About Luke

Founder of Swoop Patagonia and Swoop Antarctica, dad of three, and mountain marathon runner.

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

Author Archives: Luke

About Luke

Founder of Swoop Patagonia and Swoop Antarctica, dad of three, and mountain marathon runner.

Rob & Amy Trek in Torres del Paine & Ushuaia

Rob and Amy returned in January 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine followed by some excursions in Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

You guys put together a fabulous trip for us in Patagonia and your recommendations for Ushuaia in particular were spot on.

I don’t think you could or should do anything differently – your communication is perfectly clear and timely and both of your partners receive our highest marks.  By all means I would recommend you to friends and family.

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine

The W Trek was exactly as promised.  The self-guided version was great for us and was well explained by your partners at the start when they met us at their office in Puerto Natales.  Moreover, they were able to secure dinner reservations for us the night before our trek – New Years Eve – at a fantastic restaurant in Puerto Natales – that’s service!

[Read Sally’s top picks for dining out in Patagonia]

How was the Accommodation during your W Trek?

Our accommodations in Puerto Natales (Amerindia) were perfect, and the refugios on the trek exceeded our expectations.  How did we get a double room for our last night?  So awesome!  The cabin upgrade was so worthwhile. In comparing the price of our trip with other travellers – we got the better deal!

What was the highlight of your W Trek?

Well, crystal clear weather at the Torres – 2 hours of brilliant blue sky while we lounged by the lake!  Wow!

Do you have any tips for other travellers planning a trip?

Use Swoop and their partners in Chile! The W-trek is not a wilderness experience as there are lots of people but the scenery is breath-taking.

How was your day trip in Ushuaia?

Swoop’s partners in Ushuaia did a great job on our day trip. The guide was very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna, geology and history. It was a little expensive for a day hike but this company has it dialled in!

Did you visit anywhere else during your trip?

We visited El Calafate and did the Big Ice trek on Perito Merino. We also spent 8 days on the Valvilov in Antarctica and finished off with 2 days in Buenos Aires.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

We wish we had made time for FitzRoy – next trip – and, we will contact you guys before we go.

We might have added an extra day onto the W-Trek but it was totally doable in the 4-night time frame you arranged.

Everything else – perfect – thanks you guys! And, thanks for the buffs!  We are wearing them daily back here in Durango, CO  USA!

POW

Patagonia on the web – January 2015

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this month.

Swoop’s favourite photographs:

Torres-del-Paine-7-940x1285This great photograph of Men on horseback traveling across the Valle del Francés is from  @MatadorNetwork‘s photographic tour of Torres del Paine. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 15.34.00 Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 15.34.15Both these photographs were taken by @patraveleditor when she went on a Patagonian adventure with us, where she was lucky enough to spot a puma. f6ba4299500e783dd86a5eaa7fddacfcWe found this beautiful shot on Pinterest. Crazy Land, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina, by Greg Boratyn @GregBoratyn

Blog of the week: puma5-940x626The Matador network wrote a great piece about puma trackingcompete with some impressive photographs of the experience.

860 - Copy

Martin & Julia’s 28 day Patagonia Adventure

Martin and Julia returned in November from a 28 day trip to Chile and Argentina, planned and arranged through Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia.

769 - Copy

Martin & Julia’s Feedback

‘There are two things that you need from a travel company: real ‘hands on’ in-depth experience of the country being visited and an ability to understand the needs and desires of the customer travellers.  Sally, Luke and the team at SWOOP Patagonia had both.

Having recently retired, we were looking for a once in a lifetime, 28-day visit to Patagonia – with the emphasis on landscapes and wildlife.  Sally quickly worked out what we wanted and what we were each capable of doing, and proposed a great schedule, with several unexpected suggestions that stretched our brief, and activities that suited our different physical capabilities.  Now back home, we can say the trip was wonderful.  The schedules and pick-ups all worked, and Sally’s recommendations of Chiloe and Aguas Aribas were outstanding, El Chalten was great and our Cape Horn Cruise super.  The Patagonian wind blew every day – but the weather was kind – the trip really delivered.

