Category Archives: Reviews

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leo’s Winter Adventure in Torres del Paine

Leo returned in May from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us a little about his experiences on the trek, shares some wonderful photos, and provides some helpful tips for other people travelling to Patagonia in Winter…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I completed the 3-day Winter Highlights trek with Swoop’s local host – Victor. It was a really memorable trek. Torres del Paine has both peaceful environment and stunning views in the winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We tried to arrange trips to Calafate afterwards but we didn’t have enough time sadly. We travelled to Easter Island afterwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The temperature is already below zero on the mountain but you are still warm if you keep walking. A walking stick is very helpful when walking on frozen land with slippery ice surface.

Thank you for helping me to plan this awesome trip!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_0993

Torres del Paine in May

Jeff, a professor of Biology from the Presbyterian College in South Carolina, USA, returned in May from a trip to Patagonia with a group of his students. Here he tells us about their experiences Trekking in Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego, and in booking through Swoop Patagonia and our partners in Chile…

‘Our Patagonia trip was perfect. The weather was amazing, save a foggy day by Glacier Grey and some blustery wind on our day to visit the king penguins in Tierra del Fuego. Both of our guides were terrific!’

IMG_0832

What did Swoop do Well?

Swoop Patagonia was instrumental in putting this trip itinerary together. You absolutely put us together with the appropriate Chilean partners for our trip needs. Additionally the students and I appreciated the feedback on packing lists, tipping guides, etc…

What could we have done differently?

Nothing

How did you enjoy the itinerary prepared for you by Swoop and our Chilean Partners?

Your partners and their guides/drivers did a tremendous job. Gonzalo was very prompt in responding to e-mails and was helpful. Both Ricardo and Armando were extremely knowledgable guides. The itinerary they crafted was perfect for our needs and balanced sightseeing with hiking in the park.

IMG_1002

How were your guides on the trip?

Both Ricardo and Armando were really great. I would request either of them for future trips without hesitation.

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

I think I would make 3 of minor changes to the itinerary if I run this trip again: Switch the Torres del Paine hiking and Punta Arenas/Tierra del Fuego touring parts around so that people can recover from the hikes, move the towers hike to the beginning of the hiking days, and try to visit Valparaiso/Santiago as well.

DSC_0047

What was the highlight of your trip?

The majority of the group got up-close and personal with a puma on the last day hike. I would say that is something that everyone will remember.

Again thank you to everyone at Swoop Patagonia and your partners for helping us provide this amazing trip for our students. Please feel free to use me as a reference for anyone who is putting together their own trip.

IMG_0993

Larry & Susan’s Trek in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares, & Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Larry and Susan returned in March from a trip to Patagonia with friends Jane and Jim. Their trip included an Independent trek in Torres del Paine and El Chalten, followed by a cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in planning and arranging it with Swoop and our partners in Chile and Argentina…

What was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop?

Speaking for Susan and myself, I think that the most important point in terms of the structure of the trip was that it worked very well.  I believe that there are certainly logistical and language issues with a trip such as this, and I feel that the arrangements made by Swoop and the other operators were well worth the money.  Having self-arranged trips elsewhere in the world, at least 5 times previously, going via Swoop was a different structure, and I would encourage others to do likewise, especially with potential language issues.

What were the highlights of your trip?

In El Chalten, we were pleasantly surprised that a small village of its size has the amenities that it does.  Nothing like walking into the Mirador for Fitzroy, and walking out to enjoy a pint at the microbrewery, followed by a great restaurant meal, and a good sleep at Kaulem. For me, El Chalten was the highlight, given the total surprise at what we had expected for facilities, and the relative ease at getting into the objectives.

The cruise was wonderful; great meals, wonderful tablemates, very knowledgeable interpreters.  The choice of a berth in the lower deck was the right one, given the rough seas, going towards Cape Horn.

Swoop is commended for recommending Parc Nationale los Glaciares; this was a highlight also.

How did you find the Trekking in Torres del Paine & Chalten?

