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Horse ride across Andes Patagonia

At a GlanceItineraryDetail

Horse ride across Andes Patagonia, The Grand Traverse

Argentina to Chile

14 days

A challenging trail ride Across the Andes, Patagonia.  An 11 day ride on Creole horses between Estancias (“ranches”) across extensive green pampas, through forests and fording rivers. Explore the Andes Mountains in Patagonia, riding alongside gauchos and experience beautiful, remote Patagonia a long way from the tourist centres.

[“gaucho” = cowboy of the Argentine pampas. “Vaquero” is the Spanish word for cowboy. In Chile they say “Huaso” and “baquero” or “baquianos” pl.]

 

Patagonia Andes Grand Traverse

Bridge across the Rio Puelo

 

Day
Route Accommodation
1
Fly Heathrow to Buenos Aires to Bariloche Hotel
2
Bariloche to Nirihuau Camp
3
Pichileufú river to the Alto Chubut Camp
4
Chubut Valley to El Sapucai Sapucai
5
Mt Las Serruchas to Cuesta del Ternero Sapucai
6
Ride to Ñorquinco & Maitén to Lago Puelo Hotel
7
CHILE to Las Bandurrias Island Island Retreat
8
Bandurrias Island to Lago Azul Island Retreat
9
Las Rocas to Lago Verde Tito’s Farmhouse
10
Lago Verde to Ventisqueros Bernarda’s Farm
11
Ventisqueros Valley Bernarda’s Farm
12
Ventisqueros to Rio Puelo Tito’s Farmhouse
13
Llanada Grande to Puerto Varas Hotel
14
Puerto Varas – Puerto Montt Air

Tailor-made travel

If you would like to stay on after the ride, or fly out early, no problem! Venture Co specialise in tailor-made travel, it’s what we do! We have our own ATOL license and take care of every aspect of this itinerary in-house. We have a wealth of wonderful ideas to personalise your holiday and create an adventure that is as unique as you! Call us to talk through some ideas.

Day 1 – Bariloche

Met upon arrival at Bariloche airport and transferred to your hotel. Bariloche is in the foothills of the Andes on the shore of Nahuel Huapi Lake.  Depending on your arrival time, you may have the chance to explore the many cafes and chocolate shops which make Bariloche such a pleasure to visit; or take the cable car to the top of ‘Cerro Otto’ which gives stunning 360° views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.

In the evening you will be met by your trail guide and get a full briefing for the ride. We will then all head for a traditional barbeque dinner at a local restaurant.

Saddle time: 0 hrs
Distance: 0 Km
Overnight: Hotel

The Patagonia Andes: Grand Traverse

The Patagonia Andes: Grand Traverse

Day 2 – From Bariloche to Pichileufú River

After an early breakfast, a minibus will take us the 30 kms to the starting point of the ride at Estancia Ñirihuau.  An Estancia is equivalent to a ‘Ranch’.  Here you’ll meet your horse and take some time to get to know each other. Take a trial ride around the estancia and once everyone is settled we’ll set off. You can change horse if you wish – there are plenty to chose from!

The ride begins by following the Alto Chubut Valley where we pause for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon ride we continue riding to the Pichileufú River and make camp on the riverbank.

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: 23 Km
Overnight: Camping

Day 3 – From Pichileufú River to the source of the Alto Chubut River

This morning you’ll be amazed at what the camp kitchen can create for breakfast!  Saddling up we cross from the Pichileufú Valley to the Carreras mountain pass (1,700m); a good spot to watch condors, eagles and plenty of wildlife.  We will start our descent towards the source of the Alto Chubut River where nomadic shepherds still roam. A great camp, surrounded by shletering, ancient beech trees; and a delicious meal awaits.

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: 25 Km
Overnight: Camping

 

 

The Patagonia Andes Grand Traverse Horse Ride

Wide river flowing off the glaciers

 

Day 4 – From the Chubut Valley via Mt Las Serruchas Pass to El Sapucai

We follow the River Chubut downstream and emerge onto the Patagonia steppe. We will pop in to a remote farmhouse which is home to one of our guides, to meet his family and their budding gauchos. At the end of the morning we’ll picnic on the riverbank. Our afternoon trek takes us on tricky terrain up to las Serruchas pass which offers stunning views of Tronador, an extinct volcano, its glaciers and the endless steppe. This evening we’ll reach El Sapucai which is a farmhouse that stands on a grassy hill overlooking the river, with not a single other house to be seen in any direction!

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: 30 Km
Overnight: Estancia / tipi

Day 5 – El Sapucai loop trail

During this day we’ll climb up into the high cordillera; the trail out of El Sapucai is unbelievably steep, but the big-hearted horses take it all in their stride. The view on the Andes from the top is a dream! Pristine wilderness untouched by the hand of man. You will appreciate the skills of the Criollo horse: wetland, forest and rocky tracks just doesn’t faze them. When we reach the lagoon that sits in a mountain ‘cradle’ which is our picnic spot, you feel like a real pioneer; snowy peaks  and the sound of wilderness all around. Complete the loop by riding back to El Sapucai by another trail passing through Ñirre forests (a small beech tree) where towering trees and old growth beech forests coexist.

