Tag Archives: Chalten

Mary’s trip to Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares and Tierra del Fuego

Swoop helped Mary plan her independent trip to Patagonia in February, during which she spent some time in Santiago, Valparaiso, Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares, & Ushuaia. Here she tells us about her experiences…

I’ll tell you what, we barely scratched the surface! There is so much to do in Patagonia!!! We flew into Santiago, saw little of the city, but what I saw I liked, and we also spent a day in Valparaiso.

Next we flew down to Punta Arenas and got straight onto a bus to Puerto Natales, where we took a day trip to Torres del Paine and trekked up to the Torres on a one-day trek, beautiful and knackering! Wish we’d had the time to also see the Cuernos but eh, can’t do everything and glad we at least made it to the Torres.

Also, alarmingly caught bed bugs from a hostel called the Singing Lamb! Not impressed and hope I have got rid of them successfully and not imported them into the UK. I was riddled with bites so first stop once we got to Calafate was a laundry for a complete wash of all items, including backpacks, camera bag etc! We were lucky to get a coach there; for a while (until we checked with every single company!) it looked like we would have to change our plans and stay longer at Puerto Natales so would definitely recommend booking that particular coach well in advance!

From El Calafate, we took a day trip to Perito Moreno (astoundingly awe-inspiring for a place that is so popular with tourists). We then went on to El Chalten, where we climbed up to Laguna de Los Tres and Fitz Roy, it was scorching hot!!! Could not believe it. The owners of the posada where we stayed had recommended we drive to the north side and start from there rather than from the village, which I think was a great idea and made the trek much easier than it would have been if we had started from the centre of El Chalten. All of it was most enjoyable.

We then flew to Ushuaia. The city, as I am sure you agree, is not much to write home about to be honest but we got our stamp for having visited the most southern city in the world! It was also surprisingly expensive to eat out though I must say we decided to go “posh”! Lovely food at Kaupe and Volver, compared with the UK the prices are fine of course but not what I had expected in Argentina. We did take a trip to Isla Martillo to see the penguins (you can’t ever have enough of penguins!) and cute smooching sea lions, which was great. On the way back to Punta Arenas, we took the coach and saw baby orcas in the Beagle Channel, which was also fantastic. We also did the coast trail at Ushaia national park, a piece of cake after Fitz Roy and the Torres :-)

All in all, it was a great holiday and thank you both so much for your help. Hopefully we’ll get to go back there soon, it would be great to see the fjords and do more trekking, although we would definitely give Ushuaia and Punta Arenas a miss :-) . We would also love to see more of Chile, Pucon, Puerto Varas, the lakes etc etc etc… :-) Rather fancy the north as well…

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.

Melanie’s 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine

Melanie returned in January from a 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her trip and her experience in booking with Swoop and our partners… 

‘The trip was amazing! I had a great time.’ 

 What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my W Trek was seeing Las Torres. The weather was not very cooperative that day (rainy, cloudy) but our guide knew exactly what to do to maximize our chances of seeing Las Torres: we waited inside until a perfect window of opportunity presented itself, and we got a beautiful view of Las Torres. It was an exhilarating experience.

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

They were wonderful. Responded very quickly to my emails and very helpful in organizing the trip I wanted.

How was the operator we put you in touch with, and how were their guides on the trip?

They were great. Very organized, approachable and helpful. My guide was very knowledgeable, friendly, flexible, and always had our safety and enjoyment in mind.  

‘Overall, I had a fantastic experience. Thank you to both of you for all of your help and I wish you the very best!’

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.’

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Barbara & Douglas’ 5 Week Patagonian Adventure

Barbara and Douglas returned in February from a 5 week trip that included a 4 night Patagonian Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their trip, and their experience of booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip… Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary’

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our trip was 5 weeks altogether with 4 nights of it on the cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Overall the cruise was one of our many highlights, with the landing on Cape Horn very special and the experience at Pia Glacier quite something.

