Estancia Nibepo Aike: A Journey to Authentic Patagonian Life

Estancia Nibepo Aike

An experience that is worth doing during your trip to El Calafate is undoubtedly visiting a typical Patagonian ranch. Today, we visited Estancia Nibepo Aike, one of the most famous ranches in the area.

In this article, we will share our experience: the route from El Calafate, a bit of history, the tour of its facilities, its gastronomy, and the activities that can be done there.

The place can be visited on a day trip, or you can choose to stay there and enjoy the accommodations and activities that the place offers. Daily visits can be made on an excursion from El Calafate, or you can rent a car and visit it on your own. In this case, we will visit on our own with a rental car, to spend one night there and enjoy this unique corner of Argentine Patagonia.

The History of the Estancia Nibepo Aike

In the early 20th century, Santiago Peso, a Croatian immigrant, arrived in Argentina and settled on a piece of land located on the southern arm of Lake Argentino. The land he occupied would later become part of the iconic Los Glaciares National Park. Santiago, along with a group of fellow Croatians, founded the “La Jerónima” ranch and established their business in sheep farming and cattle production on the vast expanse of approximately 20,000 hectares of land.

In 1924, during one of his trips to Río Gallegos, Santiago met María Martinic. They fell in love, and a year later, they got married. The couple was blessed with four children, namely Adolfo, Radoslava (Niní), Ángela (Bebe), and María (Porota). However, tragically, Adolfo passed away when he was only a year and a half old.

After Santiago’s death, his wife renamed the ranch “Nibepo Aike,” which roughly translates to “Place of Niní, Bebe, and Porota.” As I have already informed you, the ranch stands out as the only active animal production estancia that also welcomes tourists to experience authentic Patagonian ranch life. Guests can immerse themselves in the stunning surroundings and enjoy activities such as horseback riding, trekking, and mountain biking while getting a glimpse of the region’s rich cultural heritage.

How to Get To Nibepo Aike From El Calafate?

Well, the estancia is located only 50 km from El Calafate. It´s a 1-hour ride from the city center, so an early departure is a good idea.

The Route from El Calafate to Nibepo Aike

The route from El Calafate to Nibepo Aike is a scenic drive of approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) on a well-maintained gravel road. The road leads out of town, crosses the Santa Cruz River, and continues through the flat steppe terrain of the area, offering stunning views of the Andes mountain range in the distance. The drive takes about an hour and provides an excellent opportunity to appreciate the region’s breathtaking landscapes.

The Patagonian steppe is a vast and unique ecosystem located in southern Argentina and Chile. It is characterized by its arid climate, strong winds, and vast expanses of grasslands with scattered shrubs and low trees. The steppe is home to a variety of wildlife, including guanacos, foxes, armadillos, and a wide range of bird species. Traditional ranches, known as estancias, are also present in the steppe and have played a significant role in the region’s history and economy. The steppe is an essential source of wool and meat production, and the gauchos, or Patagonian cowboys, are a symbol of the region’s cultural identity. The rugged landscapes and natural beauty of the steppe make it a popular destination for ecotourism and outdoor activities, such as hiking, horseback riding, and birdwatching. Despite its harsh conditions, the Patagonian steppe is a unique and fascinating ecosystem that continues to capture the imagination of visitors and locals alike.

The route from El Calafate to Nibepo Aike and the Patagonian steppe.

Along the way, it’s possible to see wild guanacos, a type of South American camelid, rheas, which are large flightless birds, and sometimes even condors soaring overhead. The route also passes by Lake Roca, a picturesque turquoise-colored lake that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

As you travel to Nibepo Aike, there are several notable sights to see. One of them is the Anita Ranch, another historic ranch in the area. Estancia Anita is a Patagonian ranch with a rich history, located only 40 kilometers north of El Calafate. Founded in the early 1900s, it is renowned for its stunning views of the surrounding landscape and historical significance. The ranch is located on the banks of the Anita River, which is a tributary of the Santa Cruz River.

Estancia Anita, Patagonia
Estancia Anita.

