Tag Archives: accommodation

Sam’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Sam returned in March from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

‘I had a wonderful time – helped by the fact that we had some exceptional weather and a good group of trekking companions’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I found the Swoop team to be very quick to respond to all my queries (especially given the short notice prior to trip departure). Please note that this was greatly appreciated.

How were our partners who run the W Trek?

They also performed well – I found the 5 day W Trek to be relatively easy over the 5-days and to finish off with the boat cruise up to Grey Glacier was a real highlight. Our guide Miriam was excellent, offering just the right amount of info at each location, and was always very conscious of how the group was travelling.

Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight?

I enjoyed the luxury of having a hot-shower and shelter at the end of each days trekking, but didn’t feel that the additional cost over camping was entirely justified, particularly as we found  that some of the food did not meet our expectations.

Lis’s Trip to Torres del Paine & Tierra del Fuego

Lis returned in December from a trip to Patagonia during which they took W Trek in Torres del Paine followed by a visit to Isla Navarino in Tierra del Fuego. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Patagonia…

What three words would best sum up your experience in Patagonia?

Wild, Beautiful, Fantastic.

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia overall?

It’s genuinely hard to pick one thing overall, it was so varied and beautiful. The light and the windswept, dramatic wilderness of it all was perhaps the most abiding memory of Patagonia – the sheer space and also the diversity.

We dipped in and out of different parts of Patagonia, including a 3 day W Trek (thanks Swoop Patagonia for organising it for us!) in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park, and spending time in Punta Arenas which really felt like a frontier town at the edge of the earth.

Then we also flew in a tiny plane down to Isla Navarino, where there really is the last town before Antarctica (and the most southerly Yacht Club in the world!). This was definitely the most unusual aspect of our trip, and included our best story: drinking with the locals on the German frigate (now a bar) at the Yacht Club, with a Penguin swimming in the bay – and especially the luxurious Lakutaia Lodge and services of local guide Denis (quite brilliant).

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

Patagonia is pretty huge – we would have liked to see more of it; then again, with some smart planning of flights and buses (which are excellent for long distance travel in Chile) we could get around in not too many days. There are so many options for hiking and National Parks – definitely pick your top ones and don’t try to do everything.

We’d also have liked to cross the border into Argentinian Patagonia (a well trodden path at different points) and to take a boat ride (whether the Navimag or a more luxury cruise ) – would recommend investigating these options.

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

They were great: very generous with their advice and support when we were considering  options before making a decision. It was a very personal, tailored service; and thus felt very responsive and flexible to our needs.

What did you think of the operators we set you up with in Torres del Paine?

The operators were reliable, helpful and professional. The Fast Track W Trek we did in Torres del Paine was quite expensive (as there were only two of us in the group); but in return we received a great service, excellent guide (just for the two of us), top equipment and planning and good food. It suited what we needed very well.

How was the W Trek itself, and how were your guides?

The trek was fantastic: we did a 3-day Fast Track loop which suited perfectly as we only had 3 days to spare. I would recommend this itinerary – others do a 5 day W Trek or the Full Circuit, but the 3 days were honestly pretty stretching, even for us as pretty seasoned walkers. The variation on each day was marvellous too, meaning we felt like we saw the range that Torres del Paine had to offer; we left very satisfied.

Talking with other walkers, it’s worth choosing your refugio carefully – some had a reputation as serving pretty meagre portions of food which isn’t great when you’ve walked 9 hours!

Our guide (Viktor) was fantastic – seasoned, professional, good fun, knowledgeable, everything we could have wanted. The packed lunches, tent and equipment which he bought from them were very good quality, and they provided excellent fresh bread for my partner who is gluten free. He went above and beyond to support us and make sure things ran smoothly. Would definitely recommend the operator and Viktor in particular.

How was your stay at Lakutaia Lodge?

Lakutaia Lodge was great too – again, there were only about 6 guests staying there so we had 1:1 attention and service – for instance, they changed the menus around so we could have King Crab on our last day when we had to leave early.

Their excursions were thoughtful and really interesting (bird watching – not something I’d ever think I’d have enjoyed but was breathtaking), tour of the town of Puerto Williams, short trek, museum…); and we also loved using their bikes and canoes.

