Farm stays in South America
How to find agriturism opportunities—the chance to stay on a working farm—in South America
Farm stays in...
GeneralThe concept behind agritourism (or rural tourism, or farm stays, or dude ranches, or farmhouse B&Bs, or whatever you want to call it) is simple: you spend the night as a guest on a working farm. From there, though, the concept flies off in many directions.
Sometimes you just hole up for the night in a B&B converted from a farmhouse.
Sometimes you actually stick around to do volunteer work for a few days (a week, two months, a year), as with the worldwide WWOOF network.
Sometimes, just renting a cottage in a rural area where sheep wander past your window is enough to count.
Ideally, the property's owners live on-site and are farmers who derive the bulk of their income from agriculture, using this newfangled form of tourism merely to help make ends meet.
In some countries, the practice of agritourism is highly regulated; in others, it’s a wild west of opportunities, and you have to pick carefully to avoid spending the night in a barn atop a pile of hay (unless that's what you want—I've done it in Europe, and it's great).
Some local tourist offices provide lists of local farm stays.
Few are listed in English-language guidebooks—but you can sometimes find guides available in local bookshops—often in the local lingo, but the important bits are easy enough: addresses, prices, and phone numbers, photographs, and icons for private baths, swimming pools, etc.
You can always just look for agriturism signs on country roads, pointing down rutted dirt tracks toward a farmhouse set among the vineyards.
If you want to find and book a few before you leave, here are the best online resources for finding farm stays all across Africa. Not all sites are available in English, but the pertinent details are usually pretty easy to figure out:
Argentina Turismo (www.turismo.gov.ar) It takes some digging at the official government tourism website to find estancias (working ranches) in Argentina that accept guest—though there are 900 of them—but if you go into the "Active Tourism" section then look at the menu to the left for "Rural Tourism," you will se an inset of yet another sub-menu (wedged between the left menu and the central block of text), one of which is "Estancias." Click here to get to a search page that (finally) gives you tons of options, including "estancias" and "rural hotels" (as well as "Haras - Horsemanship" under which you'll find plenty of riding opportunities).
Estancias Argentinas (www.estanciasargentinas.com.ar) - Around 130 estancias (guest ranches) all across Argentina, from the doorstep of Buenos Aires to the heart of the Pampas to the hinterlands of Patagonia.
Farm stays in Colombia
Agrisport (www.agrisport.com) - It's very much a homemade site, and far from the best organized around, but it's loaded with links once you drill down. These are not only to specific guest farms and dude ranches, but to other outdoors and agritourism links as well, all grouped by country or state. One annoying factor: you have to open a site in a new window to see what its actual url is (otherwise every page is masked as "agrisort.com").
Earthfoot (www.earthfoot.org) - Under "Homestays" you'll find some a couple of listings for Mexico, Guatemala, and Guyana.
Organic Places to Stay (www.organicholidays.co.uk) - OK, nearly two-thirds of the listings here are lodgings that happen to offer organic food. The other third, however, are B&Bs, rental cottages, or homestays on working organic farms. There are tons of listings ranging all over the world, a handful of which are in Argentina, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.
Agritourism World (www.agritourismworld.com) - Ladies and gentlemen, behold: a list of thousands of farm stays around the world... in alphabetical order by name. Not even sure why I bother including this sits, since the results are nearly random—a farm B&B in rural Pennsylvania wedged between one in Italy and another in Belize. How useful is that? Still, if you just want to roll the virtual dice when it comes to location, you'll find plenty of agriturismi here.
Become a farmhand; sleep for free - If you really want to get your hands dirty, sign up to become a temporary farmhand through one of two volunteer organizations: WWOOF (www.wwoof.org) and Helpx (www.helpx.net)...
Double rooms at an agriturismo run anywhere from $7 to $200, but usually around $40 to $70 in Western Europe, around $12 to $50 in Eastern Europe.
I've stayed at loads of agriturismi: vineyards and dairy farms, barns amid olive groves and frescoed villas next to horse stables.
Each stay has offered me a different experience of farm life for a fraction the cost of a hotel.
Many agriturisms require a two- or three-night minimum stay (for some, a week).
Roughly half accept credit cards.
Sometimes you get four-star luxury and satellite TV. Sometimes you’re a straw's-width from sleeping in a stall.
Most, though, are just what you'd expect from a farmhouse B&B: simple comforts, solid country furnishings, and rural tranquility—barnyard noises excepted.
The hosts tend to be a sight friendlier than your average hotel desk clerk. Some invite guests to dine with them, family-style, in the farmhouse. One shepherd let me stir a bubbling pot of sheep's milk to help it on its way to becoming pecorino cheese. Vineyard owners love to crack open bottles of their best to guide you through the finer points of wine tasting.