Tag Archives: Argentina

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Places to Eat in Chalten

On Harriet’s recent trip to Chalten she was on a mission to sample as many restaurants as she could. Here she takes you through the various options.

Techado Negro

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This slightly tumble down restaurant with its brightly coloured walls prepares wonderful, wholesome, home cooked food. If you are looking for a taste of home then head here for homemade pasta, fish, milanesas or salads.

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Look out for their excellent value menu del dia (menu of the day) with generous portions. This is also a great amount of choice for vegetarians .

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Hosteria Senderos

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If you’re looking for a bit of a splurge then head to Hosteria Senderos . For a mouth watering steak try the Bife de Chorizo, or trout or local lamb.

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The chef knows how to work local ingredients into delicious treats and the waiter will tempt you with a a wide selection of Argentine wines.

Cervecería Artesanal El Chaltén

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This tiny little beer house is so snug and cosy that you may find it hard to get a seat and may end up sharing a table with others. Come early or persevere and you will be given a choice of delicious pizzas and pasta to accompany your home brew. The rustic wooden décor lends the bar a congenial atmosphere which is ideal for après-trek drinks.

La Tapera

Tapera

A rustic wooden eatery with seating around a fire pit. The tapas are yummy and the rest of the Argentine fare is hearty. Try stews, steaks or  nibbles washed down with Argentine wine.

Wafleria

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A map shop that serves Waffles is a dream come true for me. I sat planning my trekking routes with chocolate pouring down my chin. The gregarious waiters make this a great place for a savoury or sweet waffle whilst you wait for Fitzroy to appear from behind the clouds.

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Expect to feel a like guilty and gluttonous afterwards.

Panaderia Que Rica

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Before you head into the hills or on the bus to Calafate it is worth stocking your backpack with sandwiches, empanadas (savoury pasties), facturas (sweet pastries such as croissants) or alfajores (shortbread and caramel sandwich) from this heavenly bakery.

Facturas

Get there early before stocks sell out.

Self Catering in Chalten

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If you plan to self cater Chalten is not very well served. The small supermarkets of La Tostadora Moderna  on Avenida San Martin, El Gringuito on Cerro Solo  or El Super  on Avenida Lago del Desierto have a few offerings but try to shop in Calafate before you jump on the bus. For elusive vegetables and fruit head to the Verduleria on Cabo Garcia.

Other places that looked good:

La Estepa

La Estepa
A good slightly more upmarket establishment with good food and excellent wines.

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Resto Patagonicus
Covered with photos of climbers and Chalten in years gone by. Tuck into argentine style pizzas, pastas and of course meat.

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Buenos Aires Graffiti Tour

Swoop’s own Sally finished off her most recent trip to Chile and Argentina with a few days to see what was hot, new and happening in the the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.
She checked out new hotels, enjoyed some wine tasting and here she tells us about her experience of doing a city tour with a difference – a Graffiti Tour.

The tour took in the gritty southern neighbourhoods of La Boca and Barracas allowing us to see a very different side to Buenos Aires to the leafy streets of Palermo or the elaborate facades of Recoleta. It certainly took us to places that we’d never have got to on our own.

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The tour managed to incorporate fascinating street art, big and small, local politics, national history and even some quirky snippets of cultural history which you certainly wouldn’t read about in your average guide book. I even got a basic introduction into how graffiti works and its lingo – tags, blows and many more!

The guide, Cecilia, really made the tour. She was extremely informative, passionate and was able to give anecdotes about the artists which really brought the murals to life. Her way of explaining history and politics was interesting and easy to follow.

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It isn’t a tour that is going to take you to the Obelisc or the Plaza de Mayo, you aren’t going to be told about the founding of Buenos Aires, nor a complete history of the city or Argentina. What you are given though is an alternative city tour, gaining in depth information into some aspects of Argentine history, through the context of the street art that you are seeing.

Beginning in La Boca she explained about the immigration of the early 1900’s, how La Boca came to be, and the background behind the photogenic ‘El Caminito’. Using the different art pieces Cecile explained about the history of expression and repression during the Military Dictatorship of the 70’s and 80’s and the return to democracy. Once in Barracas she even touched upon the economic crash of 2001.

