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.

zuck 4

Adam’s Trek, Kayak & Ice Hike in Torres del Paine

Adam returned in March from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

zuck 8

What did Swoop do well?

Swoop Patagonia was fantastic to work with. Prior to the trip, Chloe and Luke responded to my questions quickly and with detailed responses. They helped us pick the right trip based on our travel schedule. I’d recommend using their services for anyone traveling to Patagonia.

What could we have done differently?

This was probably due to the info I provided about our experience and questions I asked, but I wish they had pushed me more toward the Self-Guided W Trek. During and after the trip, we realized that we could have done it all on our own. Our concern was always what we’d do if the weather changed abruptly, how safe the paths were and how easy it was to remain on the correct path without getting lost. The latter definitely isn’t an issue. We also thought we would encounter fewer people than we actually did. We had great weather, but I realize it could always be worse. Maybe providing more info about the number of other travellers/guides out there to help you, the safety of the paths and how well marked the paths are would help travellers choose the right trip for them.

zuck 1

How did you enjoy the itinerary our partners in Torres del Paine provided?

We thoroughly enjoyed our Trek, Kayak & Ice Hike trip. It was great that everything was taken care of for us. We really only had to worry about taking pictures and enjoying the views. Each day was exciting and offered amazing experiences and views. The kayaking and glacier trekking were truly amazing experiences that aren’t to be missed.

zuck 3

How were your guides?

Our guide, Sandra, and the driver were both fantastic. Sandra spoke great English and was full of information about the areas we were trekking. She always had a big smile on her face and laughed at our jokes, even if she often didn’t understand our American sense of humour. She really made the trip very easy for us. I’d recommend Sandra to anyone looking for an amazing guide who will make your trip easier and more enjoyable.

zuck2

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip?

After completing the treks and meeting other non-guided travelers, I realized that we could have done all of it on our own. But, it was nice to have that added security of a knowledgeable and experienced guide just in case something happened. We also wouldn’t have met Sandra if we did it that way.

zuck 6

What was the highlight of your trip?

All of the amazing scenery and the ice trekking.

zuck 5

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

Ask as many questions as possible prior to booking your trip. We saw plenty of solo travellers and groups without a guide, so think hard about going that route. I could have done the trekking part without a guide and I only hike occasionally and am terrible with navigating. Unless you want to do a lot of research, I’d s

till suggest the self-guided option since everything is taken care of for you minus the guide.

[Take a look at our Before You Go page for some pre-trip planning tips]

zuck 7

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

We visited Buenos Aires and loved it. The food, wine, culture and scenery were all amazing.

zuck 4

_1070551

Julin’s Winter W Trek in August

Julin returned in September from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on his trip, and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

‘We had a fabulous trip!’

IMG_0126

What did Swoop do well?

Swoop were responsive and gave informative answers during initial contact and set-up.  They were very helpful in figuring out flights and other logistics.  The travel partner they recommended in Torres del Paine was first-rate

Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle

What could we have done differently?

One of my early queries went unanswered, but otherwise everything was good.

Laguna Los Patos

How were our partners in Torres del Paine?

Top notch:  highly organised and very professional.  Everyone we dealt with was absolutely first rate.  Also we had to change our dates by one day because of a strike in Argentina that cancelled our flight to El Calafate.  They rearranged everything for us and figured out bus schedules etc (non-trivial because there was not a direct bus from Calafate to Natales on the day that we needed one under the new schedule)

Mirador Las Torres

How did you enjoy the itinerary?

The 5 day Winter W Trek itinerary was perfect.  We wanted good long hikes and beautiful Patagonian scenery, and that is exactly what we got.

How were the guides on the trek?

Fantastic.  While in retrospect could have easily done the W trek unguided I found a lot of value in having Mauricio as a guide.  1) He was very knowledgeable about the area.  2) He knew how to time our hikes so that we were sure to get to our destinations (and got us all the way to the British Lookout in French Valley–substantially further than the plan in the itinerary).  3) Choosing hikes based on the weather to maximize views, etc.  4) Excellent knowledge of flora and fauna.  5) Great sense of humor.  6) Not having to cook was quite a luxury.

