Popupla contributor Anna Petrow had been dying to visit La Bamba de Areco ever since she lived in Buenos Aires, and she finally booked a trip. If her photos are any indication, it was time and money well spent.
SAN ANTIONIO DE ARECO, Argentina – I'd been anticipating the visit to La Bamba de Areco for a long time: When I lived in Buenos Aires in college, it was described to me over and over again as the best estancia in the country. I finally returned to the city I love — this time with a bigger budget, my two best friends, and a thirst for el campo Argentino.
The arrival process was a bit comical, and very Argentine. We were picked up at our Airbnb in Buenos Aires, then rode for an hour through the countryside before we turned onto a dirt road where we rendezvoused with a gaucho in a truck, hung on for a bumpy ride, and then pulled into the astounding tree-lined entrance to the estate. The staff waited patiently for us outside the main house with cheek-kisses and empanadas fresh off the plancha. Bright green parakeets flew overheard, horses roamed in the distance, and the pool glittered in the sun. We had arrived in paradise.
Vine-covered archways, flickering light, bright red stucco walls with crisp white accents — every last detail contributes to the magic of La Bamba de Areco. The tower of the main house once served as a lookout for cattle raiders. Now it's a library filled with books and photographs from all over the world — it was a lovely spot to pass some time in the shade.
We spent time in the lobby of the main house for evening drinks, music, and stories by candlelight. In between, we had fabulous three-course meals paired with rich malbecs and crisp torrontes in the adjoining dining room. La Pulpería, an 18th-century shelter for horses and carriages, serves as a little retreat for reading and relaxing by the fireplace and admiring the famed photographer Aldo Sessa's intimate gaucho portraits.
The spacious rooms pay homage to campo lifestyle with colorful gaucho blankets, coffee table books starring the Argentine countryside, and windows that can be thrown open to let the breeze in. In the heat of the afternoon, after cooling off from our horseback rides with a dip in the pool, we had peach lemonade and dulce de leche pastries in a grove of trees in the yard.
At the heart of the estancia experience is the table. Meals were served family-style to bring both guests and staff together. We dined with a couple from Seattle and a duo from Sweden during our stay. The indulgent tradition of parilla is an insane Argentine culinary custom that involves course after course of succulent grilled meats, vegetables, and even cheese, all topped with classic chimichurri sauce.
It was hard not to pass all our time relaxing and riding horses at the estancia, but our venture into San Antonio de Areco, one of the oldest towns in Argentina, was worth the trip.
Orange tree-lined cobblestone streets weave through the town full of artisan workshops (the region is widely known for crafted silver). One highlight: beautiful gaucho blankets displayed in an antique dresser in one of them. An hour or two is enough to get a taste of the sleepy colonial town — the staff at the estancia easily arranged our transport.