For many, this form of associating historical facts and events with incredibly powerful, visual art is a far more interesting and memorable way to get to grips with the complicated and fascinating history of Argentina.

My top 5 pieces of art seen were….

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1) Up a back street in La Boca was an enormously powerful mural in memory of the 30,000 disappeared during the Military Dictatorship. The piece showed names of those that were never found, drawings of faces and a ‘Mothers of May’ grief stricken, claiming her dead husband, father or son. Hugely emotive.

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2) The Globe – I found this fascinating as I couldn’t and still can’t decide if the people are spinning in or spinning out. What do you think?

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3) The Bikes – lining the walls of Barracas where lines and lines of these delightful bicycles.

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4) The Turtle – artistically incredible.

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5) The History of La Boca with their tin houses, firefighters and the cargo bridge – a symbol of the area.

If you’re looking for a fun, interesting way to get under the skin of this fascinating, vibrant, sometimes restless city and learn a little about the Porteños themselves, then this graffiti tour will be an excellent addition to your itinerary.

Ask the Swoop team to find out more.

 

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Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

Ian and Sue returned in December from a 24 day trip to Chile and Argentina that was designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop.

‘We had the best holiday of our lives and would recommend it (and Swoop) to anyone!’ 

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Ian and Sue Feedback

The package you put together for us exceeded our expectations in every way.  The quality of the accommodation and guides was very high, and the choice of locations and activities was spot on for us.  We would recommend Swoop to anyone (and have done so).  The varied and unspoiled landscapes, the geology, and the incredibly rich variety of wildlife made Patagonia our perfect destination. If we are able to return to South America, I hope it will be under your auspices!

Ian and Sue’s Itinerary

Ian and Sue began their trip with a city tour of Santiago, followed by a night in the Hotel Boutique Oporto.

[Read Swoop’s list of recommended hotels in Santiago]

The city tour was faultless- a conversation with the courier led to an instant change to our afternoon itinerary, substituting a poet’s house with the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, and providing a driver to give us more time.  

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Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Santiago

Our guide had been a guide in the museum, so was amazingly knowledgeable. We ate at Como Agua Para Chocolate, and loved it.

[Read swoop’s top picks for restaurants throughout Patagonia]

The next morning they flew on to Puerto Montt, and the nearby island of Chiloe for a 3 night stay at Chil Hue, for 3 days of excursions to take in the local scenery, wildlife, fishing villages and penguin colony.

Our guide met us on arrival and drove us to Ancud, stopping several times on the way to show us birds etc.

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Chilean Wigeon

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Ringed Kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was a fantastic guide with a wide knowledge of natural history, and the history of the island.  We had a great day out – including a short trip out to the penguin colony where we saw Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins.

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Magellanic Penguins – Chiloé

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, our itinerary was to have been a visit to several of Chiloe’s wooden churches.  We had already visited a couple, and knowing our interest in natural history, our guide (Jamie) proposed a visit to a private national park owned by a friend of his (Parque Tepuhueico). 

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Chiloé

 After visiting Castro en route, we had a fantastic trek in the temperate rainforest.  Jaime had helped set up the trails, and had translated the interpretation boards into English, so was the perfect guide. 

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On our last night, we went out for a traditional meal in Ancud. Needless to say, we loved Chiloe!

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Chiloé

Ian and Sue’s next stop was Punta Arenas, where they spent a day exploring the city, and the King Penguin Colonies of Tierra del Fuego.

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On arrival at Punta Arenas, we were met by our guide, who dealt faultlessly with our questions.  Hotel Ilia was one of the nicest and friendliest places we stayed. The room was large, light and airy.  The decor was attractively modern and arty, and the breakfasts were great. 

Punta Arenas exceeded our expectations. It was a friendly and characterful Chilean city: a bit ramshackle in places, but full of charm (and feral dogs…).  O’Higgins provided a wealth of restaurants to choose between.  We ended up going to Brocolino both nights, and enjoyed it very much.

Our day trip to see the King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego was a great success. It was a full day, but very variable and enjoyable.  We were in a small group in a mini-bus, which stayed with us all day. 

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King Penguins – Tierra del Fuego

Porvenir was an attractive (v small!) city with a surprisingly good museum.  The penguin site (not yet referred to as a “colony” as they hadn’t bred successfully yet) was great – with interesting plants as well as birds.  

