Patagonia varies as much as the terrain. Some routes are rugged, steep, and narrow, with thick vegetation that requires a slow pace. Other areas are open pampas with plenty of opportunities for long, fast canters for those who are interested, or leisurely and relaxed for those who prefer to take things easy.
We can tailor trips from intermediate to advanced riding levels. The more comfortable you are in the saddle, the more terrain we will be able to cover, and the more you will see and experience of this incredible landscape!
We recommend you have some riding experience, and are secure in the saddle at a walk, trot and fast canter. This is because Patagonia includes widely varied and sometimes steep terrain, as well as river crossings, so you need experience of riding across varied terrain.
This is not somewhere you come to learn to ride, and you will get a lot more out of it if you are “riding fit.” Therefore, if you do not currently ride regularly, we recommend you get in some “saddle time” before your trip in order to accustom yourself to the long hours you will spend in the saddle at Caballadas.
The Northern Patagonian landscape offers a wide range of riding opportunities, from wide open pampas to steep Andean mountains, with forests, rivers and valleys between. From our estancia, we will take you deep into the mountains - be aware that the steep hillsides may challenge those who are not comfortable with heights but the views are breath-taking and well worth the climb! Our horses are adept at covering this terrain, but they will respond to you so you do need to be confident. At times, you may be asked to get off your horse to lead it up or down steep hills, so you should be comfortable walking on uneven and steep ground.
Length: 6d / 5n
Start / Finish: Caballadas Northern Patagonia, Argentina
Dates: This trip is available as a custom, private departure on dates of your choosing, from November to mid-December and March to mid-April.
Activity Level: For experienced riders in good and active physical health. You will enjoy your riding much more if you are “riding fit.” The more comfortable and relaxed you are in the saddle, the more terrain we will be able to cover, and the more you will be able to see and experience of this incredible landscape!
We can tailor trips to any riding level, from intermediate, to advanced. You shoud have riding experience, and be secure in the saddle at a walk, trot, and fast canter.
Cost: on request