Tag Archives: patagonia

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Dramatic Day Hiking from Santiago

 Just a 2 hour drive from Santiago takes you right into the heart of the Andes. Be surrounded by deep valleys, high peaks, glaciers and specular striated mountains of colours that give you a taste of the scenery in the Atacama desert.

The drive from Santiago takes you through the sprawling outskirts of Santiago where the houses gradually become smaller, simpler and more traditional, a fascinating glimpse into the average Chilean’s, Santiago reality. It also gives some idea of scale of the size of Santiago.

Having left Santiago at 7am, as we began to leave the city behind as the sun was rising up over the mountains bathing them in glorious shades of pink. After leaving the last, outlying houses of the city you then enter the Maipo Canyon and this is when the scenery really begins to change. The mountains rise up either side of you with cactus clinging to the edges, there are pastures with horses grazing, rural homes, honey and nuts being sold on the sides of the road and as in any rural place, the pace of life suddenly feels  slower.

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The last 10kms of the 100kms drive out to the National Monument of El Morado is a bumpy gravel road as you head towards the head of the valley with the smokey San Jose Volcano is looming ahead. At 1850 metres you reach the small oasis village of Banos Morales and here the hike begins. After registering with the park rangers you begin the climb up into the Morales canyon.

The name El Morado, meaning deep purple, comes from the colour of the Los Morales mountains that loom in a deep purple colour ahead.

The hike is a 16 km out and back route which takes about 6 hours (including photos and lunch stops) with a gain in altitude of 750 metres. The first part of the hike is a 1 hour ascent, but thankfully because of the early start, we were shaded from the sun by the mountain to our east. The vegetation throughout the hike, although variable, is low bushes and so throughout the hike there isn’t much protection from the blazing sun – high factor sun cream, hat and sunglasses are an absolute must.

Mountains and flowers

After the 1 hour climb you reach a high, flat plateau and the vegetation, trail underfoot and scenery beings to change. The second part of the hikes takes an undulating 1 hour through what feels like a meadow with horses grazing, grass and rosehip buses. After about an hour you reach the Laguna El Morado with the first glimpse of the San Francisco glacier – a great place to stop for a snack. If you are finding the heat a bit too much and don’t fancy the final 1 hour climb up to the look out point, then this would be an excellent place to reach as a turning back point.

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The final hour up is a gradual climb up and over moraine so is quite uneven underfoot. As you reach the head of the valley, in front of you rises the pointed peak of the Morado Sur and Morado norte both nearing 5000 metres and the San Frascisco Mountain. The view point that you reach infront of the face of the hanging glacier is at 2,600 metres. The glacier itself is mostly covered in sediment/moraine with a snow cover that depends on the time of year.  (The hikes opens in early December once the winter snow recedes).

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This is a great place to sit and eat your lunch with the possibility of bathing your feet in the icy glacial melt waters.

As you turn to make your descent, the colours of the mountains on the other side of the valley, which previously had been drowned by the glare of the morning sun take on a life of their own with greens, purples, reds, blues and white.  This is a little glimpse of what the mountain scenery of the Atacama is like which is so very different to the vegetated mountains or granite walls of Patagonia.

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The size of the mountains is astounding and as the sun moved across the canyon the changes in the look of the mountains was really fascinating.
For me what really made this day special was the variety of birds that we spotted (list included below), most of which aren’t seen further south and the vegetation and mountain scape felt like being in the desert. In just 2 hours from Santiago being able to get out into the mountains makes you really appreciate how close Santiago sits to incredibly stunning scenery.

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If you`ve a day to spare in Santiago and fancy getting out into the mountains, this excursion will not disappoint. The heat makes it strenuous but the distance and terrain isn’t particularly challenging and the scenery is truly breathtaking.

If you would like to include this great hike to your itinerary, then ask the Swoop team or view our Santiago page for more inspiration.