I would not describe the “W Trek” as a life-changing experience.  Having hiked, scrambled, and climbed in the Canadian Rockies for 35 years I guess I have been spoiled.

The trails in both countries are well maintained and clean; the daily itinerary was very do-able, for people of our age and relative fitness.

We found the Refugio staff to be less than helpful, not at all service based, and the meals monotonous and of dubious quality, especially some of the vegetarian options.  I certainly think these young people could learn a lesson about guest expectations and service from the folks at Palermo, and on the Cruise.  I picked up bed bugs at one of the Refugios as well.  Could they not charge a little more, and offer a little more?

On the ground , we found your partners in Torres del Paine very helpful and a good resource, although we also took in the 3:00 p.m. talk at Erratic Rock.  She could do with a little more prominent sign.

How were your other accommodations during  the trip?

In Buenos Aires, we found the Palermo Hotel and its concierge service quite exceptional.  We are not normally effusive in our praise, but Luke really picked a winner here. The facility in El Calafate was unexceptional,  no strong memories, one way or the other.

In Chile, the people at both Erratic Rock were helpful, and it was appreciated that they held our spare kit while we were elsewhere (as did Palermo, in Buenos Aires).

The B&B in Punta Arenas could have been better.  We were in side by side rooms, nearby the upstairs dining area.  Noise from the front desk carried, the staff seemed to be oblivious to their all night “yakking” and then the German group got up (or maybe never went to bed) at 4:00 a.m. or so, to have breakfast.  So, a real lack of commitment to other guests, and I’d encourage you to find something smaller, and quieter.

Overall…

In conclusion, a well planned and well organized trip, for which considerable recognition should also go to my wife, Susan, as well.  I really think her secret job is also tour operating, and should you have any vacancies, please keep her in mind!

This is a trip we have been working on since we read Bruce Chatwins’ book, “In Patagonia”, in approximately 1980.  We still have the book, and brought it along to reread.  Then, we were poor University students and all we could afford was “armchair travelling”.  So, 34 years later and the circle closes.  We have fulfilled one of our dreams as a couple, between armchair and wheelchair, I guess you’d say.

Thank you, once again, for the effort. Cheers! Larry.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 13.15.21

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.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 13.16.03

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

4940279_39_z

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.

407757_358605127490078_12185504_n
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

Iain Motorcycle Diary

Ian’s Motorcycle & Adventure Cruise in Patagonia

Ian returned in March from a Motorcycling trip throughout Chile and Argentina, during which he also took a cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas. Here he tells us about his experiences on his trip, and in booking through Swoop and our partners…Iain Motorcycle Diary

What did Swoop do well?

Swoop were very helpful and efficient. They responded quickly, got in touch rapidly with people who knew the answers to my questions, and most importantly enabled me to take my motorbike with me on the trip.

What could we have done differently?

Nothing.iain cruise 2

How did you enjoy your Cruise Itinerary and Excursions?

The cruise was really good, there was always something to do and there was no chance to get bored. If anything there was to much to do and little chance to just admire the scenery we were travelling through (but that was more my fault for wanting to go to all the talks/presentations etc)!

Iain Cruise 1

How were the staff and guides on your cruise?

Excellent. The ship’s crew were incredibly helpful in getting my bike on the boat and securing her. The expedition crew were all incredibly helpful, very knowledgeable and good fun.

iain cruise 3

What did you think of the Cruise vessel?

It was modern, well designed, and very comfortable.

iain cruise 5

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

I would have potentially done a longer trip. We had very bad weather and so didn’t make it onto Cape Horn Island, or round the Horn. I’m not even sure I’d change this though, as it meant that I saw Cape Horn, a legendary landmark amongst sailors across the world.

I’m going to be able to annoy people for the rest of my life when they say ‘that’s a little bit choppy’, responding with “well, it’s not gale force winds at Cape Horn…”

70 knot winds at Cape Horn

70 knot winds at Cape Horn

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

Taking my motorbike to Cape Horn, and potentially having the most southerly motorbike in the world for a while!

iain peng

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

-Do it, you won’t regret it.