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Lighthouse, Porvenir

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Chimango Caracara

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guide was excellent, stopping the bus to show us foxes, guanacos and rheas, and pointing out the dolphins on the short ferry crossing on the way back to the mainland.  On return, the bus dropped us off at O’Higgins for a meal as it was getting late.

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Guanaco

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Patagonian Grey Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day, Ian and Sue headed to an eco camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park for 3 days of excursions.

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Patagonian Skunk

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Lago Pehoe – Torres del Paine

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were picked us up in the afternoon, and driven to our accommodation, stopping several times en route to look at features, wildlife etc. The eco friendly camp we stayed at exceeded all our expectations.  We had the nearest yurt to the lake with distant views of the “Horns”.  

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Patagonia Camp

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Patagonia Camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

On arrival, the staff explained the options available for the next day.  The evening meal was great, with as much of the house wine as we wanted to drink (and the offer of a bottle to take back to the yurt) together with unwise quantities of pisco sour before and after the meal.

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Lady’s Slipper

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Patagonian Red Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our first day of excursions we elected to go on the Fauna Trail Hike.  This was ideal for us, providing a good introduction to the scenery, flora and fauna of the area, together with an unexpected view of the rock paintings (see their wine label – and visit Majestic in the UK).  

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Guanaco

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Rock Paintings – Torres del Paine

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were also introduced to the lavish picnics provided by the camp.

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Magellanic Orchid

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Yellow Orchid

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, some of the trips could not run due to high winds. The guides asked us if we would like to go on a trek they hadn’t included in their list for some years, and the three guides, and just the two of us, had a great day out.  

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They shared their maté with us, explaining the simple ceremony involved, and we felt very included.  We had a fantastic view of an Austral pygmy owl.  

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Austral Pygmy Owl

The last  section of the walk was very challenging for me – a narrow path on loose scree – and they seemed to have forgotten my vertigo.  They admitted that if this section of the walk had been longer, they would have graded the walk as “Difficult” rather than “Moderate”!

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On our final day at the camp, four of us had elected to go on the Grey Lake Boat Trip, but on arrival at the jetty, we found that the boat had been cancelled due to high winds. Instead, we did the Grey Beach Hike in the morning (very close views of a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers), together with a short hike to the Lake Toro viewpoint in the afternoon. 

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Magellanic Woodpecker

This provided a great day out, and showed off the guides’ ability to think on their feet.  We rounded the day off with a self guided walk to the local waterfall.

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Our stay at the eco friendly camp was the high spot of our holiday. The accommodation and surroundings were great, and the guides were all of the highest quality: we felt really looked after.

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Following their stay in Torres del Paine, Ian and Sue headed across the border to the town of El Calafate, where they visited the Perito Moreno Glacier, and took some day hikes from the nearby town of El Chalten.

P07820_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1320 The hotel in El Calafate was friendly, comfortable and stylish.  We were directed to the Laguna Nimezwhich was a must (we ended up going there again the next evening).  Not feeling able to face the queues at La Tablita, we ate at La Zaina, which was very good.

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The day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier was a great success.  The guide was, as usual, everything we could ask for.  Although the viewpoints provided great views of the glacier, we found the boat trip well worth it, providing closer views of the ice walls, together with the sculpted icebergs floating in the lake. 

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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Perito Moreno Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

The boat lingered at each viewpoint long enough for everybody to get the photos they wanted.

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Perito Moreno Glacier

On our excursion to the Petrified Forest, our guide was very knowledgeable, both geologically and botanically.  

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Petrified Forest

In addition to the geology, this trip provided our best views of the flora of the steppe

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Following the excursion, we were taken to El Chalten.  Hotel Lunajuim was very friendly- the room was great, full of quirky modern art produced by the owner’s wife: we enjoyed our stay very much.  We ate at the Estepa, which we liked very much, and returned to on our last night.

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Our excellent guide took us (together with a picnic) to Laguna Capri.  This was an ideal trek for us, culminating in a satisfying view of the glacier.  We ate at La Tapera – very good again, with a great choice of wines displayed in the wine racks with price tags tied round the necks.

