Tag Archives: accommodation

DSC00758

Karen’s eco camp based W Trek in Torres del Paine

Karen returned in November from an eco camp based W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile…

‘We LOVED it. Swoop was great, their partner in Chile was great, and the eco camp base was awesome’IMG_2531

What was the highlight of your trip?

That is hard – I think the W Trek, hiking Mt. Fitz Roy, the Perito Moreno Glacier and Mendoza were all highlights. 

DSC00764

What did Swoop do well?

I liked the website a lot – it made it pretty clear what the different options were. Initially I was overwhelmed with planning any type of W trek because there doesn’t seem to be a ton of info online, this made it much easier.

SONY DSC

What could Swoop have done differently?

Overall I was happy with everything.

IMG_2496

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?

Yes

How did you enjoy your itinerary?

Yes, I liked the itinerary and the option to stay in a refugio one night and then at the eco camp for the others.

DSC00716

How were your guides?

Our guides were absolutely fabulous. Claudio (Chuma) and Joaquin really helped make our trip, they were absolutely fabulous.

What did you think of the eco camp as a base?

The eco camp was great, so unique and beautiful views.

DSC00682

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

The only issue was the one night we stayed in a refugio – the eco camp told our guides (who passed along the information to us) that no one would be staying in their domes and we could leave our things as they were. While we were gone their staff came into the domes and packed our stuff for us and moved it out. We happened to be back in the same dome, but a couple we were traveling with had their stuff moved into a dome that had other people staying in it. Their sheets were dirty and the people at eco camp didn’t seem to care, and his iPAD wasn’t in his stuff when he got it all back but was in the administration office. Also, my friend who I was traveling with was missing her bag. Overall it was just very weird. It would not have been an issue at all if they had told us prior to leaving for the night to pack up our stuff because we might not be in the same dome, but this was not what they said. Our guides handled this very well helping everyone track down their belongings – and were very apologetic.

DSC00659

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

I think that Swoop and their partners made this very manageable by doing the planning for me. We were informed by our guides that typically people taking this trek are in their 50s-60s; our group happened to be in their 30s to early 40s, and I think this would have changed our dynamic and experience if we had been with all other people who were the age of our parents.

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

Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chalten, Santiago (one night), Mendoza.

IMG_2527

morais 3 rainbow

David’s W Trek in November

David returned in November 2014 from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile.

‘Thanks a lot for all your support. It was very helpful.’

How were Swoop Patagonia?  

I really appreciated your services. Despite the differences in our time zone, you guys never made me wait for an answer and that is a fundamental point for me. You guys did a great job.

It might be helpful to inform people about other services such as porters. I’ve met people that, like me, did not know the services of porters. I did not need one but few friends over there were willing to pay for one.

I would (and in fact did) recommend you for my friends. You guys delivered everything it was promised.

morais 1

How were our partners who ran the 5 day W Trek in Chile?

Swoop’s Chilean partners were also very nice, and very good at giving us the necessary info. We only had a little hiccup which was one email unanswered for a week. Later Gonzalo apologised and explained that he was out of town.

I definitely enjoyed the itinerary. The way the trip was split allowed us to get used to the trails and at the end we were walking at easy.

The guide was the highlight of our trip. He was very funny and knowledgeable. Each time we were approaching a Refugio he would go faster so that when we arrived there our ‘check in’ was taken care of. He always made sure that we were safe and comfortable without ever being patronising.

I guess if I was to change anything I would have liked to stay longer in each refugio, since there are so many beautiful things to see, especially around the ‘Cuernos’. But in terms of the itinerary itself I would not change anything.

morais 2 backpack

 

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

I only had time to visit Punta Arenas, but I was equally impressed by its history.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Hard to say… I guess having met so many amazing people and walked through that beautiful landscape made for incredible memories. It would be unfair to pick a single moment.

morais 3 rainbow

Chris’ eco camp W Trek in Torres del Paine

Chris returned in late October from a W Trek based from an eco friendly camp in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile.

‘We would definitely recommend the holiday to friends looking for a luxury holiday’

How were Swoop Patagonia and our partners in Chile?

The communication from Swoop and their partners was great, we had a good deal of info on the different options and you answered our questions very quickly. We found payment through Swoop’s partner’s website was easy to use.

How was your 5 day W Trek from the eco camp?

The tour itself was fantastic, the guides were really wonderful and clearly had a huge amount of knowledge about the area and the wildlife; they looked after us throughout our stay and made sure we were comfortable.

What did you think of the eco camp you stayed at?

