3 Exotic Polo Destinations

Up your game at these exotic destinations that are home to dreamy resorts, memorable excursions, and prime polo academies.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

A metropolis in the Arabian Desert, Dubai dazzles with design-driven skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. While the city maintains a Middle Eastern sociocultural identity, it also pulses with Western influence apparent in its 600 hotels, dozens of shopping malls, a bustling financial district, and an expat-rich community. Led by the ethos of “bigger, newer, better,” Dubai has generated a thriving economy and an electrifying allure that drive today’s jet set to experience the glittering emirate.

Dubai and its towering Burj Khalifa

Play: From September to May, former coach and professional player Steve Thompson runs the Dubai Polo Academy at the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club. He offers the gamut of programs, including introductory polo lessons and a 10-week “polo-lates” boot camp, as well as individual and group instruction.

Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club

Sleep: Check into The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, the city’s most intimate five-star resort. Located in the
center of the Dubai Marina District, the hotel is walking distance to excellent dining and shopping and sits on a stunning swathe of the Arabian Gulf coast, lending to endless fun in the sun in the resort’s five swimming pools and private beach. Alternatively, go grand at the “seven-star” Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. The Tom Wright–designed opus, which resembles the sail of a traditional dhow (sailing vessel), has become an icon of decadence in Dubai.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Explore: Dubai holds claim to some of the biggest man-made creations on Earth, including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and largest shopping mall, the Dubai Mall. Spend a day indoor skiing at Ski Dubai, dining next to the floor-to-ceiling aquarium at Al Mahara at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah resort, or watching the Dubai Fountain present a choreographed display of 22,000 gallons of water soaring as high as 500 feet. Don’t miss out on the sites that capture Dubai’s heritage: souks, or open-air markets like Gold Souk and Deira Spice Souk; striking Islamic architecture, like the Jumeirah Mosque; and riveting desert experiences—traversing sand dunes by camelback will likely headline your Dubai travel diary.

Dubai Fountain

JOSÉ IGNACIO, URUGUAY

Often referenced as South America’s equivalent to the Hamptons, Uruguay’s Punta del Este sizzles in the summer as the place to be for Latin America’s growing bourgeoisie. Occupying its own petite peninsula, the artsy beachfront hamlet of José Ignacio attracts the elite of the Americas, seeking to balance R&R and outdoor enthusiasm with a busy social calendar.

Play: José Ignacio is home to billionaire Alexander Vik’s small portfolio of uber-luxury boutique properties, such as Estancia Vik José Ignacio, a 4,000-acre destination retreat where Criollo horses roam. From November to April, polo lessons are available upon request on the private polo grounds. For those who desire equestrian rhapsody without the stick and ball, the estate’s esteemed horses are at the ready for exhilarating rides to the beach and across open landscapes.

Sleep: Fusing indoors and outdoors, the 12 suites at Estancia Vik José Ignacio are a hypermodern interpretation of a traditional Spanish colonial home: The clean-lined exteriors are coated in stark white, and each suite features colorful high design and eye-catching decor. The original murals and various interpretations of Uruguayan art—like an edgy, graffiti-stained dining room—feel like a continuous celebration of Art Basel.

Estancia Vik’s barbecue, created by artist Marcelo Legrand

Explore: Estancia Vik José Ignacio functions as a self-contained destination, so the daily agenda may include activities like polo, of course, but also canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, or sampling some of the treats in the 5,000-bottle wine cellar. Active pursuits notwithstanding, the beaches of Punta del Este are still the region’s primary attractions, where sun worshipping and surfing reign as the top pastimes. During the summer months of December to March, beach outings are best spent in the oh-so-cool, cantilevered swimming pool at sister hotel Playa Vik José Ignacio. Also, be sure to dine at least one night at Parador la Huella, where the people watching is as delicious as the food.

Parador La Huella (photo by Eric Wolfinger)

SAN CARLOS DE BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA

Argentina began its mad love affair with polo at the turn of the nineteenth century, and the sport is now woven into the fabric of national high society. Besides hosting the Argentine Polo Open Championship, the sport’s most prestigious international annual event, the country’s great outdoors are dotted with polo-centric retreats. When the winter snow melts and the sun reappears, several of Patagonia’s famous ski towns swap snow gear for polo sticks, and prized ponies roam fairy-tale landscapes. Argentina’s who’s who of aspiring players head to San Carlos de Bariloche, in the country’s remote southwest, lured to esteemed grounds set within the epitome of Patagonia’s natural grandeur.

San Carlos de Bariloche

Play: From January to March, the Arelauquen Lodge offers polo classes led by Juan Martín García Laborde, known for his training in the Saint-Tropez circuit. Classes cater to all levels, and skill is determined by a technical assessment, used to develop and implement a personalized program.

Arelauquen Lodge

Sleep: Enveloped by lofty mountains and emerald lakes, the intimate Arelauquen Lodge doles out a rustic-chic experience, where the focus remains on the location and environs rather than prolific hotel amenities. The 28 guest rooms, many with floor-to-ceiling windows, peer over the postcard-perfect panoramas of Bariloche’s gorgeous mountains and lakes, and offer proximate access to world-class golf and other outdoor adventures, including the on-site polo club in summer and superlative skiing in winter. When hunger hits, check out Arelauquen’s signature Epic restaurant, where chef Julian del Pino turns local ingredients into culinary works of art.

Breakfast alfresco at Arelauquen’s Epic restaurant

Explore: Bariloche is all about experiencing the outdoors through hiking, rafting, horseback riding, boating, golfing, and more. Given the vast distances, any trip to this part of Patagonia requires a rental car. Map out road trips through the miles of forest, mountain, glacial-fed lakes, and Swiss-inspired architecture just outside the city. Reach breathtaking sites like the extinct Tronador volcano in Nahuel Huapi National Park and allow ample time to take the lift to the Cerro Campanario lookout point for unbelievable 360-degree views.

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