Love The Gaucho Life – Visiting An Estancia With Kids

The gaucho has become a near-mythical figure. The spirit of these nomadic horsemen and cowhands of the Argentine grasslands has entered into South American folk hero mythology akin to the iconic cowboy in North America. While their traditional way of life has largely faded, visiting an estancia with kids offers a glimpse into the rich culture of these extraordinary people.

Many estancias (the Spanish word for ranch) offer day trips from the larger towns and cities like Buenos Aires or Puerto Iguazu. However, to really immerse yourself in this grounding and unique way of life, we recommend you find somewhere to stay for a few days. This way, you can experience the gauchos’ incredible food and warm character firsthand.

Eva helps bring in the herd.

From hearty traditional meals to the captivating stories shared around the fire, an extended stay allows you to become a part of their daily rhythms. The connection formed during longer visits goes beyond mere observation; it transforms from a family trip into a shared experience.

We are lucky enough to have horses at home, and we were missing our horsey fix on our travels. With Eva’s birthday fast approaching, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity for some outdoor adventures on horseback and give our youngest daughter a birthday she will never forget. There is nothing like quite the buzz as you ‘galope’ across the open farmlands!

Quite the birthday!

Choosing An Estancia For Kids

Finding an estancia that takes children under ten horseback riding is difficult. Plenty of the day trips seemed to accept children from six years old, but it took us a while to find a place to stay that would allow us to bring the girls, then aged eight and nine, for a few nights.

Our extensive searching led us to find a farm that would become one of the highlights of our six-month trip to South America, The Don Joaquin Estancia in Corrientes.

The Don Joaquin Estancia is a working livestock ranch that gave us the most incredible gaucho experience. Not to be confused with the Estancia Turistica Don Joaquin in Uruguay (as we nearly did when booking!), we had the most incredible visit with a warm welcome from Angie, her daughter Josafina and their team. We very quickly felt right at home.

For more information on Estancia Don Joaquin and their pricing and availability, take a look at their website here.

If you are anything like us you will be taking lots of photos and videos of your little ones while you are away; we explore the best ways to keep them safe here:

Safeguarding Precious Memories – Securely Backing Up Photos and Videos While Travelling with Kids.

Georgia tackles the water obstacle.

Getting to and From Estancia Don Joaquin

Estancia Don Joaquin is located 11 km from Esquina, in the Corrientes province of Argentina. After visiting the Argentine and Brazilian sides of Iguazu Falls, we travelled south via Ituzaingo and found several bus companies made the journey.

The girls guard the bags it Ituzengo.

Most guests travel north and make the 8.5-hour bus journey up from Buenos Aires. Both options drop you at the Terminal du Omnibus in Esquina. Most buses seem to arrive between late afternoon to early morning, but do not be concerned about this as the dedicated team from Estancia Don Joaquin will pick you up and drive you the 20 minutes up to the Estancia.

We arrived late in the afternoon.  Upon arrival, we were shown to our spacious rooms to settle in before being offered refreshments in the dining area.

What Do You Need To Bring To An Estancia With Kids?

There are several things to bring with you to make the most of the experience. The gaucho saddles are far more comfortable than the ones we use in the UK; after all, they are in them for hours every day; however, you still need to bring some rugged, full-length trousers. These protect your legs from pinching against the saddle, keep the sun off, and help protect against insects that might like a nibble!

You will also need sun cream and insect repellant. Mosquitos and horseflies are ever-present and can even bite through thin layers of clothing, so be sure to put plenty on.

The last thing to consider is your own riding hat. At Don Joaquin, they provided everything we needed and even had sizes small enough to fit Georgia and Eva but if you ride at home and have the luggage space we would suggest bringing your own with you.

Accommodation at Estancia Don Joaquin

The Estancia has 11 bedrooms, all of which are spacious and charming. They ooze character and are filled with rustic furniture. Some great photography of the gauchos in action really helps cement the estancia experience in

All bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms and are air-conditioned, and the rooms are refreshed daily.

Kirsty and the girls warm their hands on the open fire.

Activities With Kids at Estancia Don Joaquin

There is no shortage of outdoor activities to keep the entire family entertained.

Obviously, horseback riding is the main reason that people come to an estancia. Whether you are an experienced rider or this is your first dalliance on horseback, the gauchos will be on hand to help guide and reassure you.

As a horsey family, the experience of riding over the plains, taking in the stunning views, or getting our feet wet fording the lagoons did not disappoint. The horses are responsive and obedient (once you find the right buttons), and with the experienced and knowledgeable gauchos by your side, they will soon have you cantering over the wetlands like a pro.

Kirsty and the girls for the lagoon.