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The following day our guide Zoe took us to Lago del Desierto.  She was a great guide, and managed to show us torrent ducks, which had been on my list of “hope to sees” (and give us an excellent picnic). 

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Torrent Ducks

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Ashy Headed Goose

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening, we ate at La Vineria, which must be one of the best wine bars in the world!  Their smoked platter was worth a mention as well as the wine.

On our last day in El Chalten we took a self guided trek towards Laguna Torre – we only made it to the three viewpoints en route, but the views were spectacular, and the route easy to follow.

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The next stop was Tierra del Fuego, for a few days exploring the birds and wildlife of the National Park.

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Southern Lapwing

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Black faced Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Tierra del Fuego was a good place to stay – quite central and fairly near the waterfront.  We ate at Le Estancia – the food was quite good, but the service was patchy – much of their efforts seemed to be directed towards rich Americans presumably on their way to Antarctica.

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Black Necked Swans

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Upland Goose

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guided excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park was enjoyable.  Our guide was knowledgeable, and urged us to suggest any changes to the itinerary we wanted, although we did find him a little impatient.  We ate at Moustacchio for the next two nights.  We found it very friendly, with a wide menu of well-cooked food (as Sue is allergic to crab, we tended to avoid predominantly fishy restaurants). 

The following day, our guide had booked us onto a Beagle Channel cruise, which culminated in a visit to an estancia, followed by a two hour minibus transfer home.  We decided to stay on the boat to return to Ushuaia rather than take the bus.

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This was one of our favourite days.  The weather was cold and wet but, on arrival at the penguin island, the sun came out, and the boat beached on the sand, giving us the best views we had ever had of penguins going about their normal lives. 

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In addition to the Magellanic penguins, there were a few Gentoo, and three King Penguins.

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For their final few days, Ian and Sue visited Buenos Aires, where they spend time exploring the city; it’s museums and art galleries.

[Read Swoop’s blog post about things to do in Buenos Aires]

On our departure day, our guide had already taken our details, and checked us in on line for our flight: this was a great idea- I wish other operators had done the same. After checking in at our hotel, we visited MALBA (a fantastic gallery). 

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The Hotel Esplendor was friendly and helpful. That evening we went to a nearby Parilla recommended by the hotel – it was OK, but I think I will stick to your recommendations in future! 

Our group tour of Buenos Aires in the morning was excellent.  The guide was very informative, and when one of the passengers expressed an interest in visiting Evita’s grave, she just added it to the itinerary.  At the end of the tour, she dropped the passengers off wherever they wanted.  

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A warning to other travellers: we were squirted with something outside the National Gallery, but when people offered to “assist”, we shouted at them until they went away (successfully avoiding robbery – although my mobile was later pinched on the underground: but that’s another story). 

A visit to El Ateneo, a bookshop in a converted theatre, should be on everyone’s to do list: there is even a cafe on the stage.  As an alternative to steak, we ate an Italian restaurant highly rated by the hotel (Il Gran Caruso): this was excellent.

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On our final day, we had a tour of the Opera House (very good), and spent the rest of the day at the San Telmo Market.  We really enjoyed ourselves, but are still kicking ourselves that we bought so little – everything was amazingly cheap and stylish.  

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Our Iberia flight home arrived back early, and we managed to catch an earlier coach home.

A satisfying end to the best holiday we have ever had. Thank you, Sally!

Perito Moreno

Anne’s Family Christmas in Patagonia

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

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

Fam on glacier

Ann’s Feedback

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

Lake above Peuma Hue

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

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

Scotch on perito moreno

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

Caity at hut

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

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

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Ann’s Itinerary

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

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

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

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

Perito Moreno

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

Peuma Hue

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

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

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

wine tasting in BA

 Thank you again for making this dream trip come true!

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Ann & Karl’s 15 days in Argentina

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

Ann & Karl’s feedback

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

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Ann & Karl’s Itinerary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Emilie Roederer glacier

Emilie & Xander’s Tailor-Made Week of Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park

Emilie and Xander returned just a few days ago from a trip to Patagonia, during which they embarked on a week-long tailor made Trek in Los Glaciares National Park. Here Emilie tells us about their experiences…

Thank you so much…it was an amazing experience and we are definitely coming back to Argentina!!

Emilie Roederer glacierHow was your trip overall?

