Category Archives: Reviews

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Anne’s Family Christmas in Patagonia

Anne and her family returned in January from a Christmas holiday in Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here she tells us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

‘Everything went fantastically, we LOVE Patagonia, and we so appreciated the careful planning.’

Ann’s Feedback

Our family of 4 recently returned from a truly awesome trip to Patagonia organised by Sally at Swoop Patagonia. I typically am the trip organiser for our family, and usually eschew travel agents.  Thank goodness I was lured to Swoop Patagonia because the trip would not have happened without them, or at least it would not have been the fantastic trip that it was.  Sally was unbelievably helpful and responsive and so very knowledgable about Patagonia. In the early stages, we Skyped and swapped innumerable emails and she patiently and competently figured out what kind of trip we were dreaming of and put all of the pieces in place.

We spent time in El Chalten, El Calafate and in the Bariloche area.  Our hikes (both guided and independent) were among the most jaw-droppingly beautiful we have ever experienced (and this is compared to Bhutan, New Zealand, and many places in the US).

The accommodations in El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche were locally run, extremely comfortable and brimming with friendly people. Sally worked with local operators to ensure that ALL of the details were covered, ranging from delicious box lunches for our hikes, to numerous transfers to and from airports, trailheads etc.

The pre-trip information that Sally sent us was extensive and very well documented (e.g. packing list for hiking, suggestions for our time in Buenos Aires, specifics of domestic flights, transfers etc etc.). Sally also quickly answered questions that arose during the trip (eg. How much should I tip?) and yesterday we Skyped for close to an hour reliving our trip and going over all the details AND fantasising about future trips to Patagonia.

We particularly appreciated all of the transfers that you arranged for us- I am not used to arriving at an airport and seeing a sign with my name on it and a friend driver to whisk me to my destination! I kept waiting for the time that the person would not show up, or some such, but it never happened!

I could not be more pleased and grateful for the amazing service and family trip of a lifetime! THANK YOU!

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Ann’s Itinerary

The trip began in Buenos Aires, from where the family flew on to El Chalten in Los Glaciares National Park, for three days of guided and independent day hikes in the region.

‘Our hikes were unbelievable, and our accommodation was outstanding. The staff who supported us and our guide, Alex, were all great’

They then travelled back to El Calafate for a day excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier, which included a 1.5 hours ice hike, a boat excursion to the face of the glacier, and an hour on the viewing platforms in front of the glacier.

‘We had a really knowledgeable guide, and felt very safe and secure’

The next stop was Peuma Hue, a luxury eco-lodge at the heart of the Argentine Lake District, blended into 500 acres of national park, 2 miles of lakeshore, pristine forest, mountains, rolling hills, waterfalls and creeks, all just 25 minutes from Bariloche.

‘Peuma Hue was ridiculously beautiful, and the accommodation was outstanding. We went for some fantastic runs, took a boat trip to Frey, went kayaking on the lakes, took a yoga class, and went on a magical horse ride to beautiful waterfalls.’

The trip ended with three days in Buenos Aires, where the family spent time exploring the city.

‘The only thing I might do differently would be to spend new year’s eve and day outside of Buenos Aires as almost everything was closed!’

 Thank you again for making this dream trip come true!

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Ann & Karl’s 15 days in Argentina

Ann and Karl returned in April 2015 from a 15 day trip to Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

Ann & Karl’s feedback

‘We just wanted to say a big thank you for this memorable holiday. Thanks for your expertise of the area – we had an amazing time with virtually no hiccups with any of the pre-arranged tours or transfers. We had a great dose of adventure, photographed picturesque scenery, and met very nice local people. We now have 3 days in BA before flying home but couldn’t wait to express our gratitude.’

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Ann & Karl’s Itinerary

Ann & Karl began their trip with a 3 night stay at Estancia Huechahue, a quintessential Patagonian ranch in the foothills of the Andes, where they took part in a variety of activities including horse riding and fly fishing.

Estancia Huechahue was excellent, an absolute highlight of the trip. It was quite different to what we imagined – a very rugged experience, but we would absolutely rush back again. The staff were very knowledgeable and the food was great. We were lucky enough to meet many of the owner (Jane) ‘s friends, and very much enjoyed making new friends and speaking to the local people.