Riding “gaucho style” is very different to horse riding in the UK. Their approach is more practical and utilitarian. They are not worried about the horse’s confirmation or how it engages with the bridal; they just need the horse to help them get the job done.  This was a breath of fresh air after the ever-critical and pressured riding style back home.  It reseeded an enjoyment of horses that had slightly lost its way for us.

For us, it was the first time we could ride as a family without having to constantly worry about the girl’s safety. The horses are pretty chilled, and the gaucho’s eagle eyes are constantly watching out for them. Even when an ostrich leapt up in a fury, flapping at us as we rode too close to her nest of eggs, we didn’t need to worry. The gauchos were by their side within seconds, settling the horses and were ready to intervene if necessary.

She made it very clear she was not happy with us!

There are varying lengths of horse rides taking you all over the ranch. You will be able to see the horses and cattle living in harmony with the local wildlife. We saw newborn calves, turtles, stalks, flamingos, rufous hornero (Argentina’s national bird), burrowing owls, numerous other colourful birds, and, as mentioned above, a very startled ostrich!  One minute, you are striding through a deep lagoon; the next, you are cantering over the open fields.

Helping bring the cattle in at sunset was another treat. It really makes you feel like an important part of the estancia and caps the authentic gaucho experience.  In reality, I’m sure they could have managed without us, but many hands and all that!

Our wonderful host, Josafina with “the puppy” and Georgia.

Riding is offered twice daily and is included in the cost of your stay. However, should you choose to miss it, there are plenty of other things to occupy yourself.

You are free to wander around the ranch and observe the gauchos going about their business on the estancia, caring for the cattle and breaking the young horses. The girls were even given a taster into the art of lassoing – Eva managed to catch an especially unruly log on her second try!

Keep them dogies rollin’ … rawhide

There is a pool where the girls splashed many hours away, with the horses grazing quietly nearby. You are also offered a cookery lesson where you can learn the art of making the classic empanada. These were honestly the best we tasted in Argentina!

Eva swimming where the horses drink….

We also opted for a quick boat ride up the Corrientes River in a speedboat one afternoon. This really blew the cobwebs away and had the girls giggling with delight. There are opportunities for spa treatments, fishing trips and 4×4 nature trips upon request. 

A great afternoon!

While the emphasis is clearly on the riding, there is plenty to do and see in this beautiful slice of Corrientes to while away a number of days.

Dining at Don Joaquin With Kids

The dining experience at the estancia is a welcoming, communal affair. You eat together in one of the 3 dining areas with the ever-welcoming hosts and your fellow guests. It’s great to catch up with everyone and share your stories from the day.

The food itself was unbelievable! Each meal was traditional gaucho fayre, home-cooked using fresh ingredients. Often, the food was prepared using an open fire where we dined.

Ready to feast after a day in the saddle.

The breakfast was a banquet of delicious fresh bread, croissants and pastries served with coffee, tea and fresh juice. However, for us, the absolute king of the breakfast table was the traditional gaucho bread. Unless you are as physically active as a gaucho, this should not be eaten as part of a regular diet (as our host Josafina put it – “Christmas Only!”), but wow – as a treat, served with scrambled eggs – winner-winner!

Basically, it’s fried fat, and it is absolutely delicious!

The epic 3-course lunches and dinners were a gastronomical delight, perfect after spending a couple of hours in the saddle. Never will you eat such fresh, well-seasoned steak cooked to your exact taste.

Adrian’s “happy place”

If you have any dietary requirements or special requests, the team of cooks go out of their way to deliver. This was great for the girls, who, although they got stuck into their steaks, it isn’t their favourite and having other options available made meal times even more pleasant. We also devoured fresh-filled pasta, pizza, tarts and other Argentinian delights.

Then there were the desserts; they always hit the spot! They even made Eva the Argentinian delicacy chocotorta as a special birthday treat. All this was served, of course, with bottomless amounts of red wine or whatever your favourite tipple is. It honestly felt like nothing was too much trouble.

What a birthday cake!

Visiting An Estancia With Kids – An Incredible Experience We Will Always Remember.

The gauchos are always on hand.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a family vacation to immerse yourself in a slice of Argentine tradition, then visiting an estancia is a must and is one that we are delighted to tick off our bucket list. There is so much for active families to do.

Not only did we learn a new style of riding, we met some amazing people from all over the world. Waking up every morning to the sight of the gauchos bringing the horses down for the day will be something that we will never forget.

For a genuine family experience in Latin America that will make memories to last a lifetime, we can heartily recommend an estancia experience. After this, we will definitely be looking out for more opportunities to explore on horseback during our time in Argentina. Seeing both the girl’s confidence grow right in front of us was amazing. We can’t thank Josafina and her brilliant team of gauchos and other staff for making this happen.

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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