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Leo’s Winter Adventure in Torres del Paine

Leo returned in May from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us a little about his experiences on the trek, shares some wonderful photos, and provides some helpful tips for other people travelling to Patagonia in Winter…

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I completed the 3-day Winter Highlights trek with Swoop’s local host – Victor. It was a really memorable trek. Torres del Paine has both peaceful environment and stunning views in the winter.

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

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The temperature is already below zero on the mountain but you are still warm if you keep walking. A walking stick is very helpful when walking on frozen land with slippery ice surface.

Thank you for helping me to plan this awesome trip!

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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.’

 

Gary’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Gary recently returned from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences…

How was your trip?

Overall the trip was excellent. A few days were quite gruelling for us old folk but we made it and were very happy we chose the full circuit over the “W Trek”… there were fewer people, and the scenery was much more beautiful and varied.  

What was the highlight of your trip?

The day hike to and past Gray Glacier was the highlight of our trip. It was very difficult but also very rewarding with the magnificent vistas and varied terrain.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Patagonia? 

We spent the second week about 1 1/2 hrs NW of Coyaique at the Rio Paloma Lodge on the Rio Paloma.  Good accommodations and good brown trout fishing.   

What did you think of the operator we put you in contact with in Torres del Paine? 

We thought the operator did an excellent job. Their equipment list was good although there are a few additional items I would suggest (see question on tips for other travellers).

How were your guides on the trip?

Our guide Armando was absolutely great, and other than the scenery was the best part of the trip (or equal to). He was patient with us, spoke excellent English, and provided lots of interesting facts and sights out to us.    

How were your accommodations on the trip?

Our only minor dissatisfaction was the Hostel Amerindia on the W Trek:  Cramped rooms, poor beds, and lousy showers!  Accomodations in Punta Nuestra were very good however. 

Do you have any trips for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?

-I would recommend taking “Buffs” (which you very nicely sent us) and gaiters to the kit list for the W Trek.  We ended up purchasing them in Puerto Natales at high prices at the recommendation of or guide and they came in handy for “the bogs” and snowfields.

-I cannot remember if gloves were on the kit list but were necessary over Gray Pass.   

-I’d also emphasize the layering of clothing as we were fairly warm, obviously, while hiking but at night and when we came to a pass the temperature dropped considerably.  Luckily our guide always warned us just before this happened to put on another warm layer!

 -Although the trekking during the day, especially on the “Big O” circuit was not too crowded, the “W” parts were fairly crowded and not as enjoyable.  I think clients should realize that the campgrounds are very crowded, with “tents on top of tents” and noisy, and that that this not a pristine camping experience.  Be that as it may, we were much happier in the tent than staying in refugios with several other in the room. The tent was quite comfy and roomy.

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

 I appreciate very much Swoop Patogonia’s help in choosing our itinerary and picking a great operator for us in Torres del Paine. You did an excellent job.

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Jenny & John’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Jenny and John returned in January from a Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences…

‘We had a superb time. The other people in our group were lovely and proved to be great company and our guide, Fransisco, was brilliant.’

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What was the highlight of your trip?

Seeing the Grey Glacier for the first time as we went over the John Garner Pass and completing the Torres del Paine. Also the wild flower meadows between Torres and Seron. 

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

We spent 12 days in Pucon and enjoyed climbing Volcan Vilarrica and Sullipulli, rafting, hydro-speed, thermal springs etc. We have now picked up a couple of Honda Falcon 400 motorbikes for three weeks & plan to ride down the Caraterra Austral through the seven lakes of Argentina.

We spent New Year in Valparaiso to see the fireworks which were fantastic and spent a few days in Santiago going to good steak restaurants and shopping. After the bikes we plan to go to La Serena to star gaze and chill out on the beach.

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

Luke and Chloe were both helpful in answering our many questions.

We endured terrible weather during the TDP and it would have been helpful to add mountaineering boots instead of walking boots on the kit list along with lightweight trainers for muddy camps in the evenings. 

Nonetheless, whilst the weather was poor, it actually added to the challenge and made the circuit more memorable. 

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How was the operator we put you in contact with for your Full Circuit Trek, and how were their guides on the trip?

