Category Archives: Hotels

The Lost Lodge of Lago del Desierto

The Aguas Arriba Lodge, just 1 hour from El Chalten, is a treasure set away from civilisation and accessible by boat or on foot. There is no doubt that this in an exclusive experience and those that stay there are incredibly fortunate to experience such a stunning place. The hosts, Igor and Pato, are wonderfully welcoming and their smiles are forthcoming. It is like being welcomed into their little world and you can share their passion and excitement for the setting and surroundings of the lodge.

Swoop’s very own Harriet returned in March from her most recent research trip to Patagonia, during which she spent several days in El Chalten, making sure to pay a visit to Aguas Arriba on the way. Here she shares some of her photos and experiences of her time in this magical destination….

01 Picked up by Joakim and IvorYou’ll be picked up by Joakim & Ivor

02 and whisked across Lago del Desierto

…and whisked across Lago del Desierto.

03 if the weather is bad you can shelter inside

If the weather is bad you can shelter inside…

04 or simply get wet and enjoy the views

… or simply get wet and enjoy the views!

05 The aguas arriba lodge is nestled in the forest

The Aguas Arriba Lodge is nestled in the forest.

06 ...creep up to the hideout from the jetty

Creep up to the hideout from the jetty…

07.....where you can stretch out in front of the fire

…where you can stretch out in front of the fire…

08....and ice

…and ice.

09 The forests around the lodge are ripe for exploration

The forests around the lodge are ripe for exploration…

10 Whether you simply head to the beach for some fishing

…whether you simply head to the beach for some fishing…

11..... find somewhere to sit......

…find somewhere to sit…

12 ...or venture further into the forest

…or venture further into the forest.

13 Your hostess Pato will guide you.....

Your hostess Pato will guide you…

14...catch every view....

…ensure you catch every view…

15...learn about the different trees....

…teach you about the different trees…

16....scoff some berries

…and help you find some berries to scoff…

17 .....although she can't guarantee you'll see a woodpecker

…although she can’t guarantee you’ll see a Woodpecker!

18 Then it is back to the lodge..

Then it’s back to the lodge…

19 ....for a hearty meal...

…for a hearty meal…

20...and a siesta

…and a siesta.

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Luke Reviews Casita Chil-Hue, Chiloe

Britt and his wife have lived here for 15 years, and have built two cabanas and a couple of smaller lodges in the land around their home. You couldn’t ask for a host more knowledgeable of Chiloe’s history and culture and passionate about sharing it.
He cooks a great breakfast too!

I stayed in the Casita which would suit a family of 3-4 really nicely, with a beautiful bedroom, kitchen/dining area and a loft area that kids would love.

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I woke up here to wonderful views out to the Pacific, put on my trainers and took as little as twenty pace to reach the beach and enjoy a wonderful early morning jog. The beach lies on the northern coast of Chiloe and stretches all the way to the island’s second town, Ancud.
It was a beautiful morning and, as is the case all the way along the coastline of Chiloe I saw so many different birds and not a single human being.
Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 13.15.45Ancud is a 10 minute drive away, and given that the town has little to offer in the ways of nice restaurants and bars that’s probably no bad thing.

Use this as a base on Chiloe if you want:
peace and tranquility and wonderful hosts, just a few feet from the ocean


Luke’s Review of the Estancia 440, Puerto Varas


I stayed here prior to a wonderful 5 hour hike around Volcan Osorno and it felt very homely as part of a long trip when when I was on the road most days.
In some respects the name is a bit of a misnomer as this is a small town hotel with just a handful of rooms, however the decor and the photos on the walls ooze Patagonian gaucho culture. The architecture and design are also very much in keeping with the feel and aesthetic of the Chilean Lake District, with wood all around you. Each of the rooms is quite unique, and the public areas feel very welcoming.

Chrissy (originally from Punta Arenas) turned this into a hotel three years, and runs it on a day to day basis, with her family are in the adjacent building, so everything feels very homely.  It’s a short 5 minute walk from the western edge of the lakefront with all of its cafes, bars and restaurants.
The internet was reliable than most places, and I was disturbed in the night by several dogs barking in the local neighbourhood, but somehow that didn’t really matter – this was a place to relax, even in the midst of a relatively busy itinerary.

