The most recent long weekend may be a distant memory, but why let bank holidays define when you can take a break? It may not be summer yet, but the weather is certainly picking up and we are beginning to have a spring in our step here at The Bubble.
Buenos Aires city life can be dream-worthy, undoubtedly. There are haute cuisine restaurants, hipster bars, and workshops that you can’t find anywhere else. Who knew that a barbershop-cum-cocktail bar was an essential part of our routine? Well, we didn’t either, but a “man date” to style your mustache without sipping on a fruity beverage seems entirely redundant now (yes, Salón Berlín truly is hipster heaven).
However, like any capital city, the pace of life is hard and fast and you can easily get swallowed up in the black hole of chaos. Speaking as a country bumpkin myself, allowing yourself to fully relax and absorb the nature and *clean* (!) countryside air is kind of obligatory and entirely necessary. Escaping to the country doesn’t always have to be expensive, either.
We have come up with six countryside getaways to clear your head without costing an arm and a leg.
Tigre Island Getaway
Tigre is probably the first place any porteño would recommend for the day out. It’s a classic countryside escapade as it’s only a 45-minute train journey out from Retiro, and there are endless relaxing activities and cafes to slope off to in the effort of revitalizing your city-brain.
However, although it is very close to the capital, the best way to fully enjoy the town is to stay overnight. This way you don’t have to race against time rushing to the station, praying you will not miss the last train back (it can feel like the Hunger Games while “accidentally” tripping people up to get a seat).
Also, the average Joe may not know that there are many islands where you can stay in Airbnb’s and charming posadas to get away from the touristic hub. Take a boat bus from the Estación Fluvial and pop over to one of the luscious islands for a little peace and quiet.
Where to stay?
La Casona del Rio is a delightful B&B run by a Dutch and Argentine couple Caro and Stef. It won’t break the bank, as a standard double room is AR $350 and that comes with (as the second ‘B’ suggests) a delicious American-style breakfast with artisanal jams, bread, cereals, and fruits.
Picture this: you’re lying horizontally in a striped hammock, listening to the delta lapping up against the edge of the bank, reading a book, and watching the flora and fauna around you. It really is the rustic dream, and for all you dog lovers out there (e.g. anyone not insane) you will love chilling out with their friendly pup Zuma too. The boat to La Casona del Río is named El Jilguero, and leaves from platform 2.
What to do?
The Delta Terra Natural Reserve certainly beats Puerto Madero’s ecological reserve. You can hike, bird watch, kayak, or simply walk through the forest alongside the wild river delta. Tigre gives the average Argentine an opportunity to get up close and personal with water, and this reserve is no exception; it is only accessible by boat, which adds a little Amazonian feel to your stay.
We recommend that you organize a guide so that you can spot the flora and fauna, instead of pointing and stating: “Oh look, a beaver-like ferret thing.” However, take note that the reserve closes in winter, and so this year it won’t re-open until October 5th.
If you decide to visit before October, then how about a spot of yoga?
Atma Yoga has wonderful views of the river, surrounded by trees, and is a truly wonderful place to forget about your city worries. You can practice Hatha yoga on a Monday, and Ashtanga or Vinyasa on Friday.
What to eat?
If you’re staying at La Casona del Río then you will be lucky enough to eat a meal shared with the other guests on Stef and Caro’s kitchen table; it’s a great way to access some veggies and to meet some like-minded chilled travelers.
If you have decided against this suggestion (HOW dare you?) then you should pop on a boat over to mainland and sample one of the fantastic restaurants in Tigre. María de Luján is a little on the spendy side, but it is situated on the beautiful riverside avenue Paseo Victoria and you can sample some fresh seafood and Italian pasta dishes. To get you really drooling, the paella with saffron rice with sole, prawns, mussels, and squid rings sounds like fishy paradise.
Te invitamos a deleitarce en una experiencia única e inolvidable de sabores, sentidos y colores. . Reservas : ?Dirección: Paseo Victorica 511 Tigre ?Contacto:(011) 4 731 9613 ?http://www.ilnovomariadellujan.com . . . . #IlnovoMariaDelLujan #resto #Restuarant #Menu #Platos #Pastas #Tigre #Paseovictoria #Rio
Carlos Keen may well be the cutest little village in the entirety of South America (this is a strong claim, but I stand by it). It’s an adorable pueblito that used to be centered around the old train line. There was a plan in 1940 to nationalize trains in Argentina, and then to re-privatize the industry again in 1993, which meant that little towns like Carlos Keen were relegated to a zombie-like existence.
