Category Archives: Things to do

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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)

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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)

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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)

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–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)

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Buenos Aires: Palermo

1. *Top Pick*: Don Julio: Excellent steak, great service and a wonderful wine list. Definitely my *Top Pick* in Palermo. (Guatemala 4691 on the corner of Gurruchaga)

2. 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

3. 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)

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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!

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Things to do in Buenos Aires

During her many years living and working in Patagonia, Sally had the pleasure of really getting to know this wonderful capital city, whether taking groups on City Tours, or simply exploring under her own steam. These are Sally’s tips on the top must sees of Buenos Aires…

I may be slightly biased, but Buenos Aires really is an incredible city. Whether you enjoy music, dancing, architecture, art galleries, history museums, street art, food markets, craft markets, antiques, wining, dining, cocktails bars, night clubs or laid-back leafy squares, this city really does have something for everyone. If you’re planning to spend a night or two here, you might like to take a look at our most Recommended Hotels in Buenos Aires.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn arrival (here’s some more information on Buenos Aires’ Airports) we really do suggest taking a guided tour, whether it be a “sit in bus” style tour, a walking tour or a cycling tour. These are great ways to orientate yourself in the city, learn a bit of background history and culture and get some insider tips from a local “Porteño”. You will visit locations such as the 80m Obelisc that stands proud in the middle of the enormous Avenida 9 de Julio, the Government Palace locally known as the “Pink Palace”, the Recoleta Cemetery where Evita was finally laid to rest and the artistic, tango neighbourhood of La Boca.Casa Rosada

Once you’ve visited the must sees of this sensational city, here are some of my top recommendations of how to spend and free time you might have.

  1. Avenida de Mayo – Walk the Avenida de Mayo from the Casa Rosada until the Plaza de Congreso stopping on the way to poke your head into or stop for a coffee in the Café Tortoni (825) a great way to get a feel for what Buenos Aires would have been like in the early 1900’s.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Teatro Colon (Opera House) – This world famous building sits proudly on the very wide Avenida 9 de Juilo. The inside is breathtaking and a tour not only takes you into the auditorium and many rooms of the Opera House but gives you a great overview of the history of Buenos Aires at the time it was built. Tours in English on the hour, every hour lasting 50 mins from 09:00 – 19:00 – ARG$130. (The entrance is on the left hand side of the building on Tucuman).
  3. San Telmo neighbourhood and its cafés  – San Telmo is where the aging and young bohemians of Buenos Aires hang out. Traditionally where the upper classes lived until 1871 when a yellow fever out break drove them out. Nowadays you can still see some of the traditional 1800`s architecture, antique shops and sometimes tango in its square. There are also some great cafes – La Poesia – Chile/Bolivar & El Federal – Peru/Carlos Calvo;  Plaza Dorrego for people watching, some handicrafts and maybe some tango.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Train Lovers…..
    •  Metro Line C – for metro lovers, the stations along these lines have some fantastic mosaics.
    • Retiro Station – a grand old station with its tea rooms still running.

5. Ecological Reserve – beyond Puerto Madero you find the extensive Ecological reserve which is quite good for bird spotting and escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. Take a pic-nic, plenty of water and watch the ships as they sail in and out of the River Plate.

6. Palermo neighbourhood – all within relative proximity to each other you can head to Palermo (take metro line D and get off at Plaza Italia) and visit:

  • Museo Evita, Lafinur 2988; open 11 – 19, ARG$20.
  • MALBA (Museum of Latin American Art), Avda. Figueroa Alcorta 3415; open12 – 20, ARG$45.
  • Palermo parks.
  • Around Plazoleta Cortazar – Palermo Soho and Palermo Viejo is where all the trendy young Porteños can be found, quirky clothes shops, some great street art and cafes.

7. Galerias Pacifico – a beautiful old shopping centre, on the busy (quite tacky) pedestrianized street Florida but with this one great highlight – –100% worth a look inside.

8. Puerto Madero – the newly developed dock yard is a great place for strolling and also has 2 old naval ships docked in docks 3 & 4 that you can visit. A wonderful place to come in the evening as it is well lit, safe and has plenty of restaurants.

Be safe and enjoy!

