There’s not much that beats the thrill of discovering Torres del Paine’s rugged landscapes on horseback – a method of travel that’s been used in the region for hundreds of years and is still favoured today.
In September of last year, I had the pleasure of staying at one of Chile’s biggest ranches, the Estancia Cerro Guido and one of Swoop’s customers, Barbara, recently visited another Chilean ranch for a similar getaway. Here, we both give a little insight of our experiences of life as a Patagonian gaucho (cowboy).
Luke: “For anyone who enjoys horse riding, the Estancia Cerro Guido is one of the top spots in the region and offers a true slice of Patagonian history. You can experience life on a real working estancia (ranch), and head out with the gauchos to explore the surrounding pampas (grasslands). You can also ascend the peak of Cerro Guido from which the the estancia takes its name.
The ranch is the hub of a vast estate that reaches out some 100,000 hectares (that’s more or the less the size of a small county in the UK). It’s still a working estancia employing and housing a number of gauchos and their families. So, alongside the 100 year old house of its founders, you’ll also find more modern accommodation, a church and a school for this local community.
If you book well in advance you can sleep in the old house, which is more museum than hotel, and will give you a wonderful sense of the lives of the people who originally owned and cultivated this land. There are some other rooms with ensuite bathrooms that are perfectly comfortable.
You’ll eat well in the dining room here (most of the food is grown / reared on the estate) but it’s the views out to the Paine Massif that I’ll always remember. This is a very special spot from which to see the sun set behind the famous towers of Torres del Paine.
So, there are a number of reasons I’d recommend this particular ranch:
- It offers the chance to see how a large-scale ranch really works in Patagonia today and so is a “must-visit” estancia for anyone horse riding in the Torres del Paine region.
- It’s a great place for a couple or a smaller group of friends to spend a final night in Torres del Paine, after hiking in the main part of the national park.
- Finally, it’s an authentic and convivial place in which to enjoy a private celebration; so ideal for a larger group ( 8-16 people) who want a night or two in their own place.”
Around 100km south of Estancia Cerro Guido, on the Peninsula Antonio Varas you will find another classic Patagonian ranch, Estancia Mercedes. Swoop customer Barbara visited with her daughter in January of this year.
Before their horse-riding adventure, they stayed at the Singular Hotel, a unique luxury hotel situated in a restored and renovated cold storage plant in Puerto Bories. The Estancia Mercedes then offered quite a contrast to the first part of their trip.
Barbara: “My experience on the estancia was like living in a National Geographic magazine! After three nights at the Singular Hotel, my daughter and I went to Estancia Mercedes. While everything is fancier at the Singular, Estancia Mercedes is authentic. If you want to step off the tourist route and live with a Chilean ranch family, look no further.
We were welcomed by the entire Inglesia family who have a long and rich history in Puerto Natales that they are happy to share.
We came for horseback riding which exceeded our expectations but in the end this stay was about becoming part of the Inglesia family for a few days.
I’ll admit that at night I missed how I could watch the sunset from my bed at the Singular but sunsets fade away unlike Estancia Mercedes which will be forever in our hearts. GO!”
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