Cuernos del Paine

Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

None.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Brittish lookout, French Valley.  But honestly hard to pick.  I thought all three valleys were stunning.

_1070574

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

Do it!  Train before with some long distance hikes.  Work up to 20-25km.  We were glad that we did.

[Take a look at our Before You Go page for some pre-trip planning tips]

Avalanche, Cerro Paine Grande

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

1. Buenos Aires.  Great city for eating and an incredible bargain if you exchange on the blue market.  I highly recommend the graffitimundo tour. http://graffitimundo.com/

2. Perito Moreno Glacier.  We did the “mini-trek” which allow walking on the glacier for a couple of hours.  Touristy but worth it. Best to do this after the “W” otherwise Glacier Gray might seem small (although I think Glacier Gray is more scenic).

_1070551

IMG_1605

Amanda’s Winter W Trek in May

Amanda returned in May from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and n booking with Swoop Patagonia…

IMG_1601

What did Swoop do Well?

The organisation and the arrangement was done really well, and finding other people to go on the trek was really helpful and glad it worked out.

What could we have done differently?

Maybe including extra information such as how to get to Puerto Natales and about Puerto Natales it self etc. by personal email. I was already planning my trip so I already knew how to get there but extra information about it for others will help showing that they care about the participants to get there for the trek.

*Following Amanda’s feedback we are trying to share more tips with people for places to stay and things to do. Please see our Guide to Travelling in Chile & Argentina.

IMG_1605

How did you enjoy the itinerary provided by our partners in Torres del Paine?

The 5 day Winter W Trek is good and it gives a room to do changes in case of weather conditions etc.

How were the guides on your trek?

I had Armando and he was an excellent guide and cook. He seems to know the area very well and his walking pace helps me practice for the Inca Trail (a good thing!)

IMG_1606

Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

No, I had a great time overall and truly memorable experience. Especially the last day at Las Torres, glad to see the towers which was one of the reasons I took the trip and Armando was supportive in making sure I was able to make it.

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

Las Torres, but the whole Patagonian landscape is amazing.

IMG_1607

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

Don’t suffer yourself to camp during the winter, because I heard more stories from people camping it during the winter having a miserable time and end up not seeing much of the park.

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

I visit San Pedro Atacama and in Argentina el Calafate.

IMG_1608

eltiquoerdo

Swoop’s Top Pick of Restaurants Throughout Patagonia

After many years working as a tour leader wining and dining clients night after night, Sally has had the chance of discovering, eating and thoroughly enjoying the very best that Patagonia has to offer. Below are just a few of her recommendations.

Sally’s Top Restaurants in Chile

Santiago: Providencia

1. *Top Pick* : Liguria: Traditional Chilean cuisine, excellent quality and very buzzing – take your dictionary! (3 locations, my favourite is Av. Providencia 1373 – very near Manual Montt metro)

liguria 2

2. Baco: Fantastic wine selection, good for tapas type food and great steaks. (Nueva de Lyon 113)

3. El Giratorio: 17th floor rotating restaurant – incredible views of sunset over the city and the Andes. Food is traditional and tasty but also trying to be fine-dining. (Av 11 de Septiembre 2250, Floor 16)  

giratorio

Santiago: Bellavista

1. Como Agua Para Chocolate: Delicious fish and meat dishes, great wine selection, wonderful decor and atmosphere and staff generally speak very good English. (Constitución 88 – street parallel to Pio Nono, main street of Bellavista)

agua con choc

Santiago: Lastarria

1. Bocanariz: Unrivaled selection of Chilean wines, this is THE place to come to experience the very best in Chilean wine – the food is delicious as well if you fancy staying for dinner. A great addition to the quirky neighbourhood. (José Victorino Lastarria 276 – next to church)

bocanariz

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Santiago–

Pucon

1. *Top Pick* : Rincon del Lago: Not in the centre so off the tourist trail, this little family run place serves up really reasonable, traditional food, nothing fancy but good wholesome grub – great after a day out on the trails. (G. Urrutia 635)