Local guide Denis accompanied us solicitously during our stay and was so knowledgeable and accommodating – it really made the trip.

The Lodge manager was equally very hospitable and accommodating, looked after us very well. She even introduced us to a famous Chilean opera singer who arrived to stay as we were leaving!

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

Only the weather coming in on our third day, and my falling over & spraining my ankle! Otherwise perfect.

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The Babel Suites, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Babel Suites are a relatively new addition to the lively (and still slightly edgy) San Telmo. As a result they offer pretty good value in the lower-mid range of hotels.  This was my base for my first night in Buenos Aires and it served me very well.

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘Suites’ the idea is for your room to be spacious, and some limited space and facilities for self-catering; so public areas are normally very limited.
In this case there’s a breakfast room and on the roof terrace a few tables and sun loungers, and a very small pool.

The rooms are nicely done with plenty of space, a sofa area, and a balcony overlooking the lively Calle Mexico.

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NB: there are a few different properties in Buenos Aires with the name ‘Babel’; be sure not to confuse them.

Book a room here if you want: to stay in San Telmo, with a cool spacious room, at a good price.

Laurie & Rob’s W Trek from an eco camp

Laurie & rob returned in March from a W Trek based from an eco camp in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their trip and their experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How did Swoop Patagonia do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

Swoop were great at coordinating with their partners who ran the trek we wanted to do in Torres del Paine. Overall we appreciated all their input, and there is nothing we would have wanted to go differently.

How was your 7 day W Trek?

Overall the 7 day W Trek and stay at eco camp was awesome. We found the itinerary a little strict at times. For instance a little more down time would have enhanced the overall experience. So too would the ability to have dinner when we wished to. We do, though, appreciate that when running a large group a schedule is helpful in order to keep things running smoothly.

How were the staff at the eco camp, and their guides on the trek?

We were a group of 6 that travelled with another group of 6. Roberto and Niko were our guides. Both were great, however, we found Roberto offered more information to the group. Niko was quieter, his stated philosophy being that if you want to ask questions he is more than willing to answer.

What did you think of the eco camp and the accommodation there?

The camp was great. We stayed in both the Superior and Standard Domes. Certainly the Superior domes were more comfortable with the bathrooms, but the Standard domes were also great.

In terms of the Refugios: Refugio Los Cuernos was not great overall; very crowded; very ‘basic’ facility; nowhere to hang out other then your bunk when the dinner rotations start. We arrived around 3 pm, this is a long time with nowhere to hang out (it was raining outside).

A number of items should have been recommended in the ‘suggested things to bring’, such as flipflops for showering, Chilean dollars (note that when we picked up by Cascada, we were not given the opportunity to obtain Chilean currency).

Our group was split into two rooms, one had 9 bunks (all allotted to our group) and the other had 3 bunks allotted to our group. My husband and I were to be split up between the two rooms. I wasn’t very happy about that! When I mentioned this to our guide he said that there was nothing he could do. A group of 3 women were travelling together and one of the women offered to go into the other room. Nonetheless it was a loud (snoring and no insulation in the walls of the very small and crowded rooms) and uncomfortable night. Our experience in the other lodge (Lodge Paine Grande) was much better.

Is there anything you would have changed about the trip?

Perhaps arriving later in the day, at the Refugio Los Cuerros might be an option, making sure all partners are in the same room, having a detailed ‘suggested things to bring’ for both EcoCamp and in particular for the trek, or perhaps camping instead of staying at the Refugio.

We would also have appreciated learning ahead of time that Refugio Los Cuerros has private ‘cottages’ available (none available by the time we arrived) so that we could perhaps have obtained one! Or continue on to Camp Italiano, and camp. Camping could be an option for those who wish it, and of course this option might be a little more expensive.

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

The beauty of the landscape. It felt surreal at times.

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

Pack light. Get Chilean pesos before heading out to the Camp.

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

Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche (Villa La Angostura); all were fantastic!!

3 Days of Excursions from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Bob returned in February from a 4-night stay at an eco camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park, from which he took various day trips to explore the scenery and wildlife in the area. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

‘I had a great time and really enjoyed it and have come back refreshed and recharged!

