My weekend at a traditional Uruguayan estancia

A couple of weeks ago I stayed in an authentic, traditional Uruguayan estancia with my family. We spent three nights in Estancia El Ceibo, in Florida, Uruguay.

I was looking for an affordable, family-friendly guest house in the countryside and El Ceibo ticked all the boxes.

The owners, Carmen and Joselo, and the rest of the staff are what makes El Ceibo truly special. El Ceibo feels more like visiting family, and nothing like staying in a hotel.

If you want to experience authentic Uruguay, then I’d recommend you check it out.

Accommodation is simple, but comfortable. You’re staying in the countryside, so be prepared for some insects and cobwebs here and there. In fact if you’re after a pristine, luxury, sterile hotel, then El Ceibo won’t be for you.

El Ceibo is about traditional Uruguayan hospitality, fresh air and tranquility. It’s about connecting with nature and slowing down. It’s a rustic estancia offering a taster of authentic Uruguayan life in the campo.

The estancia offers over 200 hectares to explore. On weekends they receive big groups for a barbecue feast. We ate (a lot) then retreated with the kids to the riverside for some calm time away from the crowd.

We learned so much during our stay. Joselo has a passion for local flora and fauna, and eagerly showed us all sorts of medicinal plants on his farm land. Meanwhile Carmen treated my kids like her extended family, spooning up huge dollops of dulce de leche while telling them stories about Uruguay old and new.

The rustic estancia filled with quirky antiques. In many ways it felt like we had stepped back in time to the good old days.

However, it was Mario who truly captured my kids’ hearts. Mario looks after much of the estancia, including the horses. He had the patience and stamina to take us riding twice per day. My kids got a little introduction into gaucho life, learning how to hold the reins,  sit safely in the saddle and enjoy the fresh Florida air.

Alas I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of us with Mario as we were always on horseback, but he made our stay so great!

In fact, the main reason we chose El Ceibo was all the horse riding on offer. While most other places charge per person per ride, we got to ride to our hearts’ content, at no extra cost.

In between rides we explored the countryside on foot, in Joselo’s tractor, and by bike.

Then in the late afternoon we had a splash in the hot tub. My boys were splashing so much, it was hardly the relaxing spa experience I had envisaged, but well, they certainly had fun.

We lounged around, enjoying the sunshine and homemade cakes. The menu is rustic and portions are large. We stayed on an all inclusive basis and we certainly didn’t go hungry.

My kids were disappointed to leave the estancia. However as El Ceibo felt like family they assumed we’d be back to visit again soon. And they’d no doubt be right.

Need to know: 

El Ceibo is located near Florida, about 3 hours from Punta del Este and 2 hours from Montevideo. We stopped briefly in Florida. Florida was where Uruguayan independence was declared, so it’s historically very important. While there isn’t so much to see in the town, the cathedral is stunning and worth a look in.

Bring insect repellent if you’re visiting in the summer. Like much of Uruguay, the clean air comes at the cost of mosquitoes.

You might like to bring horse riding helmets if you have them. It’s very common here in Uruguay to ride without helmets, but it does make me nervous (especially as my kids like to ride fast!)

Also bring swim wear for the out door hot tub.

If you’re a meat lover, you will enjoy all the high quality meat on offer. However don’t despair if you’re vegetarian – Carmen asked us what we wanted to eat and offered me vegetarian alternatives. Let the estancia know in advance of any special dietary requirements. El Ceibo is a small business but they’ll do their best to accommodate.

Large groups of guests visit on weekends for a midday asado buffet (barbecue). Thankfully a separate table is reserved for overnight guests and the bedrooms are located in a separate part of the estancia to the main dining hall. And there is plenty of countryside to escape to if you don’t like crowds!

The estancia is huge and it’s very easy to get lost in the forest. Stick to the main fields, or explore only with Joselo.

We paid approx 830 USD for three nights on an all inclusive basis for two adults and three children. We were visiting in low season, so be prepared to pay more in the summer months  We were going to book through Booking, but instead booked directly with Carmen (the owner) and she kindly offered us an extra bedroom at no extra cost. If possible, book directly with the owners. Carmen can be reached on WhatsApp +598 99 125 761

For more visit their Facebook page, email or WhatsApp +598 99 125 761

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