2. Trawen: long established place on the main street but still serving up delicious local dishes, top notch pisco sours and unmissable desserts. (Av. O’Higgins 311)

Puerto Varas

1. *Top Pick* : Las Buenas Brasas: It’s popular with tourists and for a very good reason – the food is delicious, the service spot on, the pisco sours are strong and the added extras of “Sopaipilla y pebre” on arrival make this place a real gem. (San Pedro 543)

42

2. Cafe Danes: Great for lunch, cakes (kuchen) and empanadas – try the Empanada de horno – beware the portions are huge! (Del Salvador 441)

Punta Arenas

1. *Top Pick* : Restaurante Brocolino: From it’s exterior it looks like nothing special, but trust me, inside you’ll be greeted with mouth watering aromas of king crab in wine wine, Patagonian lamb, and sinful desserts. For me what really makes this restaurant special is Hector the chef, a true Patagonian character! (O’ Higgins 1049, Punta Arenas)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Punta Arenas–

Puerto Natales

1. *Top Pick* : Cormoran de las Rocas: With offering of fresh fish, delicious meats even including guanaco, this restaurant is a great bonus for Puerto Natales; set up on the first floor of the building, what really makes this restaurant special are the incredible views out over the Last Hope Sound. (Miguel Sanchez 72)

cormoran2

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in Puerto Natales–

Sally’s Top Restaurants in Argentina

Buenos Aires: Microcentro

You could spend a lifetime in Buenos Aires and still not have explored all of its wonderful, quirky, unique gastronomic offerings; here is just a brief list of some of my favourites.

1. *Top Pick* :  El Establo – My all time favourite restaurant in Buenos Aires is El Establo.  It is old school, bright lights, white table cloths, old waiters that don’t write anything down and popular with tourists but hands down the best steak. Open parrilla, ham hanging from the ceiling and homemade chimichurri. Order the ½ Bife de lomo, jugoso (rare fillet steak) – it simply melts in your mouth. (Paraguay on the corner of San Martin in Retiro)

Buenos Aires: San Telmo

1. Gran Parrilla del Plata: Excellent quality steak, reasonably priced, great service, great decor. (Chile 594 – on the corner with Peru)

gran parilla del plata

2. La Brigada: Quite pricey but a real meat experience! (Estados Unidos 465)

la brigada

3. Cafe La Poesia: Atmospheric cafe in the heart of San Telmo; translating as ‘Poetry Cafe’, it is a literary institution with photos of famous Argentinian authors, prose around the walls and plaques on some of the tables where famous authors have sat. Great for coffee, snacks, drinks and picadas (shared platters). One of the protected ‘Cafe Notables’ of Buenos Aires. (Chile 502 on the corner of Bolivar)

la poesia

4. Bar El Federal: Another great ‘Cafe Notable’ of San Telmo with its incredible wooden decor, pavement tables and ecelctic mix of students, backpackers, artists and old timers reading the daily news. Order a coffee/beer and watch the world go by. (Peru on the corner of Carlos Calvo)

el federal

Buenos Aires: Palermo

1. La Cabrera: Popular with tourists and local a like this restaurant, located on 2 different corners of the same street, serves up enormous steaks that are strictly encouraged to share accompanied with a delicious selection of side dishes – excellent service, great atmosphere and as they don’t take reservation they offer you champagne while you wait for your table. (José Antonio Cabrera 5099 on the corner of Thames)

la cabrera

2. El Preferido de Palermo: Another ‘Cafe Notable’; this is a great place to stop for a drink just to have a look inside. The food is traditional and offers some real Argentinian treats. (Jorge Luis Borges 2108 on the corner of Guatemala)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Buenos Aires–

Bariloche

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

2. 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)

–Here are some more ideas on Places to Stay in Bariloche–

El Calafate

1. *Top Pick* :  La Tablita: a visit to El Calafate isn’t complete without trying the slow cooked Patagonia lamb and after many years of trying out many places this has come top time after time; word of warning- order 1 between 2 (even though it isn’t a dish for 2, the portion is enormous!) ; also,  don’t miss the Calafate ice-cream. (Rosales 28 – cross over the bridge past the petrol station and it is down on your left hand side)

la tablita

2. La Zaina: Set in a restored old building with a eclectic mix of memorabilia, this place serves are great selection of Patagonia meats (great pasta as well), warm home mae bread and an interesting wine seection. Service can sometime be slow but then, what’s the hurry?! ( Gdor. Gregores 1057 – on the corner of Tomas Espora)