1322

I felt that Sally and the team really took the time to get to know us and our wants, and used their in-depth knowledge to deliver a great schedule and a wonderful string of places to stay, eat & drink, things to do, wonders to see and experiences.   

Whilst one destination is off our bucket list, we’ve added another – El Chalten and Aguas Aribas in the Autumn with the Southern Beech forests turning red!!  

Thank you Sally, thank you SWOOP.’

Martin & Julia’s Itinerary

Martin and Julia began their trip with 3 nights to relax and unwind on the tranquil and untouched island of Chiloe. They spent their days hiking along the rugged pacific coast, bird watching on the many tidal beaches and slept in a cabin on the beach.

306

The adventure continued by crossing into Argentina through a series of lakes and then hiring a car for few days to explore the stunning ‘Route of the 7 Lakes’ in the heart of the Argentinian Lake District.

497

Taking a flight south they then spent 5 days exploring the Los Glaciares National Park, hiking to the Base of Mount Fitzroy, taking time to stand and stare at the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier and were wowed by the setting, service and seclusion of the Aguas Arribas Lodge.

946

Torres del Paine was the next stop with 5 days spent hiking the trails of the famous W trek based in the comfortable Patagonia Camp.

They then boarded a cruise to explore the channels and glaciers of the Chilean Fjords and were lucky enough with the weather that they were able to land at Cape Horn.

1254

They ended their trip with a few days to explore the vibrant, gastronomic and diverse Buenos Aires based in a boutique hotel in Palermo.

Things to do in Bariloche

Perched on the shores of the vast, blue Nahuel Huapi Lake, the alpine town of San Carlos de Bariloche is surrounded by stunning forests, mountains and lakes as far as the eye can see in the Argentinan Lake District. Bariloche is considered a year-round destination (unusual for Patagonia), with a range of winter activities such as skiing and snow shoeing at the Cerro Catedral resort from April to September.

bariloche

During the summer months, you might spend a week or so in Bariloche, enjoying trekking, cycling and kayaking in the nearby Nahuel Huapi National Park (15 miles away in the north-eastern corner of the lake). You can also make the most of the white water rafting opportunities on the fast-flowing Rio Manso in Nahuel Huapi National Park. Take a look at our ideas for tours which include the Argentinian Lake District.

Often people find themselves with just a day or half day to spare in Bariloche itself in between treks or other activities, so Swoop have compiled this list of suggestions for things to do whilst you’re there.

1) Cycling The Circuito Chico

The Circuit Chico is a 25km undulating route that starts on the south shore of the Nahuel Huapi Lake and takes you all the way around the peninsula. You can stop for break en route at one of the many beaches, and take in the stunning views of the lakes, islands and mountains you will pass.

It is a really beautiful route, and we would recommend doing it anti-clockwise if possible. You can travel this route by bus, but if you’d prefer to be more active, it’s fantastic by bike too. There are a few places to hire bikes from, such as Circuito Chico Bikes , who will normally provide you with a map and directions for your trip.

If you have a little longer and are looking for a multi day cycling trip in the area then we have a variety of trips such as the Andes Crossing by Bike that we’d be delighted to tell you more about.

2) The Seven Lakes Circuit by Car 

If you have only a day in Bariloche, then driving the road north known as the ‘Route of the 7 Lakes’ is a great way to spend it! The route takes you from Bariloche to Villa Angostura and on to San Martin de los Andes, through forests, along rivers, and along the shores of some of the most beautiful lakes in Argentina.

There are a few car hire companies in Bariloche, who rent cars just for the day. It is a long drive but really stunning if the weather is good.

The route can also be taken by bus, or if you have a little longer then you can also cycle it. Please get in touch with us if you’d like more information on longer cycle trips in/ around Bariloche.

3) Day Hikes

The Club Andino Bariloche have an information hut in the town centre, and can provide lots of information about hikes in the area. Their website is also quite helpful. The hike to Refugio Frey, set along the beautiful crystal clear green waters of Laguna Toncek, is a great option for a day hike. Here are the times of the Cerro Catedral bus for Refugio Frey.

From Refugio Frey

If you have longer than a day then you might consider a multi day hike in/ around Bariloche, such as this Hut to Hut trip. Equally if you’re up for some more challenging mountaineering you might consider Mount Tronador or Lanin Volcano. Please get in touch with us for more information.