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

Yes, we visited Santiago and Valparaiso before flying south to Balmaceda where we picked up a rental 4×4. We spent a week driving south on the Carretera Austral and were able to drop the vehicle at Villa O’Higgins. This was difficult to arrange and expensive but we managed to book through a local agent and Europcar.

Another highlight was our 2 day crossing into Argentina, from Villa O’Higgins, by boat and on foot and our first sighting of Mt. Fitzroy! 5days in El Chalten was a recommendation from Luke which was excellent, great day hikes and fantastic food and drink.

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We had a brief visit to El Calafate and visited Perito Merino glacier, then on to Puerto Natales to go to Torres del Paine. We completed  the W Trek ourselves using pre booked refugios which proved to be very good and Luke had given us advice about this.

The weather was kind and the scenery was awesome. We went to Punta Arenas and the the cruise after this. Spent 2 nights in Ushuaia and 2 nights in Buenos Aires before flying home.

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

Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip. Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary and we organised the whole trip ourselves using  Luke’s knowledge and advice. He directed us to their excellent partners for both our flights and our cruise booking.

Were you well looked after by the cruise operator?

The cruise operator was excellent, not cheap but a very special part of our trip at the end of our 5 weeks. We were ready for some luxury and they hit the mark, nice cabin, great meals, excellent service and well organised excursions.

How did you find the services and excursions provided?

Services and excursions were all very well executed, swift disembarkation for all excursions with safety a high priority. Enjoyed the on board presentations by knowledgeable staff.

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

Not at all, all our pre planning paid off and we would do the exact same.

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

-For anyone planning to do the crossing from Villa O’Higgins to El Chalten: be aware that the company Heilo Sur in Villa O’Higgins does not operate this any longer and the website information is out of date. The boat across Lago O’Higgins is now run by Robinson Crusoe, the man and horse who helps with luggage was not there(!) so be prepared to walk the 22kms if you go. Robinson Crusoe sold us tickets for a bus from Desertio Lake to El Chalten which never turned up.

-Bring American dollars if you plan to visit Argentina as this is the currency they wish.

-The crime levels in Buenos Aires seem to be escalating, we heard many reports of street crime and scams to distract tourists while pickpockets were at work.

-The walking tours for tips are an excellent way to see a city, we did these in Valaparaiso and Buenos Aires

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Patagonia Trekking: April Update

We have a number of people asking about treks in April and with fewer scheduled departures going on at this time in the ‘shoulder’ season we thought it might be helpful to share details of a few guaranteed trips, and a few provisional trips going on.

 April is in the Austral Autumn so you can expect shorter days, and cooler temperatures but also fantastic autumn colours and fewer people in the national parks.

Where dates are provisional please do let us know if they might be of interest and if it would be helpful to move the trip forward or backward by a couple of days.

In Torres del Paine…

Thomas cochrane Winter W The following W Trek trips are confirmed and guaranteed:

  1.  Original W Trek, 5 days, starting on 15th April from Puerto Natales
  2.  This ‘eco’ camp option, 7 days, starting on 7th, 14th and 21st April.

We also have some provisional dates where private groups might be open to others joining, or we have people interested but are yet to guarantee the group…

  1. W trek, with an off-the-beaten-track twist (12th-17th Apr) and a 2 day kayak trip (18-19th April)  - a pretty challenging expedition, only for experienced outdoors people.
  2. Original W Trek, 5 days, starting 29th March and 22nd April.

Please see our Map of Torres del Paine

In El Chalten/FitzRoy Massif…

Ali Habbtar Viedma Glacier from Paso Huemul

The following trip is confirmed and guaranteed…

  1. Los Glaciares experience with a visit to the Perito Moreno glacier, day hikes and ice hiking on the Viedma glacier, from 7th to 11th April.

We also have some provisional dates where private groups might be open to others joining, or we have people interested but are yet to guarantee the group…

  1.  A challenging 3-4 day trek along lines of http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/huemul-circuit/ in the first/second week of April.
  2.  A longer but equally challenging 6-7 day trek along lines of http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/complete-chalten-trek/from 12th – 18th April.