The camp was great, especially the luxury domes which we would highly recommend. The food was also good with a good selection of options. I even tried yoga out for the first time as our whole hiking group went along!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

One area that might be considered to improve was that my partner was unable to go hiking one day because she had an old knee injury and the hike up Torres Del Paine was very stressful to the knees. It would have been great to have offered her a place on an alternative tour for this day. As it was though, she did have a day of rest in our dome, which was quite good.

Did you visit anywhere else as part of your trip?

We visited friends in Santiago after the trip, but we didn’t fit in any other places in Chile or Argentina.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our highlight of the trip was the trek to see the Grey Glacier, we were impressed with how close the boat took us.

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

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

IMG_0670

Marcel’s 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine

Marcel returned in May from a 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us a little about his trip, and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

IMG_0670

What was the highlight of the trip?

The highlight was our second day hike to the base of the Towers! This was supposed to be day one, but horizontal hail and gale force like winds made us change the itinerary and stay low the first day (good decision!).

How were your guides on the trip?

The guide (Carlos) was great, very good English, nice, knew great hikes, would want to have him as guide again in a heartbeat. All in all 3 great days.

IMG_0701

Is there anything you would have liked to happen differently?

If we had to choose something, it would probably be the accommodation. We experienced some troubles with hot water and heating, which was not ideal after returning from a day’s hiking in very cold temperatures! Compared to the very high level of everything else on the tour, this was the only area that fell a little short I think.

Overall…

Overall we had a very good time, beautiful park, nature absolutely great, transport there and back, all very well organized. We’d like to come back next year!

IMG_0718

DSC_9236

Puma Tracking and Adventure Cruise Patagonia

Kush and his friends returned in March from a trip to Patagonia during which they embarked on a Puma Tracking trip in Torres del Paine, followed by a 4 night Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here Kush tells us about their experiences on the trip…

‘It’s an incredible feeling seeing a Puma on foot less than 5 meters away from you. All of us were elated and kept replaying every moment again and again. It is a fantastic experience.’

DSC_0941

How was your Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia?

The cruise was fantastic. We really enjoyed the food the hospitality and the excursions.

DSC_0491

How was the Puma Tracking trip? It was again fantastic. I can’t recommend our guide Carlos enough. He went out of the way to accommodate us and to make sure we were comfortable at all times. He even woke us up as early as 0430 and brought us back home as late as 2200 just because we were so determined to see Pumas. He carried packed lunch with us on our hikes and put up an extraordinary spread in the middle of nowhere. He was great and so was our driver.

DSC_9236

What was the highlight of your trip overall? We managed to see Pumas and that was the highlight of the trip. We saw a sub-adult drinking, walking stretching and eating a day old Guanaco carcass, and the next day in the early morning we saw an adult (most likely its mother) walking quickly across the steppe. It’s an incredible feeling seeing a Puma on foot less than 5 meters away from you: all of us were elated and kept replaying every moment again and again. It is a fantastic experience.

DSC_0834

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip? At our accommodation at Hosteria Pehoe we had problems with hot water, and the food at our first accommodation at the Ranch was very poor, but other than that it was good.

DSC_0811

Overall… Overall we had a great time and I will definitely be returning with a few adjustments to the accommodation.

DSC_0028

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’!
Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 10.59.54

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.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.06.43

Luke’s Review of Arakur Hotel, Ushuaia

Arakur is a new hotel up on Cerro Cortez, above Ushuaia. I stayed here after my trip to Antarctica and welcomed a bit of luxury after 10 days on a small expedition vessel. The hotel is about 15 minutes from the centre of town and several hundred meters higher up the mountain. This gives you spectacular views across the Beagle Channel. The light down here is amazing even from sea level, and from this position up on the mountain you have a view that will mesmerise anyone with an eye for Mother Nature.
Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.05.14
The hotel has only recently started receiving its first guests so they are still finding their feet when it comes to service; however you can already see that they are aiming very high in terms of the levels of attention they will provide their guests. It’s a large hotel but has some interesting and unique design features that make it feel a bit more boutique, and they’ve succeeded in giving it the feel of a classic Patagonia ‘Lodge’.
Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.13.17
The hotel has many selling points, but  the most important in my opinion is that this is, I think, the only hotel in/near Ushuaia from which you can walk straight onto beautiful hiking trails. They have 100 hectares of wildlife reserve (tbc) with some beautiful trails for walks of up to 3 hours. You will walk through Lenga forest to some spectacular views of the Valle Andorra, and the Glaciar Vinciguerra, and of course out across the Beagle Channel.
Having met their senior guide, I suspect that over time this may evolve into the number one base for day hikes around Argentine Tierra del Fuego.

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