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: 30 Km
Overnight: Estancia/tipi

Day 6 – Estancia/ Ñorquinco / Maitén / Lago Puelo

Today is the last day with the Argentinean Creole horses. We leave the El Sapucai via a path that leads to a small aboriginal village called Ñorquinco.  Our morning route takes us passed other estancias before we reach the road where we say farewell to the horses and the baquianos.  Drive to El Maitén village where it is possible to visit the railroad museum (if it is open and the caretaker is awake!)  In the afternoon we transfer to the marketown of El Bolsón and on to the lakeshore town of Lago Puelo, surrounded by mountains, where many craftsmen show their wares at the local market. And tonight we check-in to a hotel.

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: 22 Km
Overnight: Guesthouse / hotel

 

The Patagonia Andes: Grand Traverse

The Patagonia Andes: Grand Traverse

 

Day 7 – From El Bolsón to Las Bandurrias Island

After breakfast we drive the short distance to Lago Puelo’s dock; here we board the boat and sail across two lakes and through the immigration control to enter Chile.  Formalities over, we cross the rapids that divide the countries of Argentina and Chile.  Our local guide will be waiting for us and will take care of all the luggage.  A brief 10-minute walk leads to Las Rocas Lake where we rendez-vous with a motorboat that takes us out across the water to Bandurrias Island.

A warm welcome and a well-earned rest will be waiting for you.  The house overlooks the small beach next to the quay and is a quiet peaceful haven with tranquil views of Las Rocas Lake and the surrounding peaks.  It is a cosy place where we’ll share pre-dinner drinks and meals with Françoise, our island hostess.

Saddle time: 0 hrs
Distance: 30 minutes’ drive from El Bolsón to Lago Puelo’s dock; Motor Boat, 2:30 hrs
Overnight: Private island retreat

Day 8 – From Bandurrias Island to Lago Azul

This morning we ride out to the Azul Lake with its crystal clear waters and abundant fish life, surrounded by majestic peaks. A picnic on the shore, and perhaps a spot of fishing, with time to relax.  After lunch ride on through steep passes surrounded by mountains and passing through the Valdivian rainforest.  The forest has many ancient Alerce trees (Fitzroy Cupresoide) as well as other local “giants” such as the “Coihue” and “Arrayanes” (the cold tree).  We end the ride at the Palenque and sail back to the Island, leaving the horses corralled on the mainland.

Saddle time: 5-6 hrs
Distance: 22 Km
Overnight: Private island retreat

Day 9 – From Las Rocas to Lago Verde

After breakfast, a motor boat will take us back to the other side of the lake where the horses will be waiting. The trail leads passed the source of the River Puelo which we cross using a traditional raft method based on manpower! The horses will get on as well!   “Segundo Corral” is the nearest settlement to the border and from here we follow the trail down the Puelo River to a fantastic suspension bridge, “la Pasarela del Rio Puelo”, a crucial bridge to maintain communication with the outside world. Dinner and beds will be found beside Rio Puelo where our German-Chilean hosts welcome us to their home.

Saddle time: 5-6 hrs
Distance: 23 Km
Overnight: Local farmhouse

 

 

The Patagonia Andes Grand Traverse Horse Riding holiday

Bandiaras Island; home for 2 nights

 

Day 10 – From Lago Verde to Ventisqueros

This morning we re-cross the suspension bridge and follow the west side of the Ventisqueros Valley riding through a green and verdant  valley.  In the afternoon we reach a little farmhouse tucked away in the trees, where we overnight (2 nights).

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: 29 Km
Overnight: Local farmhouse

Day 11 – Ventisqueros

After breakfast we take on a gentle ride crossing the river once more to join a spur valley that has a glacier at its head. This is the wildest and most remote part of the trail, with incredible flora and a valley devoid of human inhabitants.  We ride close to the Alerce forests before turning back to our farmhouse.  Later there is a chance to go for a walk around the area or simply relax with a glass of wine.  A truly unforgettable day.

Saddle time: 4 hrs
Distance: 13 Km
Overnight: Local farmhouse

Day 12 – From Ventisqueros to Rio Puelo

Our morning trail takes us through beautiful ancient forest and pristine pampas, crossing the Ventisqueros River on several occasions.  Enjoy a packed lunch on the shore of the river and the afternoon’s trail leads through cattle grazing pasture where we’ll see gauchos at work.  It’s amazing to see how fertile these mountains can be!  At the end of the day we cross the river just as the locals do: on a little public motor boat with the horses swimming alongside on a lead rein.  Tonight is our last night on the trail.