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They then travelled down to Bariloche in the Argentine Lake District, for 2 days of kayaking and river rafting.

The kayaking/ rafting was great. It was our first time kayaking, and luckily we did not find it too challenging so were able to soak up all of the scenery in this beautiful location.

Next, they travelled on to El Calafate for an ice hike on the Perito Moreno glacier, which was ‘rather tiring, but great fun, with great guides who were very knowledgeable’.

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Their next two days were spent taking day hikes from El Chalten, which were ‘very enjoyable, and we were very lucky to have had great weather during our stay. We are not big hikers and we feel that 1.5 days is the ideal time to stay in this town.’

Ann & Karl’s last stop was Buenos Aires, where they made their own arrangements. They highly recommended visiting this open air live music show: La Bomba de Tiempo.

The trip superseded our expectations, we were really impressed and definitely needed your help! We would highly recommend Swoop to friends and family. Thanks, Karl & Ann.

 

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Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

Sarah & Michael returned in April from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks so much for all your help and information which allowed us to have a wonderful W trek! We had an unforgettable time in Patagonia and the itinerary created by Harriet was spot on.

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We took our W Trek from 5th-9th April and we were so lucky- we had lovely weather! Not a drop of rain! :)

Puerto NatalesWe got on great with our guide Victor who met us on Sunday at your partners’ office in – the whole experience was very positive- we enjoyed the refugios, the food, the lunches.

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The route was well planned and we were comfortable with the distances each day. There were some fabulous views too- Patagonia is such a lovely part of the world.

Thanks you too Harriet for the itinerary you prepared for us before we left, and for suggesting Perito Moreno and El Chalten- we took a day trip to Perito Moreno from El Calafate as you suggested and did the mini ice hiking which was a great experience. Again we had a beautiful sunny day for it which was lovely.

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We weren’t so lucky in El Chalten where it poured rain for our day hike  to Laguna de Los Tres- but we had a better day for Laguna Torres. We really enjoyed them- it’s a great town, lovely hiking, lovely views and met lovely people.

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And Chloe thank you so much for the thoughtful presents you sent just before we left- they’ve been with us on all our treks & we’d be lost without them!!

Thanks again for all your help!

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18 Up we went.....

Ice Hiking on Glacier Grey

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from Torres del Paine where she spent an afternoon ice hiking on Glacier Grey. The ice hike lasts 5 hours and there are departures in the morning and afternoon  from November until March. Harriet thinks this is a great activity and everyone should add it onto a trek in Torres del Paine!

01 Embarking on our adventure near Refugio Grey....

Embarking on our adventure near Refugio Grey…

02 ....and zooming across the water to the ice

…and zooming across the water to the ice!

03 We disembarked on a Nunatak that straddles the lake and glacier Grey

We disembarked on a nunatak that straddles the Grey Lake and Glacier…

04 It took just under an hour to walk from the drop off point to start the ice hike

…and it took just under an hour to walk from the drop off point to start the ice hike.

05 The going is a little difficult so ladders have been put in place to assist

The going is a little difficult, so ladders have been put in place to assist you.

06 The striated rock is fascinating and the view towards the Cordon Olguin and Paso John Gardner is captivating

The striated rock is fascinating, and the view towards the Cordon Olguin and Paso John Garner is captivating.

07 Hey mum! Look at me!

Hey Mum! Look at me!

08 We descended to the ice

We then descended to the ice…

09 Where we put on helmets, harness...

…where we put on helmets, harnesses…

10....and crampons

…and crampons.

11 _Take your ice axe and point it at the sky._ We were instructed how to walk on the ice ‘Take your ice axe and point it at the sky!’

We were instructed on how to walk on the ice…

12 Getting onto and off the ice was the most challenging part

…getting onto and off of the ice is the most challenging part…

13 But then we were off

…but then we were off!

14 Staying in single file at all times

Staying in single file at all times…

15 Leaping across little streams

…leaping across little streams…

16 Guzzling hot chocolate

…& guzzling hot chocolate…

17 The sound of gurgling water and cracking ice made you appreciate the dynamic nature of the glacier

…whilst the sound of gurgling water and cracking ice made us appreciate the dynamic nature if the glacier.

18 Up we went.....

Up we went…

19 ....and along

…and along…

20 Peering into huge crevasses......

…peering into huge crevasses…

21 ...and wondering how deep they were

…and wondering how deep they were!