(Look out for Freddo`s Ice-cream shops – not to be missed!)

Are you visiting Santiago? Here are Sally’s tips on Things to do in Santiago

Puerto Madero with the Pink Palace in the background

View from Cerro San Cristobal

Sally’s Walking Tour of Santiago

Sally has guided hundreds of visitors around Santiago over the last 8 years, and this is her recommended route for seeing very best sites of Santiago in an afternoon…

1. Taking the metro

The metro in Santiago is easy to use, clean, safe* and reliable – 1 ticket costing about CLP$500 (60p) will take you anywhere on the lines. These can be bought from manned booths in any metro station.

Take the metro nearest to your hotel to the La Moneda station on Line 1 (the red one). (When you get off the train, wait until the train leaves before leaving the platform, as the paintings are quite something). When leaving La Moneda station, take the exit for ‘Amunategui’

*a reasonable level of caution should be taken at all times to prevent pick-pocketing.

2. Av. Bernardo O`Higgins and the flag

As you come out from the underground you are presented with an enormous flag (find the flag then you know you´re in the right place!). This flag was placed here in 2010 to mark the Bicentenary of the Independence of Chile from Spain (in fact 1810 really marked the start of Chile’s war of independence against Spain as they didn´t gain full independence until 1818).

The avenue between yourself and the flag is the ‘Avenida Bernardo O’Higgins’ – commonly known as the Alameda – named after the poplar trees that line it. Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile’s hero of its Wars of Independence, had an Irish father and Chilean mother (hence the name).

3. Palacio La Moneda

Rounding the corner you will be presented with the Government Palace – Palacio La Moneda. This literally translates as ‘The Mint’ as it was originally designed for minting coins when built in 1805. In 1845 it became the government headquarters and home to all Chilean Presidents (although the President hasn’t actually lived here since about the 30’s). The building looks very clean and new considering the pollution problems of the city because in reality it is. During the Military Coup of 11th September 1973, the building was heavily bombed and much of it destroyed. During this coup, the democratically elected President at the time, Salvador Allende was killed (or, as some sources say, took his own life) and the military dictatorship ruled by Augusto Pinochet began.

Palacio La Moneda

4. Plaza de la Constitution & the Statues

Walk around to the other side of La Moneda to find the Plaza de La Constitucion.

Surrounded by trees and statues, this square is a great place to do a spot of people watching; also of interest are….

1)     The flags:  If the President is in residence there will be a flag flying above the palace with the Chilean coat of arms in the middle. If you pay attention you can see the Andean Condor and Huemul, a native Chilean deer. Surrounding the square there are also 14 flags which represent the 14 regions of Chile.

2)     The statues:

  1. Salvador Allende – complete with glasses, the statue of the ex-president shows his famous last words – “Tengo fe en Chile y su destino” (I have faith in Chile and its destiny).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Diego Portales – at the back of the square, directly looking at the palace is Diego Portales; famous for writing the Chilean constitution in the early 1800’s that lasted nearly 100 years. He was assassinated in 1837 – if you look closely at his statue, under his right eye is a bullet hole which the statue received 11th September 1973; this is apparently the exact place where he received the shot when he was killed.

5. Wandering to the Plaza de Armas

With your back to La Moneda, walk to the far right hand corner of the park (the corner of Agustinas & Morande). Continue along Morande for 3 blocks until the corner with Catedral, turn right 1 block on Catedral and you will reach the Plaza de Armas.

To point out along the way:

1)     Café Haiti – traditionally Chile was (and still is) a great tea-drinking nation. When coffee started to be introduced in the mid 1900’s a new form of café was thought up in order to entice people (men) to drink it; these were known as the “Cafés con Piernas”, quite literally Coffee with Legs. Whilst city men came to have this new drink on their coffee break and discuss business they were served coffee by ladies in rather short dresses. Many of these cafes still exist around the city (of varying levels of nudity), the Café Haiti being one on Morande/Huerfanos.

2)     (Ex) Palacio de Tribunales – although no longer the Palace of Justice this impressive building, recently restored, stands proud in the centre of Santiago. Around the top of the building you can see crests depicting important Chilean laws – one to note would be divorce, not legalized in Chile until 2004.

