Uruguay Estancias make the most of the country’s idyllic rural landscape to offer countryside vacations to die for. Estancia simply means "ranch," a place where people live while working the land. Ninety percent of Uruguay’s land is used for agricultural purposes, be it farming or rearing livestock, so you get an idea of how many estancias there must be dotted around the place out there, and some of these have learned to capitalize upon their scenic setting by renting out a room (or more) to guests. In doing so, they’ve seeded what looks like being a major new sector to Uruguay’s tourism industry: vacations to Uruguay ranches.
These vacations take one of two forms. First, there’s the traditional model, whereby you turn up at the estancia, pay an agreed fee, and get to sleep, eat, and relax in its grounds as a result. In this form, Uruguay ranches are just like any of the other hotels in Uruguay. The second model is slightly less orthodox. Here, you turn up at a guest ranch in Uruguay, and pay for the pleasure of staying there in the way of labor. Typically, Uruguay ranches ask for six hours of help in the fields (or in the ranch itself) per day in exchange for bed and board. That may sound intimidating, but in fact the agreement normally works incredibly well: you get a budget-happy time sampling wonderful Uruguay estancias and learning things such as how they are run and tricks to grow food well, while the estancias get a free hand in the field. Many of the Uruguay ranches that run the model of business belong to the WWOOF organization (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms), so they’re certified as being traveler-friendly.
Once you’ve selected the guest ranch in Uruguay you wish to stay in and agreed on how you will pay, you’re basically guaranteed a vacation of a lifetime. There’s so much to enjoy about these places. Activities range from horse-riding (an ever popular choice) to walking, cooking, and just relaxing in the Uruguayan countryside. Then there are the gauchos, the ranch workers, who are always nearby to have an enlightening chat with.
Uruguay ranches that offer estancia vacation services are found across the country. A particular few do come recommended, however, such as La Casa de Los Limoneros, which is situated a short drive from the city of Colonia del Sacramento. This is an exceptionally scenic place, where guests spend most of their time justifiably lounging around the estancia’s pool, which is surrounded by an incredibly vivid lemon grove. La Vigna, located between Colonia and Montevideo, is another highly recommended guest ranch in Uruguay that makes an immense array of organic food.
If Uruguay estancias sound interesting, you could easily include them in a full tour of the country. Many of the best things to do here are located along its coastline, such as the sights of Montevideo and the beach resort Punta del Este. Thankfully, Uruguay is a small country, so these beach-dwelling attractions are never far away from an excellent rural guest ranch.