Please see our Map of El Chalten.

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.

Michal’s Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine

 Michal returned in late January from a Self-Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his trip and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Thank you very much for all your help and advice. Our trip to Patagonia exceeded our expectations. Everything ran smoothly without any hiccups at all.’

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the Self Guided W hike was definitely Valle del Frances. The weather was perfect and the sheer beauty of this place is simply stunning.

How was the travel and accommodation on your trip?

Travel arrangements were perfect. Hotel Sierra Nevada was very good and Amerindia by means of the smile glued to Monica’s face, simply unforgettable.

I blessed the decision to overnight in Chileno twice due to the unsettled weather, as this enabled us to spend a few hours under the towers, to see them and to take these unforgettable shots.

Is there anything you would have liked to happen differently?

We noticed that during the walk people were getting lunches in big paper bags. This seemed a little excessive as no one needed them and they littered every refugio. This is probably something to pass on to Sur Fantastico… A few trees in Amazonia chopped down unnecessarily!

[Regarding the paper bags, we 100% agree with you, and have complained about it also. The good news is that from next season (Sept 2014) people will no longer be given paper bags, and will be given only recyclable bottle of water!]

Unfortunately, we were neither able to hike to Valle del Silencio nor to Campamento Japones as we did not have the climbing permit and did not know that such permit was needed. We also wanted to visit Valle Bader but again lack of permit stopped us. I understand it is something off the beaten track but certainly worth visiting.

[Regarding the special permission to get into the Silencio, Bader and Pingo Valleys: After the terrible fire in the park a couple of year ago, the rangers closed these valleys to tourists travelling without certified guides because there are no rangers to cover these areas. see our Off the Beaten track trips in Torres del Paine ]

The other thing worth mentioning is the need for sleeping bag liners in Refugio Chileno as I was not aware of this either.

We spoke today with the commercial manager and they told us that they ask for a security deposit of USD$ 50, or your passport, in exchange for the liner. When you leave and return the liner they return your deposit/ passport. Unfortunately this measure was put in place because several guests took the liners with them!]

These were all just tiny niggles however, which did not bother us at all. It has to be said that we found the service of your partners in Torres del Paine perfect.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also hiked for a week in Nahuel Huapi Park. This equally blew us away.

‘To summarise, Swoop Patagonia and your partners scored 5 out of 5… We received what we needed in a very unobtrusive and friendly way what we appreciate. We only regret we did not have enough time to stay a few days in El Chalten and to hike there. I simply did not realise Patagonia being that beautiful.’

 

John & Laura’s Christmas Trip to Patagonia

John and Laura returned in January 2014 from a Christmas trip to Patagonia, where they took a Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, and a Kayaking trip in Torres del Paine (both organised by Swoop), as well as arranging a Self Guided W Trek and various other day trips independently. Here they tell us about their experiences on their trip…

‘We had a great time…it was a brilliant trip!’

 

What was the HIGHLIGHT of your trip?

The 3 day Kayaking Trip and the Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia were probably the highlights… the kayaking for being a bit wild, and the cruise for being very luxurious but also in a wild place.

On the kayak trip on Lago Grey we were close to an iceberg when it turned over. I think the guide was rather shocked as we were within about 5m of it!

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

We started off in Buenos Aires (the only place that was hot), and from there we travelled to El Calafate, and on to El Chalten.

We then headed back to El Calafate, and on to Puerto Natales, from which we took the W trek in Torres del Paine, and a Kayaking trip.

Afterwards we headed to Puerto Natales, and on to Punta Arenas, from which point we took a Cruise to Ushuaia, and then headed back to Buenos Aires.

How well did SWOOP PATAGONIA do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trips or operators for you?

Very good – booking the kayaking through Swoop with a reputable company with good access to the lake was the most useful and didn’t cost much more (if any)* than the other quotes we had. 

*NB, you will not pay any more by booking through Swoop than you would by booking direct with a local operator. Read more about how we work here.

