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The Best of South America's Haciendas

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Photo: David Nicolas

Save space for dinner at one of the hacienda's two restaurants, which serve top-notch renditions of local dishes. Two of the best are carne colorado (beef colored red with peppery annatto) and fritada (fried pork) served with locro and avocado. The antiques-filled suites with four-poster beds are havens for weary travelers. Getting There Transportation to and from Quito's airport, 53 miles south of the hacienda, can be arranged for an additional $50. 593-6/294-6116; haciendapinsaqui.com; doubles from $108, including breakfast.

Argentina

Estancia El Ombú, San Antonio de Areco

El Ombú takes its name from the only tree indigenous to the pampas, one of which looms over the yard that separates the estancia's stables from the two main buildings. The nine guest rooms, each assigned the name of a local bird rather than a number, are located in an 1890's building with soaring ceilings and furnished with European and Argentinean antiques such as brass beds and potbellied stoves—which are kept burning during the winter. The estancia has two pools, but few activities are offered beyond morning and afternoon horseback excursions. Thirteen friendly dogs, from German shepherds to dachshunds, roam the grounds and join the horses and guests on rides. Lunch, served fireside in winter and on the patio when the weather is mild, is a traditional asado, with platters of grilled steaks and sausages; the addition of day visitors from Buenos Aires on weekends makes this a boisterous event. Dinner is more subdued, and most guests retire early or take a glass of Malbec to the library or game room. Getting There The estancia is 75 miles by car from Buenos Aires, and private-car service can be arranged by the estancia, for $80 each way. 54-11/4737-0436; estanciaelombu.com; doubles from $500, including meals./p>

Estancia Peuma Hue, Bariloche

After years of searching northern Patagonia's lake district, Evelyn Hoter—then a psychologist in Buenos Aires—chose a 500-acre lot inside Nahuel Huapi National Park on which to construct her estancia, whose name means "place of dreams" in the Mapuche language. Originally she and her ex-husband used it as a private home, but now 27 guests can stay here, in luxurious log cabins filled with handmade rugs, furniture, and crafts by local Indians. In the main house, multicourse organic meals are served, and there's a large public living room facing Lake Gutiérrez. Ask at the front desk where to hike in the surrounding Andean foothills and you'll get a hand-drawn map of trails. Horseback riding, biking, and kayaking can be arranged too, as well as off-property fly-fishing, rafting, and skiing, and Peuma Hue's own tai chi classes and massage treatments make it an estancia for the New Age. Getting There Peuma Hue is 15 miles outside Bariloche, Argentina; rates include airport transfer. 54-92944/501-030; peuma-hue.com; doubles from $430, including all meals and most activities.

Estancia Villa María, Máximo Paz

Sitting on 3,700 acres, the imposing eight-bedroom guesthouse of Villa Maria is a design anomaly for the pampas: English Tudor, inside and out. But guests are welcomed with an authentic asado before they begin exploring the sprawling grounds, on horseback or on foot. Later, a gaucho equestrian demonstration is followed by a dance performance of tangos and milongas in the large dining room. In warm weather, the outdoor pool and tennis courts are also options. Playing on the English influence seen in the public rooms, the bedrooms (eight in the main guesthouse and two in a second building) are filled with 19th-century antiques. The Villa María stands out among the other estancias near Buenos Aires for its polished, gracious, and warm staff, who attend to any empty wineglass quickly. Getting There The estancia is 35 miles southwest of Buenos Aires; a private car service can be arranged for $160, round-trip. 54-11/4322-7785;estanciavillamaria.com; doubles from $260.

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