Birds spots at the Monumental Natural  El Morado

  • Crested duck
  • Rufous Banded Miner
  • Yellow Rumped Siskin
  • Grey Hooded Sierra Finch
  • White Browed Ground Tyrant
  • Plumbeous Sierra Finch
  • Correndera Pipit
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Choosing your hotel and neighbourhood in Buenos Aires

On Swoop’s Sallys most recent visit to Patagonia she spent a few days in her beloved Buenos Aires checking out new hotels, old haunts and getting up close and personal with a few juicy steaks. Below she shares a few thoughts on choosing the right hotel for you in Buenos Aires.

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As in many big cities, Buenos Aires has its edgy side and so choosing where you stay can make a real difference to your enjoyment of the city. There are bohemian quarters, business quarters, the hustle and bustle of the city centre and safer neighbourhoods with bars and cafes. Where you choose to stay will be a very personal choice depending on how you enjoy cities, the style of hotel you feel most comfortable in and the length of time you have to enjoy this vibrant, diverse city.

Below I have tried to give a little detail on each neighbourhood where you might choose to stay so you can get a little more its flavour, style and close by amenities and attractions.

Palermo

Palermo is very pleasant! It has some historic buildings dating from the 1920s and is a more relaxed and safer neighbourhood than the ‘MicroCentro’ or ‘San Telmo’. It is residential with an abundance of bars and restaurants. What it lacks are the main historic sights and museums, but these are easily and quickly accessed by the metro. Many of the eateries are fairly new so, in my opinion, lack a certain amount of Porteño identity. That said, there are a few historic restaurants such as ‘El Preferido de Palermo’ and ‘Lo de Jesus’ which do ooze the porteño flavour.
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If you’re looking to mix with young porteños, visit historic sights by day then return to a trendy (safer) suburb in the evening, then Palermo is for you. Although not thought of as a bohemian area, I think that compared to most residential streets of anywhere in the UK, it would feel really rather bohemian, oozing with character, great food and a relaxed, charming character (there are enough holes in the pavement and graffiti to remind you that you’re in Buenos Aires).

Palermo is divided into 2 separate districts, Palermo Soho (Viejo) and Palermo Hollywood. The main hub of restaurants and hotels is in Palermo Soho and is my favourite of the two neighbourhoods. It is the area of the city of a massive block between Av. Santa Fe, Av. Juan B Justo, Av. Cordoba and Av. Scalabrini Ortiz. With most bars and restaurants concentrated within in this within Malabia, Cabrera, Thames and Guatemala.

 My 2 favourite boutique hotels are the Legado Mitico or the Bobo. They both are oozing with charm, local character, excellent service and both with good locations. The Bobo is a little more ‘trendy’ than the Legado but both are lovely.
For a mid-range option, the Esplendor Palermo Soho is a great choice.

San Telmo

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San Telmo gives you the historic ‘barrio’ feel but is also just a stones throw from the city centre (literally, 5 blocks). Although culturally more interesting with its historic cafes, facades and cobbles street, I’ll admit that it might feel a little dirty and daunting if you’ve just stepped off the plane.

My favourite boutique hotel in San Telmo is the San Telmo Luxury Suites right in the heart of the neighbourhood. More more budget friendly, midrange options you could choose either the Los Patios de San Telmo or the Babel Boutique.

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If you are making a visit to Buenos Aires at the start and end of your trip, it might be an idea to stay in Palermo at the start of your trip and in San Telmo at the end of your trip.

 Downtown / Centre – Micro Centro & Monserrat

This is the business district of the city where you also find the ‘Plaza de Mayo’, Government Palace and the Obelisc. The streets are small, cramped and rather pedestrian unfriendly but if you have just 1 night (midweek), then staying right in the heart of the city has its attractions. The Continental 725 is a lovely hotel choice right in the centre with stunning views from its roof top bar, a 2 minute walk from the main historic sights and you really are right in the thick of the hustle and bustle that drives this city.

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Once you’ve decided on your place to rest your head, then you can start to plan a little more with some ideas of ‘Things to Do“.

 

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Hotel Review: Legado Mitico


This luxury hotel offers a totally unique hotel experience. The door onto the street is unassuming with just a small plaque to suggest that the hotel is even there. The reception desk is manned by just 1 gentleman, and then behind a curtain leads into what is a cosy lounge and library.

Library

The library’s collection is really impressive with books by distinguished authors from all over South America, historical editions of books from Argentinean authors such as Martin Fierro – the classic tale of the Gaucho.