How were the OPERATORS Swoop put you in contact with?

Both the companies you put us in contact with (the Kayaking and Cruise companies) were very good.

How were the other operators you found yourselves?

Other operators were a little patchy.

We found a great guide kayaking for a day in the Tierra Del Fuego national park but the kayaks weren’t very good (although the clothing was).

We also did half a day of Horse Riding which was OK but I really wanted to see the gauchos and how they managed the estancia and the landscape. That seemed difficult to arrange although Estancia Mercedes sounded the best but was booked up. 

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

-Traveling on Christmas day was a PITA.

We had to leave at 4.30am and had a few hours kicking about El Calafate in the bus station as everywhere was closed. At least we managed to do it but getting information was a challenge (thanks for your help by the way – but it was pretty clear that the bus operators just made things up as they went along). Some buses were completely empty (e.g, El Chalten to El Calafate at 4.30am! on Christmas day :-) and others seemed to be fully booked so we had to run around to get a seat, even days in advance.

-We decided to book our W Trek in Torres del Paine independently [without Swoop's support], and this was awkwardIt was very unclear from the website we used if we could cancel or rearrange the bookings.

On this trip we had a mix of tents and bunks, and availability was tight. But when we got there it seemed like certain guides were taking groups around who had booked late and companies must have been holding group bunk reservations, which we might have done had the procedure been clearer.

The tents were pretty pants to be honest. Neither of us are very tall but we struggled to fit in the tent with a small amount of kit – and it rained and rained and the tent leaked – partly as kit was unavoidably touching the sides and the ventilation wasn’t very good. They ought to spend more money on them considering how much they charge.

Also, Vertice’s huts were noticeably better than Fantastico Sur’s in the quality, warmth, food and service despite costing the same. In fact, accommodation seemed to be a lottery – for USD45 in Buenos Aires we got a huge posh suite with a kitchen but for USD135 in Ushuaia we got a pokey, noisy ground floor room that was somewhat dated. We booked both late due to the uncertainty with our plan. There is little correlation between price and quality.

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

1. Don’t travel on Christmas day

2. Try and get up to date info – even the latest Lonely Planet Chile is pretty poor for accuracy, which was frustrating.

3. It is an expensive place to visit, everything and everyone seems to have a chunk of your money, taxes, booking fees etc. Planning a budget was difficult – they are not afraid to ask for tips!

4. TAM airlines are not very comfortable, or attentive

5. It is cold. Even colder than I expected

6. Don’t eat for a week before or after a Cruise (the staff here were fantastic, friendly and fun – superb)

7. I think I’d advise against travel over Christmas as it is windy, very busy, expensive (due to availability) and there is nothing particularly extra to see. If (when) we go again I think we’d wait until February or March.

8. It was very safe at all times and we never really got any hassle – even from the stray dogs.

Some of that sounds a bit blunt but none of it spoiled the trip (or is any different to any of our other traveling experiences). We saw another person with a Swoop buff and they seemed very happy too. I’ll pass on your details to anyone who is interested in planning their own trip – I think you’ll hear from my mother once she has rounded up a few of her trekking buddies!

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Rolf and Jan Hike the Full Circuit and Explore Los Glaciares National Park

In early December 2013, Rolf and his son, Jan spent 5 days exploring and trekking in Los Glaciares National Park, including El Chalten and Perito Moreno Glacier, followed by a guided Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences…

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What was the highlight of your trip?

Rolf and I really enjoyed the trip! Day 1 of the Full Circuit in Torres del Paine was our highlight, especially the view on the Torres, this was a particular highlight for us.

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

No.

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

All in all, the assistance was nice, although the communication (mostly replies to emails) was sometimes on the slow side.

P1020658How were the operators we put you in touch with in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

Both operators arranged everything fine, much appreciated!

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

Again, overall, both trips were very well organised. Especially both guides (Pablo (El Chalten) and Mauritio (Torres del Paine)) were great; very friendly and highly knowledgeable!

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

Enjoy beautiful Patagonia!!

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