Gonzalo was on hand to answer all my emails! We didn’t get to meet him unfortunately, however Francisco our guide was absolutely exceptional, working tirelessly as the group of 5 had two distinct paces and was like a yo-yo between the two groups ensuring our safety was paramount. He had a good knowledge of the park and landscape, mountings etc. he was so kind and thoughtful and just basically made the trip. He was exceptional.

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

Better weather!!!!!

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

Even if the weather is lousy it is still well worth the challenge!

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Thank you very much – we really are very proud of our achievement and grateful to Swoop for organising the trip.

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Stephen’s 7 Day W Trek based from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Stephen embarked on a 7 day W Trek in late October 2013, throughout which he stayed at an eco friendly camp in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his trip…

How was your trip?

I enjoyed it all very much, and Swoop did a good job of putting together the flights and dates I needed at a reasonable cost.

How did you find the W Trek?

The trek generally was a good enough challenge – a couple of longer days were included which made it very worthwhile.

What did you think of the operator and the guides on the trip, and the accommodation at the eco camp?

The guide was excellent and helpful, and the eco-camp I stayed at was fabulous. I was very pleasantly surprised at the high level of accommodation and service there. It was also genuinely welcoming. I loved the domes and the food and wine were really good.

Is there anything you wish you had known before your trip?

One suggestion might be a bit of advice about what to do in Punta Arenas. I looked around the cemetery, which was very interesting and particularly moving is the memorial to the young people assassinated by the military dictatorship.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight I suppose was the walk to Lake Grey and the boat trip up to the Grey Glacier. We were very lucky with the weather that day. It’s something I’d like to re-visit some time. 

Heather’s Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine

Heather took a guided W Trek in Torres del Paine in early December, and here she tells us about her experiences…

‘I loved the trip, and highly recommended the trail and your company to everyone I spoke to.’

What was the highlight of your trip?

It’s hard to pick a highlight; I thought the whole W Trek was really great. I enjoyed the hiking, especially the second day (to the Torres) and the fourth day (through the French Valley).

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

Swoop was excellent; very responsive and helpful to all of my questions concerning traveling and planning my trip.  It was so helpful for me because I did everything so last minute.

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

My guide (Carlos) was excellent; he knew the area, terrain and environment, and spoke English very well. He knew when and where it would be windy and the best places to stop to take breaks.  He was also just a really nice guy.

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

The only thing I wish for was that I was with a big group rather than with a private guide (but that’s my own fault for planning too late).

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

Carry as little as possible on your back:)

Stella’s Christmas Trek in Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine

Stella spent the Christmas period on a 9 day Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine, followed by 6 days of trekking around Los Glaciares. Here she tells us about her experiences…

What was the highlight of your trip?

The Full Circuit was fantastic, as was our guide, Julieta.

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

We spent a couple of nights in Buenos Aires.

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

Very well. Many thanks.

How were the operators we put you in contact with in Torres del Paine and El Chalten, and how were their guides on the trip?

The operator in Torres del Paine, and their guide (Julieta) were excellent. Everything went like clockwork and we were very well looked after. This part of the trip couldn’t have been better.

The guide in El Chalten was very cautious and didn’t like to walk in rain or wind. Our first hike was cut to just 8km instead of 22 because he thought a storm was coming – none did -just think he wanted to get back early. On our second hike he wanted to stop us going to the peak because it was gusty but we managed to go – we didn’t think it was that bad.

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

We had difficulty getting a veggie packed lunch from them on both days, but Zoe apologised profusely for lunch errors.

The bus was often late, and although our bus transfer from Puerto Natales to Calafate was supposed to be at 8am from our hotel as per our schedule, it ended up being at 6.40am (after getting back from the Full Circuit at 10pm the night before), which was a killer!

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

Ask for Julieta if walking with this operator in Torres del Paine.

Take a washing line –ours was invaluable!

Gaiters weren’t on the kit list but we felt they were essential for stream crossings after heavy rain and deep snow on the pass. We also found that walking poles (2each) were essential.

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Brian and his family trek the W Circuit

Brian returned in early January from a W Trek in Torres del Paine with his family. Here he tells us about his trip… 

It was a great trip to one of the most extraordinary spots in the world. 

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How was your trip?

We had a great trip and the W Circuit exceeded my expectations (which I did not think possible).

What was the highlight of your trip?