Estancia Anita also provides visitors with an opportunity to experience traditional Patagonian ranch life and learn about the region’s history. The ranch boasts a museum that showcases artifacts from the early days of ranching in Patagonia, in addition to a collection of vintage cars and machinery. Guests can participate in various outdoor activities, including horseback riding, hiking, and fishing.

However, it is just a brief stop on our journey today to enjoy the scenery on the way to Nibepo Aike. The ranch is surrounded by rugged mountains and vast expanses of grasslands, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Estancia Anita and “La Patagonia Rebelde”

What also makes Estancia Anita relevant is its relationship with a famous Argentine film. Yes, the Anita Ranch has a historical connection with the movie ‘La Patagonia Rebelde’, as some of the events that inspired the plot of the film took place there. During the period known as the ‘Tragic Patagonia’ in the early 20th century, farmworkers staged a massive strike to demand better working conditions and fairer wages. The government responded with brutal repression, including sending military troops to the region to quell the revolt. Many farmworkers and union leaders were persecuted and imprisoned, and some were executed at the Anita Ranch and other places in Patagonia. The movie ‘La Patagonia Rebelde’ is based on these historical events and is considered a fundamental work of Argentine cinema. Along the route, there is a small space in recognition of those murdered workers during the events portrayed in the film, where you can make a stop.

The Arrival at Estancia Nibepo Aike

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a friendly and hospitable young woman who offered us a cup of coffee. She explained the various activities available on the premises, such as horseback riding, mountain biking tours, and trekking through the ranch’s trails. The reception area exuded warmth, and despite the summer season, the wood-burning fireplace was lit. The weather in Patagonia can be highly unpredictable, with cold winds blowing in from the nearby Andes mountains and continental ice. Currently, Nibepo Aike is the only active animal production ranch that also welcomes tourists to experience authentic Patagonian ranch life. But before we dive into our visit, let me give you some essential details about the ranch’s history, origins, and current state.

After enjoying our coffee, the young woman suggested that we join the group that had just arrived from El Calafate for the daily excursion to visit the ranch. We eagerly accepted her invitation, and upon arrival, we were given a demonstration of milking, with the gaucho explaining the technique of milking cows every day. The sun that had welcomed us began to hide behind thick clouds as the climate in Patagonia changes from one minute to the next. The gaucho then invited us to take a 30-minute walk to reach the shore of Lake Argentino. The Nibepo Aike Ranch is located on the southern shore of the southern arm of this milky blue lake, the largest lake in Argentine territory. We stayed there for a while, enjoying the scenery and chatting with our guide, the gaucho who takes care of the animals, and most foreign tourists today, about the expanses of Patagonia, its climate, and the almost nonexistent possibilities for cultivation in the region.

Afterward, we made our way to the shearing shed where a demonstration of the shearing process was about to take place, along with some historical context. With the establishment of the National Park and changing economic conditions in the wool trade, this activity has become less significant than it was in the past.

After the shearing demonstration, we headed to the dining room to enjoy lunch. Of course, the typical dish is the Patagonian lamb roasted on a spit, one of the delicacies of the region, and of Patagonia in general, accompanied by a great variety of salads.

After lunch, we went back to the reception to check in and get our room. We had already scheduled two wonderful activities for an afternoon where the clouds and the sun were battling for dominance. First, a horseback ride along a trail within the estate, touring the shores of Lake Argentino and enjoying its magnificent views, and finally a mountain bike tour.

The room is simple but cozy, with typical details of the history of Argentine Patagonia. A place to be undoubtedly and feel truly in this corner of the planet. We enjoyed a delicious snack with coffee, tea, and homemade cakes, while the weather changed again. The clouds had taken over, and it seemed like it was going to rain. That wouldn’t stop the horseback ride that awaited us next.

Activities and Adventures in Estancia Nibepo Aike

Nibepo Aike offers a diverse range of activities to do within the ranch. There are short and long treks, simpler and more demanding horseback rides, as well as mountain bike tours. There are various trails available, and the ranch staff is prepared to guide you and suggest the best option for you.