The almost abandoned population has reinvented itself as a weekend retreat destination, and good old-fashioned restaurant and café joints have cropped up left-right and center. It takes around two hours on the 57 bus from Plaza Italia to Luján, where you then need to get a taxi to the village, which only takes 10-15 minutes.
Where to stay?
Our top pick is a gorgeous Airbnb cabin called Cas4, which is a self-sustainable property that uses solar panels to run electricity. It is absolutely stunning and has one double room, another twin room, and a sofa bed, so it is perfect for the average family. Find the cabin available here. It’s situated in a tranquil, rural area, which does mean that having a car might be preferable.
What to do?
Pottering about this town is a great way to soak up the countryside vibes, so you must visit the train station which is kind of the epicenter of Carlos Keen.
After that, you could visit Los Girasoles, which is an organic farm which also is a restaurant and a refuge for local boys. It is a self-sustainable farm where the young boys help plant vegetable plots and caring for the farmyard. You could eat here too, but it is a little on the expensive side for the traditional stew-like food.
However, you can think of the steep prices as donations to what the family does for the community. It’s a perfect afternoon activity to wander around the farm nodding hola at the brood of hens and the goat kids (FYI, they are so fluffy you might just die).
Where to eat?
The food in this town is wonderfully traditional, so if you’re looking for a Japanese-Mexican fusion sushi dish you have come to the wrong place. El Secreto de Keen is an adorable rustic parilla joint. This restaurant looks like the inside of an old hunting hut mixed with a Swiss chalet; everything is very wooden and has a cozy onda.
The menu is made up of plates of pasta with homemade sauces, and proper asado grub: chori, achuras (the “other” bits of meat, like sweetbread, kidneys, etc.), steak and pork chops served with fries. If you’re a vegetarian (and can I just say a huge congrats for surviving in Argentina) then I would give this one a miss, or at least know that your options may be a little limited.
La Casona de Carlos Keen dates back to 1881 and has a hectare of land filled with trees and plants. Again, homemade traditional Argentine food is what will be on the menu. Pasta makes a classic staple, and you may find yourself munching on pumpkin ravioli sprinkled with honey. Otherwise, there’s platos camperos such as lentil and lamb stews (playfully nick-named estofado de la abuela, “Grandma’s stew”).
Suipacha isn’t just a serene, picturesque town 126 km north of BA, where you can stay and be surrounded by green fields of crop while nibbling on a blueberry. It is now overtaken perhaps our most favorite thing in the entire planet: cheese.
The recent initiative of La Ruta del Queso has opened doors for Suipacha, as tourists can learn about the processes of making artisanal cheese, while sipping a rich Malbec.
What to do?
Just eat cheese, please.
La Ruta del Queso is a weekend mini-tour, and they offer both guided and independent visits. You can either book a half-day, full-day, one-night lodging, or a whole weekend trip. They’re partnered up with five different cheese companies, and our favorite is Fermier queso francés which adds a local twist; they even won the prestigious gold medal of the Concurso de Quesos in 2010 (the cheese version of the Olympics).
Its French cheeses include brie, camembert, rebleusson and tomme, and they all taste as creamy and intense as the fresh cheese made in the Alps themselves. Find their email here, as you should book in a guiding tour ahead of time.
If you either aren’t as obsessed with cheese as much as we are, or are punished with lactose intolerance, you can still get involved with the fresh food tours Suipacha has to offer with the wonderful blueberry field experiences. La Ruta del Queso also visits blueberry fields where you can taste the juiciest, plumpest arándanos you may ever have tasted. Blueberry season starts in spring, so September time is perfect for the optimum ripe berry.
Where to stay?
There is not a whole load of choices for lodging in Suipacha. Airbnb is pretty limited, and there is not very much available close to Suipacha itself. We suggest either staying at Alto Suipacha Hotel or alternatively booking accommodation with La Ruta del Queso.
Alternatively, Estancia las Pilares is a gorgeous option for a romantic getaway. It was built in 1890 by a French family, and its Rennaissance style mixed with the colonial white buildings makes for a beautiful trip back in time. You can enjoy strolling (or riding their horses) around the estate garden, or simply sitting under the leafy pergolas on the terrace.