3)     Shopping Centre – with the law court on your right, step inside the shopping centre on your left, a complete contrast of old a

nd new. Take note of the interesting use of an old façade with a modern interior.

4)     (Ex) Congreso Nacional – although the Chilean congress is now in Valparaiso, the original Congress building takes up 1 whole block (Mornade/Compania/Bandera/Catedral). Unfortunately you can’t get into the grounds but the gardens are beautiful with native trees from all over Chile.

6. Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas was first laid out during the founding of Santiago on 12th February 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia and has stood as the centre of the city ever since. During colonial times it served as the military headquarters, into the 1800’s it was the place for the upper classes to see and be seen, and today it serves as a place for protests, chess, religious preaching or for children to swim in the fountain; a hive of activity and definitely worth some time to just sit and take it all in.

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To point out as you sit and watch:

1)     Pedro de Valdiva – in the top corner of the square is the statue of Pedro de Valdivia, Chile’s own conquistador. After a failed attempt by Diego del Almagro to reach the Chilean central valley, Pedro de Valdivia set out from Peru with is troops. After walking through the Atacama Desert for months on end, they finally reach the green, lush Maipo Valley where they decided to found Santiago at the base of the Cerro Santa Lucia.

2)     Cathedral – designed by the same architect as La Moneda, Joaquin Toesca, this cathedral was first built in 1748. (free entry).

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3)     National History Museum –  built in 1808, this building first served as the head quarters for the Spanish Court, in 1811 it became the National Congress and later the central post office; since 1978 it has housed the National History Museum since 1978, built in 1808 it first served (10:00 – 18:00; Tues-Sun; CLP$600)

7. Mercado Central

From the corner of the Plaza de Armas by the Cathedral, walk 3 blocks along Puente – be especially careful of cameras and your bags.

Built in 1872 as the central market, this British structure now houses solely the fish market and plenty of fish restaurants. It is alive with life, music and fresh seafood. This market was chosen as the 5th best market in the world by National Geographic: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/food-markets/

8. Cerro Santa Lucia

From the Mercado Central, retrace your steps back to the Plaza de Armas, cross it diagonally to get to the corner of Estado with Merced. Walk down Estado for 2 blocks and then turn left onto 

Agustinas for 3 ½ blocks until you reach the base of the Santa Lucia Hill. Follow the path in – you’ll have to sign your name but the entry is free. As you go under the footbridge there is a staircase on your left – follow the stairs to the top.

View from Cerro Santa Lucia

When Benjamin Vicuna Mackena became Mayor in 1872, he set about to make major changes to the city of Santiago. He not only oversaw the canalization of the Mapocho river (the fast flowing brown trickle that runs through the city), but also transformed the Cerro Santa Lucia into the landscaped park that you see today; more than 1,000 trees were planted, and gardens and fountains built. The hill has the remains of an old fort on the top from which you get some great views of the city.

Stop off at the kiosk on your way back down, for a refreshing “Mote con Huesillo” – a traditional drink made of peach juice, peaches and pearl barley.

Follow the path back down through the park to get to the Neptune fountain and the other exit to the park (you don’t have to sign out). Turning right, you will see the Santa Lucia metro stop which you can hop on to take you back to where you started.

This tour will take you 3-4 hours (longer if you stop for lunch at the Mercado Central)

9. Do you have more time? My other top suggestions would be:

-Lastarria Nieghbourhood

Located at the foot of the Cerro Santa Lucia this neighborhood has been revitalized by artists who have restored buildings, quaint little bars opening and some new boutique hotels. For a great wine bar, check out “Boca Nariz Vino Bar” – more than 35 Chilean wines by the glass and a selection of up to 300 by the bottle.

-Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Pre-Columbian Art Musuem)

An amazing introduction into the indigenous cultures of Latin America from Mexico down to Tierra del Fuego. Inaugurated in 1881 and recently restored, this museum is famous in Latin America and located just 1 block from the Plaza de Armas. (10:00 – 18:00; Tues – Sun; CLP$3,900)

-Cerro San Cristobal & the Bellavista neighborhood

Between the Mapocho river and the San Cristobal hill is the bohemian district of Bellavista where you’ll find a mix students, artist, the after-work crowd and tourist all enjoying the delights of live music, street side cafes and local art. There are plenty of bars and restaurants but a few of my top picks would be, “Como Agua Para Chocolate” – great for steaks and fish dishes, and “Galindo” – great for reasonably priced local food, local beers and plenty of locals.