4) Cable Car to the Best Views

There are two cable cars in Bariloche that get you up to see some really great views. Cerro Campanario, at only 1050m above sea level, can be accessed via chair lift or short hike of 30-40 minutes, and once you reach the top you’ll be treated to some of the best views in Bariloche. There is also another cable car closer to the centre of Bariloche, which isn’t quite as high, but the views are still wonderful.

5) Microbreweries

There are a number of micro breweries,in Bariloche, where you can sample some of the finest beer, lager and stout in South America. Cerveza Berlina is one of several that has received good reviews, but there are many to choose from!

6) Chocolate

Bariloche is knows as the chocolate capital of Argentina, and there are numerous artisan shops boasting exquisite home made chocolates to treat yourself to after a hard days hiking/ biking!

7) Architecture

For those days when all you want to do is rest, you might like to take a casual stroll around town to admire the distinctive architecture of Bariloche.

8) Dining

Check out Sally’s blog post on top places to eat and drink in Patagonia. Her top picks in Bariloche are

-Alto el Fuego: Excellent quality meat, unusual wines and good value. (20 de Febrero 451)

-Holly Restobar: A good option is you’re looking for something other than steak; the ribs are excellent. Also has fabulous views out across the lake. (Avenida Juan M. de Rosas 435)

9) Accommodation

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Baricloche then look no further, Swoop has compiled a list of their most recommended Places to Stay in Bariloche for a variety of budgets.

Kathy’s Trekking Adventure in 3 Patagonian National Parks

Kathy returned in January 2015 from a trekking adventure in Patagonia during which she hiked in Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares and Tierra del Fuego National Parks. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘I enjoyed all my adventures in Patagonia, it really is a beautiful area and I loved the attitude of the people - the importance of family, food and wine! Thanks so much Chloe for all your efforts in providing me with such a great adventure. It took me 20 years to get there since I first began making plans to visit the region and it was everything and more than I thought it would be.’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop have excellent contacts in the region and all my travels went smoothly. I am already recommending you to friends! The gift that Swoop sent me for my trip was very useful and I even slept in mine on the Tierra del Fuego trek as it was so much colder there than Torres del Paine.

 How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

The Extended Torres del Paine Circuit itinerary I took in Torres del Paine was comprehensive and well organised. I think most of us put on weight on this trek! Eduardo, our guide, was excellent. He knew a lot about the region and felt very strongly about preserving it.  He looked after us really well, knew his first aid (!), and had a great personality and sense of humour.

How were Swoop’s partners in Tierra del Fuego?

We had a few communication difficulties with these partners initially as I was already trekking so was unable to receive emails from them re the next stage of the trip and then I had troubles connecting to emails which further delayed the process. It would have been helpful if information about pick up times was sent out at an earlier date. Otherwise everything on the Crossing Tierra del Fuego trek went well. Matias and Nico were also very good guides and looked after us through rain, snow, bogs, clambering over a million fallen trees, and so on. We LOVED the Hosteria we stayed at on the lake and the family running it were extremely welcoming.

How were Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares?

Everything for my day hikes in Los Glaciares was well organised once I started and the hotels used were both good, clean ones. The only problem I had was that I had to ask for the details several times before departure. More details on my self guided hike to Fitz Roy would have been useful but then, I didn’t ask the questions either!

What were the highlights of your trip?

Highlights were the people I met all along the way; the first view of Grey Glacier from the pass; the glacier trek on Glacier Grey was absolutely amazing and more so than the one in the Los Glaciares National park; El Calafate and El Chalten with so many restaurant choices. There really were so many amazing sights and I’m really glad I had the time to do the extended circuit of Torres del Paine.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

I would suggest bringing pesos with you for Torres del Paine treks as they charge a lot more if you use U$ to pay for your wine!

[Read Swoop’s tips on Currency]

Bring a small, easily packable day pack for the two days when you trek up the valleys and aren’t carrying your main backpack.