 

How did Swoop Patagonia do in helping you to plan and arrange your trip?

Luke was great: he was positive, reassuring and knowledgeable, and filled me with confidence about the trip.

What did you think of the eco camp and the accommodation and excursions provided there?

I loved the eco camp! It was beautiful, relaxing and unique, and I got to do 2 out of 3 walks I wanted to.

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip?

It would have been easier if my flights were a little closer together so there would have been less hanging about at the airport.

Overall, what was the highlight of your trip?

All of it was a highlight for me.

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

Just enjoy it!

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

I only visited Chile this time round as I had been to Argentina before.

Marilyn’s W Trek from a Torres del Paine eco-camp

Marilyn recently returned from a 7 day W Trek in Torres del Paine based from an eco camp in the National Park. Here she tells us about experiences on the trip…

What did you think of the service provided by our partners in Torres del Paine?

They had a good website containing comprehensive information & an efficient payment system.

How was the W Trek itinerary and how were the guides who accompanied you?

The itinerary and guides on the trip were excellent. Porters are provided for you on days 2, 3, & 4 so you don’t have to carry anything except your daypack on any day of the trek. You are provided with a small but adequate dry bag with a weight limit of 4kg for days 2, 3, & 4, and this is more than adequate.

What were your thoughts on the eco camp?

The camp is in an excellent position, with very unobtrusive architecture and wonderful views of the towers, which are particularly impressive at sunrise. Another benefit is that it is above, & well removed from, the zoo of traffic on the road to the park trailhead & Hotel Torres.

How did you find your accommodation?

The basic domes at the eco camp are comfortable, but very hot in the sun & not able to retain heat well when it’s not sunny…and you need to be a hobbit to get in & out of the doors comfortably!

The bedding is cumbersome & heavy (this seems to be a Chilean thing), so I’d say you’re better off in a sleeping bag.

They need to treat the doors of both domes & toilet blocks with a good dose of WD40 – they were really loud & squeaky & therefore disturbing especially during the night.

The showers were good, but there were only 2 washbasins & no laundry basins which seems to be a bit of an oversight

Eco-toilets are an admirable idea, but it is difficult to flush all matter away with a foot pump.

On the nights where we stayed at refugios elsewhere, the sleeping bags were decent, and cotton sleep sheets were available if needed. Refugio Los Cuernos is a bit of a bun fight unless you are put in a cabin. There was blocked plumbing, no soap or loo paper, 3 toilets between over 100 women, and noisy corridors with banging doors.

Did you enjoy the food?

The food at the eco camp and Refugio Paine Grande was great, but the food at Refugio Los Cuernos was awful. The dining and lounge domes at the eco camp were great, and beautifully furnished.

Food at the eco camp is plentiful & very good. You do not need to bring much in the way of additional snacks for any day where lunch is provided by the eco camp (days 1,2, 5,6,7), and you get to make & choose your own lunch items – as much as you like.

How was your trip overall?

Overall a splendid trip but lacking cultural interest cf Himalaya. Stunning scenery – I really lucked in with very good weather.

Do you have any tips for future visitors?

Don’t take too much snack food – Ecocamp is not a weight watchers venue.

In peak season the number of trekkers is out of control for the facilities available- there seems to be no regulation on the number of people camping in every square inch of the campsite areas with little or no hygiene/facilities = defaecating in bush, contamination of water sources.

Watch your knees- I was warned about this by a work colleague who had done the W trek. The pace is fast as not at altitude & 2 of days are long with much of it steep uphill & downhill. In hindsight, I would have been better to go slower & use a trekking pole

What was the highlight of your trip?

Highlights were Mirador Britanico, Glacier Gray, Torres Del Paine, views driving from Lago Gray back to the eco camp via Lago Pahoe in glorious weather.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in South America on your trip?

I also went to Easter Island – a fascinating but bizarre place.

Incidentally, many thanks for my pre-departure present. It was so hot though that the best use for it would have been to mop up sweat.