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At the end of Pio Nono you will find the start of the San Cristobal hill and the funicular station to take you up to the top. Exiting the funicular you will have to climb a few stair to get you up to the 14m-high statue of the Virgin with incredible views of the city of Santiago, the Coastal mountains and the snow peaks of the Andes.

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View from Cerro San Cristobal

Are you visiting Buenos Aires? Here are Sally’s tips on Things to do in Buenos Aires

Next blog to follow – 10  must try flavours of Chile

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Things to do in Punta Arenas

There are many interesting sights and activities in and around Punta Arenas, and here we’ve gathered together a few ideas for things to see and do in this wonderful city…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mirador Cerro de la Cruz

For a stunning panoramic view of the city, the straight of Magellan, and the island of Tierra del Fuego in the distance, climb to Mirador La Cruz Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cerro de la Cruz). This spot is just a ten-minute walk from Plaza de Armas (Plaza Muñoz Gamero) and is one of the most iconic places in the city, particularly beautiful at night.

Plaza Muñoz Gamero

The Central Plaza in Punta Arenas: Muñoz Gamero, and it’s surrounding area is an interesting place to visit, with many beautiful buildings to take in, including the government buildings and cathedral. For some good luck on your trip, rub or kiss the toe of the statue of the indigenous Ona man in the centre of the Plaza!

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Punta Arenas Cemetery

It might sound strange to visit a graveyard on your holiday, but this cemetery dates back to 1840′s, and is internationally famous for its magnificent mausoleums, beautiful European architecture, and perfectly shaped pine trees.

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Many local aristocratic families and European immigrants are buried here, particularly English and Croatians. We’d definitely recommend a visit!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Museums

The following are Swoop’s top four recommendations for Museums to visit in Punta Arenas…

-Palacio Mauricio Braun, Magallanes 949

This palatial mansion houses a regional history museum, which shows great evidence of the wealth and power that Punta Arenas had in its hay day (perhaps not so obvious today). The house’s original owners, the Brauns, were a family of huge importance throughout the Southern Patagonian region. The museum is divided into two sections, one displaying regional history and the other displays the families original opulent furnishings.

(Open Mon-Sat 10:30 – 17:00; Sundays & Public Holidays 10:30 – 14:00;  Entrance $1,000)

-Museo Regional Salesiano Maggiorino Borgatello, Av. Bulnes 336

This museum is considered one of the most complete on the natural and human history of Patagonia. On its four stories it houses collections of stuffed animals, history of the indigenous inhabitants of the region, displays on missionary history, Antarctica and its explorations.

(Open Tues – Sun 10:00 – 12:30 / 15:00 – 17:30; Closed on Mondays;  Entrance CLP$2,000)

-National Maritime Museum, Av. Pedro Montt 981

An in-depth look into the extensive maritime history of Chile. The museum also has specific displays on the War of the Pacific (1879) and its great naval hero Arturo Pratt.

(Open daily 09:30 – 12:30 / 14:00 – 17:00;  Entrance CLP$1,000)

-Museo de Recuerdo, Av Bulnes 01890

The Patagonian Institute (Instituto de la Patagonia) houses the Museo del Recuerdo, with a collection of antique farm and industrial machinery imported from Europe, a typical pioneer

house and shearing shed (both reconstructed), and a wooden-wheeled trailer that served as shelter for shepherds. The library also has a display of historical maps and a series of historical and scientific publications. Best to take a taxi.

(Open Mon – Fri 08:30 – 12:00 / 14:30 – 18:00; Sat 08:30 – 12:00; Closed Sundays; Entrance CLP$1,000)
Austral Brewery, 508 Patagona St. 

This is the southernmost brewery in the world, where you can learn about the production process of the traditional Austral beer (the most popular beer in this part of the country) and enjoy a beer tasting session.

