Category Archives: Travel Tips

books

Swoop’s Guide to Patagonian Literature

There are many varied, exciting and truly captivating books about Patagonia whether they deal with indigenous history, early exploration, modern travel or historical fiction. We are strong believers that by reading a few key pieces of literature before and during your trip, it will change your perception of this extraordinary corner of the world and enhance your whole Patagonian experience.

This is by no means a complete reading list to Patagonia but is meant to be used as a starting point. We have chosen six books as “must reads” and then added some of our other favourite titles below. If you need any help in where to source these books or have any other recommendations then we’d love to hear from you.

books

6 tops pick for Patagonian Literature

                  • This Thing of Darkness (Harry Thompson, 2005) – the incredible tale of two hugely influential men – Captain Robert Fitzroy and Charles Darwin, the voyage of the Beagle and the plight of the native indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego. An excellent read for those that don’t want heavy history but a wonderfully told story.

                  • Of Love and Shadows (Isabel Allende, 1987) – written by one of Chile’s most famous authors, her 2nd book, set during the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship, tells the story for two journalists prepared to risk everything for justice and truth. (See section below for other recommended Allende books).

                  • Mischief in Patagonia (H. W. Tilman, 1957) – an extraordinary story from a classic old British sailor and explorer of sailing the Atlantic, negotiating the Magellan Strait and crossing the Southern Patagonian Ice-field.

                      

                  • Travels in a Thin Country (Sara Wheeler, 2006) – a light hearted and entertaining read of travelling the length of Chile; the book also lends itself to giving gaining some background knowledge on Chilean history and culture.

                • Patagonia: A Cultural History (Chris Moss, 2008) – although quite heavy going this book is an extremely insightful and informative account of all things Patagonian from indigenous people, the Welsh to music and film and other travel literature.

              • In Patagonia (Bruce Chatwin, 1977) – Of course no list is complete without this classic. In Patagonia, although more of a literary phenomenon then something hugely insightful about the kind of places you’ll see in Patagonia, has some wonderful descriptions of characters and experiences.

Other favourites to be read and enjoyed!

Early exploration

            • Across Patagonia (Lady Florence Dixie, 1880)

            • Where Tempests Blow (Michael Mason, 1931)

          • At Home with the Patagonians (George Chaworth-Musters, 1871) – Muster’s own tale of travels in Patagonia and living with the indigenous Tehuelche people during 1869.

          • Voyage of the Beagle (Charles Darwin, 1839)

Classic Travel Literature

                • The Old Patagonian Express (Paul Theroux, 1979) – a classic.

                • Motorcycle Diaries (Ernesto Che Guevara, 1952)

Modern Travel

              • The Trail to Titicaca (Ruppert Attlee, 2001)

              • Thunder and Sunshine (Alastair Humphreys, 2007)

              • Between Extremes (Brian Keenan & John McCarthy, 1999)

              • Bad Times in Buenos Aires (Miranda France, 1999)

Indigenous History

              • The Uttermost Part of the Earth (Lucas Bridges, 1948) – a captivating account of the early days of Ushuaia and life amongst the, now vanished, indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego.

Chilean & Argentinian Literature

Isabel Allende:

              • My Invented Country (Isabel Allende, 2003)

              • The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende, 1985)

              • Daughter of Fortune (Isabel Allende, 1999)

              • Ines of My Soul (Isabel Allende, 2006)

Pablo Neruda:

              • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Pablo Nerudo, 1924)

Jorge Luis Borges:

            • Labyrinths (Jorge Luis Borges, 1962)

 

Swoop’s Tips on Currency

Customers often ask us about what currency to take with them to Patagonia, and how much to budget for their trip. Here are Swoop’s tip’s on how to take and spend your money…

1. How to Take your Money – Crebit/Dedit Cards & USD$ Cash

ATM’s are widely available in most major towns in Chile and Argentina (with one notable exception – see below) so withdrawing local currency with a credit/debit card is not a problem; additionally most restaurants even in the darkest depths of Patagonia take credit/debit cards as well. However, please don’t just rely on one credit/debit card, cards can be blocked, sometimes refused and lost so a backup card and/or cash is essential.

USD$ cash – it is always a good idea to take Dollars cash.

In Chile this is very much as a back up and can be exchanged for local currency if you don’t use a credit/debit card. It isn’t common to actually pay in dollars in Chile but in an emergency it would always be accepted over any other foreign currency. In fact, if you pay in dollars in restaurants you are likely to get a much worse rate than even the official rate.