Bo & Deb’s family trip to Patagonia

Deb & her family returned in February from a trip to Patagonia during which they spent 6 nights at a private lodge on the edge of Lake Nahuel Huapi, and embarked on some trekking in Bariloche. They then headed to Los Glaciares National Park for some trekking in and around El Calafate and El Chlaten. Here Deb tells us about the highlights of their trip, and their experience of booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Bo and I want to thank you for helping us to arrange a trip of a lifetime that came through for us in a mighty way. We had such a greatly blessed time!’

Every place we stayed was very nice and the private lodge in Bariloche was by far the most incredible accommodation and lodging experience of our lives! What a place and the personal, kind, professional staff there added so very much! Every meal and every snack was homemade and precisely made and we enjoyed such tremendous food and times together! The Argentinian barbecue topped it off the last night we were there.  What an experience!

Thank you so much for helping to arrange all of this! It so set the tone for the rest of our vacation, which was also top notch in different but appreciated ways! Patagonia is spectacular: Majestic mountains, beautiful glaciers, all just sensational.

All of our tours and guides were better than our best expectations: expert staff, who were friendly, helpful, endearing, and the transportation which went smoothly and was timely and comfortable.

Thank you for your advice, help and the wonderful results we enjoyed from your services and planning. Our LORD, my husband, much prayers and Swoop Patagonia teamed up to bring forth a real WIN WIN!!! Our regards and best to you.

John & Pene’s trip to Torres del Paine

John & Pene returned in February from a 5 week trip to Chile and Argentina, during which they spent 5 days exploring Torres del Paine National Park from an eco camp on the edge of the National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences on this trip, and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of our entire trip was definitely Torres del Paine and our time in the eco camp.

Summer arrived with us and we spent three days hiking in perfect weather. Paine is truly stunning, not just the rocks, but also the enormity of the space and the big, big skies.

How was your stay at the eco camp?

We felt sure we made the right choice in this eco camp, which was a lovely place: the yurts were perfect and the guides’ enthusiasm and passion for the park was infectious.

The food was good, though not exceptional, and it was a pleasure to have good wines and beers readily available. It was also a pleasure to meet and enjoy the company of other guests in small groups, and we felt that four nights/three days was probably the right length of time.

How did Swoop do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

Your advice was spot on and your administration was responsive and efficient.

Thanks also by the way for the ‘buffs’ which were awaiting our return and which will I am sure come in useful when I walk the West Highland Way later in the year.

Is there anything you would have liked to happen differently?

The main downside, which I know you recognise, is the distance you have to travel both in getting there and once you are there. I did the base of the towers, the horns and the condor cliff and each day I spent a minimum of 4 hours in transit. The situation is made worse this year because they are repairing the road, which means it is closed for large parts of the day and we had to return on a more circuitous route. Being driven through the park is no great hardship but it is disappointing when you have spent so much time, money and effort getting down there not to be able to spend more time in outdoor activities. For anyone spending more than 4 nights there they probably need to think of some alternative activities closer to hand around the Camp itself or on the outskirts of the park.

Another area of some confusion and frustration was in the timing of pick-ups. We were told we would be picked up at Puerto Natales at 5.30pm, then at 5.00pm and in the event they arrived at 4.00pm when we were out. We were not alone in having such difficulties, others complained of worse. Given that time in the Camp is so precious this is one area where they need to make improvements in their arrangements.

Lyndsay’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares & Tierra del Fuego

Lyndsay and her partner returned in February from a trekking holiday in Patagonia where she first did some day hikes from El Chalten. Next she embarked on a W Trek in Torres del Paine, finished off with a Kayaking trip out of the national park. The final segment of her adventure was a Trek Across Tierra del Fuego, finished off with a visit to a penguin colony. Here she tells us about each part of her trip, and her experiences in booking through Swoop and our partners… 

‘We had an amazing time, it was so much more than we thought it would be, and such a beautiful place to be, it was a privilege to spend time in that part of the world.’

El Chalten: Personalised Trekking Itinerary

The service provided by your partners in El Chalten could not be faulted, they booked great hotels, which suited our needs and were clean, comfortable with welcoming staff.

