Top 10 ranches worldwide

Published September 24, 2012

| Gayot

Few institutions are considered as authentically all-American as the ranch. Big skies, wranglers and the Wild West hold hallowed positions in U.S. history lore. But across the globe you can find countries with long-standing traditions of busting broncos, herding cattle and shearing sheep. From gauchos who shout out hearty holas on the Pampas to ringers who holler jovial g'days in the outback, the cowboy (and gal) life is one without borders. Featuring cattle drives, star-kissed campfires and even luxurious spa treatments, our selection of international guest ranches has been compiled for cowpokes with wanderlust in their hearts. 

ARGENTINA

Patagonia
Estancia Ranquilco
Argentina's rugged Patagonia region boasts one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Spread over 100,000 acres in the foothills of the Andes, Estancia Ranquilco introduces travelers to the steppes, valleys, meadows and cliffs of this unforgettable area. Bordering Chile, the ranch offers a remote escape where guests can discover the magic of traditional gaucho culture, as well as participate in a variety of sustainability projects, such as beekeeping and leather working. From riding the range to undertaking a mountain pack trip, every activity is an immersion in the great outdoors. For experienced horseback riders, mountain volunteer programs include horse roundups, cattle drives and pony express duties. Days spent riding, hiking in search of condors or fly-fishing on the Trocoman River are followed by home-style Patagonian meals paired with fine Argentinean wines. 

AUSTRALIA

New South Wales
Burrawang West Station
The legendary Burrawang West Station offers a singular outback experience on 12,000 acres in New South Wales. The fully-functioning sheep and cattle station continues to produce some of the finest beef on the continent, and now also offers four boutique lodges with a total of twelve suites, all done up with Australian antiques and featuring fully screened verandahs. Adventurous types can even take in the dusty environment from a hot air balloon. Additional opportunities for exploration include station tours, wildlife spotting via canoe and creative workshops with Aboriginal artists. Those who simply want to relax and savor the setting can opt to hang out by the pool. Gourmet cuisine, sourced from the gardens, is served in a variety of locales, such as riverside under the gum trees and in the homestead's formal dining room.

CANADA

Jesmond, Clinton, British Columbia
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa

For those who want more than just riding and wrangling from their ranch vacation, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa is a welcome option. With its authentic Canadian wilderness location, luxurious Asian-inspired accommodations and full-service resort spa, this destination attracts travelers from around the world. During the summer months guests come for fishing and equestrian programs, such as cattle drives and horsemanship classes, while winter appeals with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Many of the ranch horses are Tennessee Walkers, known for their smooth gait and gentle nature. Horseback rides meander through a stunning landscape of desert pine, aspens, meadows, pasturelands and mountains, leading ultimately to the edge of a glacial canyon. With its Zen style and Wild West experiences, Echo Valley offers one of the most unique holidays around.

CHILE

Hurtado
Hacienda Los Andes
Introduced to South America by the Spaniards, haciendas are now an integral part of the continent's culture. At the gateway to the Andes, Hacienda Los Andes incorporates Incan influences, transforming colonial tradition into a truly indigenous experience. This 1,000-acre spread, which has its own observatory, reaches from the Rio Hurtado to the top of the Cerro Gigante Mountains. The majority of the land is a nature reserve, which makes it ideal for leisurely rides on criollos (Chilean horses) that have been gently trained without the use of whips or spurs. Among the activities are multi-day tours, which include overnight camping along riding trails. The hacienda has six quaint bedrooms, each looking onto the Andes. Meals incorporate Chilean wines and fruit, vegetables and cheese from small local producers.

COSTA RICA

Casagua
The Painted Pony Guest Ranch
The Painted Pony Guest Ranch is a 50-acre, family-owned property just minutes from the coast. You can spend your days riding through area ranches to small towns, where you can stop at a local cantina for a taste of Guanacaste culture. In season, you might join a group of local riders for a traditional fiesta including a colorful horse parade. Each trail offers its own unique experience, winding through the quaint ranch town of Tempate to Potrero Beach or meandering to the foot of the Arenal Canal, where canopy or hanging bridge tours await. Off-saddle activities include snorkeling, sailing, diving and zip lining. Accommodations are limited to a private suite and one-bedroom casita, ensuring exclusivity.