Shepherd’s Monument

This traditional monument is located in Bulnes Avenue, 11 blocks away from Plaza de Armas, and is one of the many iconic places of the city.

Places to Avoid

We’d recommend avoiding Zona Franca if you can it is a very commercial shopping experience although seemingly popular with the locals!

For more information of trips and excursions from Punta Arenas contact us at advice@swooptravel.co.uk

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Patagonia Trekking: April Update

We have a number of people asking about treks in April and with fewer scheduled departures going on at this time in the ‘shoulder’ season we thought it might be helpful to share details of a few guaranteed trips, and a few provisional trips going on.

 April is in the Austral Autumn so you can expect shorter days, and cooler temperatures but also fantastic autumn colours and fewer people in the national parks.

Where dates are provisional please do let us know if they might be of interest and if it would be helpful to move the trip forward or backward by a couple of days.

In Torres del Paine…

Thomas cochrane Winter W The following W Trek trips are confirmed and guaranteed:

  1.  Original W Trek, 5 days, starting on 15th April from Puerto Natales
  2.  This ‘eco’ camp option, 7 days, starting on 7th, 14th and 21st April.

We also have some provisional dates where private groups might be open to others joining, or we have people interested but are yet to guarantee the group…

  1. W trek, with an off-the-beaten-track twist (12th-17th Apr) and a 2 day kayak trip (18-19th April)  - a pretty challenging expedition, only for experienced outdoors people.
  2. Original W Trek, 5 days, starting 29th March and 22nd April.

Please see our Map of Torres del Paine

In El Chalten/FitzRoy Massif…

Ali Habbtar Viedma Glacier from Paso Huemul

The following trip is confirmed and guaranteed…

  1. Los Glaciares experience with a visit to the Perito Moreno glacier, day hikes and ice hiking on the Viedma glacier, from 7th to 11th April.

We also have some provisional dates where private groups might be open to others joining, or we have people interested but are yet to guarantee the group…

  1.  A challenging 3-4 day trek along lines of http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/huemul-circuit/ in the first/second week of April.
  2.  A longer but equally challenging 6-7 day trek along lines of http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/complete-chalten-trek/from 12th – 18th April.

Please see our Map of El Chalten.

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Become a Patagonian Gaucho with these horse riding trips.

A unique way to experience Patagonia is on horseback , you’ll see the sights of Patagonia from the viewpoint of a gaucho and have a truly one of a kind experience.
We have a number of great horse riding trips throughout February,March and April.
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Firstly take a look at the Estancia ride: A 10 day trip that allows you to experience gaucho life, spending each night at different Patagonian Estancias. It’s great for people who prefer not to camp and are up for spending long hours in the saddle and is best suited for experienced riders that are up for some fast and technical riding throughout the Patagonian mountains and pampas.

We have availability for trips starting on 19th February, 4th March and 19th March 2014.

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For something a bit more challenging there’s Riding to Glaciers with Gauchos.
This trip is run by incredibly experienced horse riding specialists from the area. It is a trip for experienced riders that are up for a real adventure in the Patagonian wilderness. You’ll get to see some of the very best of Torres del Paine National Park and camp underneath the stars like true Gauchos.As well as horse riding you will take a fabulous boat trip that travels up the Last Hope Sound and you will get a chance to see some of the other wildlife Patagonia has to offer as well as the Balmaceda Glacier before docking at the Serrano Glacier.

We have availability for this incredible trip from on the 2nd February and 2nd March.

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We also have a spectacular horse moving ride that includes 3 days riding alongside free-running horses, where you’ll get the chance to see parts of Patagonia that not many people get to see. The route takes you across Torres del Paine , through the lush greens of the south to the dry pampas of the north, all on horse-back. You’ll be staying overnight at estancias adding to the authenticity of the trip.
We have availability for this once in a lifetime trip for the 2nd April 2014.

If you are interested in any of these trips get in touch with us and start your gaucho adventure.

10 Days in Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine

Este recently returned from her trip to Patagonia where she spent 5 days hiking in El Chalten followed by 5 days hiking and kayaking in Torres del Paine using Eco Camp Patagonia as a base. Here she tells us about her adventures and gives us some really great feedback on the local operators and us here at Swoop Patagonia!