In Argentina US Dollars are essential  - especially in Buenos Aires; you may have heard of a “grey market” for exchanging/paying in dollars cash that can save you sometimes 50%. As this is illegal we couldn’t possibly comment on it but should you wish to give us a call and discuss it then we would be more than happy. Some local currency will be needed for small purchases such as water, snacks etc.

Travellers cheques – not advised as they are hard to change and are given a very low rate.

2. Getting Money Whilst in Patagonia

Argentina

  • There are plenty of ATM’s and exchange places in Bariloche and Ushuaia.

  • El Calafate – the ATM’s in El Calafate are notoriously problematic. The best bank to use is Banco Patagonica on Av. del Libertador 1355 opposite the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares office. In Argentina you can draw out a maximum of ARS $3,000 (Argentinian Peso) per day but this has to be done in 3 separate transactions (3 lots of ARS $1,000). If you are visiting on a busy weekend in the holiday season then by Sunday evening the ATM’s are likely to be empty.

  • El Chalten – there is one ATM just as you go into town but it is often empty and there are no exchange places. Make sure you arrive here with plenty of cash (although most restaurants do take cards).

Chile

  • There are plenty of ATM’s and exchange places in both Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Puerto Varas and Pucon, so stock up in these places before heading into more remote areas.

  • Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales is the nearest place to get cash. The refugios and hotels will all except USD$ and credit/debit cards and you will actually pay slightly less by paying  with either of these methods for any food/drinks etc. (The National Park entrance fee, if not included in your trip, must be paid in Chilean pesos not USD$).

Leftover currency

  • At any cafes at or near the International borders, they are generally very happy for you to pay with and/or exchange any leftover currency you may have. For example, if you are visiting Torres del Paine and El Calafate on your trip you will almost certainly pass through the little border village of Cerro Castillo. This is a great place to exchange any spare currency, post your postcards and get any last minute souvenirs with your spare change.

3. How to Budget your Trip

As a rough guide you should budget USD$25-50 per person per day for your lunch and dinner.

  • At USD$25 per person per day expect more simple food/restaurants with little or no wine/beer.

  • At USD$50 per person per day expect top end restaurants with some good wine and great service.

  • At a USD$35 per day average, you could have a mix of the 2 above categories.

4. Tipping

Please see our separate blog post on Chilean and Argentinian tipping etiquette.

If you have any queries on any of the above then please feel free to get in touch.

Buenos Aires Airports

Buenos Aires Airports

There are two different airports in Buenos Aires, and often people need to travel between them to catch connecting flights. We’ve put together some information and advice on the two airports and how to move between them, as well as some ideas on things to do should you decide to spend a night or two in Buenos Aires.

1. The 2 Buenos Aires Airports

Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), also known as Ezeiza is 30km to the south of the main part of town, and is mainly used for international flights.

Jorge Newberry (AEP) is just to the north, and only a 10-15 min taxi ride from the nicest parts of the city; and is mainly used for domestic flights.

2. Travelling Between Buenos Aires Airports

Moving between the two airports can take 1 to 2 hours depending on traffic, and as customs and baggage reclaim can take a while we’d normally allow at least 5 hours between arriving into one and departing the other.

More info on moving between the two here:  http://blog.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/getting-to-the-airport-in-buenos-aires-by-bus/

Buenos Aires Airports

3. Spending the Night in Buenos Aires

It often makes sense for people, on their way into Argentina to fly into EZE, spend the night in Buenos Aires, and then fly south from AEP; with a short and simple taxi to the airport the following morning. Here’s a link to our most recommended hotels in Buenos Aires: http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/hotels-buenos-aires/

4. Things to do in Buenos Aires

For a few more thoughts and ideas about things to do in Buenos Aires you can also read Sally’s blog post: http://blog.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/things-buenos-aires/ . Equally, should you decide to stop-over in Santiago then Sally’s Santiago walking tour may also be of interest: http://blog.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/things-santiago/

Patagonia Holiday Insurance: 6 Things to Consider

We’ve had over a thousand customers visit Patagonia now and would offer the following advice to anyone reviewing their holiday insurance for a trip to Patagonia…

1. Activities: Nothing out of the Ordinary

I’m pleased to say that 99% of the activities our customers enjoy in Patagonia are typically covered by a standard policy.

Most importantly, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever trek above 3,000m (or 10,000 feet), which is typically the threshold for many underwriters.

There’s an extract from our own policy below which shows the various different activities covered as standard, versus those where a premium applies.