We really enjoyed the trip and will be back for sure! We especially enjoyed the variation of accommodation and hikes, and the general way of travelling. Hiking with a guide is great as they give you so much information, and it is easier for you to plan your days.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The second day of hiking to the border and back to the lodge was our favourite.

The first day of hiking was quite tough. We went up to the glacier first, which was really nice, and then walked the length of Lago Del Desierto (the boat wasn’t functioning so the original programme was changed slightly). This walk was quite long and a lot of up and down, also it was raining.

The second day was a lot easier, we decided to walk to the border of Chile and back and continue on to the lodge halfway along the lake. It was sunny and the hike to the boarder was very scenic.

Gaston, our guide, told us a lot about the plants, trees, birds and glaciers which we much enjoyed. Eventually we hiked for about 8 hours on each day. The reason we also preferred this area to the last day’s hike is because it was more quiet. We did see quite a few cyclists, but overall it was a very secluded area.

emILIE ROEDERER LAKE 2

How was your accommodation on the trip?

We liked all of the accommodation we stayed in, especially the lodge on Lago Del Desierto.

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

Yes, we continued to do some hiking in Bariloche (Thanks for the accommodation tip, we stayed at Marianna’s hostel which was very nice), then at Hotel Tronador (very nice area but so many horse flies it was difficult to do long hikes. 

We did some small hikes, went to Tronador to see the black glacier and waterfalls, and did some canoeing), then to Villa de la Angostura (very nice as well, we did a boat trip and hiked up and down the peninsula – very nice hike), then to San Martin de los Andes (again very nice, we went to Quila Quina beach for a day and climbed to the base of volcano Lanin – very recommendable hike).

After about 9 days in the lake district we spent 4 days in Buenos Aires which was also good but very warm (heatwave – 40 degrees…). We did the usual touristy stuff and most enjoyed the Palermo Soho area.

EMILIE ROEDERER TORRES

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

Very well. We were extremely happy with the trip.

How was the operator, Walk Patagonia, and how were their guides on the trip?

Very good. Gaston, the guide, was really great. He told us all about the nature, area and Argentinian culture and was flexible in terms of hike options and durations.

The operator overall was also good, Zoe met us at the bus station and provided detailed information on the next days.

Emilie Roederer Lake

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

We would have liked more time at Perito Moreno. We were picked up at 9 and left at 3 so had about 4 hours there. This was sufficient for a boat trip and walk on the paths (which were really nice!) but we would have like to do the mini trek on the ice. We only heard about that option on the way there and there was space for us to do it, but not enough time as we had to catch the bus to El Chalten in the evening. We would have been keen to leave earlier so we could have done that. But good reason to go back :)

emilie roederer beach

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

We looked at some of your existing itineraries and picked one with varied hikes and accommodation (camping followed by nice lodge) and can highly recommend keeping it varied. The hikes are quite long (all at least 8 hrs) and it is nice to spoil yourself a bit in between and have a “rest day” (even though we did do some small hikes!).

Once again, thanks for everything.

Reciprocity fee for entering Argentina (USA, Canada, Australia)

This one definitely falls into the boring-but-important category, and if you are a UK passport holder then you’re lucky enough to not need to read this.

If however you hold a US, Canadian or Australian passport then please get yourself a strong coffee and read on…

First and foremost this is a payment that MUST be made PRIOR to arriving in Argentina.

The lack of such proof of payment will generate the denial of entry of the passenger and consequent returning to their departure city by the airline. We strongly urge passengers to take the necessary precautions so that those passengers who travel to the mentioned airports with a scheduled arrival starting on November 1st, 2012 (Jorge Newbery) and December 29th, 2012 (Ezeiza) have the electronic receipt with them.

The National Immigration Agency has changed the method by which tourists and business visitors from the US, Canada, and Australia will be required to pay in order to gain visa entry to Argentina. The reciprocity fee will shortly no longer be payable at the airport upon arrival. Instead the payment must be carried out online, prior to arrival, using the credit card based Provincia Payment System.

How do I make payment?

1. Sign up here https://virtual.provinciapagos.com.ar/ArgentineTaxes/Registro.aspx. You’ll need your passport number. You’ll also be asked to create a password which you’ll need for….

