Sophisticated Simplicity Hidden in the Lake District

On my recce trip of the Patagonian Lake District in the spring of 2016, I discovered a few hidden gems nestled in the heart of the Patagonian Lake District. This one, a four drive north of Bariloche, was perched on a hillside, in a clearing of trees. The experience of visiting the beautiful wooden house of Caballadas left me speechless; I was utterly mesmerised by its beauty and tranquility.

Due to a delayed flight from Buenos Aires I ended up arriving in the dark. It was a long and bumpy journey but as I approached the entrance, the lights of the house beckoned me home. The actual driveway is hard to find as there are no signs, no obvious indication of what lies beyond – this is intentional.

Up and up I drove, until I finally reached the main house where I was greeted by Isabel, who was relieved that I had finally arrived. As I stepped inside it immediately felt like home – it was warm, with a roaring fire and the tantalising smell of home cooked food.

After a much needed dinner of beetroot soup followed by roast chicken and a glass or two of wine by the fire, I settled into bed and fell asleep to the sound of silence.

I awoke with the first light of day to be greeted with the view – the sky was electric pink, the valley floor was covered by a thick layer of mist and a bowl of mountains arose through it. All I could hear was the sound of parakeets flocking from tree to tree, cattle lowing in a nearby field; pure peace.

The Caballadas estate of 20,000 hectares sits in the northern part of the Lanin National Park. It has been in the same family since 1904 which pre-dates the formation of the park. It houses rivers, lakes and a huge variety of virgin forests. The most special perhaps are the forests of monkey puzzle trees (the Araucaria).

The estate is best explored on horseback, so a gorgeous chestnut horse called Manzanito (Little Apple) was saddled up for me Isabel took me off to explore. What really struck me during my 3 hours in the saddle was how dramatically the scenery changed from open plains, to thick riverside vegetation, to monkey puzzle trees perched high on ridges and then, into sight came the magnificent Lanin Volcano – towering over its neighbours at 3,728m.

The estancia is an exclusive yet traditional base for those wanting to horse ride through stunning scenery, across interesting, challenging terrain; if you’re slightly more adventurous they can also organise a few nights of overnight camping so you can explore even further into the mountains.

The estancia has more than 40 horses and actively encourages guests to come a day early so they can choose their horse themselves or at least have the opportunity to saddle up their own horse. The tack room of the stables was extremely impressive – utterly fascinating and more like a museum. Your horse trip will be guided by Isabel’s charming husband, Santiago – a professional polo player with faultless English. He will also be accompanied by a handful of local gauchos. (cowboys).

The estancia also makes a wonderful base for fly-fishing – there are numerous rivers in the vicinity with world-class fishing and your own private guide will be set up for you.

By mid-morning the mist had lifted and by the time I returned to the main house for lunch the view was there for me in all its glory – wow! The whole front of the house, dining area and lounge have enormous windows that look out across the sweeping valley below. After lunch we visited the nearby Quillen Lake to get even closer views of the Lanin Volcano – perfectly positioned as a backdrop to the lake.

On the return journey I didn’t notice the bumps in the road, as the scenery of the winding Alumine river, the jagged mountains and the open plains certainly were worth it.

Caballadas manages to house its guests with a sophisticated simplicity which is hard to find anywhere else. The food is wholesome, tasty and homemade, the view is intoxicating and the hospitality is genuine. If you are looking for an exclusive, private experience that is still truly Patagonian, then this home will not disappoint.

If you’d like to visit Patagonia and fall in love with Caballadas just like Sally did, get in touch.

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About Sally Dodge

Sally is a true lover of all things Latin American with the Patagonian lakes and mountains as top of her list. Having worked as an English teacher and Tour leader in Chile and Argentina throughout the last 8 years, Sally has a wide and diverse knowledge of Patagonia. She has hiked and cycled throughout Patagonia for work and pleasure, and also loves nothing more than to end every trip to Patagonia with a juicy steak in the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.