A couple of things to take note from this:

- Trekking up to 3,000m is standard

- Cover for kayaking and horse-riding is dependent upon you wearing a helmet (all of our partners will provide a helmet, although you sometimes need to ask for one in Chile and Argentina)

I’m afraid to say that Patagonia hasn’t yet got into the delights of street luge, wicker basket tobogganing or ostrich racing but should you chance upon any of these do let us know!

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2. Patagonia Specific Risks

Much of the majesty of Patagonia derives from having the Andes running down the entire region from north to south. This is one of the most seismically active regions in the world. There are some 500 volcanoes in Chile of which 123 have erupted in the last 12,000 years. Whilst this presents very little risk to you personally, it does present a risk to travel plans. In the last 5 seasons we’ve had a few natural disasters including an earthquake with its epicentre to the north of Patagonia which resulted in a Tsunami alert (and subsequent evacuation of all coastal towns in Chile, including Puerto Natales), and a major ash cloud which effectively closed one of the airports for 3-4 months.

Ask your insurance company:

- What delay and disruption cover is provided in the event of a volcanic ash cloud, or other natural disaster?

- Do they offer an ‘add-on’ policy to include Natural Disaster insurance

3. General Travel Insurance requirements

There are obviously a number of standard requirements that every travel policy should include. For example here’s a standard package and the level of cover it provides:

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One comment on this relating specificially to Patagonia:

Luggage delays and flight disruption with the Argentine and Chilean airlines are, I’m afraid to say, not uncommon. This might be an area where you choose to upgrade to provide you with more cover.

4. Worldwide Cover

Patagonia, and the rest of Latin America, typically falls into the top regional band for insurance. To give you an idea of approximate pricing by the different regions.

5. Trip duration and age

Most people’s holidays to Patagonia are 2-4 weeks, which means you pay relatively standard rates (premiums tend to leap up disproportionately on longer trips of more than two months).

When it comes to your age this is also a factor. Standard categorisation is in three categories: under 35 years old, 35 to 59, and over 60.

Rightly or wrongly this is the first question the insurance providers will ask when providing you with a quote.

6. Medical conditions

It’s obviously incredibly important to declare any medical conditions you might have. Typically questions that they’ll ask shown here:

7. Getting a quote

If you are travelling from the UK

We have a partnership with Covermore. Contact luke@swooptravel.co.uk with your date of birth and travel dates (if we don’t know them already) we can ask them to provide you with a quote.

If you’d like to competitive quotes with other providers then we’ve heard good things about: World Nomads: +44 (0) 845 643 2642 & Direct Travel Insurance: 0845 605 2700

If you are travelling from the USA or elsewhere: 

Travel Guard: 1.800.826.4919 & Travelex: 1-800-228-9792

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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…

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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.

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

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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!

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Patagonia on the Web – 20th June

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this week.

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 12.05.58Great photo from @ChileFoto at the start of a Carretera Austral adventures.
BqRH56qIYAAc0Aq@1lovemountains posted this picture up on their Twitter this week, adding that Patagonia is at it’s most dramatic in the winter months.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 12.20.51 Blogger John Paul Whelan, posted these beautiful images on his twitter this week showing the autumnal colours in Patagonia.
He also wrote a  blog all about his experiences  trekking in El Chalten.

Swoop’s blog of the week:

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Torres del Paine made the Huffington posts list of 35 Most Amazing National Parks on Earth.
Saying : “While the hiking and views are beautiful in their own right, seeing the immense glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field extend towards the horizon is an experience that hasn’t its equal.”
We couldn’t agree more!

If you’re interested in visiting  in one of the most amazing National Parks on Earth we can help you find the right kind of trip for you. 

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Patagonia on the Web

Patagonia on the Web – 6th June

A roundup of all things Patagonia we found on the web this week.

Patagonia in the news:
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50 entire ichthyosaur fossils have been found in southern Chile, one of the best finds of its kind to date. The fossils were found in Torres del Paine and lived between the Triassic and Cretaceous periods, which extended from 250 million to 66 million years ago.
Find out more about the discoveries here.

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:
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@thisisChile retweeted @barbarakvh  who took this lovely shot of Cucao, Chiloé.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 14.12.17The lighting is so dramatic in @Gabriele_Corno  shot ”Out of Darkness” – Torres del Paine National Park, in southern Chilean Patagonia, Chile.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 14.18.40 Snapped with a point and shoot @ClareBevis gives a different view of Torres del Paine.

