Estancias, Haciendas and Fincas, Oh My
By Allie Almario
Our most common request is for overnight accommodations in South America that reflect the culture and traditions of the region with local artisans contributing to the design. Of course, it’s a bonus if the hotel or lodge boasts unusual architecture. For that reason, you’ll rarely find us recommending big, corporate hotel chains like Hiltons or Marriotts — unless it’s located close to an airport for late arrivals or early departures.
In more remote areas, we have a carefully curated list of our favorite estancias, haciendas and fincas. Many are still operating ranches or farms with organic products that are literally grown on their own grounds. Don’t be surprised if the coffee and fresh fruit offered at meals are plucked straight from the backyard, or the chocolate you just enjoyed at dessert was grown behind the guest house.
What’s the differences between the three? Not much, if not merely by name.
Estancias are former cattle ranches that have opened up guest houses, lodge rooms or small casitas for guests. Often they provide tasty barbecues on site and opportunities to mingle with gauchos or cowboys. Never miss an opportunity to join in on a horseback ride, even if it’s just for an hour or two. Most horses are carefully chosen to match your own experience (or lack there of), and the gauchos are terrific company on rides into off the beaten trails.
Haciendas are grand estates founded on agricultural land or farms that now open their doors to guests. Not quite a home stay – most are a bit more upscale than a bed and breakfast. Many haciendas offer quarters with fireplaces in each room, often lit at night to warm the bedroom as guests return for dinner. You may even find a hot water bottle tucked into the foot of your bed when you climb in for the night.
And then there are fincas, which are similar to estancias in that often they are still working ranches, though usually fincas are referred to as a “plot with or without buildings.” These days, fincas strive to offer organic and sustainable practices. You might find yourself chatting with the gentleman who oversees the local cheese production line. Whatever you choose, you WILL enjoy!