Nibeko Aike Estancia, El Calafate, Argentina: Travel Review

by on 19th May, 2023

Nibeko Aike offers a genuine Estancia stay near El Calafate.

Patagonia is synonymous not only with incredible landscapes and high winds but also with the Estancia and Gaucho cultures. Here, a hundred years ago, people started a new life working the land, including at Estancia Nibeko Aike.

Now, visitors can live the Estancia experience with an overnight stay or include it as a stop as an alternative day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier. Andean Trails’ Kat recently spent a day at Estancia Nibepo Aike in Argentina to bring back these field notes.




Getting to Nibepo Aike, El Calafate

Nibepo Aike lies about an hour’s drive from El Calafate. You get here fairly quickly yet find yourself in complete wilderness. No neighbour is in sight unless you count the cows, sheep, and mountains around you.

Arriving at the lodge, you feel like you are stepping back in time a little. The fire is on, and the cakes and coffee provide a warm welcome. The lodge is not luxurious but retains a traditional feel with spacious rooms. Look around you, and you will find plenty of curiosities, such as the old Aga-style oven and beautiful pictures of Patagonian people and landscapes.




A Day at Estancia Nibeko Aike

While I am warming myself by the fire, Juan Pablo, wearing a typical Patagonian beret-style hat and holding his Mate, introduces me to all the Estancia has to offer.

Staying here, you will have the choice of several self-guided walking and biking trails, all well-signposted for you to follow. Anybody coming to Nibepo Aike should try horseback riding. It’s aimed at all levels, so beginners can enjoy seeing the Estancia and its surroundings from high up. There are three rides a day on offer, the last at the end of the day to coincide with the herding of the sheep to the barn.



An Estancia Steeped in History

Estancia Nibepo Aike was founded in 1925 by a couple of Croatian immigrants. Life was hard, but like many, they saw potential in the sheep industry and started to keep flocks for wool production.

Their history is fascinating, especially as about 15 years later, Maria Martinic was forced to keep working the Estancia alone and as a mother of three when her husband passed away.

All around the Estancia, pictures of these times give a great insight into what life may have been like back then.



Sheep, Cows and Horses

Cows have mostly replaced sheep as the price of beef made ranching a more prosperous trade. You’ll see and hear them grazing around the ranch’s pastures.

During my stay, I learn more about the sheep and wool industry. The old barn serves as a museum. You can watch sheep sheering using the traditional method of sheering scissors and understand more about the production processes in the Estancia’s early years.

Horse riding adds to the experience, and I was glad to embark on a one-hour ride to a viewpoint nearby. The vistas of nearby Lake Argentino and the surrounding mountain chain are fabulous from here.




Day Trips to Estancia Nibepo Aike

You can visit the Estancia as a day trip from El Calafate or stay overnight for a more intimate understanding of life on the Patagonian Steppe. There are comfortable 10 rooms, built in the traditional Patagonian style, with wooden floors and a fireplace. Warm hospitality comes as standard.

A fantastic option is to combine Nibepo Aike with a visit to Perito Moreno Glacier in the afternoon. On arrival at the Estancia, enjoy a horse ride, a sheering presentation, and the famous Patagonian BBQ, the Asado. Then, fed and watered, head off to marvel at the glacier nearby by boat and from the walkways before returning to El Calafate.

The day trip may feel a little more touristy than the overnight stay. Still, there probably won’t be more than 25 people on your day trip, and there are often fewer people. The day trip is a bit touristy in parts, but it still retains authenticity. It’s a wonderful alternative to the standard day tour to Perito Moreno.

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