‘Thank you everyone for all your help letting me have the trip of a lifetime… it really was a trip of a lifetime!!’

How did Swoop do?

Had it not been for you guys, this trip would never have happened for me and I am really grateful towards you guys!

I had contacted 2 other travel agencies prior to getting in touch with Swoop Travel and neither of them would assist me because I wanted to visit in September, and because I wanted to string together shorter excursions as opposed to doing one longer trip.

If Swoop Travel had turned me away I would have given up on the trip all together, so thank you Chloe and Luke for referring me to your partners! I really appreciate all you help and assistance with my many emails and questions!

How were our Partners in Patagonia?

I had an excellent time in El Calafate and El Chalten! Even now, days later, I am still speechless about everything I saw and experienced…I will have to return to El Calafate and El Chalten again!

Pedro, my guide in El Chalten was very informative and patient with me taking photos of everything… I would highly recommend him. He not only answered all of my questions but also shared funny stories from previous experiences.

Chilé rocked! Ecocamp was great, not only the excursions, but I have an additional 2kg to show for the great food I had there..!

All of the guides and staff were professional, knowledgeable and informative, and went the extra mile to arrange a kayaking trip for me, which truly was a dream come true!

I did find Ecocamp’s itinerary very rigid, they keep you busy the whole day. I did appreciate it, but I think it can get tiring after 3 days. At some points you just want to kick your feet up and be in the moment.

Highlight of the Trip

Definitely the Perito Moreno Glacier and Grey Glacier! (And hikes… and kayaking!)

Any Tips for Other Travellers?

I found all the places extremely foreigner-friendly. I would really recommend that someone have a semi-rigid itinerary, but allow equal time for unplanned excursions like going to the Glaciarium and Ice Bar, or just strolling around the wetlands in El Calafate. El Chalten is also very solo-hiker friendly.

I would emphasize that if someone wants to experience the nature in full, they rather go in September. Most restaurants aren’t open in El Chalten at this time, but it’s a good thing. The places that cater for the locals are open. I did a full day solo hike and only saw one other hiker in the distance…I never crossed anyone on the path and this was great!

I also noticed that a lot of people catch the 08h00 bus from El Calafate to El Chalten and return the same day at 18h00 which I wouldn’t recommend. I decided to sleep over and catch the 18h00 bus on the following day, you miss too much if you stay for only a couple of hours.

Would You Have Done Anything Differently?

There honestly isn’t a thing I would change on my itinerary. If I had an additional day to work with I would have liked to stay one day in Puerto Natales. Lonely Planet did not speak very highly of the town and they don’t recommend staying over there, but I was in the town for only an hour and thought it might be worth checking out in the future.

4 Exciting Ways to Explore Torres del Paine

If you’re planning an adventure itinerary in Patagonia that takes in Torres del Paine, you will be looking forward to a hike that will take you through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. The area is famed for its trekking and the popular W and full circuit routes both provide challenging hikes that reward you with beautiful views.

Ice Hiking in Patagonia

What most people don’t realise, however, is that the Torres del Paine’s activity offering doesn’t stop at walking. With kayaking, horse riding, ice hiking and mountain biking on offer, we look at how you can use these to explore some of the most remote parts of the national park.

Kayaking

You can spend days paddling along isolated rivers, winding your way through icebergs, taking you to some of the most otherwise-inaccessible glaciers. From the fast-flowing waters of the Serrano to the serenity of the Last Hope Sound Fjord, there is kayaking in Patagonia to suit all levels and whether you want to camp out under the stars or have the luxury of spending the night sleeping on a boat, you can find a tailored kayaking trip to suit you.

Horse Riding

This is great for people who fancy a real adventure in the Patagonian wilderness. In days that can include up to 8 hours of tough riding, you will have an authentic and adventurous experience where you might just come across wild criollo horses and meet gauchos who live in the hills of the Torres del Paine.

Mountain Biking

In the Northern part of the park along Lago Paine there is over 30km of single track mountain biking, where Patagonian cowboys traditionally travelled. This is also one of the least frequented areas of the park, with only 5% of park visitors making it there, so you will be able to appreciate the stunning scenery at your own pace.