22 Two and a half hours of ice hiking passed very quickly

Two and a half hours of ice hiking went very quickly…

23 Then an hour walk back to the boat

…followed by an hour’s walk back to the boat…

24 ....and the end of our Glacier Grey experience

…and the end of our Glacier Grey experience.

15...and half expecting a Huemul to jump out

Los Huemules Reserve, El Chalten

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from El Chalten where she checked out  the Los Huemules Reserve, a private 5,800 hectare reserve, to the North of Chalten and bordering the Los Glaciares National Park. It was created 15 years ago to preserve the ecology of this area and protect it from development. Experts were brought in to assess the ecology, geology, flora and fauna of the park and help develop a reserve that would highlight the beauty of the reserve whilst helping to preserve it.

Some areas have been urbanised, 90 lots have been sold and on 11 of those, houses have been built. Sustainability is very important so water is brought down from Laguna Azul to supply the buildings and a hydro-plant powers them.

 A series of trails of different difficulties have been developed so that tourists can do a number of hikes.  The rest of the park has been left to grow wild and hopefully the Huemules, foxes, Magellanic woodpeckers, condors and puma will find sanctuary there. Although the trails will not get the spectacular views that you will get from Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre, these hikes are special because of their solitude, exploratory nature, the pristine landscape and diversity of species within the reserve through which they pass.

Here is Harriet’s story of her day spent discovering the reserve…

01 From our cosy cabaña at Ricanor

From our cosy Cabaña at Ricanor…

02 we headed to Los Huemules reserve

…we headed to Los Huemules Reserve.

03 There isnan interpretation centre and the park rangers passionately told us all about the project

There is an interpretation centre, and the park rangers passionately told us all about the project.

06 It was a dreich day...

It was a dreich day…

07 ...but we set off into the woods none the less

…but we set off into the woods nonetheless…

08...heading towards Laguna verde

…heading towards Laguna Verde

09 Crossing a new bridge across the Rio del Diablo

…and crossing a new bridge across the Rio del Diablo…

10 Up to Laguna Azul

…up to Laguna Azul

11 with views of Cerro Electrico

…with views of Cerro Electrico….

12 ...and a Chilean Flicker

…and a Chilean Flicker!

13 Carefully sticking to the newly made paths following yellow waymarkers

We carefully stuck to the newly made paths, following the yellow way markers…

14 ...following the signs...

…and signs…

15...and half expecting a Huemul to jump out

…half expecting a Huemul to jump out!

16 But instead we spot some funky mushrooms,....

But instead we spot some funky mushrooms…

17 and PUFFBALLS!!!!JPG

…and PUFFBALLS!

18 The mountains clear for a moment but it doesn't last and the rain returned so we went home

The mountains cleared for a moment but sadly it didn’t last and tghe rains returned, so we head on home.

In order to reach the Los Huemules Reserve you will need to take a transfer from Chalten, it is a good idea to base yourself near the reserve for a couple of nights in order to thoroughly explore the trails. There are a cabañas, hotels and camping nearby so do let us know what you are looking for and we can check availability for you. This is a great option if you have time in Chalten and want to access some remoter areas without getting completely off the beaten track.

08 ...and we reached Lago Huemul

The Huemul Glacier Mini-Hike

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from El Chalten where she checked out a short hike that is great for people with half a day free to explore, or for those who do not want something a little easier. You climb for 30 mins to 1 hour through beautiful Lenga Forest to the Lago Huemul and hanging glacier Huemul. Allow 1-2hours for the whole hike.

This mini-hike makes a great day out when combined with a boat ride on Lago del Desierto on which you will get views of Mount Fitzroy from afar and the Vespignani glacier from close up. Alternatively hire a bike, get driven out to Lago del Desiero, complete the hike and get blown/pedal back to Chalten. Please ask for more information about this hike and other activities near Lago del Desierto.

Here Harriet takes you on the mini-hike with her to show you the way…….

01 We drove to Estancia Lago del desierto...

 First we drove to estancia Lago del Desierto… 02 ....just 37km from Chalten at the end of the road on the banks of Lago del Desierto

…just 37km from Chalten at the end of the road on the banks of Lago del Desierto.