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Calafate–

El Chalten

1. *Top Pick* : La Tapera: Delicious hearty stews, cosy, warm atmosphere and great views of Fitz Roy from upstairs. (Antonio Rojo & Riquelme – next to the Walk Patagonia office)

2. Cerveceria -The Micro Brewery! A visit to El Chalten isn’t complete without a visit to the micro-brewery. They brew 2 different beers, 1 pale (rubia) and 1 dark (negro) and serve with bowls of popcorn (they also serve bottled beers and wine). Great atmosphere, cosy, garden to laze in sun after a hard days walking and open late into the evening. (Av. San Martin 564)

3. La Vineria - “The best wine bar in South Patagonia” -taken from their website, quite a claim but almost definitely true. It has an incredible selection of Argentinian wines (and artisanal beers), great picadas (shared platters)of meats, cheeses and tapas Argentinian style; Sebastian the owner is extremely knowledgeable. (Lago Del Desierto Ave, 265 – next to the Chalten travel office)

vineria

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Chalten–

4. La Wafeleria: - A well deserved stop after a long hike or great place to settle in for the day if the weather closes in. (Av. San Martin 640)

Ushuaia

1. *Top Pick* :  La Casa de los Mariscos: - It’s an easy place to walk past without noticing, it looks quite shabby from the outside, there is no king crab tank in the window and the doorway is very small. But once inside it is buzzing, cosy and wafts delicious aromas. Try the Centolla Fugeian – king crab in a chilli sauce, Centolla Provincal – king crab in a parsley and white wine sauce or Centolla Natural –  king crab salad. (San Martin, 232 – corner with Deloqui)

2. El Almacen de Ramos General: No stay in Ushuaia is complete without a stop at this wonderful little gem! It’s a bit of everything from museum to cafe to restaurant to bar. With an eclectic mix of memorabilia, chocolate coated meringue penguins, cape horn beer and homemade pasta. (Av. Maipu 749)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Ushuaia–

Other Restaurants Outside of Patagonia that Sally Just Can’t Help Recommending!

Mendoza

*Top Pick* : Ocho Cepas: Set in a beautifully restored old colonial house, the restaurant is split between the different rooms of the house, with its very own wine cellar. The steak is great, the menu interesting and the atmosphere intimate. (Peru 1192 – on the corner of Espejo)

Puerto Iguazu

1. *Top Pick* :  El Quicho del Tio Querido: If you aren’t enticed in by the delicious smell of cooking meat from it’s enormous open air grill then you will be by the fascinating live music (played after about 9:30pm); the steaks are incredible, the service great and the atmosphere relaxing. (Av. Pres. Juan Domingo Perón 159)

eltiquoerdo

2. Aqva: A little on the pricey side but serving up local river fish in delicious sauces – a definite top pick if you’re a bit meated out (Av. Cordoba on the corner of Carlos Thays)

aqva

Any feedback and new recommendations are welcomed (vegetarian options to follow), and why not take a look at our Before You Go Page for more travel tips and recommendations for your trip to Patagonia.

Enjoy!

IMG_1595

Lauren’s Winter W Trek in August

Lauren returned in August from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile…

IMG_1982

How did Swoop do in helping you plan and arrange your trip? 

From the beginning, Swoop was easy to work with and always quick to respond to any questions that we had about planning our Patagonia trip. It was especially helpful to get their insight into the pros and cons of setting up a trek during Chilean winter, and we didn’t feel pressured one way or another. In the end, doing the 5 Day Winter W Trek was amazing and worth a little bit of cold weather!

[Here's a little more about Weather in Patagonia throughout the season]

Is there anythign we could have done differently?

Nothing! You guys had just the right amount of communication with us as we went through the trip-planning process.