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: 31 Km
Overnight: Local farmhouse

Day 13 – From Llanada Grande to  Puerto Varas

Our last ride: at this point you’ll be in complete harmony with your horse and enjoy the forest trail along the Puelo River to the hamlet of Llanada Grande.  Here our Minibus will be waiting for us.  An hour’s drive takes us to the ferry that will sail across to the other side of Tagua Lake.  A picnic lunch and on to Puerto Varas.  The road goes along the side of the Reloncaví Fjord so sit back and enjoy the beautiful sight of the river’s mouth flowing into the sea whilst admiring the colours of the sensational, untouched nature of Vicente Perez Rosales National Park.  We skirt Lake Llanquihue and the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes before arriving at the beautiful town of Puerto Varas.

Saddle time: 3 hrs
Timings: Hours riding: 3 hours then 4 hours transfer Llanada Grande – Puerto Varas
Overnight: Guesthouse or Hotel

Day 14 – Puerto Varas / Airport

Breakfast and transfer to the local airport or onward travel.

 

Patagonia Andes Grand Traverse Trail ride

Patagonia Andes Grand Traverse Accomodation 1

Bandiaras Island; home for 2 nights

What’s included:

  • Full board throughout (including 1 bottle of wine shared between 3 riders at dinner whilst riding).
  • Dinner at restaurants on days 1, 6 and 13 nights (wine not included).
  • Local guides, baquianos or “Huasos” and tour leader (French & English speaking).
  • VHF radio communication equipment.
  • Saddle horses and packhorses.
  • All In/out private group transfers by minibus, motor boats and ferry crossings.

Not included:

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Travel insurance (mandatory)
  • Tips for guides

 

Patagonia

Patagonia

 

Terrain:

The ride is exciting but not too demanding; saddle time per day varies and some days will be long. There are several river crossings which are great fun and allow riders to experience the local way of doing things.  There will be steep up-hills and undulating terrain which can make the going tougher than you might be used to, particularly if the weather is not good.  This adventure ride is an excellent way of combining lots of different terrain and being able to ride one of the toughest horse breeds in the world. Clients may canter on open ground, trot in the forest, or simply enjoy the ride at their own relaxing pace.

Pace: 10% Canter, 20% Trot, 40% long Trot, 30 % walk.

Hours riding: between 4 and 7 hours per day.

Horse Breed: The Chilean Creole is extremely strong and loyal. It has a low metabolism, a high threshold for discomfort, a great immunity to disease and a remarkable rate of recuperation. Their hooves are strong and their thick coat makes them well suited for both cold and dry/hot weather. The breed is the oldest registered Creole breed, the oldest registered horse breed of South America, the oldest registered stock horse breed in all the Americas and the third oldest horse breed of any kind in all the Western Hemisphere.  The Argentinean Criollo is smaller in size and is equally able to adapt to its environment.  The breed originated from Barb and Andalusian horses imported by the Spanish conquerors, before becoming feral. The Creole served the partisans in their quest for freedom before the Gauchos claimed the breed for their own and developed the horses we see today.

Tack: loosely based on the Magellan cavalry saddle, with local adaptions. Chilean saddles are used in Chile and endurance saddles in Argentina. Both are designed for comfort over long distances. You can also bring a seat-saver or comfy-rumps if you wish.

Best Season to ride: November to late March because the weather is most suitable for riding in the Andes.  Outside these times the rivers become difficult to ford and roads can become tricky due to the rainwater erosion.  December to January can bring a few horse flies and the end of February to March wasps are around on the trail.  They don’t cause too many problems but if you are allergic you may consider bringing antihistamine.

Accommodation: We overnight in a variety of places:

  • 4 nights at local farmhouses – rustic, clean rooms mainly as twin, triple or dorm rooms with shared facilities and hot showers
  • 3 nights camping
  • 1 night’s accommodation in an early 20th century fully-refurbished traditional estancia
  • 2 nights at a private retreat; Las Bandurrias Island.
  • The program also includes 3 nights hotel accommodation in Bariloche, El Bolsón and Puerto Varas.

 

Patagonia Andes Grand Traverse Food
 

Single supplement:

Is available, but only on the 3 hotel nights

Cost: £35

Guides: Only experienced guides with extensive local knowledge of the area are employed. They hold a certificate in WFR (wilderness first responder) and are friendly, great fun and highly passionate about the Puelo Valley. Guides are trained to stay a step ahead and offer help and assistance to ensure the trip runs smoothly.

Local “Huaso” guides or “baquianos” will always be there to help and look after you. They are a great support for the whole group and well attuned to the regional climate. They also have an uncanny sense of predicting the weather!

Rider’s weight: Due to the size of the Chilean Creole horse, riders over 90Kg/198lb are required to have an extra horse to allow alternation between morning and afternoon.  This will incur an additional cost.

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