I have to hesitate before thinking of my marvellous week based at the Argentine Estancia Los Potreros as an 'active' holiday, because, although we went riding twice a day, such was the cosseting and so warm the welcome that the effect on both mind and body was as relaxing as any beach or spa.
Our English-speaking Anglo-Argentine hosts, the long-established Begg family, treat visitors like long-lost friends, the home cooking is reassuringly familiar and the accommodation, in adapted farm buildings, is cheerful and cosy. But it is the opportunity to explore on horseback the rolling green hills outside Córdoba, an hour’s flight from Buenos Aires towards the Andean foothills, which draws beginners and experienced riders alike to this working cattle ranch.
The criollo and Peruvian pace horses are treated with love and respect here and it shows - they sure-footedly pick their way down tight valleys alongside pools and waterfalls and their confidence rubs off on their riders. You have a couple of outings most days, morning and afternoon, accompanied by one of the Beggs or trained gauchos. The views across the sparsely populated sierra, where the dry stone walls and treeless contours are somewhat reminiscent of Yorkshire, are horizon-bending, especially from the place called 'Top of the World' at sunset. A real high point, in both senses of the words. You won’t get much of a gallop, owing to the nature of the terrain, but, weather permitting, you may be able to try your hand at polo - everyone is encouraged to have a go, and even beginners feel they have made some impact on the field.
Back at the ranch you can relax over afternoon tea (with yummy cakes) on the verandah, or take a dip in the outdoor pool - summer only, unless you are really intrepid. Before dinner, taken all together around a huge wooden table, (children under 16 have their own early meal) you may be invited to a wine-tasting session, where your bon viveur hosts will regale you with anecdotes and stories from the estancia’s long history. It’s a wrench to leave, and I recommend strongly that you stay for a week - you won’t regret it.
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