IMG_1595

How did you enjoy the itinerary provided by our partners in Chile?

Although we were initially in a bit of sticker-shock from general Patagonia organised trek costs, we were very happy with the value that our trek ended up having. Everything from the itinerary to the food to the transportation was well organised and comfortable, and we were able to have a nice balance of a rugged trekking experience with certain little luxuries that made the trip more relaxing and enjoyable.

One of the nice things about the itinerary during our trek was its flexibility- obviously a lot of what we did depended on the weather and other external factors, but our guide made sure to check in with us about what we wanted to do and what we were feeling up to as the trek continued.

How were your guides on the trek?

Our guide, Mauricio, was amazing. Not only was he very knowledgable, experienced and attentive as a guide, but he was also just lots of fun to hang out with and easy to spend 5 days with. Because our trek was only 3 people including the guide, we were curious how that dynamic would go…but it was always comfortable, fun and easy-going. Mauricio also did a great job of showing us the sights, critters, and unseen spots in the winter, and he always challenged us to go a bit further. It was always worth it!

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip?

Nothing that I can think of.

IMG_1742

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our very first day of full trekking was a clear, cold, and sunny day, and we decided to head up the French Valley. Thanks to Mauricio’s knowledge and experience, we were able to put in a full day of hiking and make it all the way up to the Britanico viewpoint. The snow seemed pretty untouched and it seemed like we were the only ones who had made it up there this winter, and without any other people around, it was very surreal and beautiful. An exhausting but amazing day that was very, very worth the hard work!

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

Go in the winter if you are okay with some cold temperatures and being a little bit flexible…Not only is it beautiful to see the snow, ice and winter landscape, but it was amazing to feel like we were the only ones there. A great way to do the W-trek.

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

We spent time in Santiago, Valparaiso, and Mendoza…but that was just warm up for the beautiful sights and great experience of being in Chilean Patagonia!

IMG_1698

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 14.54.24

Patagonia on the Web – 8th August

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

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.25.10Mt FitzRoy – Greg Boratyn
‏@GregBoratyn takes wonderfully colourful shots of Patagonia that look at how the changing light effects the landscape. You can take a look at the rest of his work at his website.

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.34.28@dbustosp posted this fantastic photo of Lago grey on his instagram account along with some awesome shots of Torres del Paine. 
Find out more about Largo Grey .

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.43.31

Glacier lake by night ~Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
The light on this  shot by  PanTwentySix on Flicker is amazing. Follow on twitter @Aquafloater

Swoop’s blog of the week:
summit-fitz-traverse-honnold-caldwell

Climber Alex Honnold on the Fitz Traverse; Photograph by Tommy Caldwell
National Geographic Beyond the Edge blog.
Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell talk about their  “Extreme Backpacking” on Patagonia’s Fitz Traverse.

Follow in their footsteps and plan your own Fitz Traverse adventure. 

Jeanette 2

Jeanette’s Backcountry Ski Trip in Bariloche

Jeanette and her family returned in July 2014 from a Winter Backcountry Ski trip in Bariloche. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Jeanette7

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of our trip was the Backcountry skiing at Baguales Lodge.  The accommodations were a rustic dream, getting there was an adventure, the food was gourmet, and the skiing spectacular.

Jeanette 1

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

Buenos Aires: we ate at two great restaurants in Sal Telmo (La Brigada) and Palermo. We went to the San Telmo market on Sunday and the Teatro Colon.

Jeanette 6

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

Swoop helped us find the best trip operator in the area, choose our outdoor adventure activities, and referred us to the best guide company.

[Here's some more information on How Swoop Work.]

Jeanette 2

Were you well looked after by our partners in Patagonia & their guides on the trip? 

Yes, definitely.  Mike and Juan did a great job planning our itinerary, managing all our backcountry and avalanche gear, guiding us while we were in Patagonia.  They are knowledgeable, experience, professional, entertaining, and attended to our every need. We couldn’t have been happier.

Jeanette 3

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all? 

We wish there had been more snow at Cerro Cathedral and Frey, but even under those circumstances (which no one has any control over) our guide provided us with alternatives that were excellent.

