Tag Archives: patagonia

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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. 

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Patagonia on the Web – 17th July

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

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:.

Patagonia-POTM-June-2014-Artur-Stanisz-620x422landscapephotographymagazine.com June winner was this stunning shot of Torres del Paine by Artur Stanisz from Canada

tumblr_n8upsqeke51sqdai9o1_500We stumbled on this picture on Twitter from  http://bonchant.tumblr.com/. Gives the atmosphere of what travelling around Torres del Paine is like with a fantastic view around each corner. 
3d47e68710a5f184a807256fea75272eLove this shot from the street’s of San Telmo found on Pinterest San Telmo, Test 1 by Moises Torne on Flickr

Swoop’s blog of the week:

obeliskManda’s blog about her unexpected trip to Buenos Aires really captures how great the city is even if you haven’t planned going there originally.

Read our very own Sally Dodge’s views on the vibrant city of Buenos Aires .

Swoop’s Article of the week:
Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 16.42.44Great piece from Ben Lerwill on patagonia for National Geographic this month talking about his  trip in Tierra del Fuego.

If you are interested in this kind of trip take a look at our Austalis Cruises and our Patagonian cruise page to find an adventure right for you .

Patagonia Holiday Insurance: 6 Things to Consider

We’ve had over a thousand customers visit Patagonia now and would offer the following advice to anyone reviewing their holiday insurance for a trip to Patagonia…

1. Activities: Nothing out of the Ordinary

I’m pleased to say that 99% of the activities our customers enjoy in Patagonia are typically covered by a standard policy.

Most importantly, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever trek above 3,000m (or 10,000 feet), which is typically the threshold for many underwriters.

There’s an extract from our own policy below which shows the various different activities covered as standard, versus those where a premium applies.

A couple of things to take note from this:

- Trekking up to 3,000m is standard

- Cover for kayaking and horse-riding is dependent upon you wearing a helmet (all of our partners will provide a helmet, although you sometimes need to ask for one in Chile and Argentina)

I’m afraid to say that Patagonia hasn’t yet got into the delights of street luge, wicker basket tobogganing or ostrich racing but should you chance upon any of these do let us know!

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2. Patagonia Specific Risks

Much of the majesty of Patagonia derives from having the Andes running down the entire region from north to south. This is one of the most seismically active regions in the world. There are some 500 volcanoes in Chile of which 123 have erupted in the last 12,000 years. Whilst this presents very little risk to you personally, it does present a risk to travel plans. In the last 5 seasons we’ve had a few natural disasters including an earthquake with its epicentre to the north of Patagonia which resulted in a Tsunami alert (and subsequent evacuation of all coastal towns in Chile, including Puerto Natales), and a major ash cloud which effectively closed one of the airports for 3-4 months.

Ask your insurance company:

- What delay and disruption cover is provided in the event of a volcanic ash cloud, or other natural disaster?

- Do they offer an ‘add-on’ policy to include Natural Disaster insurance

3. General Travel Insurance requirements

There are obviously a number of standard requirements that every travel policy should include. For example here’s a standard package and the level of cover it provides:

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One comment on this relating specificially to Patagonia:

Luggage delays and flight disruption with the Argentine and Chilean airlines are, I’m afraid to say, not uncommon. This might be an area where you choose to upgrade to provide you with more cover.

4. Worldwide Cover

Patagonia, and the rest of Latin America, typically falls into the top regional band for insurance. To give you an idea of approximate pricing by the different regions.

5. Trip duration and age

Most people’s holidays to Patagonia are 2-4 weeks, which means you pay relatively standard rates (premiums tend to leap up disproportionately on longer trips of more than two months).

When it comes to your age this is also a factor. Standard categorisation is in three categories: under 35 years old, 35 to 59, and over 60.

Rightly or wrongly this is the first question the insurance providers will ask when providing you with a quote.