FRANCE

Arles, Provence
Le Mas de Peint

"Ooh la la" meets "giddy up, pardner" in the Camargue wilderness of southern France. Just south of Arles, the town that provided inspiration for Van Gogh, Jacques Bon has taken his grandfather's property and transformed it into a gentleman farmer's estate. His focus is a working farm used to grow rice and raise horses, bulls and Merino sheep. Meanwhile, his wife, Lucille, has turned her architectural and design background to the original seventeenth-century building, transforming it into a stylish inn with just eight bedrooms and three suites. Guests can learn about local ranching traditions by observing gardians (cowboys) tending bulls on their white horses. Highlights include roundups, nature discovery rides and meals in the stunning dining room, featuring Provençal cuisine. 

MEXICO

San Agustin Buenavista
Rancho Las Cascadas
Efficient Swiss management and warm Mexican hospitality — welcome to Rancho Las Cascadas. Positioned on a mountain plateau in central Mexico, and named after three surrounding waterfalls, this luxe getaway offers something for horse lovers of all levels. Colores de Mexico riding packages cater to beginners, while Highland and Canyons Explorer packages are ideal for intermediate and advanced riders. In addition, à la carte half- and full-day rides are available. As for the horses, they're a locally bred mix of laidback Quarter horses and strong, surefooted Criollo horses. Along with equestrian activities, the ranch offers a pool, hot tub, massages and cultural excursions. Accommodations include Pueblito rooms with the atmosphere of a Mexican village, Main House rooms featuring hand-crafted stone and two freestanding casitas for extra privacy and space. An open kitchen showcases regional and international cuisine, which may be enjoyed on-site or as a picnic while you're out on one of your daily rides. 

SPAIN

Granada
El Rancho de Ferrer
Once an abandoned village, El Ferrer was converted into an exclusive guest ranch, just ten minutes from the Mediterranean in the lower Alpujarras Mountains. Most of the original houses have been renovated, and each is its own accommodation with kitchen, living room and bedrooms. With the Sierra Nevadas as a backdrop, you'll ride on old mule trails, encountering the occasional Spanish donkey, soaring falcon and earthy fragrance of thyme crushed beneath the horses' feet. Rides may include a picnic to sample traditional dishes and wines while the horses are watered. Count mostly on English tack, although Spanish and Western saddles are a possibility. Paired with your horse (by skill level and even mood), you may find yourself atop the powerful Domingo or sweet Balou. 

UNITED STATES

Colorado
Latigo Trails
More than 80 years old, Latigo Trails offers a classic Western ranch experience. As you explore the property on horseback, you will marvel at the gorgeous, pristine Rocky Mountain scenery. A herd of 80 horses means that there's one just right for your ability and temperament, and you'll have a chance to bond with your steed throughout your entire stay. Like many ranches, this one is all-inclusive, and its offerings are impressive: a supervised kids program, river rafting, fly fishing instruction, breakfast rides, sunset rides, hay rides, horse-drawn covered wagon outings, country dancing, cookouts and Western roping. For those who'd like to experience Colorado in the winter, the ranch also features unspoiled cross-country skiing trails. Modern log cabins with fireplaces or wood-burning stoves round out the Latigo experience. 

Texas
Beaumont Ranch

Riding, roping and hot rock massages? Welcome to a new breed of cattle ranch. With the historic Chisholm Trail running through it, the 800-acre Beaumont Ranch (less than an hour from Dallas) features its own 1880s Western town, real cowboys herding Longhorn cattle, horseback riding lessons and the full-service Beau Monde Spa. You're welcome to participate in cattle roundups or whoop it up in the Lone Star Barn, which boasts a mechanical bull and Friday night fish fries. Although the property is Texas-sized, the accommodations are cozy, with just fifteen quaint rooms. Once you're done practicing calf roping or Western horsemanship, you can unwind with reflexology, a salt body polish or Moor mud wrap. No doubt Dale Evans would approve. 

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