The hotel rooms all have a different name (rather than number), theme and decor. They are extremely comfortable with great attention to detail to all the decorations, furnishings and facilities.
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On my latest visit I stayed in the room called ‘La Primera Dama’, ‘The First Lady’ which is a room totally themed around Evita Peron. The touches are subtle but include, photos of her life, a cabinet above the bath of replica possessions and a bodice with pearls above the fireplace.

There are 3 categories of rooms – classic, deluxe and superior – for more details about the room categories, please just ask.

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The hotel doesn’t have a bar in the traditional sense but drinks and snacks are served upon request from reception in the lounge, library area – all guests are invited to a glass of wine in the library on arrival. The hotel has a spacious outside garden/terrace on ground level (and a sundeck on the roof which is really rather too small to mention).

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The hotel has a great location in Palermo Viejo (Soho), positioned just 4 blocks from the Subte (underground/subway) with pavement cafes and restaurants just a stone’s throw away – See ‘Restaurants Blog for more details.

This hotel is great for those who seek a unique, luxury, hotel experience which will add to your stay in this bustling city rather than just being a place to rest your head.

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Hotel Review: Mitico Puelo – relaxing, tranquil, idyllic

Sally returned from her trip in Patagonia and came back with even more knowledge about the region, along with some tales of bird watching, she wrote about her different experiences of hotels in the region.  Here she talks about the idyllic Mitico Puelo.

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The Mitico Puelo lodge sits on the shores of the Tagua Tagua Lake, accessible only by boat which makes getting to the lodge an adventure in itself. The drive to reach the lake takes you past lakes, volcanoes and fjords giving you a feeling of gradually leaving civilisation behind and reaching somewhere very special indeed.

The setting of the lodge is utterly idyllic surrounded by steep sided, thickly forested mountains, emerald waters and an abundance of birds. At night the only noise is the wind whistling through the trees and the sound of lapping water.

On the lake.

The building itself is beautifully built with large wooden beams, spacious lounges, big windows, large landings and open staircases. The rooms and bathrooms are very spacious and those on the first floor have large wooden balconies that look out over the lake and gardens in front. The interior decorations and fittings are all a little tired and old fashioned but this sense of faded glory does some how add to its charm.
By the fire

As I sat eating breakfast I was fascinated to watch some ‘Green-Backed Fire Crowns’ – a hummingbird native to the area, gorging themselves on the fuchsia bushes in front of the lodge. Morning and evening, there was a roaring fire in the lounge, a lovely space to sit, relax and take in the view. Dinner was served from 8pm, a 3 course set menu of wholesome local dishes – although there is no choice as to the menu, they are very good at catering for clients with specific dietary needs.
Dining/ lounge

The staff live on site and have quite a relaxed approach but do ensure that all clients feel totally at home; this is obvious from the comments made in the guest book.

The lodge is a great base for fly fishing, a jumping off point to the Tagua Tagua National Park and other excursions by boat and on foot up the Puelo river valley. This is an area visited by little so you really do feel like you are getting quite far off of the beaten track.

Swimming

If you are looking for somewhere to relax, surrounded by incredible scenery with the possibility of some activities but not looking for 5* luxury or service, then this lodge is the perfect option; a rustic choice in an idyllic setting.

POW

Patagonia On The Web – March 2015

Swoop’s choice of Patagonia finds online this month.

Swoop’s  favourite Photographs.

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Swoop’s own Harriet Pike has been over in Patagonia meeting with our partners and meeting potential new ones.
She took this great shot of a moody sky over Fitzroy on the
Laguna Torre day hike.

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This ‘Fox on the rocks’ was National Geographic’s photo of the day on the 12th March. This clever fox was picking up scraps of food that tourists had left behind and was taken by Irina C.
Screenshot (49)alanxelmundo on Twiter put this snap of a atmospheric sunrise of over Torres del Paine. What an amazing start to a  day.

Blog’s of the month:

 journeyby.com

lakepaineGreat blog post detailing some of the best hikes available in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego and the practicalities of doing so.
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Travel journalist @SarahDuff put up some incredible photo’s of her 4 month adventure through South America and a great in-depth look at her time in Patagonia, these are essential reads for anyone thinking about Patagonia as their next travel destination.