-Don’t expect it to be a cruise, throw yourself into the expeditions, talks etc.

-Take warm and waterproof clothes (as recommended).

-Listen to the crew.

iain cruise 4

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

Yes! My trip started in Buenos Aires, I drove down to Ushuaia, took the Cruise to Punta Arenas, then went to Porvenir, Puerto Natales (and Torres del Paine), Calafate (and Perito Moreno glaciar), Chalten, Carretera Austal, Chiloe, Pucon and am now in Santiago. It’s all been amazing but I think Chile might just be edging it as a favourite at the moment!

iain torres del paine

Why not take a look at Iain’s blog from his trip!

iain cruise 6

Luciana’s 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine

Luciana returned in May 2014 from a Winter trip to Torres del Paine, during which she took part in a 3 day Winter W Trek in the National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip…

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia?

I had so many amazing moments in Patagonia. The highlight was probably arriving at the 3 towers (Torres Del Paine).

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

I am currently in Brazil, but did not get to visit any other places on this trip. I hope to come back again one day, and would love to visit the Atacama desert.

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

They were great, I loved the trekking that they suggested and arranged for me.

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

For sure. Vitor was an amazing, impeccable guide.

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

Not that I can think of!

doherty 9

Matt & Sarah: Trekking in Los Glaciares

Matt and Sarah returned in April from Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences on their trip, and in booking with Swoop and our partners, as well as providing some helpful tips for other travellers visiting Patagonia…

doherty 8How were Swoop Patagonia?

Excellent in every way, would recommend them to anyone.

What did we do well?

Everything!  Swoop offered expert advice and it was clear from the outset that you specialise in this area. They were very responsive, friendly and considerate – we typically travel independently but it didn’t take long to realise the benefits of engaging with Swoop.  I do hope we get the chance to return to the region and if so we’ll be sure to contact you again.

[Read more about How Swoop Works]

doherty 2

What could we have done differently?

It sounds like a cop-out but genuinely, we can’t think of anything we would have liked to be done differently/better.

doherty 5

How were our partners who supported your trekking in Los Glaciares?

They were also excellent – helpful, friendly, knowledgeable… great to have support from them while we were in Chalten too. Thoroughly recommended.

doherty 1

How did you enjoy their itinerary?

Excellent – we worked with them to tailor the trip to our preferences and time available and it worked really well.  We were lucky to squeeze in Perito Moreno Glacier, a small trek on Viedma Glacier and 3 great day-treks… and spent time in El Chalten which is a fantastic little town.  I don’t think we could have done any more with the time we had available.

doherty 6

How were their guides?

Pedro accompanied us to Laguna de los Tres and we really enjoyed our day with him.  We were lucky enough to have great walking conditions and probably didn’t absolutely need a guide, however we got so much insight into the area, local mountaineering etc.  He’s such a friendly and genuinely hospitable kind of guy with a wealth of experience in the area… if we ever return to the area (I really hope we do) we’d be sure to look him up!

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

More time possibly to take in multi-day treks or head to Torres del Paine though that wasn’t really viable.  We had 5 nights and with the time we had it was perfect.

doherty 7

What was the highlight of your trip?

Very hard to say but a close call between trekking to Laguna de los Tres & Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

doherty 4

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

1. Consider a guide for at least 1 trek; we got so much out of walking with Pedro.

2. Don’t rush it too much – we thought we were rushing but we heard of plenty of people with so little time in Chalten… the area is stunning and deserves more.  It’s a great place to hang out too.

3. Consider the weather – we were extremely lucky but I don’t think what we had was typical.

doherty 9

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

We also had time in Buenos Aires and around Salta in the North-West.  From here we hired a car and saw some of the surrounding area… Quebrada de Humahuaca, Salinas Grandes, Cafayate etc.  All great and we’d thoroughly recommend it all – although Patagonia remains our firm highlight.

‘Once again a big thanks, I do hope we’ll be in touch again for another trip at some point.’