6. Medical conditions

It’s obviously incredibly important to declare any medical conditions you might have. Typically questions that they’ll ask shown here:

7. Getting a quote

If you are travelling from the UK

We recommend buying insurance with Covermore. If you’d like to compare quotes with other providers then we’ve also heard good things about: World Nomads: +44 (0) 845 643 2642 & Direct Travel Insurance: 0845 605 2700

If you are travelling from the USA or elsewhere: 

Travel Guard: 1.800.826.4919 & Travelex: 1-800-228-9792

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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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Patagonia on the web 27th June

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

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:

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Some great photographs that celebrate Torres del Paine in winter.
Ice Monsters by loris van Breugel
Gigantic icebergs drift on Lago Grey on a calm morning in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, with a view of Paine Grande in the distance.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 17.28.05Great black and white mood shot from @AdamBarkerPhoto on Twitter taken while fly fishing in Torres del Paine .
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This great floral shot is from @UnevenSidewalks blog post Torres del Paine: 5 Days of Incredible Trekking

Swoop’s blog of the week:

This week’s blog of the week is jimmyeatsworld’s Fifteen images that will make you go to Patagonia.
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“If somebody mentions landscape photography, my immediate thoughts shoot back to October/November 2013 when I made my first visit to the Patagonia region. It was to be the pinnacle of my adventures in Latin America and it sure didn’t disappoint. From the moment we arrived to Colombia and the start of the Andes mountain range, the landscapes just got better and better the further south I went.”

If they inspire you to start planning a Patagonia trip where you can take just as stunning photographs, talk to Swoop about our photography cruises. 

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Patagonia on the Web – 20th June

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

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 12.05.58Great photo from @ChileFoto at the start of a Carretera Austral adventures.
BqRH56qIYAAc0Aq@1lovemountains posted this picture up on their Twitter this week, adding that Patagonia is at it’s most dramatic in the winter months.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 12.20.51 Blogger John Paul Whelan, posted these beautiful images on his twitter this week showing the autumnal colours in Patagonia.
He also wrote a  blog all about his experiences  trekking in El Chalten.

Swoop’s blog of the week:

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Torres del Paine made the Huffington posts list of 35 Most Amazing National Parks on Earth.
Saying : “While the hiking and views are beautiful in their own right, seeing the immense glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field extend towards the horizon is an experience that hasn’t its equal.”
We couldn’t agree more!

If you’re interested in visiting  in one of the most amazing National Parks on Earth we can help you find the right kind of trip for you. 

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Patagonia on the Web – 13th June

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

Patagonia in the news:

6a010534abfd9c970c017ee9400456970d-800wiA decision was made on the controversial Hidroaysen dam project this week, Susannah wrote a blog about what this will mean for Patagonia.

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:

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Szymon Kochanski’s unusual shot of his view from his tent in Torres del Paine was tweeted by @ChileTravel this week

Bp6b-fwCYAAUljMLove this photo of Torres del Paine W Trek from the road from @funrated

BnSTWXgCYAAn54fThe Blue Glacier Ice Waters of Patagonia, Chile was shared this week by @Earthopedia

Finds of the week

The Boers at the end of the world is an upcoming documentary from Good Work Pictures about the history of 600 Boer families that left South Africa in the early 1900s for a new life in Patagonia. You can follow Good Work Pictures  for more news or take a look at their website.

Project-Hiraeth is a project by Steph Davies  that will unearth the fascinating and important history of the Welsh experience in Patagonia. 2015 will be the 150th anniversary of their voyage and the Hiraeth will be made to coincide with the occasion.
Find more about this exciting project on twitter or on the Hiraeth website. 

Los Glaciares is a very popular place to visit on a trip to Patagonia if you’re interested in exploring Welsh Patagonia take a look at  the Ruta 40 guided trip that can begin or end in Trevelín, the Welsh colony that has plenty of tea rooms and a Welsh Museum.

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Hidroaysen Update

Susannah joined the Swoop team a couple of months ago after travelling to Patagonia in February. After cycling the Careterra Austral she explains what the rejection of the controversial ‘HidroAysen’ project means for Patagonia.

Along one of the final stretches of the Careterra Austral, between the last major ‘town’ of Cochrane and the turning to Tortel – the village miraculously built on wooden stilts by pioneering settlers in the 1950s – sharp-eyed travellers will see a hand-carved sign by a small track which reads ‘Refugio Rio Nadis’.