Horseback Riding in Nibepo Aike

We chose a 40-minute horseback riding excursion. The experience was complete, as the rain ended up being part of the ride. For horse lovers, we suggest taking the Ride to the Hidden Glaciers, where you can explore the most remote corners of Los Glaciares National Park and live an authentic rural experience in the three outposts of the Estancia that serve as a base for the journey. You will access a unique postcard of the Patagonian Andean forest, the crystal-clear waters of the lakes, the immensity of the mountains, and the imposing glaciers, as you advance towards the outposts that serve as a refuge and refer to traditional rural life.

The ride was fantastic as we returned along the shores of Lake Argentino. The rain had stopped, and a Patagonian rainbow provided the perfect farewell frame for this activity. It was time to relax for a while in the estate garden, enjoying the landscape and listening to the birds and the wind blowing through the trees that framed the place. Later, we still had the mountain biking activity awaiting us.

Horseback riding in Estancia Nibepo Aike.

Trekking in Nibepo Aike

Another activity that can be done for those who choose to stay at the estate is trekking through the vastness of Patagonia, to explore the corners of Estancia Nibepo Aike, surrounded by the wild beauty of the Baguales Mountain Range until reaching the hidden glaciers.

A 3-day, 2-night trek, with overnight stays at a ranch post that serves as a refuge and where you can experience an authentic Patagonian rural experience, culminating the journey with the Glaciar Sur Aventura excursion.

The Baguales are domestic animals that have escaped from humans to return to nature. This mountain range is named after them because some wild horses and cows still roam in that remote place.

Mountain Biking in Nibepo Aike

After a good rest and a delicious snack of coffee and homemade cakes, we relaxed in the backyard of the main house to enjoy the tranquility of the place, with the sound of the wind passing through the poplar trees surrounding us and the singing of birds. However, it was only for a while because our mountain bikes were waiting for us to take an internal circuit around the ranch and tour the southern coast of Lake Argentino. The weather seemed to change again. The sky cleared up and the sun became the protagonist.

During the ride, we came across some of the local wildlife, many birds, some hares or maras, as well as sheep and horses from the ranch grazing nearby. With Lake Argentino on our left and the mountains to our right, the scenery was breathtaking. Suddenly, the weather changed again, as it often does in Patagonia, and we decided to return to the main house to protect ourselves from possible rain, as the sky turned gray suddenly, with a cold wind blowing from the bottom of the lake, where the glaciers are the owners of the place. It was just after six in the evening, but here in Patagonia during the summer season, the days are very long. The sun only sets around ten o’clock at night, which ensures an excellent amount of daylight hours to enjoy the activities.

The Gastronomic Experience: Traditional Argentinian Cuisine at Estancia Nibepo Aike

If you choose the option of a day visit, Nibepo Aike includes a lunch of Patagonian lamb cooked on the spit and a variety of salads. But if you choose to stay overnight, you will also have included a snack, dinner, and breakfast for the following day. The cuisine is based on the local culture, with dishes prepared by the chef staying on-site. Regional dishes will surely be a good option for dinner, with an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Drinks are paid for separately.

As we mentioned, the snack is composed of tea, coffee, or coffee with milk, along with some specially prepared homemade cakes. The breakfast was also very complete, with freshly made homemade bread and some local sweets, including the Calafate berry, a fruit that grows in the region and gave its name to the town of El Calafate, which serves as a base for visiting nearby attractions.

Lamb being roasted on a vertical stake in Estancia Nibepo Aike

The Wonderful Stay at Nibepo Aike

We strongly recommend visiting Nibepo Aike during your stay in El Calafate. Whether for a day visit or staying overnight, it is worth discovering the secrets of this corner far from civilization, engaging in activities such as horseback riding or trekking, visiting the shearing shed, and learning more about the rich history of the place. If possible for you, we suggest staying at Nibepo Aike for one or two nights. This will allow you to engage in more activities and fully experience sleeping in a Patagonian ranch. Summer days are eternal, with plenty of daylight hours to walk, observe the landscape, read, or simply rest.

Book a Visit to Nibepo Aike

If you would like to organize an excursion or an overnight stay at Estancia Nibepo Aike, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Picture of Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in travel market, as Sales & Marketing Manager in RipioTurismo, Marketing Manager in Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

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