Category Archives: Reviews

zuck 4

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

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

zuck 8

What did Swoop do well?

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

What could we have done differently?

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

zuck 1

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

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

zuck 3

How were your guides?

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

zuck2

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip?

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

zuck 6

What was the highlight of your trip?

All of the amazing scenery and the ice trekking.

zuck 5

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

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

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

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

zuck 7

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

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

zuck 4

_1070551

Julin’s Winter W Trek in August

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

‘We had a fabulous trip!’

IMG_0126

What did Swoop do well?

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

Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle

What could we have done differently?

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

Laguna Los Patos

How were our partners in Torres del Paine?

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

Mirador Las Torres

How did you enjoy the itinerary?

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

How were the guides on the trek?

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

Cuernos del Paine

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

None.

What was the highlight of your trip?

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

_1070574

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

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

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

Avalanche, Cerro Paine Grande

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

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

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

_1070551

IMG_1605

Amanda’s Winter W Trek in May

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

IMG_1601

What did Swoop do Well?

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

What could we have done differently?

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

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

IMG_1605

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

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

How were the guides on your trek?

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

IMG_1606

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

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

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

Las Torres, but the whole Patagonian landscape is amazing.

IMG_1607

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

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

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

I visit San Pedro Atacama and in Argentina el Calafate.

IMG_1608

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