Blog of the week:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 14.43.09Globetrottergirls.com have done a number of posts about their Patagonia trip, this one about Chiloe is fantastic and describes why it’s must see island. . “…we left the island feeling utterly romanced and wishing we could have seen more of its empty beaches and bays, explored more the national park and the tiny fishing villages.”

When travelling to Chiloe it can be difficult to get off the beaten track  when you go independently or using public transport.  Talk to us about a guided excursion that allows you to delve deeper into the island’s cultural history and wildlife.

View from Cerro San Cristobal

Sally’s Walking Tour of Santiago

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

1. Taking the metro

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

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

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

2. Av. Bernardo O`Higgins and the flag

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

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

3. Palacio La Moneda

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

Palacio La Moneda

4. Plaza de la Constitution & the Statues

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

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

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

2)     The statues:

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

5. Wandering to the Plaza de Armas

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

To point out along the way:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Plaza de Armas

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

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To point out as you sit and watch:

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

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

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

7. Mercado Central

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

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

8. Cerro Santa Lucia

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

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

View from Cerro Santa Lucia

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

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

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

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

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

-Lastarria Nieghbourhood

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

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

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

-Cerro San Cristobal & the Bellavista neighborhood

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

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

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View from Cerro San Cristobal

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

Next blog to follow – 10  must try flavours of Chile

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Patagonia on the Web – 23rd May

Patagonia is all over the internet with bloggers, adventurers  and social media addicts posting all about their experiences and sharing their photographs.
Each one providing more inspiration for a Patagonian adventure!

Here are our pick of photos and blogs from this week:

Swoop’s Top 3 Photographs:

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 12.52.24This week the discovery of the ‘Titanosaur’ was all over the news.
Discovered in La Flecha, this epic creature could have weighed up to 77 tons.
Read more about this amazing discovery.

BnwI6N9CcAATX6kCopyright Worldland Trust

@worldlandtrust posted this great picture of a hairy Armadillo.
This picture was taken in their partners reserve in Patagonia.
Find out more about the Worldland trust.

BoHcj8sIMAAYxxFCopyright Arcteryx

A great photograph from @Arcteryx of @alpineartist & Marc Andre Leclerc on their latest climb in Patagonia.

Blog of the week:

25 photos that will make you want to hike Torres del Paine.
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Backpacker Steve has some brilliant tips ,videos and advice for independent travellers and has a number of blog posts dedicated to trekking in Patagonia.

If you want to experience the same kind of trip with the help of some experienced guides take a look at  Swoop’s trekking page. 

Remota Hotel

Luke’s Review of the Remota, Puerto Natales

The Remota was the first of a handful of top-end hotels on the outskirts of Puerto Natales. We should use the word ‘luxury’ carefully out here. This isn’t a silver-and-gold style of luxury; it’s more about unique, memorable and comfortable rooms with spectacular views, attentive service and amazing excursions.
photo (2) The hotel is designed to resemble a cattle corale, and remind us of southern Patagonia’s sheep farming history. The bar, restaurant and numerous sitting areas all look out across the Last Hope Sound, at the time of my visit we had beautifully clear skies all the way out to the Balmaceda glacier and the peaks of Torres del Paine. In fact, yesterday evening I enjoyed one of the best Patagonian sunsets I’ve ever experienced from their roof.
photo (6) The team here were eager to remind me that guests spend 80% of their time outside the hotel and we spent most of our time talking about their excursions. There’s an ongoing discussion amongst those in the know about the merits of a hotel that isn’t actually inside Torres del Paine National Park. Which customers are going to want to stay in place that’s 2-3 hours from the main hiking trails of the ‘W’!
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My view is that properties like Remota (and nearby Singular and Altiplanico) are not an alternative to hiking in and staying in Torres del Paine, but they are a wonderful, indeed important, complement. That the ‘W Trek’ offers the region’s most iconic, photogenic and dramatic landscapes is without question; however the trails get busier each year and offer people little in the way of experiencing Patagonia’s remoteness and isolation, and understanding it’s natural, historical and cultural context.
I think this is where Remota comes in: after you’ve hiked the ‘W’, use Remota as a base to go horse-riding with a real local gaucho, fly-fish for trout on a remote river, explore a vast cave and archaeological site with an expert local guide, hike to a Patagonian peak that few tourists have ever set foot on.
Horse Riding excursionBook 3-4 nights here if you want: to experience the hidden landscapes and cultural context of southern Patagonia, from a stylish and comfortable base.