2. Go to bottom left of this page to login: https://virtual.provinciapagos.com.ar/ArgentineTaxes/. This is where you’ll enter your credit card details and make payment.

3. Print the payment receipt, and present it to Immigration Control on arrival in Argentina

When does this take effect?

The system will be effective as of 31st October 2012 for flights to Aeroparque and 28th December 2012 for Ezeiza International Airport. A press release clearly states that “after these dates cash payments will not be accepted at the airport”.
The change in payment method follows a decision to increase the fee for US citizens from US$140 to US$160, which came into effect in April of this year.

 What if I’m entering Argentina by land or sea?

This fee is ONLY payable for international air arrival at the two Buenos Aires airports (Aeroparque and Ezeiza)for Canadians , Australians and Americans. It does NOT apply for international arrival by air at any other airport (such as Mendoza, Cordoba or Salta), and NOT to arrival by land, road or sea. Also it does not apply to any other nationalities.

How much is the feee?

Australians: get multiple entries for their $US 100 fee, but it only lasts one year from the first entry after payment, after which you need to pay again.

Canadians: get a single entry for their $US 75 fee.

Americans: get multiple entries for 10 years (transferable to a new passport if you show your old one) for their $US 160.

Books and films About Patagonia

So the trip’s all booked, you’re fantasising about the new trekking gear you should (or maybe could) get, and you’re hungry to find out more about Patagonia.

Here are a few recommendations that we think will inform and inspire you before your big trip, you may also be interested to read our Patagonia Guide.

Books

1. In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin

Chatwin’s collection of stories about his journeys through Patagonia, written in 1977, is a literary classic. Whilst it’s not exactly an easy going travel journal with a clear view of places to visit and things to do, it does provides some wonderful stories about the characters that he met and their own history in the region. http://tinyurl.com/6w2ec6k

2. Patagonia – a Cultural History, Chris Moss

Chris Moss has lived in Argentina for years and provides an insightful view of Patagonia’s history right from the start. You’ll get a sense of Patagonia’s influence on everyone from its indigenous people to 19th century explorers, the Welsh pioneers and even Butch Cassidy. http://tinyurl.com/7dtzc76

3. Mischief in Patagonia, Bill Tilman

This is out of print, but you should be able to find a copy and I’d recommend it wholheartedly. Tilman sailed from Britain, through the Magellan Straits, and up the Pacific Coast. He then embarked on an expedition across the Patagonian Ice Cap east to west. A wonderfully understated account of what must have been a truly extraordinary journey. http://tinyurl.com/7p4yxqt

4. Trekking in the Patagonian Andes

For a more practical guide to hiking in the region this is an excellent refernce and, in fact, I still have my 1998 edition on the bookshelf from my first visit. http://tinyurl.com/7383yhl

Films & Videos

1. In Patagonia (2010)

In Patagonia charts the journeys of an elderly Argentine lady exploring her roots in Wales, and a Welsh couple visiting Patagonia . It is filmed mainly in northern Patagonia around the Chubut Valley with some beautiful shots of the steppe, and in Wales. It received mixed reviews, but the shots of northern Patagonia are stunning and we certainly enjoyed it. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1020559/. More about the Patagonia film on the Swoop blog. One of our partners runs a trip to all the top locations in the film – a great way to see the area.

2. Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race 2011: The Last Wild Race

The 10 day race may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a good one to enjoy from your armchair. The race is run in Southern  Chilean Patagonia every year, through both iconic national parks and areas that are very rarely seen. You’ll be wowed by the landscapes as much as by the endeavours of the participants of the race.
http://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/wenger-patagonian-expedition/id498965561

3. A story for tomorrow, Gnarly Bay Productions

We only came across this beautiful short video of Chile and Patagonia today, but Charlotte and I were both mesmerised. http://vimeo.com/36519586

 

Of course, this is just a selection. Please do add your own suggestions and comments below.

Hannah & James

Customer Review: James’ and Hannah’s Chilean & Argentinian adventure!

