Estancias are Argentina’s haciendas or ranches, mostly wealthy farms set up to raise livestock on extensive swathes of green pasture, dotted with the odd ombú. The owners, or estancieros, effectively make up the country’s aristocracy, and still employ large numbers of peones (ranch hands), some of them regarded as latter-day gauchos, to look after their cattle and, occasionally, sheep. The main buildings, known as cascos, range from simple colonial-style farmsteads to ornate mansions, with architecture inspired by French chateaux, English country homes or Italianate palaces. Scattered all over the country, but with the greatest concentration in Buenos Aires Province, above all around San Antonio de Areco, many of them take in paying guests; this can be either for días de campo, during which visitors take part in outdoor activities, such as horseriding or even polo, and enjoy three or four hearty meals, or overnight stays in often luxurious rooms for a complete estancia experience.

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