Cecile’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Cecile returned in January from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

cecile

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

I was very happy that I planned my trip through Swoop Patagonia and their partners. It was very useful to go through Swoop, as it can be complex booking refugios yourself, particularly when you need certain refugios on certain dates, and in theory there is no availability for 3 consecutive nights (at least I didn’t find any through other companies). Booking with Swoop is also particularly useful for people who have  limited time, it is helpful to have the trip planned by someone else.

How were Swoop’s partners in Chile?

Swoop’s partners who organised my W Trek were very patient leading up to the trip. They answered all of my questions in no time, which was amazing. It was also great that although my plane only landed in Punta Arenas on the 23rd at 5pm, they found a way for me to start the Trek on the 24th at 7am. I didn’t have a guide for this trip, but Johanna waited for me until late in the night to give me my vouchers.

What was the highlight of the trip?

Seeing the sunrise from Chileno on the 25th of December  was my absolute highlight (see picture) although I should have brought my sleeping bag, it was freezing!

Do you have any tips for people planning a trip?

I found it very useful to have an external battery for my camera, a rope to hang my wet clothes on, and waterproof pants and walking sticks. The headband Swoop sent me is also a great item to take with you! Also, the offer of cheap hostels in Puerto Natales is quite wide, so it is fairly easy to go ahead and book these for yourself.

Hiking & Kayaking Torres del Paine & El Chalten

Jiamin returned in January from a hiking and kayaking trip to Torres del Paine and El Chalten. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

We enjoyed working with swoop Patagonia because of your good planning, level of detail, patience and quick response time. Your recommendations of activities were also helpful.

If I was to make a recommendation it would to indicate on the itinerary which days we need to source our own accommodation when transiting between trips.

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia? 

Yes.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine and Chalten?

Trekking in Torres del Paine: While generally professional, your partners who supported our W Trek in Torres del Paine were not very responsive in the lead up to the trip. We enjoyed the itinerary though,  the guide was overall above average and his experience enabled us to see the Torres del Paine. However, on the last day for the hike to the grey glacier boat trip he had stayed up late the night before (New Years Eve) and woke up late. We thus had to walk really fast to catch the boat ride to the grey glacier, doing 12 km in 3 hours which meant that we could not enjoy the hike or take photos.

Kayaking in Torres del Paine: It was with Swoop’s Kayaking partners on our Kayaking trip that we had the best experience. The guide was very knowledgeable and experienced and they made an effort to provide good food on the kayaking trip. I would strongly recommend working with them.

Trekking in El Chalten: Swoop’s partners in El Chalten were also not very responsive in the lead up to the trip. The guide Marianna was nice and generally good. She gave us flexibility to take our time during the hike and explained the flora and fauna of Patagonia well. Overall, they were above average.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We also had fun in Buenos Aires and Santiago.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

The highlights of our trip were the Perito Moreno Glacier, Torres del Paine, French Valley, and the Kayaking trip. Weather was bad and we could not see the Fitz Roy. That was the toughest part of the trip but no less rewarding.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?  

Possible tips would be definitely to bring hiking poles and waterproofs. Fit hikers could consider ice hiking on the Perito Moreno glacier, which would probably be very beautiful. Also, might be good to manage expectations of people staying at Refugio’s which generally serve bad food and box lunches.

IMG_5265

Fiona’s Trip to Torres del Paine

Fiona & Stephen returned in January 2014 from a 4 night stay at a luxury lodge in Torres del Paine, from where they took various excursions into the National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

IMG_5661

What was the highlight of your trip?

This is such a difficult question to answer. The whole experience was incredible from start to finish. Of our whole 5 week trip from Buenos Aires down to Patagonia, the Patagonian experience certainly takes the crown.

The obvious things that come to mind are the first glimpse of Lago Gray, hearing the thunderous roar of a glacier calving overhead in the French Valley, standing in front of the Towers of Paine and seeing the elusive Puma on our evening drive home after our final hike in the national park.

There were so many more beautiful moments that are less spectacular but equally inspiring. The milky green colours of the lakes, the fiercely invigorating Patagonian winds in your face, the delicate flowers. The landscape delights with an ever-changing presence as your walk, like moving from Mordor to Narnia to the land before time. We are so grateful that we have been lucky enough to make the trip and experience this wondrous place.