Each day was memorable. My favourite segment was the day trip to the Towers—the weather held and the Towers were magnificent. 

The French Valley was also stunning and our guide’s advice as to how far up the valley we should hike before turning back was spot on. 

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What did you think of the operator and their guides?

The operators were very solid and Victor, our guide, was knowledgeable and very friendly. 

The hiking speeds of the group were very different which created challenges for Victor as to who he would accompany on each day’s hike. I’m not sure how he could have handled it differently, but there were long stretches where we generally were on our own.  Most members of the group were experienced enough that we did not need him to guide us and I believe he understood that when he decided which group to support during each day’s hike. 

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

Swoop’s role was seamless with the local operator, which I appreciated.

I don’t know how much thought went into our group’s configuration, but our group worked well together. We enjoyed each other’s company, which was a bonus given how much time we spent together. 

How was your accommodation on the trip?

The refugios were nicer than I had expected. Clean sheets on the bunks were an unexpected treat and made carrying sleep sacks unnecessary. 

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Is there anything you wish you had known before embarking on your trip?

One selling point you might want to further emphasise is the option for members of a group to skip the French Valley and/or the Torres del Paine.  My wife was concerned before the trip as to her ability to handle the entirety of the W Circuit. Consequently, she chose to skip Torres del Paine and the French Valley.  Although I believe those are two of the absolute highlights of the trip, it gave her a comfort level on the other hiking days. 

I also did not realise that there was a porter option. A little guidance on tipping the guide would have been helpful as well.  We tipped $50 U.S. per family member but I don’t know whether this was the appropriate amount.

Thanks again, it was a great trip to one of the most extraordinary spots in the world.

 

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4 Day Horse Riding & Camping Trip in Torres del Paine

 Marie-Lisa and her friend returned in early January from a 4 day Camping and Horse Riding trip in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip…

The trip was awesome- we had a really great time! 

How was your guide and horsemen on the trip?

Os was great- really helpful, very enthusiastic, and obviously a great rider.

All of the horsemen were very patient with us and helpful with any questions and help we needed. Alberto in particular was chatty and danced like a dream.

How would you rate the horses you had on your trip?

Amazing- they were really responsive (although each with their own personalities) and were well looked after.

How would you rate the tack?

The tack was all in good order, and was comfortable, although as it was changed most days it took a bit of getting used to.

How would you rate the accommodation during your trip?

The tents were great (although complicated to put up), and the choice of wild camping locations was great –all were really beautiful.

Having hot stoves at some of the camps was brilliant, and we really appreciated that we stayed at Gonzales’ family home.

How did you find the food on the trip?

The food was brilliant- plentiful and tasty, we were a bit spoiled to be honest! Livio was charming, funny, and a cheerful spirit on a rainy morning.

How would you rate the transport and logistics on your trip?

There were no problems at all with transport- it was comfortable, spacious and on time. The logistics ran very smoothly, and were accommodating of different arrival times.

Do you have any other comments or suggestions about the trip?

We had an amazing four days, and although it was tough going at times, it was extremely worth it. The pace of the group worked well, Gonzalo and Alberto were patient when some needed to slow down, but kept the pace of the group going. We had such a laugh and would recommend the trip to anyone. Thank you! Sorry, we can’t suggest any improvements!

Cristian’s Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine

Cristian loved trekking in Torres del Paine so much the first time that he had to visit again!

He has just returned from his second visit, where he embarked on a Self Guided W Trek supported by one of our partners in the National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences…

‘Thank you so much for organising my best ever vacation, & enabling me to see the 8th world wonder of the world!’

How was your trip to Torres del Paine overall?

Torres del Paine was fantastic. I’d already been there before and I just had to go again.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was Ventisquero Torres with the little lake inside. Absolutely fantastic.

Did you manage to visit any other places in Patagonia?

Due to limited time, I haven’t seen any other places in Patagonia yet, but I’ll return.

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

Swoop Patagonia did an excellent job in finding a partner to organise my trek, because it included everything I needed so I did not have to worry about the logistics.

Is there anything you wish had happened differently or not at all?

I have nothing to complain about, everything went well.

Do you have any advice for other travellers planning a trip to Patagonia?

I have no tips other than to book via Swoop and their recommended partners in Patagonia.