If you are interested in these hikes or following in Duff’s suitcase’s footsteps , get in touch and we can organise a great itinerary for you.

POW

Patagonia on the Web – February 2015

 

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this month.

 Swoop’s favourite Photographs:

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Anna Mazurek (@travellikeanna) is a travel photographer and blogger who recently ticked Patagonia off her bucket list. She has some great photo’s of her adventures on her Twitter, including this one of a rather unusual guy she brought with her to the  Perito Moreno Glacier.

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Adventure motorcyclist Mark Mackoviak (@Not_a_Sherpa), posted photo’s to his twitter of his 2014 adventure in Patagonia.
They really give an insight into what it’s like to ride through the Patagonian landscape.

Blog of the month:

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‘What Patagonia is not’  from the REI blog,  gives a great snapshot of why you would choose  Patagonia.
If you are thinking of travelling to the region this will answer most of your questions and if you would like to find out more get in touch with us! 

POW

Patagonia on the web – January 2015

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this month.

Swoop’s favourite photographs:

Torres-del-Paine-7-940x1285This great photograph of Men on horseback traveling across the Valle del Francés is from  @MatadorNetwork‘s photographic tour of Torres del Paine. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 15.34.00 Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 15.34.15Both these photographs were taken by @patraveleditor when she went on a Patagonian adventure with us, where she was lucky enough to spot a puma. f6ba4299500e783dd86a5eaa7fddacfcWe found this beautiful shot on Pinterest. Crazy Land, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina, by Greg Boratyn @GregBoratyn

Blog of the week: puma5-940x626The Matador network wrote a great piece about puma trackingcompete with some impressive photographs of the experience.

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Cathy’s Full Circuit, Montes Martial Circuit and Chalten Mountain Escape

Cathy returned in November from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, a Montes Martial Circuit in Tierra del Fuego, and a Chalten Mountain Escape in Los Glaciares. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trips, and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

cathy 1How were Swoop Patagonia?

I wouldn’t have managed such a great trip without your help & expertise. I met several other people who used Swoop and they all felt the same. I am already recommending you to other people.

I think the only thing I would say is your idea of sending a pre travel gift felt very last minute – I wouldn’t have noticed had you not offered a gift, but since you did having it before I left would have given a better view of your efficiency!

How were our partners who ran your trips in Chile and Argentina?

All were very good, those who organised the Full Circuit especially. The itineraries were all as expected. The guides were excellent, again especially Armando on the Full Circuit.

They all dealt well with my requirement for a gluten free diet in the end, although one company were less proactive about this. I didn’t help by not being crystal clear on their form but instead of querying it as the Full Circuit partners did, they decided to ignore it. The guide, Luis, was very helpful about trying to remedy this and luckily I’m not coeliac, just gluten intolerant so I could cope with eating the fillings out of sandwiches for instance. The other two companies were brilliant with this, again especially on the Full Circuit.

I was delighted with the 3 treks I did – it was a great combination and worked really well, even with the weather!

What was the highlight of your trip?

Difficult to choose a highlight! It was all fantastic. I think possibly waking up 2 mornings in a row to the view below from Lake Caminante is well up there.

cathy b

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

I visited Buenos Aires briefly which was very enjoyable. Especially the cemetery at Recoleta which I visited on Halloween, appropriately!

I also did a Patagonian cooking workshop in Puerto Natales – it was brilliant and you should recommend it to anyone who has time to do it! http://encuentrogourmet.com

cathy 2

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Meet Harriet, the newest member of the Swoop team.

Harriet joined the Swoop team this month. She has cycled, trekked and mountaineered her way through the entirety of the southern Andes and is now working with Sally and Luke to help customers plan and arrange great holidays to Patagonia. 

What inspired you to travel South America? 

I guess stories about South America have always struck a chord with me. My mother’s family lived in Valparaiso, Chile when she was a toddler and my uncle always told stories of learning to ride with gauchos in Chile. Then my parents visited Chile when I was 14 and I loved the stories they told on their return and I wanted to visit too. So I started to plan and save up for a trip to Patagonia which I made when I was 18. This was my first real wilderness experience and my first taste of trekking. I loved it and have spent as much time as possible in the outdoors (particularly the greater ranges) ever since.