IMG_5427

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

We spent time in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Bariloche and el Calafate before we ventured across the border and into Chile. We loved Bariloche, and spent 5 days hiking, biking, kayaking and eating chocolate of course!

Following our time in Torres del Paine we crossed back into Argentina and headed to El Chalten. We were so blessed with the weather and spent two amazing days hiking here. The spectacular hike to Laguna de los Tres was a really a major highlight for us. I couldn’t recommend making El Chalten a must visit place if your down south.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip for you?

 We have to give our whole hearted thanks to Luke and Chloe and the team at Swoop for their expertise, time, and advise both in the planning stages of our trip, and while we were travelling. We are so grateful for their enthusiasm and love of Patagonia and their practical advice. I don’t think we could have planned such a successful trip without their expertise.

IMG_5265

How was your stay at the Luxury Lodge in Torres del Paine?

The hotel was a real treat for us, and totally worth it. The accommodation, staff, food, guides and location could not be topped. We met some amazing people from all walks of life staying in the hotel and really enjoyed sharing their company on the hikes. The staff including everyone from the drivers to the guides were so fantastic – fun friendly and really knowledgeable, and all were totally in love with Patagonia, and so enthusiastic and proud of their homeland. They made superb hiking partners and we loved being in their company. We were also blessed with the most beautiful weather during our whole trip and of course this was a major plus. The groups were small, and the food on our hikes was as tasty as the meals at dinner. I hope that some day we find ourselves back in Tierra Patagonia.

Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?

Tip number one – Talk frequently with the team at Swoop! They guided us in our every move when planning the trip and the advice was spot on.

Tip number two – Just do it – go there! And enjoy.

IMG_5129

Raphael’s Full Circuit from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Raphael returned in January from a Full Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco friendly camp. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

‘It was a magnificent trek. We were lucky with the weather and it was great! The deep beauty of the Park cannot be denied. I will keep an excellent memory of this adventure!

How was your experience of planning your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

I have particularly appreciated all the details sent in your e-mails and the time you spent to answer me carefully. I would recommend Swoop Patagonia to other people.

How was the eco camp?

This was where the one negative point of the trip occurred. On Christmas eve, the couples in our group had the dinner in the eco camp and the single trekkers (3 persons) had their dinner in the refugio. For both the cohesion of the group and for the meal itself, I think this point should be corrected in the future. I don’t know if the couples have paid more. On new years eve, we asked if we could to eat in the eco camp, and we had to pay an extra charge.

How did you enjoy their itinerary?

The 9 Day Circuit from eco camp was an excellent itinerary: the Full Circuit is of course the best trek possible. I did find the alternation between more difficult and easier walks was a bit surprising.

How was your group?

For me, as I am French, it was the first experience with a English-speaking group. It was very nice and interesting to be with Anglo-Saxon people. Speaking English was not so difficult, understanding the guides was not problematic but the Australian and Californian accents were a bit hard to understand (Before year 2000, I used to have meetings in English for my job but since 2000, this is no longer the case). I have decided to watch more English or American channels on TV!

How were their guides?

We has two passionate guides, with a very good knowledge of the park. I remember that one day the weather was very bad in the morning (for the French valley). Nevertheless we tried to climb in the valley till the “Mirador Britanico”. Suddenly, for one hour, the weather was beautiful : the view was amazing und unforgettable. Thanks to the guide Chuma for taking us there !

 

4 days of Excursions from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Jeffrey returned in January from a 5 night stay at an eco camp in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

You guys were great. When I had an issue with paying the balance for my reservation with your partners, you jumped in quickly and solved the problem.

How were Swoop’s partners at the eco camp you stayed at?

The staff at the camp were very attentive and our guide, Jorge, was the best.

What did you think of the camp and accommodation?

The yurt accommodation itself was great.

The camp as a whole was also great but with one exception: the plumbing was problematic. Showers ran hot and cold every few seconds and the toilet kept plugging up.

What did you think of the excursions available from the camp?

The excursions were well planned and we appreciated being able to choose which ones we wanted.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Best advice is to plan a long enough stay to make it more probable that they will have at least some good weather.