03 The Huemul Glacier minihike climbs through the Lenga forest, gently at first

The Huemul Glacier mini-hike climbs through the Lenga forest, gently at first…

04 Before becoming steeper

…before becoming steeper…

05...where the roots of the Lenga create a staircase for you to climb

…where the roots of the Lenga create a staircase for you to climb.

06 After just 30 mins we emerged from the forest, this may take you a little longer as we were going quite fast

After just 30 minutes we emerged from the forest (although this may take  a little longer as we were going quite fast!).

07 The path flattened...

The path then flattened…

08 ...and we reached Lago Huemul

…and we reached Lago Huemul.

09 You can continue climbing the moraine to your right

You can continue climbing the moraine to your right…

10 ....but instead we had a drink...

…but instead we had a drink…

11...and enjoyed the glacier views

 …and enjoyed the views of the Glacier. 

This trailhead is 37km from Chalten so take a transfer from Chalten. There is an entrance fee of ARS$100 to enter the Estancia and climb to Lago Huemul.

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Patrick’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Patrick returned in April from a trekking holiday in Patagonia that included treks in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks for all the help leading up to my trip. It was a fantastic journey and Swoop’s assistance was a great part of making it a success. 

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How were Swoop Patagonia? 

You guys were fantastic. Patagonia is such a big area and it’s kind of intimidating to begin the planning process. But with Swoop’s help, I was able to put a solid travel plan together with ease. I’d say the biggest thing I appreciated was you getting me started with ideas and connecting me with reputable companies in Patagonia. It was like working with a friend who just got back from her own trip.

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How were Swoop’s partners who supported you in Chile and Argentina?

Both were fabulous.

Zoe in El Chalten was amazingly helpful with bus transportation, hiking planning, and just offering advice on how to get the most out of the area. And my guide for the Huemul Circuit, Pablo, was incredible. He was professional, knowledgeable, and helpful in every way. That trek would’ve been much less enjoyable without him guiding us along.

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Similarly, Julieta, my guide for the Torres del Paine Full Circuit trek made that experience greatly enjoyable. She did so many little things, like having her friends make brownies and granola bars for us, that really made the adventure special. I didn’t work with your Chilean partners’ office folks as much, but they were very friendly and helpful when I did interact with them.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was the Huemul trek. It was more of a back-country adventure, which I really enjoyed. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves and the terrain was varied and challenging. Plus, the scenery, while perhaps not as famous as Torres del Paine, was still iconic Patagonia. I got pretty lucky with the weather, so I was able to get some great shots!

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

I did make it down to Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego and I would say that area is not quite as magical. The hike up Cerro Guanaco in Tierra del Fuego national park was as challenging as any day of hiking I did in Patagonia and offered incredible sights from the top. But other than that, nothing else in that part of the area really amazed me. I suppose part of this could be that I visited Ushuaia after seeing the rest of Patagonia, so maybe I’d recommend people start in Ushuaia and then head elsewhere.

Thanks again for all your help! If there are any websites where I can brag about you guys, let me know.

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Teri & Deb’s Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares Adventure!

Teri and Deb returned in March from a trip to Patagonia, which included 4 days of excursions in Torres del Paine, and some hiking in Los Glaciares National Park. here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We had a great trip and enjoyed both areas of Patagonia. 

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How was your time with Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares National Park?

We were very well taken care of from pick up & delivery services to hiking recommendations…all good. They even loaned us hiking poles during our stay in El Chalten.

We hit some rocky weather but it didn’t spoil our adventure. Sometimes we didn’t get to see the full view points on our hikes (due to snow, clouds & wind on Laguna los Tres & Laguna Torre) until we were leaving town on the bus, but then we might never have hiked in 100 Kph winds if we hadn’t ventured forth! It was an experience.

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We loved El Calafate (& the beer by the same name), and would have liked to explore the wine country after trying the local Malbecs too.

Glacier hiking on Perito Moreno was a huge highlight. We had great guides, good weather and it was a spectacular site. We only wish they would re think the age restriction on the Big Ice hike.

El Chalten is a beautiful hiking town, and a very sweet location. It was very gusty though and we sure appreciated the Buff supplied by Swoop, it kept my nose stuck on my face when the wind threatened to tear it off and fly it to Antartica.