Use this as your base in Puerto Varas Estancia 440, Puerto Varas if you want: small, welcoming and homely

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Luke’s Review of Arakur Hotel, Ushuaia

Arakur is a new hotel up on Cerro Cortez, above Ushuaia. I stayed here after my trip to Antarctica and welcomed a bit of luxury after 10 days on a small expedition vessel. The hotel is about 15 minutes from the centre of town and several hundred meters higher up the mountain. This gives you spectacular views across the Beagle Channel. The light down here is amazing even from sea level, and from this position up on the mountain you have a view that will mesmerise anyone with an eye for Mother Nature.
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The hotel has only recently started receiving its first guests so they are still finding their feet when it comes to service; however you can already see that they are aiming very high in terms of the levels of attention they will provide their guests. It’s a large hotel but has some interesting and unique design features that make it feel a bit more boutique, and they’ve succeeded in giving it the feel of a classic Patagonia ‘Lodge’.
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The hotel has many selling points, but  the most important in my opinion is that this is, I think, the only hotel in/near Ushuaia from which you can walk straight onto beautiful hiking trails. They have 100 hectares of wildlife reserve (tbc) with some beautiful trails for walks of up to 3 hours. You will walk through Lenga forest to some spectacular views of the Valle Andorra, and the Glaciar Vinciguerra, and of course out across the Beagle Channel.
Having met their senior guide, I suspect that over time this may evolve into the number one base for day hikes around Argentine Tierra del Fuego.

Book a couple of nights here if you want: some well deserved comfort and luxury, and an opportunity to stretch your legs in the foothills of Tierra del Fuego.


Luke’s Review of La Campanilla, Ushuaia

La Campanilla, is a small owner-run hotel on the outskirts of Ushuaia.
I stayed here the night before my expedition cruise to Antarctica. As you enter La Campanilla the first thing you’ll see is a large photograph of Ernest Shackelton as his men in front of the ice-bound Endurance; especially thought provoking for anyone heading down to Antarctica. You also be welcomed by your charming hosts, whose photos of their own travels you can see up on the wall next to reception.

The rooms are cosy but comfortable and breakfast will stand you in good stead for a day ahead exploring the Tierra del Fuego national park. A taxi ride to San Martin in the middle of town costs around $7 and takes about 10 minutes.

Book a room here if you want: friendly and familiar, at a good price, and don’t mind being outside town. 


The Babel Suites, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Babel Suites are a relatively new addition to the lively (and still slightly edgy) San Telmo. As a result they offer pretty good value in the lower-mid range of hotels.  This was my base for my first night in Buenos Aires and it served me very well.

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘Suites’ the idea is for your room to be spacious, and some limited space and facilities for self-catering; so public areas are normally very limited.
In this case there’s a breakfast room and on the roof terrace a few tables and sun loungers, and a very small pool.

The rooms are nicely done with plenty of space, a sofa area, and a balcony overlooking the lively Calle Mexico.

NB: there are a few different properties in Buenos Aires with the name ‘Babel’; be sure not to confuse them.

Book a room here if you want: to stay in San Telmo, with a cool spacious room, at a good price.


Valparaiso and the Palacio Astoreca Hotel

Odile works with some of the top hotels in Chile. Here she shares her thoughts on one of her favourite cities in Chile and the new Palacio Astoreca Hotel there.


How do you know Valparaiso?

I am half Chilean & lived in Chile for many years, Valparaiso is the first place I would take any of my friends visiting from abroad!

Is it easy to get there from Santiago airport?

It’s only an hour away from Santiago airport and 1,5 hours away from the city. You can easily find a private transfer that will take you to Valparaíso from the airport.

How would you spend your perfect 24 hours there?

As the historical quarters of Valparaíso and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cerro Alegre is the place to be. It is the perfect place to go for a wander, there are little maps on every street corner showing the most scenic routes where you can discover the street art Valparaíso is so famous for.

