This trip starts with some city slicking at the world-famous Argentine Open Polo Championship in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires, before heading south to take to the saddle yourself exploring our private estancia on horseback. Call yourself horse-mad? Well, this is your adventure of a lifetime!
Boasting the highest number of ten-goal players in the sport, Argentina has long been regarded as the mecca of polo. "The Open" is the world's fifth-oldest polo competition (it celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2013) and one of the most important international tournaments on the planet. Think Wimbledon for horses! Glamorous crowds flock to the event to watch the world’s top polo horses and players fight for glory before celebrating at glittering parties in the capital’s most exclusive bars and clubs.
After seeing the best of the best in Buenos Aires, you travel south to Northern Patagonia – one of the last places on earth that can truly be called wild. From arid plains to monkey tree forests, natural lakes and wild rivers, this is nature at its finest, and there's no better way to explore than on horseback.
Here at Caballadas, you will spend long days in the saddle exploring the estancia. At 40 hectares, you’ll ride different trails with different landscapes and vistas each day! The diversity of landscape is nothing short of awe-inspiring – you will explore canyons and valleys, climb mountaintops and relax lake- or creek-side enjoying delicious picnic lunches.
Located within the northern section of Lanín National Park, this is the most secluded area of the Patagonia Lake District and is home to one of the most peculiar looking trees in the world – the ancient Araucaria Araucana, or Monkey Puzzle tree. A prehistoric species which dates back two hundred million years, the Monkey Puzzles you see on this trip are descendants of those that survived the great volcanic eruption that flattened most of Patagonia 150 million years ago.
This is a lodge-based adventure, so each night you return to the estancia for hot showers, delicious cuisine, fabulous Argentine wine, and your cozy bed. Each day your personal chef will prepare four meals (yes, four!), and a foodie highlight is enjoying our traditional Argentine parilla (barbeque) one evening.
Note: The Palermo Open Polo Championship in Buenos Aires takes place from mid-November through mid-December. For non-polo-season trips, please see our Patagonia Lodge-Based Horse Riding itinerary.
Day 1 ~ Buenos Aires – Abierto de Polo
Arrive at the Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). A taxi will be waiting for you at the airport and take you to your hotel in Buenos Aires. Most flights will arrive in the morning, so you’ll have time for lunch and to freshen up, before going to watch an afternoon match at the Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Championship).
The Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo is the most important international polo championship at club level, and has taken place every year since 1893 (over 120 years!) at the Campo Argentino de Polo in Palermo, Buenos Aires.
Popularly known as the “Cathedral of Polo,” the Campo Argentino del Polo is a multi-purpose stadium in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. The stadium, opened in 1918, holds up to 30,000 people. Though inaugurated in 1918, the field is also the most complete, modern, and comfortable for spectators. The Campo Argentino is currently used mostly for polo, but also for pato and field hockey matches, including hosting matches for the 1978 World Hockey Cup. Pato, also called juego del pato, has been the national sport of Argentina since 1953. Like polo, it is a game played on horseback, and combines elements from polo and basketball. More recently, the stadium has also been used for concerts and other public events.
Free evening to enjoy dinner on your own (not included) and/or a Tango Show (available on request). We would be happy to assist you with reservations.
... Hotel in Buenos Aires
Day 2 ~ Abierto de Polo
Morning on your own to explore the city. Option to enjoy a guided tour of the city (additional cost).
In the afternoon, head out again to watch championship polo! The fifth-oldest polo competition in the world, the Argentine Open is one of the most important international championships at club level. Glamorous crowds flock to the event to watch the world’s top polo players fight for victory, before celebrating at glittering parties in the capital’s most exclusive bars and clubs.
Free evening to enjoy dinner on your own and more tango!
B?... Hotel in Buenos Aires
Day 3 ~ Flight and Transfer to the Ranch
In the morning, transfer to the Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP – the local airport in Buenos Aires), fly to San Martin de los Andes Chapelco Airport (CPC). While we feel San Martin (CPC) is the best airport option. there are two additional airports nearby: Neuquen Presidente Perón International Airport (NQN) and San Carlos de Bariloche Airport (BRC). Upon request, arrangements can be made for a private transfer to the ranch (approximately 2-3 hours).
The road trip from the airport to the ranch is simply magnificent, following the Alumine River Basin. Throughout the drive, you will be able to appreciate the 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. You will meet Santiago, your guide, who is an expert horseman and passionate about riding, in addition to playing polo, and breeding horses. He will explain the local traditions, and offer a welcome hand each day when you are preparing to ride. Additionally, you will be accompanied and assisted by a couple of gauchos on each riding day.
Today’s Warm-up Ride: This 2-3-hour ride begins by fording a nearby river, then continues at a walk and trot up to a nearby peak and to the valley of Malalco. Follow your guide and the gauchos over fallen logs and boulders, as you watch vultures soar high above, hear Jote birds sing, and glimpse the glistening Lanín volcano in the distance.
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.
In the upcoming days you will be riding through the estancia. The ranch is a working cattle breeding operation, and the livestock are attended to by gauchos on horseback. During your stay, if you are interested, you may be able to join them while they work. The excursions that follow each day will be adapted based on weather conditions, and the riding and fitness levels of participants.
B,L,T,D... Valley Lodge
Days 4, 5, & 6 ~ Riding at the Ranch
You will set out each morning after a nice breakfast, and be given a picnic to carry in your saddle bag, and stop for lunch at a pretty spot in the mountains next to a river or creek. After lunch, you will resume your ride and finish the day at the Valley Lodge where a hot shower and delicious meal await!
Every day you will take a different route – through the forest behind the lodge or down the long valley below. We will adapt the speed and distance of each ride to suit the weather and your riding abilities. The range of landscape you cover, the quality of horses you ride, and the passion of the gauchos and guides sets the riding at Caballadas apart from anything else you will find in Argentina. This is not a horse trail where you plod along in line, but a chance to explore untouched Patagonia freely on a beautiful criollo horse. (For details on possible rides, see our Patagonia Lodge-Based Horse Ridingtrip itinerary.)
B,L,T,D... Valley Lodge
Day 7 ~ Departure
After breakfast, pack your things and say goodbye to the ranch. 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 18 people in 8 spacious 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:
Our campsites are set in spectacular locations across our 55-acre estancia and are only accessible on foot or horseback, and only to our guests. On camping nights, your campsite will be up and running when you arrive. Your personal chef will have a nice bonfire going, along with some traditional Patagonian food and a glass of wine waiting for you. After a hearty meal, you’ll sleep under the stars (we provide the tent and the mat, you provide your own sleeping bag). Nights can be cool, so warm clothes and a hat are advisable (we’ll send you a clothing and equipment list when you reserve your trip).
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: 7d / 6n
Start / Finish: Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) / Caballadas Northern Patagonia, Argentina
This trip is available as a custom, private departure on dates of your choosing, during the Argentine Open Polo Championship mid-November to early December.
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!
Cost: on request
Option to add extra nights at the lodge or camping.