Hannah and James visited Patagonia as part of a month long trip to the region starting off in northern Chilean Patagonia, before making their way down to Torres del Paine and exploring Chalten. They share some wonderful photos of their time in Patagonia, and we ask them about the highlights of their trip:

1. Where did you go in Patagonia and what did you do? 

We went to Pucon for one night and then drove to the Huilo Huilo reserve via the Termas Geometricas. We stayed in the Magic Mountain for two nights and then drove to Puerto Varas and spent the night there before going sea kayaking for three nights with a guide from Secret Patagonia. We spent two of these three nights camping in Parque Pumalin. We then flew to Puntas Arenas and transferred to Puerto Natales for one night before embarking on a 5 day trekking expedition in Torres del Paine. We then spent a night in Puerto Natales at the Indigo hotel before catching the bus to Calafate in Argentina. We hired a car and then drove to Chalten and spent the night at Estancia La Quinta. We walked up to Mt Fitzroy before driving back to Calafate and spending two nights there. While there we did a day excursion to the Perito Moreno glacier where we walked on the glacier. We book-ended our South American trip with nights in Santiago at the start and Buenos Aries at the end.

2. What was the highlight of your trip?

Everything was a highlight! Some of them would be:

Termas Geometricas in Pucon. We drove there on our way from Pucon to Huilo Huilo, and spent a relaxing few hours moving between slate terma baths situated in a beautiful ravine. There were very few people there and it had to be by far the best termas we went to on our trip.

Magic Mountain hotel in Huilo Huilo national park. Whilst staying at the stunningly amazing Magic Mountain hotel we did the XXL canopy walk trip, which is included the highest zip line in South America and a zip line over a waterfall. Needless to say, this was a breathtaking experience I will never forget, if not partly because I was terrified of heights!

Trekking in Torres del Paine, and waking up to see the Towers looming above the refugio in the sunshine, a view which we could see from our beds. The overwhelming beauty that we woke up to every day whilst on our 5 day trek of the ‘W’ route is simply something that cannot be replicated. Whilst we did not find the trek overly challenging, it is the only way to see all of the beauty of the park and we highly recommend it! In the bus on the way back to Puerto Natales every person in the bus held on to every last glimpse of the Towers, trying to ingrain it into their memory, before promptly falling asleep.

Recovering from the trek in the rooftop hot tubs in the Indigo Hotel in Puerto Natales. After 5 days of overwhelming beauty, we recovered on the rooftop hot tubs followed by a pisco sour at the bar. A perfect way to end those 5 days.

The Majestic isolation of Parque Pumalin. Another amazing experience that cannot be summed up easily in to words. Highlights of those days must have been seeing the dolphins, having the sealions swim a few metres under our kayak, the beauty of being in the fjords and the satisfaction of reaching your destination after a hard days’ kayaking!

3. What, if anything, would you change if you could do it again?

Given the same amount of time I wouldn’t change anything but I wish we could have had more time to explore at bit more and savour things without having to move on so fast. We would have loved the opportunity to visit Valdes, Argentina to see the whales.

4. How were the logistics – did everything run smoothly?

The logistics were challenging as we left ourselves no room for error. On one 20+ hour day we got up before 6 at the end of a fjord in Parque Pumalin and finished the day at 2am in Puerto Natales before catching the early morning bus to Torres del Paine the next morning! Everything ran smoothly except the flight from Puerto Montt to Puntas Arenas was delayed so we missed the last bus to Puerto Natales. Luckily a call to Gonzalo from Chile Nativo was enough to save the day as he was able to arrange a private transfer.


5. What did you think of the operators Swoop recommended?

Absolutely fantastic. We could not have asked for more from Secret Patagonia or Chile Nativo. Andres from Secret Patagonia was an incredible guide and kept us happy and entertained throughout our long days of kayaking. His fieldcraft was top notch and we ate well even in the middle of nowhere! As mentioned Gonzalo from Chile Nativo saved the day with a transfer from Puntas Arenas and there was a member of his team waiting at the hotel at 1 in the morning to give us all the vouchers and details we needed for the self-guided trek. We had all the information we needed and it wired perfectly.


6. Would you recommend Swoop?

Yes definitely. Swoop/Charlotte were incredibly helpful with suggestions and tips for the trip as well as helping us find the right operators for the specific sections where we couldn’t organise it ourselves. It was a massive comfort to know that these operators were recommended by Swoop because they required payment in full in advance so we were putting a lot of trust in them and this would have been harder to do without the Swoop recommendation.