Walk through the famous Yugoslavo pedestrian walk, stopping at the Fine Arts Museum at Barburizza Palace en route, as well as at any café that is bound to have a very Bohemian and quirky vibe as most of the city does. Take the funiculars to move around the hills as the locals do and definitely visit the famous house/museum of the chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Remember to take LOTS of pictures, Valparaíso is an open invitation for snap happy people!  

You’ll probably need a good massage after a day out and about on the colourful hillsides!! I would find a place to enjoy the view of the sun setting on the pacific ocean with a glass of pisco sour (the national drink) on a terrace and head out for dinner with lots of fresh sea food (there is a wide, very good, gastronomic offer) and finish at a live music bar! 

Tell us about the Astoreca. What makes it special?

Palacio Astoreca is a Victorian mansion built in 1923 and restored into a boutique hotel which opened in Sept 2013. It is located in the prime location of Cerro Alegre just on top of the funicular El Peral. It has just become a member of Relais & Châteaux so it’s safe to say it’s the best option in town!

It has a very eclectic bohemian chic style mixing old and new, full of colours and art, with a wonderful spa and the best possible view from the terrace. Plus it has an amazing restaurant called Alegre, led by Spanish chef Sergio Barroso who worked at El Bulli amongst others, the 11 course tasting menu is absolutely a must.

What are the top 3 things you think a first time visitor shouldn’t miss?

  1. Walking around Valparaíso Cerro Alegre Hill & taking lots of pictures of the street art
  2. I’m the biggest fan of the house of Pable Neruda, it’s my personal favourite of the 3
  3. The sunset with a glass of wine or Pisco Sour


Customer review: Patagonia Camp

Jen visited Torres del Paine national park a few days ago and stayed at the Patagonia Camp. She kindly shared some of her feedback about the guides, the location and the facilities and service at the camp.

How was Torres del Paine?

The Torres del Paine were incredibly beautiful. Being spring, there were all kinds of small fauna running around, a great addition.

How was your guide?

My guide, Jorge, was really excellent. He clearly loves his job and was eager to share his information with us. Our drivers were also really good and careful.

Tell us about Patagonia Camp itself

The yurts and set up of the physical plant were quite beautiful. Our days were really full. Every evening I had an invitation to join others for dinner and our days were quite full. The groups that passed through were predominately American although there were a scattering of Europeans and Brazilians, which made it more interesting.

What could have been better about the camp?

Corrine at the front desk spoke very good English but the other woman did not. When I called twice, it took a while for her to understand what I was ringing about. I don’t know if they advertise English speakers or not. For example, my first request for more conditioner was supposedly passed on to Housekeeping, but did not arrive. I asked again the next day in person and it was taken care of.
One call to the front desk that took some time to explain to receptionist was regarding a leak in the yurt, causing the floor to be wet.  Given the damage on the floor, it was obvious that this had been a recurring problem. Although late, they sent someone out to look at it. The leak was underneath the desk, so a minor nusaince however I am surprised it was undetected previously.
The yurt was definately properly cleaned but we were provided shampoo, lotion and conditioner on arrival – rather than 2 bottles of each, I received 3 lotions and 1 conditioner. (They are the same color, so likely a mix up). When I left hand towel to be replaced, it was not. For turn down service one evening, the staff walked in when I was still in the yurt. Rather than return later, there was no turn down that evening.
On my last cleaning, they look the trash bag out of the garbage can, but did not remove it from the yurt. Rather absent mindedly left it on the desk instead.

Is there anything you think people planning a trip to the camp should know?

The starting point to each activity was at least 2 hours away, meaning a minimum of 4 hours driving each day and often times longer. In the case of Lago grey, it was 3 hours due to the road blockage.
The weather is unpredictable and has a big impact on your activities. The Patagonia Camp literature highlights a number of activities (eg kayaking) that just aren’t available. Jorge helped us make good decisions each day and provided opportunities to change itineraries when the weather got really bad.

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.

plaza de mayo

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: 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:

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 as they tend to have the best rates available and they give Swoop a small commission!
Casa Las Canitas
Legado Mitico
Dandi Royal

We hope that gives you some food for thought…