[Here's some more information on Weather in Patagonia]

Jeanette 5

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

Contact Swoop Patagonia and their recommended partners.

Jeanette 4

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 14.54.24

Patagonia on the Web – 17th July

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

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:.

Patagonia-POTM-June-2014-Artur-Stanisz-620x422landscapephotographymagazine.com June winner was this stunning shot of Torres del Paine by Artur Stanisz from Canada

tumblr_n8upsqeke51sqdai9o1_500We stumbled on this picture on Twitter from  http://bonchant.tumblr.com/. Gives the atmosphere of what travelling around Torres del Paine is like with a fantastic view around each corner. 
3d47e68710a5f184a807256fea75272eLove this shot from the street’s of San Telmo found on Pinterest San Telmo, Test 1 by Moises Torne on Flickr

Swoop’s blog of the week:

obeliskManda’s blog about her unexpected trip to Buenos Aires really captures how great the city is even if you haven’t planned going there originally.

Read our very own Sally Dodge’s views on the vibrant city of Buenos Aires .

Swoop’s Article of the week:
Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 16.42.44Great piece from Ben Lerwill on patagonia for National Geographic this month talking about his  trip in Tierra del Fuego.

If you are interested in this kind of trip take a look at our Austalis Cruises and our Patagonian cruise page to find an adventure right for you .

books

Swoop’s Guide to Patagonian Literature

There are many varied, exciting and truly captivating books about Patagonia whether they deal with indigenous history, early exploration, modern travel or historical fiction. We are strong believers that by reading a few key pieces of literature before and during your trip, it will change your perception of this extraordinary corner of the world and enhance your whole Patagonian experience.

This is by no means a complete reading list to Patagonia but is meant to be used as a starting point. We have chosen six books as “must reads” and then added some of our other favourite titles below. If you need any help in where to source these books or have any other recommendations then we’d love to hear from you.

books

6 tops pick for Patagonian Literature

                  • This Thing of Darkness (Harry Thompson, 2005) – the incredible tale of two hugely influential men – Captain Robert Fitzroy and Charles Darwin, the voyage of the Beagle and the plight of the native indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego. An excellent read for those that don’t want heavy history but a wonderfully told story.

                  • Of Love and Shadows (Isabel Allende, 1987) – written by one of Chile’s most famous authors, her 2nd book, set during the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship, tells the story for two journalists prepared to risk everything for justice and truth. (See section below for other recommended Allende books).

                  • Mischief in Patagonia (H. W. Tilman, 1957) – an extraordinary story from a classic old British sailor and explorer of sailing the Atlantic, negotiating the Magellan Strait and crossing the Southern Patagonian Ice-field.

                      

                  • Travels in a Thin Country (Sara Wheeler, 2006) – a light hearted and entertaining read of travelling the length of Chile; the book also lends itself to giving gaining some background knowledge on Chilean history and culture.

                • Patagonia: A Cultural History (Chris Moss, 2008) – although quite heavy going this book is an extremely insightful and informative account of all things Patagonian from indigenous people, the Welsh to music and film and other travel literature.

              • In Patagonia (Bruce Chatwin, 1977) – Of course no list is complete without this classic. In Patagonia, although more of a literary phenomenon then something hugely insightful about the kind of places you’ll see in Patagonia, has some wonderful descriptions of characters and experiences.

Other favourites to be read and enjoyed!

Early exploration

            • Across Patagonia (Lady Florence Dixie, 1880)

            • Where Tempests Blow (Michael Mason, 1931)

          • At Home with the Patagonians (George Chaworth-Musters, 1871) – Muster’s own tale of travels in Patagonia and living with the indigenous Tehuelche people during 1869.

          • Voyage of the Beagle (Charles Darwin, 1839)

Classic Travel Literature

                • The Old Patagonian Express (Paul Theroux, 1979) – a classic.