Ice Hiking

Without crampons and ice-axes many of the national park’s most beautiful locations are off limits. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert in ice-climbing to take on the glaciers. If you have a reasonable level of fitness and an adventurous attitude, there are plenty of guides who will help you discover the glaciers of Torres del Paine while ice hiking.

With the huge range of activities on offer, it can be hard to know where to start planning your trip. We run trips with set itineraries for small groups of 2 – 8 people, or we can help you plan your perfect tailor-made itinerary using our recommended local tour providers, at no extra cost. Get in touch for help planning your adventure.

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Things to Do and Places to Stay in Buenos Aires

As it’s our favourite place to stop off on the way to Patagonia, we thought we’d recommend a couple of hotels and a couple of things to do if you’re planning to visit Buenos Aires on your way down south. Luke and I have stayed at several hotels such as this tango-themed Mansion Dandi Royal hotel in San Telmo with impressive decor throughout. I thought it was cool but it’s not to everyone’s taste and it can be a little bit noisier in the evenings when the tango academy is in full swing on the lower ground floor.

We’ve got some clients going to stay at Casa de las Canitas, which looks like a quiet tranquil spot in the heart of a really fun and leafy part of town: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g312741-d629309-Reviews-Casa_Las_Canitas_Hotel_Boutique-Buenos_Aires_Capital_Federal_District.html or if you want to treat yourselves a bit, there’s Legado Mitico which is a lovely art-themed hotel in the centre of Palermo: http://blog.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/193229-hotel-buenos-aires-legado-mitico-customer-review/

Aside from doing some of the touristy things like going to Plaza de Mayo and the Recoleta cemetery, you should go and take a walk around Puerto Madero, the port which was revamped a couple of years ago. It’s nice in the evening as it’s all lit up and again there are quite a few bars and restaurants. I’d definitely recommend spending time in Palermo, where there are great little boutique shops, fun bars and really nice restaurants with a good atmosphere, perfect for watching the world go by on a balmy Buenos Aires evening. In Palermo Viejo there’s the well known La Cabrera restaurant which is supposed to do some of the best steak in Bueno Aires (and I agree!)

If you would like to book a room at one of the hotels featured, we recommend booking.com as they tend to have the best rates available and they give Swoop a small commission!
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Legado Mitico
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We hope that gives you some food for thought…

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Why Cruceros Australis is a Must-Do on any trip to Patagonia

For many people, making sure to see all the highlights you read about in your travel guide is really important on a trip to Patagonia. And in general, we’d agree. Although the visit to Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the more touristy aspects of a trip, the sheer size and magnificence of Perito Moreno means it’s a fantastic way to start understanding Patagonia.

That is, if you can combine it with getting off the beaten track or seeing places that the average Joe just won’t reach. One of the most exciting ways of doing this is taking an Adventure Cruise along the Chilean coast. Cruceros Australis stops off at some of the most secluded bays and islands in Patagonia, where you can see penguins and sea lions and gaze at some of Patagonia’s most impressive glaciers. You’ll also sail along Glacier Alley, a fjord lined with 15 glaciers that can’t be seen from any other angle.

If you like the sound of leaving the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind you for a few days, have a look at our Patagonian cruises: start in Punta Arenas or in Ushuaia.

Apart from luxurious cabins, delicious meals and expert guides, on the cruise you’ll learn about the Yagahan people who inhabited Patagonia before they were wiped out by hunters, disease and a lack of seal blubber. For us, the combination of beautiful scenery, wildlife and history is truly a winning formula.

But our top 5 reasons for cruising with Cruceros are:
1) Cruceros Australis is the only cruise company which regularly travels throughout the season to Cape Horn, the last point before Antarctica.
2) Not only is the cruise a luxury experience, but an educational one too, with lecturers on board, and specialist, multi-lingual guides accompanying guests throughout the trip.
3)  You’ll sail through the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, walk alongside the Pia Glacier; visit spectacular locations, see unique glaciers, flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world.
5) See South American Sea lions, dolphins and numerous bird species, and have the chance to get up close and personal with Magellan penguins and elephant seals, in their natural habitats.