Below are some excellent insights into some of the best Homestays in Latin America.
Dotted throughout this vast country there are farms and ranches called estancias which throw their doors open to visitors who wish to experience traditional rural Argentine life. While the estancias themselves in turns of acreage can be huge, the number of actual guest rooms rarely exceeds six, making for a very personalised and intimate experience.
The draw of staying on an estancia is to experience a traditional way of life little changed in over fifty years. As guests you are very much invited to watch and participate in the daily activities of the estancia, from rounding up cattle to moving sheep, depending on the type of farm. There is always plenty of opportunity to get on the back of the horse for those who ride and explore the surrounding countryside, with picnics and polo.
While walking, birding, wine tasting or simply swinging in a hammock or next to the pool may appeal to others. Much of the charm of an estancia stay is that your daily itinerary is pre-ordained and you can play each day as you feel.
The important thing about an estancia when choosing is that it has to be owner-run. Typically estancias have been in the hands of the same family for generations and there is nobody better to show you around and to explain the machinations of the estancia to you.
Each estancia is naturally unique, particularly between different regions of Argentina, however they all share the commonality of homeliness, a comfortable bed and delicious homecoming. Meals are very much served communally and everyone mucks in. rarely is anything too much trouble, but you need to be aware that you’re not staying at a conventional hotel.
For travellers wishing to combine some of the very best wildlife viewing on the continent with a home stay then some of the fazendas (ranches) in the Southern Pantanal are well worth exploring.
Similar in set-up to the estancias of Argentina, these largely cattle farms are typically located in the interior of the vast Pantanal wetlands area. Arriving by light aircraft onto the fazenda’s grass airstrip is preferable to a long road transfer on unpaved roads and becomes essential for considerable parts of the year when much of the land is inundated by floodwater, which can consume up to 80% of some fazendas.
Each fazenda has its own character and specialities, which make careful choosing important. One or two offer excellent riding, some offer an all round experience, while others are stronger on the wildlife side.
In terms of the wildlife you can generally expect to see while staying at a Pantanal fazenda, the more common animals include marsh deer, caiman, capybaras, armadillos, rheas, anteaters, macaws and jabiru stork. If the fazenda has a nearby river then you my even be lucky enough to see a jaguar.