All transportation was very comfortable and timely (except the American leg on Delta).  We spent a lot of time traveling, but those busses have great views and are cushy compared to flying.

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How was your time in Torres del Paine

The eco friendly camp…ahhhh!  What a delightful way to wrap up our trip. Blissful location, comfortable, great food, good wine, just a wee bit of travel to get where you were going to hike.

We were fortunate enough to see a Puma up close on our first excursion from camp.  She had just fed on a Guanaco kill and was lazing in a rock overhang right beside our trail.

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Were also lucky enough to get to do both our big hikes – the French Valley and Base of the Towers.  Weather threatened our Base hike but knowing how much we wanted to see it, they decided to give it a go on our last day in camp. It turned out to be spectacular. We were thrilled.

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

Swoop was a font of information about itinerary options and tips. We were just a bit confused early on to be introduced directly to your local partners. I suppose we were thinking that you would be our single point of contact and all coordination/details would be with you. Your partners wonderfully helpful and delightful to us however. They were ready & waiting for us on arrival and all went smoothly -  so I would say you have your ducks in a row and are working with some great folks over there.

We appreciate all that you did to make our trip a success.  We were a bit late in getting the planning started but with your help it was stellar.  Not just another location checked off the bucket list for these 60+ hikers, but a beautiful, surreal series of experiences, sights and memories that will warm our hearts for a lifetime. Thank you.

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Dan & Alina’s Extended Full Circuit

Dan and Alina returned in April 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trek and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

All was great . We discovered a universe that needs to be preserved.

What did Swoop do well?

The trip was great – both the Extended Full Circuit itinerary and Swoop’s selection of the best local partner to support us were good. I am actually going to go on a quest to try to convince all of my outdoorsy friends that this is a must do – and categorically recommend Swoop.

What could we have done differently?

The only thing I would suggest (which may work for some others like us who only spend 2 weeks there) would be to advertise a Torres De Paine Full Circuit with an El Chalten leg. This is what we ended up doing, with a night in El Calafate in between. The two places are close enough and it ended up being absolutely the best, since you see  El Chalten (Fitz Roy, Cerro Tore, etc) and the Torres Del Paine Circuit.

The other thing I would suggest is to try to promote the Torres de Paine Full Circuit  more, since it is different (and way better in my opinion) than just the W Trek. There are places like Dickson, Perros, El Paso, the view of Grey Glacier from El Paso that are ‘once in a lifetime’, and a simple W Trek does not include those.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

They are great – Laura was so great to accommodate a last minute change (quite radical actually, as we wanted to include El Chalten on the Friday before the trip).

How was your guide?

Our guide, Nico, was not only a world class climber, but also ended up being like family! He was very knowledgeable, passionate, and in love with Patagonia. Dario was of the same caliber also- they were some of the best guides we used. We could not have been treated better, honestly.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

For me, every day was special, really. I cannot pinpoint to one unique highlight – Patagonia creates in you a state of inner peace that takes over everything that you experience. Really special.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

The only other part of Argentina we saw was a ½ day in Buenos Aires. Very pretty, highly recommended if you have a long enough layover. And the bus system is so great that you don’t even need to hire taxis from the airport to the city centre, nor to rent a locker in the airport. The bus system offers all, for very very convenient price (we ended up storing our backpacks for a day for 30 Argentinian pesos, both – the equivalent of 3 UDS – not bad for 2 big backpacks!

Thank you again for organising such an amazing trip, it was wonderful indeed.

 

Ellen’s Excursions in Torres del Paine

Ellen returned in April 2015 from a stay at an eco friendly camp in Torres del Paine from which she took various excursions into the National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners.

The experience was fantastic and I would recommend it to all.  

How was your experience of booking with Swoop and our partners?

It was great. I asked a million questions prior to committing and I received complete and timely answers.

How were your guides?

Carlos was our guide and he was wonderful.

What did you think of the excursions?

They were fantastic, we did the trek to the base of the Towers after being on a flight for 28 hours and it was extremely challenging for me but Carlos made sure that I finished.

The second day we did the excursion to the lake and it was wonderful.

What did you think of the eco friendly camp?

We loved the accommodations, the camaraderie, and the helpfulness of the staff.

I would love to come back and do the complete W-trek and spend more time.  Thanks for a memorable experience.