San Antonio de Areco has been increasingly popular as a destination for experiencing authentic Argentine country life.
The small town is one of the oldest towns in the Province of Buenos Aires. When strolling the streets, you sense the colonial atmosphere and get a feel of a place where time almost seems to stand still.
But you can’t talk about San Antonio de Areco and life in the Argentine countryside without talking about gauchos!
Gauchos are Argentine cowboys or horsemen who in the past used to live in the Argentine lowlands. The gauchos would rise their cattle and horses and sell them in the villages around the area or bring them to Buenos Aires.
San Antonio de Areco is, especially, famous because creates the scene for the book, Don Segundo Sombra, by the Argentine writer Ricardo Güiraldes. Don Segundo Sombra is said to be what bought the gaucho culture into Argentine popular culture.
Today, gauchos are a strong folk symbol in Argentine culture – I would say even stronger than tango!
If you want to experience the gaucho culture without traveling all the way to San Antonio de Areco, remember to visit the traditional gaucho market in Buenos Aires, Feria de Mataderos!
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Where is San Antonio de Areco?
The town is located northeast of the city of Buenos Aires in the province of Buenos Aires.
The small town was founded in 1730 and is considered to be one of the oldest towns in the Province of Buenos Aires.
In 2015, it was declared a historic national interest of Argentina and the Argentine gaucho culture.
What to do in San Antonio de Areco?
There are two main things to do in San Antonio de Areco:
- Visit an Estancia
- Visit the town of San Antonio de Areco.
Read more about both below!
Visit an Estancia
In San Antonio, there are plenty of options for visiting a farm – or an estancia as a farm is in Argentine Spanish.
When I visit, we chose to stay at Estancia El Ombú de Areco, which is one of the more popular options. The Estancia is located outside the town. So, if you don’t drive up here yourself, you’ll need a taxi to take you back and forth.
However, there isn’t much difference between what the different estancias offer. Normally, the price includes meals such as traditional Argentine asado (i.e. barbecue), some activities in the afternoon such as horseback riding (i.e. cabalgatas), swimming pools, and a show with Argentine folklore.
Options for visiting an estancia in San Antonio de Areco:
During your stay at the estancia, most of the places will offer some sort of show of Argentine folklore either folkloric dance and/or horse demonstrations.
The Argentine folkloric dances are what people in the small villages and towns around Argentina used to dance – and to some extent still do dance!
I’m no big dancer at all! But I have been to Argentine weddings, where very similar folkloric dances were performed. And keep in mind that it isn’t like tango at all!
We specifically chose Estancia El Ombú because they seem to be the only estancia in the area that offer a special horse dance, called Doma India (i.e. Indian Horse Training/horse whispering).
Nevertheless, we were pretty disappointed with El Ombú. We were told when we checked in that the Doma India would take place later this afternoon. However, when the afternoon and the time for the show came, the Doma India was replaced with another horse demonstration.
Later on, I realized that La Bamba de Areco also has Doma India.
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A day trip or a sleepover?
Most of the estancias offer both day trips, called Día del Campo (i.e. Country Day), and lodging where you stay at the Estancia overnight. Most of these offers are all-inclusive.
If you are in a rush, then a Country Day is properly the best fit for you. We stayed during the night because we wanted to use the second day visiting San Antonio de Areco itself.
When you stay overnight, you might also be able to join some of the activities such as horseback riding in the morning.
Unfortunately, it rained all morning when we visited, so no extra horseback riding!
Visit the town of San Antonio de Areco
San Antonio de Areco is a small town of just around 23,000 inhabitants, and you can easily explore the town within a couple of hours.
Here are some of the highlights to visit:
The Old Bridge
The Old Bridge, also called Puente Viejo, connects the two sides of the town over the Areco River.
Puente Viejo was built in 1857. During the Spanish Empire, the bridge was part of the old Camino Real (i.e. the Royal Road) which connected Buenos Aires with Alto Perú (modern-day’s Peru and Ecuador).
This bridge was subject to the first toll installed in Argentina, since by-passers had to pay a fee to cross the bridge.
A few meters from the Old Bridge, you will find la pulpería La Blanqueada. In the past, it used to be a combination of a convenience store and a bar. Nowadays, this is where you have the Gaucho Museum.
Address: By the end of the streets Moreno and Zerboni
The Gaucho Museum
In honor of the Argentine writer, Ricardo Güiraldes, who put San Antonio de Areco on the map, the town is now the home of the Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes, i.e. Ricardo Güiraldes’ Gaucho Museum.
Here you can learn more about the life of the Argentine gauchos and other traditional Argentine folklore.
The museum is open from 11 am to 5 pm from Monday to Sunday.
Address: Camino al Parque, Complejo Parque Criollo y Museo Ricardo Güiraldes
The Church and the Main Square
The main square, called Plaza Arellano, houses both the town’s small church, police station, and municipal.
When you are there, take a stroll around the square to enjoy some of the beautiful old houses located around the square or visit the church.
Address: Plaza Arellano between the streets Alsina, Lavalle, Mitre, and Arellano.
Chocolate at La Olla de Cobre
If you tell a porteño that you are visiting San Antonio de Areco, they will most likely tell you to go to La Olla de Cobre (i.e. the Copper Pot).
The tiny shop and chocolate fabric makes some of the best homemade chocolate in the Province of Buenos Aires. Well, you’ll have to try that for yourself! At least, their traditional Argentine cookie, alfajor, was delicious!
Read more about La Olla de Cobre in San Antonio de Areco (link in Spanish).
Address: Matheu 433 between streets Arellano and Zapiola.
Drinks at Viejo Boliche Bessonart
The old Boliche Bessonart is one of the oldest and most emblematic bars in San Antonio de Areco.
In the past, the bar used to be a place where gauchos and people from the countryside would come to buy necessities and get a drink or two.
Today, the bar still exists and you can visit for a beer, a glass of wine, and some traditional Argentine empanadas.
Address: the corner of the streets Segundo Sombra and Zapiola.
How to get to San Antonio de Areco from Buenos Aires?
San Antonio de Areco is around 113 km (70 miles) from Buenos Aires. It takes around 1.5 to 2 hours by car to get there from Buenos Aires.
We rented a private car with a driver (called a remise in Argentina) to drive us from Buenos Aires and back the next day.
You can also take a long-distance bus from the Retiro Bus Station in Buenos Aires to San Antonio de Areco.
Another option is to find a package tour like the ones offered by the tourist company Areco Tradición. Here they come and pick you up in a shared shuffle from where you are staying in Buenos Aires.
How much do you actually know about Argentina? Check out these 20 things that nobody tells you about Argentina!
Have you visited San Antonio de Areco? Or are you planning to visit? What piece of information are you missing? Share your thoughts and knowledge below!
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