                • Motorcycle Diaries (Ernesto Che Guevara, 1952)

Modern Travel

              • The Trail to Titicaca (Ruppert Attlee, 2001)

              • Thunder and Sunshine (Alastair Humphreys, 2007)

              • Between Extremes (Brian Keenan & John McCarthy, 1999)

              • Bad Times in Buenos Aires (Miranda France, 1999)

Indigenous History

              • The Uttermost Part of the Earth (Lucas Bridges, 1948) – a captivating account of the early days of Ushuaia and life amongst the, now vanished, indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego.

Chilean & Argentinian Literature

Isabel Allende:

              • My Invented Country (Isabel Allende, 2003)

              • The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende, 1985)

              • Daughter of Fortune (Isabel Allende, 1999)

              • Ines of My Soul (Isabel Allende, 2006)

Pablo Neruda:

              • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Pablo Nerudo, 1924)

Jorge Luis Borges:

            • Labyrinths (Jorge Luis Borges, 1962)

 

Swoop’s Tips on Currency

Customers often ask us about what currency to take with them to Patagonia, and how much to budget for their trip. Here are Swoop’s tip’s on how to take and spend your money…

1. How to Take your Money – Crebit/Dedit Cards & USD$ Cash

ATM’s are widely available in most major towns in Chile and Argentina (with one notable exception – see below) so withdrawing local currency with a credit/debit card is not a problem; additionally most restaurants even in the darkest depths of Patagonia take credit/debit cards as well. However, please don’t just rely on one credit/debit card, cards can be blocked, sometimes refused and lost so a backup card and/or cash is essential.

USD$ cash – it is always a good idea to take Dollars cash.

In Chile this is very much as a back up and can be exchanged for local currency if you don’t use a credit/debit card. It isn’t common to actually pay in dollars in Chile but in an emergency it would always be accepted over any other foreign currency. In fact, if you pay in dollars in restaurants you are likely to get a much worse rate than even the official rate.

In Argentina US Dollars are essential  - especially in Buenos Aires; you may have heard of a “grey market” for exchanging/paying in dollars cash that can save you sometimes 50%. As this is illegal we couldn’t possibly comment on it but should you wish to give us a call and discuss it then we would be more than happy. Some local currency will be needed for small purchases such as water, snacks etc.

Travellers cheques – not advised as they are hard to change and are given a very low rate.

2. Getting Money Whilst in Patagonia

Argentina

  • There are plenty of ATM’s and exchange places in Bariloche and Ushuaia.

  • El Calafate – the ATM’s in El Calafate are notoriously problematic. The best bank to use is Banco Patagonica on Av. del Libertador 1355 opposite the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares office. In Argentina you can draw out a maximum of ARS $3,000 (Argentinian Peso) per day but this has to be done in 3 separate transactions (3 lots of ARS $1,000). If you are visiting on a busy weekend in the holiday season then by Sunday evening the ATM’s are likely to be empty.

  • El Chalten – there is one ATM just as you go into town but it is often empty and there are no exchange places. Make sure you arrive here with plenty of cash (although most restaurants do take cards).

Chile

  • There are plenty of ATM’s and exchange places in both Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Puerto Varas and Pucon, so stock up in these places before heading into more remote areas.

  • Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales is the nearest place to get cash. The refugios and hotels will all except USD$ and credit/debit cards and you will actually pay slightly less by paying  with either of these methods for any food/drinks etc. (The National Park entrance fee, if not included in your trip, must be paid in Chilean pesos not USD$).

Leftover currency

  • At any cafes at or near the International borders, they are generally very happy for you to pay with and/or exchange any leftover currency you may have. For example, if you are visiting Torres del Paine and El Calafate on your trip you will almost certainly pass through the little border village of Cerro Castillo. This is a great place to exchange any spare currency, post your postcards and get any last minute souvenirs with your spare change.

3. How to Budget your Trip

As a rough guide you should budget USD$25-50 per person per day for your lunch and dinner.

  • At USD$25 per person per day expect more simple food/restaurants with little or no wine/beer.

  • At USD$50 per person per day expect top end restaurants with some good wine and great service.

  • At a USD$35 per day average, you could have a mix of the 2 above categories.

4. Tipping

Please see our separate blog post on Chilean and Argentinian tipping etiquette.

If you have any queries on any of the above then please feel free to get in touch.