On Our Wanderlist: Equestrian Culture in Argentina and Uruguay by Samantha Faléwee

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

On Our Wanderlist: Equestrian Culture in Argentina and Uruguay, Bergen County Moms
Saddle up with a gaucho mountain guide | Photo Credit: Virtuoso.com

Our plan is to enjoy the food and wine of the Andes from horseback.

From the back of a horse, I imagine looking out over plains of waving pampas grass, hearing the thwack of a polo stick, and smelling asado sizzling over a wood fire.


Sip Uruguay’s Best Full-Bodied Reds

Vintner Alejandro Bulgheroni caused ripples in the wine world when he opened Bodega Garzón – a modern, no-expense-spared winery that produces heady tannats, pinot noirs, and other styles (I’ll sip its grappa too, to soothe my sore post-lesson muscles). The winery is located an hour’s drive from José Ignacio, and the hardy vines benefit from the salty tang of Atlantic Ocean winds.

On Our Wanderlist: Equestrian Culture in Argentina and Uruguay, Bergen County Moms
Grazing the fields at Estancia Vik José Ignacio | Photo Credit: Virtuoso.com

Visit Estancia Vik José Ignacio

For my home base, I’ll settle into this 12-suite working estancia that sprawls across 4,000 acres in southern Uruguay and head to its polo field for a lesson in the ancient sport (first recorded in the sixth century B.C.). Vocab tip: Polo matches are divided into seven-minute “chukkers” of playing time to ensure the ponies stay fresh.

Have a Market Day in Montevideo

On a Saturday, I’ll weave through the bustling market in Uruguay’s capital city, as smoke wafts from the many parrillas and groups of musicians drum the beat of candombe, a pulse-quickening, Afro-Uruguayan style of dance.

Learn Ranching History

Across the Plata River in Argentina, I’ll visit the Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes to learn about local history and gaucho culture. From there, I’ll keep an eye out for shops selling bombachas de campo (loose riding trousers), knotted neck scarves, and wool ponchos.

On Our Wanderlist: Equestrian Culture in Argentina and Uruguay, Bergen County Moms
Chef Francis Mallmann | Photo Credit: Virtuoso.com/Michael H. Evans/Siete Fuegos

Check in to the Vines Resort & Spa

Mendoza’s 21-room Vines Resort & Spa at the base of the Andes Mountains offers several equine experiences. But first: dinner at Siete Fuegos, from famed fire-loving chef Francis Mallmann, who oversees dishes such as nine-hour, slow-grilled rib eye. The outdoor, open-flame cooking has strong ties to roving gaucho history.

Ride to a Sunrise Picnic

On my last day in Argentina, I’ll saddle up before dawn and go horseback riding with gaucho trail bosses in Mendoza’s mountains. When we reach a great viewpoint, we’ll break out traditional yerba maté and breakfast, watching the sunrise light up the country’s most famous wine region.

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