Two hours outside the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires lies the sleepy town of San Antonio de Areco in a region known as The Pampas (meaning ‘the plains’). Renowned for its inescapable mix of gaucho and artisanal culture, San Antonio is a step back in time.
In the one corner, you’ll find gauchos: nomadic cowboys who can be found taming wild horses, drinking mate tea, hustling cows or relaxing in the dark corners of the town’s bars. In the other, you’ll discover the internationally famed silversmiths, potters, weavers, saddle-makers and artists buried away, working meticulously and silently at their craft.
Although these two groups appear to be the antithesis of one another, they live and work together in perfect harmony; both continuing the ways of old. This is amazing to witness. Here, it’s a slower pace of life. Life – back to slow.
Food is one of the key ways in which we experience a place when travelling, and in Argentina it’s no different, often presenting an opportunity to learn about the essence of a place and its people. The asado is symbolic of this. Of huge cultural significance, it is a celebration of the country’s iconic gaucho culture and one of its most prized assets: meat. It’s not to be missed – unless, of course, you’re vegetarian.
The local people of San Antonio are the key to unlocking what makes this town so captivating. Without speaking to them, you’d only see a pretty colonial town and nothing more. But by meeting and talking to them, you’ll uncover the gems that lie beneath the surface.
The man in this picture is Oscar Eduardo Pereira who is 78 years old. A descendent of one of the area’s most noble gaucho families, Oscar is not only a famed horse tamer but also a masterful guitar player. Here, he plays Música Folklórica for us – folk music that soothingly tells the indigenous stories and traditions of past generations.
This private set-up took place at the estancia of a local gaucho who’d invited us over to lunch. It turned out to be a truly unique experience. Based in the middle of a secluded Pampas plain, the location was, unsurprisingly, beautiful. But it was the sheer intimacy of the meal that made it so memorable. Sitting around the table with us were local people who had lived and worked in the town and its fields for decades. To be able to talk to them and learn about their lives for a couple of hours, over a huge asado, was unforgettable.
If you go to San Antonio de Areco, you can’t miss the gauchos. After all, these enduring icons of Argentinian culture are at the very epicentre of the town. Nevertheless, if you truly want to see what these larger-than-life cowboys are all about, you have to go riding with them across the endless pampas. Gauchos spend a lot of their lives in the saddle, and only when you ride with them, can you admire their amazing horsemanship and the symbiotic relationship they have with their horses.
San Antonio de Areco, two hours from Buenos Aires, is perfect for those clients wishing to experience the real world of the gauchos. Using the incredible La Bamba de Areco estancia as your base, we recommend spending a few days riding and relaxing here, and unearthing this fascinating way of life.