DSCF1511This little Eden, 10 km on from the road and comprising of an entirely self-sufficient farm and bunk-roomed hut with a cosy stove and interrupted views of glaciers, is so hidden that even the tourist kiosk in Cochrane hasn’t heard of it. Those who make it there – and the guest book is full of entries from visitors from all over the world – rightly describe it as a true refuge from the modern world.

But until the official rejection of the controversial ‘HidroAysen’ project by the Chilean government earlier this week , there was a real danger that refuge and its farm would one day be under 70 feet of water. The modern world was coming to Refugio Nadis invited or not.

The announcement on Tuesday, that Chile’s minister’s of agriculture, energy, mining, economy and health voted unanimously to reject the project, deciding to “side with complaints presented by the community,” will have been greeted with relief by some, skepticism by others.

Chile has an acknowledged energy crisis which requires a solution, and the project had the potential to bring jobs and infrastructure to the area. Hydro-electric is a cleaner solution to the problem than importing fossil fuels from Argentina.

But the cost to the landscape, and the resultant impact on local the tourism industry which is the lifeblood of many a family-run business here, would be substantial. In its entirety the project would have consisted of up to five dams, including one which would have tamed the mighty and majestic Rio Baker – famed also as the location of some of the best fishing in Patagonia – and the installation of over 1,500 miles of transmission lines.

As the main – indeed the only ‘roadway’ (much of the route is still gloriously unpaved) – the Careterra Austral and its landmarks would take the greatest hit. One of the most striking features of the Carretera is the absence of any sign of man for mile after mile, but to support the lines a brigade of pylons would have to march from the south of Chilean Patagonia to the north. The leafy temperate rainforest in Pumalin National Park, the small town of Puhuhuapi with its pioneer-built Bavarian houses, the fishermen’s lodges south of Coyhaique – all would be affected, with even the Careterra itself diverted away from a stunning stretch along major waterways.  In its entirety the lines would reach to the far south, to such pristine wildernesses as Torres del Paine National Park.

Campaign objectors make the point that there are alternatives that would meet Chile’s energy needs: ample wind and solar, dynamic geothermal, as well as powerful tides. The Patagonia sin Represas‘ (Patagonia without Dams) website puts forward the idea that small, high-altitude hydro facilities could also do much to help meet demand without such a strong impact on the region.

The news on Tuesday was tempered with rumours that the project owners would likely appeal the decision. Whatever the ultimate outcome in Patagonia the landscape is changing fast.

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My own trip took the form of a bike journey down the full length of the Careterra. At this speed there was plenty of time to take in the stunning scenery, but also to notice the miles of newly paved road (a guilty pleasure as it made riding easier, but a sure sign of change) and to count the ‘Patagonia sin Represas’ signs behind the diggers. Go now, while you still can.

We wrote a piece back in 2011  about the Hidroaysen project controversy that explains the issue in depth.

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Patagonia on the Web

Patagonia on the Web – 6th June

A roundup of all things Patagonia we found on the web this week.

Patagonia in the news:
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50 entire ichthyosaur fossils have been found in southern Chile, one of the best finds of its kind to date. The fossils were found in Torres del Paine and lived between the Triassic and Cretaceous periods, which extended from 250 million to 66 million years ago.
Find out more about the discoveries here.

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:
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@thisisChile retweeted @barbarakvh  who took this lovely shot of Cucao, Chiloé.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 14.12.17The lighting is so dramatic in @Gabriele_Corno  shot ”Out of Darkness” – Torres del Paine National Park, in southern Chilean Patagonia, Chile.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 14.18.40 Snapped with a point and shoot @ClareBevis gives a different view of Torres del Paine.

Blog of the week:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 14.43.09Globetrottergirls.com have done a number of posts about their Patagonia trip, this one about Chiloe is fantastic and describes why it’s must see island. . “…we left the island feeling utterly romanced and wishing we could have seen more of its empty beaches and bays, explored more the national park and the tiny fishing villages.”

When travelling to Chiloe it can be difficult to get off the beaten track  when you go independently or using public transport.  Talk to us about a guided excursion that allows you to delve deeper into the island’s cultural history and wildlife.