The personalised itinerary was great as it gave us a good feeling for the area and allowed us to feel comfortable to hike independently. The day we spent with the guide was great as we went to an area outside the national park, somewhere we would have not gone by ourselves, and the guide was very knowledgeable and friendly.

I don’t think we would have changed the itinerary but if we had had more time available a days rest in El Calafate before heading of to Puerto Natales would have been nice.

W Trek & Kayaking in Torres del Paine

The operator who ran our Self Guided W Trek and Kayak trip in Torres del Paine provided an excellent service. The guide for the kayaking part of the trip was very good, and was from the US so language was not a problem, he was very knowledgeable took us to a great campsite. All of the equipment provided was in excellent condition.

The only suggestion we would make about this trip is perhaps to walk the W Trek in the reverse direction, as you would then have a great view of the mountains as you walked.

The only hiccup here (and indeed of the trip as a whole) was that our hotel at the end of the kayaking trip had not been booked (I’m not sure if this was down to the hotel or the operator). The hotel moved us to another hotel, which unfortunately was not great, it had no hot water, or heating, and breakfast was not available early in the morning, and we had to leave early to get the bus to Rio Grande. Although not a major issue, an apology from them would have been nice.

I would recommend taking a padlock with you so that you can store your luggage in the lockers at the refugios. You can leave luggage at Refugio Torre, Refugio Paine Grande and at Campo Italiano whist you walk up the valleys, this is useful as it eases the amount you needed to carry during the day.

We would have loved to spend an extra day in Puerto Natales after this part of the trip, but unfortunately we were on a tight schedule.

Tierra del Fuego Crossing

This was an amazing part of the trip, if somewhat hard work at times, an excellent trek. It may have been good to make the trekking each day more equal in time, but the nature of the terrain and the type of trip it is would make this very difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, it may be something that could be born in mind.

Our guide was knowledgeable, competent, friendly, amusing and inspired confidence when we where in the middle of nowhere and made us feel very comfortable with what we where doing. He looked after us very well and had even brought a Spanish /English dictionary along for times of miscommunication.

It was a great trip, however I do think an extra day after crossing the Beban Pass to camp in the valley would have been brilliant as the mountains where just so wonderful to look at.

Swoop Patagonia

Swoop provided a great service; you were so helpful and knowledgeable. Your partners were very professional and provided the service they said they would- there was no hassle!

The service provided by yourselves was second to none and we could have not asked for anything more, you were always ready and able to help with any query no matter how small. We will recommend you unreservedly.

Overall

I am sure you can gather our highlight was trekking across Tierra del Fuego. However we would say this is trekking and more! No paths, marked routes, climbing over tress, walking across rivers, through bogs, along the sides of valleys on scree for up to 12 hours a day. It was amazing and beautiful and tranquil but anyone undertaking it should realise it is not an easy trek it is serious hard work.

‘Once again thank you so much you made a dream come true and we had the most wonderful time.’

Ali’s Trek and Ice Hike in Los Glaciares National Park

Ali returned at the end of January from a trek in Los Glaciares National Park, where he hiked in and around El Chalten, exploring the many mountains, glaciers, lakes and valleys around the dramatic Mount Fitz Roy. Here he tells us about his trip and his experience of booking with Swoop and our partners, and shares some fantastic photos and videos!

Ali Habbtar Viedma Glacier from Paso Huemul

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my ‘Complete Chalten’ trip was seeing the Continental Ice Field and trekking between Paso del Viento and Paso Huemul with very few people and amazing scenery.

Video: Viedma Glacier & the Continental Ice Field

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

 Not this time, but hopefully next time.

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

Swoop did an excellent job, the flexibility in trying to meet my schedule was great and the operator recommendations were fantastic.

Were you well looked after by the operator in El Chalten & their guides on the trip?

Zoe and the crew did an outstanding job in terms of adjusting the trek to get maximum benefit, it helped that I was a one-man group :)

The equipment and food provided was great, the hotels recommended and booked were excellent, and the guide, Gaston did an outstanding job- very professional, knowledgeable, and fun to trek with.

Ali Habbtar Snow-covered peace

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

Hopefully next time I’ll be able to plan further in advance without many changes.

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

Be ready physically and mentally, and enjoy nature at its best.