I was inspired to return to South America in 2009 by the tales of Janne Corax, a Swedish mountaineer, cycling to and climbing peaks in the Andes and by John Biggar’s excellent guide to climbing Andean peaks. I too wanted to cycle to and climb those peaks!

IMGTrekking near Carretera Austral 2002

What is it that you love so much about Patagonia?

There are few places on Earth where nature is still in control but Patagonia is one of them. It is a place where you feel you have to respect nature because of the scale of the landscape, the constantly changing weather and the way it makes you feel very small and inconsequential. There are huge swathes of Patagonia where no one has been and I find that very exciting and want to explore every corner of it. I love the diversity and beauty of the landscapes from the slightly magical (and probably fairy filled) beech forest, to the immense glaciers and dramatic towers of granite, to the open Argentinian steppe.

24_1280x570Cycling Los Glaciares Feb 2010

What was your favourite Patagonian experience?

In 2009 I set out from Rio de Janeiro on bicycle with my husband Neil. It took 3 months to reach the Patagonian Andes crossing mostly flat open pampa and agricultural land. Suddenly in the distance the monotony of the skyline was broken by a thin line of white snow mountains on the horizon. We had reached the Andes. We whooped and started to sing as the ground became more and more undulating. Then a huge white cone that seemed to stand much higher than the rest appeared on the skyline. We cycled towards Volcan Lanin for a couple of days, fell in love with it and decided we must climb it. We rented mountaineering gear and pedalled off with several days food towards the peak. Stashing our bikes at the bottom, we pulled on our boots and set off for a mountain shelter high on the volcano. The next morning we started early before the sun had risen so that the snow would be firm under our crampons. As the sun came up all the lakes of the lake district on both sides of the border began to shimmer orange and endless peaks came into view. Warmed by the sun and cheered by the views we reached the blustery summit at all the conical volcanoes around us. Wow, looking down at Patagonia laid below me is a sight that I will never forget.

With Lanin in the bag, a 2000m descent and a 60km cycle back to civilisation was all that stood in front of us and a huge hunk of Argentinian steak and bottle of vino. We legged it down the mountain, cycled back to town and arrived just after dark. That steak tasted amazing!

11_1200x800Lanin Summit Dec 2009

Do you have a favourite place in Patagonia

My favourite town is probably Chalten. There are few towns with that magnificent setting and that you can leap out of a cosy bed and be under hanging glaciers in time for lunch.

My favourite area is probably Aysen. There is a remote, rustic, end of the word vibe there that you don’t get in the more touristy areas of Patagonia. The people are wonderfully down to earth and they don’t seem to need much of an excuse to have an asado (lamb BBQ). The views from the Carretera Austral are stunning with General Carerra lake and Parque Queulat particularly memorable but there is also some beautiful hiking that lies just off the road that is often overlooked and is a haven for those looking for off the beaten path hikes. I also have a soft spot for Aysen because it is where I discovered real wilderness for the first time and where I met my husband.

I also love Lanin National Park, north of San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina and in particular Lago Quillen.

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Patagonia on the Web – 8th August

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this week.

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.25.10Mt FitzRoy – Greg Boratyn
‏@GregBoratyn takes wonderfully colourful shots of Patagonia that look at how the changing light effects the landscape. You can take a look at the rest of his work at his website.

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.34.28@dbustosp posted this fantastic photo of Lago grey on his instagram account along with some awesome shots of Torres del Paine. 
Find out more about Largo Grey .

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Glacier lake by night ~Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
The light on this  shot by  PanTwentySix on Flicker is amazing. Follow on twitter @Aquafloater

Swoop’s blog of the week:
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Climber Alex Honnold on the Fitz Traverse; Photograph by Tommy Caldwell
National Geographic Beyond the Edge blog.
Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell talk about their  “Extreme Backpacking” on Patagonia’s Fitz Traverse.

Follow in their footsteps and plan your own Fitz Traverse adventure.