What to eat?
I mean, I kind of hope you fill up with your cheese and blueberry haul. If not, La Escuadra restaurant is a great place for jabalí (wild boar) but be warned that it is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. You can also visit the hog farm if you’re not squeamish about meeting and greeting what you’re about to eat!
This is our furthest away destination but this tranquil, sleepy town nestled beneath the undulating Sierras is definitely worth the five-hour trek. It is a sort of culinary paradise as picadas (local charcuterie) really thrive here, and the boards are chock full of cured meats, fresh cheeses, and home-grown olives and legumes.
What to do?
Tandil is all about nature. It’s a place where you can well and truly inhale all the country air that you have been deprived of. You can also hike and bike as much as humanly possible on a short weekend away. As the 2.5-million-year-old mountain range las Sierras de Tandil has perfect conditions for bouldering, climbing and cycling, it would be a waste if you didn’t hire a bike or simply go out into nature with the two feet that God gave ya.
Argentines can be mad. So mad, that competing in crazed sporting events seem like a good idea. So, it kind of doesn’t surprise us that porteños get cheap thrills from competing in Tandil. There are a few adventure races organized by the Club de Corredores that host 25 km competitions through a path that bypasses canyons, wooded areas, sandy roads, palm trees, and railroad tracks.
You can also visit Lago del Fuerte, an artificial 19-hectare lake which is just 2 km away from the center of the town, which offers many boating and fishing escapades, plus some water sports like water skiing.
Where to eat?
Puesto Chico is an excellent spot for picada; it is a pretty unassuming shop that doubles as a snack bar. There are hanging slabs of salame dangling around you in a slightly disconcerting fashion, but there is also a great selection of cheese to sink your teeth into.
Época del Quesos is also heaving full of cheese wheels and sticks of cured meat ready for you to gorge on. Just a warning: you will leave two days later and seven pounds heavier, most probably having consumed your annual recommended amount of dairy.
There is not only an array of cheeses, as the name suggests, but full of all the other traditional goodies. The shop-cafe is very photogenic and will brighten up any drab Instagram feed with its traditional 1920’s barn decor.
Where to stay?
Chacra Bliss is a colorful bed and breakfast. It is the perfect place for a romantic getaway as all the rooms are completely private and separated by rustic thick brick walls. The outside of the B&B is a whole array of different colors decorated in a Santa Fe sort of way. A couple of glasses of Malbec later, and you still could never get lost.
The reservation comes with artisanal bread and a whole breakfast spread to fill you up before the busy day of… err… eating cheese? But it does have a bit of a price tag to match and books up very quickly; so get Googling now!
For a cheaper option, this Airbnb is a bit of a steal for four people and is only located two blocks away from the lake. It is well-decorated in a classy, shabby-chic kind of way and even has a bright blue, vibrant backyard for your morning coffee and medialuna.
Lobos is around 1.5 hours away from the capital and is a quaint town with estancias for your every country-bumpkin need. There are plenty of French-style chateaux and mansions where you can feel like an 18th-century aristocrat; if you really want to channel your inner posh persona you can even travel in style around the country estates with horse and carriage.
Warning: this is not the cheapest of locales, as it is more of a place you need to think of as a treat. It’s the perfect destination to celebrate a special occasion in style.
What to do?
There’s a whole barrel of activities that you can do in Lobos, from trekking to skydiving (!) to photo safaris to golfing. However, polo is the real pièce de résistance here.
Polo is a very exclusive activity, and many of the estancias you can stay at have private access to polo clubs. If you just scroll through Airbnb or Booking.com (or any equivalent) you will find some extremely expensive but gorgeous estates where you can stay and play polo, such as Santa Maria Lobos Polo Estate.
However, for us normal folk where shelling out US $350 for one night in paradise and a game of polo is not the norm, the Lobos Lagoon is 15km outside of the city and is a perfect day trip. For you fish fanatics (a pretty weird thing to be a fan of, but I’m sure y’all exist), you can spot the huge abundance of fish such as carp and catfish. In fact, there’s a Club de Pesca de Lobos which breeds over 5,000 fish in different pools. From December-March you can crack on with some water sports like windsurfing and canoeing.
