Drive a thousand head of Angus cattle from the sheltered plains of the pre-cordillera Pampas to their summer pastures in the Andes of Patagonia. Take a soak in remote mountain streams where the hot springs emerge. Try freshly grilled mountain stream trout prepared the Patagonian way. Camp beside your horse and listen to the peaceful rhythm of his breathing and hear the night-time sounds of the herd at rest. At dawn join the gaucho energy, dust and thrill of easing the herd into the morning mist of a day on the trail.
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Also read: horse riding in Argentina
This is an example itinerary, the itinerary can be slightly changed upon request and might change during your ride according to the weather and other factors.
On the first day, we arrive at Neuquen, located in the east of Argentina. After your arrival, there will be a four hour transfer by car to a small town on the border of Chile and Argentina. The town is called Caviahue in Patagonia, just a few 100 kms south of Santiago. Here you will have a beautiful view of the snow-capped Andes while you have dinner and a good night’s rest at Grand hotel Caviahue.
The incredible ranch staff will meet us at The Grand Hotel Caviahue. After a delicious breakfast, we will have a short transfer to where the horses are being saddled and we’ll get to meet horses. Today we will round up all the cattle and do a proper head count of them. There’s 2 rules to doing this accurately: count in silence and in two’s! At this point, we leave our luxuries behind as this is an authentic cattle drive, and we’ll camp beside the stockyard. We’ll end the day with a dinner at the camp. From now on we will be transporting our luggage in saddle bags and a dry bag, so pack light and only take the essentials.
In the early morning of the third day we all get ready for riding on the estancia, we’ll now begin the cattle drive! The river Rio Agrio is rising in the Andes and starts to flow down all the way to the Pacific, it has an absolutely stunning valley. We’ll be riding past a beautiful waterfall formed by the Rio Agria flowing over an ancient volcanic area called a caldera. While we ride downstream of the waterfall, the cattle will need to cross the river before we continue our journey. We will keep moving the herd for 5 to 7 hours, depending on the terrain and any obstacles we cross. We need moving the cattle forward, steady and calm. When some of them stray from the herd, we bring them back, so the riders are spread out to nudge the cattle forward. The surrounding countryside is timeless and beautiful. The only trails here are those cut by generations of Angus cattle: no-one else comes this way. Once we arrive at the pasture, the cattle is left to graze this untouched piece of nature.
Today we ride to Salto De Agrio, here the river free falls over a basalt lip into the lagoon below; a fantastic view. We will have lunch in the caldera. You will be amazed at the rumble of the water as it falls. We’ll even have the chance to swim here, truly an experience you'll never forget. We’ll ride through lots of Araucarias (or Monkey Puzzle) trees, which grow up to 80 m tall. The female trees produce cones with edible nuts inside, similar to pine nuts. However, the trees have razor sharp leaves, so beware! As we ride to the camp, a local grass-fed Patagonian lamb on a stick is already in the making for us all to enjoy.
On day 5 it’s time to cross another beautiful valley, which in winter is usually covered by snow, but is summer is an incredible natural pasture for more cattle to graze in. This ride will take 5 hours and the only way to get here is by horse. There is also a great treat waiting for us at the camp; a private natural hot spring for us to have a dip in! Each night spent here, you’ll feel as if you’re the first person ever to set foot in this beautiful place.
As we continue our ride to laguna del cuero, we’ll only be about 3 kms from Chile. Today we’re looking to see if we can find the majestic endangered bird called the condores andinos. They can have a wingspan of up to 3 meters. Its also likely that we find Wanacos, a local Mammal which wool was used for clothes by Mapuches. This night we will also be camping by the hotspring again.
As we leave Patagonias wild nature behind, we still have a great and long day of riding ahead before we reach civilisation again. In the morning, we will ride for 4 hours until we reach out lunch spot next to Maloñehue. An incredible mountain which used to be a strategic place where pre-Columbian inhabitants used to keep an eye on groups of horses coming from north during the invasion of Spanish conquistadors. The views from up here are absolutely jaw dropping. After lunch, we ride down the mountain and come across ruins of the “conquest of the desert” and a monolith. Stone arrowheads, bullets, copper uniform buttons and many other traces of the invasion are still found every now and then. After our long and beautiful ride, we head to town to enjoy the facilities of the Grand Hotel.
Rest and recover in the grand hotel. They have a pool and spa, and you can get a message with a healing mud pack right from the Copahue volcano! If you wish to visit the crater of Copahue, there are trekking tours offered. From here there is another 4 hour transfer back to Neuquen Airport.
Dates of the cattle drives 14 to 21 December 2022, 4 to 11 and 18 to 25 March 2023
Dates for your horse riding holiday without cattle drive Any dates between November and April
Start and end location Neuquen airport
Group Size 4 to 8 riders
Horse breed Criollo
Accommodation 2 nights in a hotel and 5 nights of camping
Price 2495 USD
Trails through the foothills of the Andes are very varied: in places they are flat and easy, in other places the gradient is steep and the trail can be rocky and care is required. The days can be quite long, remember that we are a long way south and daylight can last about 17 hrs out of 24. It’s possible that Spring or Autumn weather can turn against us and snow in not unknown, however unlikely. We will be walking big stretches of the ride to make the trail as easy as possible for the cattle, but there are definitely opportunities for canter and gallop. The horses are very well-mannered and responsive. They also have incredible stamina. You will be riding for four to seven hours every day and therefore you should be quite riding fit (riding several days per week) and have an intermediate to experienced riding level.
This is a beef cattle enterprise in northern Patagonia. The grass-fed Angus are moved to higher summer pasture in the Spring (December). These field are a ski resort in winter, from May to September. During the colder months (March) the cattle returns to the sheltered plains of the pre-cordillera. This means that the herd has to be moved twice every year, and the only way to do this is on horseback. Herds of up to 1,000 head are driven. This is a time-honoured custom and the gathering together of people in such a sparsely populated area as the Patagonia is always a joyful occasion.
The cattle originates from Scotland and first came to this part of Patagonia in 1879. Due to their native environment the cattle are very hardy and can survive the harsh winters, snowfall and storms of Patagonia.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to book!
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