Bonus Track: If you’re a fan of polo and are driving from Buenos Aires, you can swerve off on a bit of a detour to Cañuelas, to the estancia Puesto Viejo. It is 50km away, but worth the detour. You can stay at the 250-acre estate and explore the grounds on bicycle, horse, and carriage (this will be my new permanent mode of transport) and even dip in the infinity pool post-polo sesh.
You can get a seasonal membership from January to May for AR $27,500; alternatively, you can book a Polo Experience package with the hotel. With this, you can take two polo lessons with a professional, see a professional match, munch on a 3-course dinner and stay at the hotel for a shy US$ 270 (!).
Where to stay?
This ranch on Airbnb is an absolute treat. It really is one of its kind; no other lodge is so quirky and manages to be both cozy with distressed furniture, beautiful paintings filling the house and fireplaces; while also being spectacularly grand in all its French-inspired beauty with the four-poster beds and luxury swimming pool. As a resident of this ranch, you have access to the horse stables and the private polo course as well as the huge park that surrounds the house.
Oscar and Soledad are the farm keepers that are at your service for any polo needs or help to make an asado. The house, of course, isn’t the cheapest, but if you are looking for a luxury few days away in somewhere beautiful, rural and remote, book with a large group to help reduce the costs per person.
Where to eat?
La Vaca Atada is a great parilla spot with a family vibe. It might not be the chicest place to take an Insta-worthy snap, but the bife de chorizo is delicious and worth every penny. There isn’t so much of a menu, you pick what meat you want and they bung it on the BBQ. Kick things off with some empanadas and wash it all down with some vino, and you’ll be in for a perfect night out.
San Antonio de Areco
San Antonio de Areco is about 110 km north-west out of Buenos Aires and is a very popular getaway spot for porteños and tourists alike. What makes this place special are the criollo and gaucho traditions, which will inspire you to pop on a beret and ride off on horseback into the sunset.
The town itself is beautiful; it is bursting full of colonial architectural buildings and mansions. It is a City of National Historic Interest, so make sure you bring your camera to make all the city folk back at home jealous! You can also simply revel in the town’s rustic authenticity by walking down the river and Puente Viejo, taking in the estate houses and the abundance of lovely (oddly well-kept and groomed) street dogs.
Although simply walking through the city is a great afternoon activity, you should definitely try and visit one of the ranches a little out of the compact center of town. What’s more, in November there is the Día de la Tradición – a celebration of all things gaucho. Be warned that you should book all accommodation and tour guides a few months ahead (e.g. NOW – I can hear you opening a new Google search tab, as I speak) to guarantee a spot.
Where to stay?
You should definitely stay at Antigua Casona , a traditional 19th-century house which very much channels the rustic San Antonio de Areco architecture. There are big, spacious guest rooms and shared patios and gardens to relax in. There are only five rooms available, so it’s a wonderfully intimate stay to make it that much more special. This is around US $100 per room per night, so a little more special than your average Airbnb.
Where to eat?
Well, we certainly do not have a lack of options on where to eat and drink.
For a true gaucho experience, you have to try Boliche de Bessonart, where you will sample the best empanadas available in town. It is a true cowboy joint, you will feel as if you’ve stepped into a 19th-century saloon of yore. Grab a glass of fernet con cola, order a dozen empanadas and some picada and you will truly feel as if you’re on a Wild West film set.
Cuatro de Copas is tapas bar in town; it is rated an impressive 5 stars on Facebook community and has the best cocktails in the area; equally, El Mitre is also great so you could combine both, and go on a cocktail bar crawl post-picada munch.
For a parilla, Almacén de Ramos Generales is where you should be, knife and fork at the ready. To mix it up from the (worryingly) high meat consumption, you could try the fried salted trout with fresh lemon which is at a very reasonable price.
What to do?
For a true gaucho experience at San Antonio de Areco, you should try horse riding, whether you are an absolute amateur or a pro jockey. For a surreal experience, you should organize a trip with Martin Tatta, the horse whisperer of Argentina.
You can check out Martin’s aboriginal magical art of taming horses here; (be warned: it is a little odd and involves Martin low-key making out with a horse) and you can book one of his show performances in town. Otherwise, a half day horse riding trip including picada costs around AR $700, and you can book that directly though him.
Bon voyage and bon weekend, everyone!