Tag Archives: Review

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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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Sally’s Hike in the Tagua Tagua Park

On Sally’s most recent visit to the Patagonia, she was fortunate to take a 2 day hike through the Tagua Tagua Park. Relatively new, this park is a Private Protected Area (PPA) not a National Park, dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity.

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The Hike In

The entrance into the park is unlike any other I have seen before, reached by boat across the vast emerald waters of the Tagua Tagua Lake.  As the El Salto River falls into the Tagua Tagua Lake the boat approached a cluster of rocks, here we clambered off and scrambled up onto the trail.

Arrival

The trail starts from the information centre at 20 metres where you sign in. There was a pile of bamboo sticks which hikers can borrow to help them on their way as they head up into the valley.

The first hour, although forested, is through an area which has noticeably been inhabited as there is grass and introduced plants such as blackberries and apple tree. The only family to live in this area were the Melipillan Sanchez family between 1953 and 1994 who made a living from farming and also making the alerce shingles for building – a trade locally known as a tejueleria.

Tagua walk

There was a lot of humming birds (green hooded fire crowns) activity in and amongst the fushias bushes – flitting from here to there, fighting and being really noisy. As there were no other hikers we were able to stand and admire these beautiful birds.

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After the first hour of patchy forest and open grass land we then entered the dense forest where the vegetation becomes almost mythical with hanging lycans, trunks covered in creeping vegetation and the rain dripping through to create the illusion that the forest is moving! There were ferns of all shapes and sizes – giant ferns, monocell transparent ferns and umbrella ferns that looked like they were made of velvet.

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Also funguses – some as large as dustbin lids – mostly mushroom type or enormous layers of yellows, oranges, purples, more abundant and bigger than I had ever seen.

After crossing various riverson newly built wooden bridges and climbing up to 535 metres, you reach the Refugio Alerces.

Refugio Alerces

Looking out over the flooded Alerce forest, the Refugio Alerces sits 6.5km up the trail at 535 metres (the park guide says 4.5 hours but we had done it, taking our time in 3 hours). The refugio has sleeping space for 22 in open bunks and an open kitchen – it is really just 1 big room with bunks built into 1 wall – all in wood. As it is just 1 hut the heat from the wooden stove burner benefits all. There is an outdoor porch with a hammock and stunning views of the mountains behind.

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This refugio is manned by Sol and Felipe, the park rangers, who live up here all year round maintaining the refugios, trails and park in general.

The next 2 kms heading out from the Refugio Alerces climbs almost 200 metres in a series of ladders. They are not totally vertical and could be described mearly as steep walkways resting on the ground below.

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After 9 kms from the start you reach the valley top at 710 metres where the forest opens up to large patches of mallin (fragil, spongy ground cover), the large granite walls show themselves and the expansive forests of Alerce and Cypress trees. As it had rained all day, there were waterfalls appearing from everywhere.

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You can easily track your progress along the path with handy signs every 500 metres .

We arrived at the Refugio Quetrus after about 5 hours hiking, absolutely soaking wet. Having worked previously as park ranger, Mauricio my guide was a dab hand at getting the fire going and the kettle on. This higher refugio is un-manned so was absolutely freezing!

Refugio Quetrus

This refugio, currently at the end of the trail but there is plans to extend the trail, sits at 710 metres so from the trail head you have gained 690 metres on the 10 km hike. There is sleeping room for 8 with a similar layout as the Alerces but the sleeping space is up a ladder on another floor. There is a porch with benches to sit out on and look out across the truly breath taking view of the Lake Quetrus, islands forested with cyprus trees, granite walls and waterfalls.

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At both refugios the toilet is housed in a separate wooden hut, a 2-3 minute walk up another trail, deep in the woods. This hut is just a toilet which flushes with rain water (all toilet paper should be bagged up and carried out of the park). The refugios have a supply of fresh water in containers which the park rangers get from higher up the mountain and the sink has running water which is just rain water (for cleaning teeth etc). There are no other facilities or privacy.

Inside

All food that you have in the park has to be brought in and rubbish carried out. If you do the trek as a guided trek, the guide will provide food, stoke the fire and cook up a storm. On the menu during my trek we had a local dish called Cancato, a sort of pizza using Salmon as the base or better described as salmon stuffed with tomato, courgette, onions and cheese. Really delicious after a hard day in the rain.

Candle light

We chatted by candle light, read back copies of the Patagon Journal and had an early night listening to the howling wind and sound of the rain.

During the middle of the night I was aware that the autumn rains had definitely begun – I thought it had been raining hard the previous day but this was nothing, just a passing shower, in comparison to what we woke up to hear in the middle of the night. Since 3 am there had been thundering rain on the roof and we woke up to a curtain of rain outside; there were waterfalls cascading down the granite walls which surrounded us (in fact, the weather was so bad that I couldn’t see the granite walls just the white water) and the lake in front, Lago Quetrus, had risen significantly. The water had flooded the firewood store but luckily Mauricio had brought in enough the night before so within just a few minutes in the morning, we were nice and toasty with hot tea & toast.

The Descent

What an adventure the descent turned into – the footpath and river had become indecipherable! Knee deep in water, using trees to keep us up right, we waded out and back down the valley. Luckily the Refugios have their own store of rubber boots so I borrowed these instead of getting my own boots wet.

Waterfall

On reaching the valley decent back at KM 9, we could see that there was bright light on the horizon, this gave us great hope that the rain might stop…and it did! The sky cleared and the sun came out, what a treat. On the descent we took various side paths out to see hidden waterfalls and a stunning viewpoint which gave us views out over the whole valley.

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As we neared the end of the hike, the Tagua Tagua Lake suddenly came into view and with the sun shining on it that turquoise colour of the water seemed even more intense. As we sat on the rocks waiting for the boat to collect us, I felt totally exhilarated. The trek had been quite challenging, not because of the distance, more for the rain, slippery terrain, basic facilities and the thick dense jungle forest that literally breath air back into my lungs. On the opposite shore of the lake I could see the Mitico Puelo Lodge and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the hot shower and pisco sour.

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Hotel Review: Tierra Chiloe – Where luxury meets authenticity

Sally returned from her trip in Patagonia and came back with even more knowledge about the region. Here she talks about the luxurious Tierra Chiloe.

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The hotel itself is an extremely impressive wooden building, perfectly designed to create comfortable spaces inside, create the most of the incredible view, yet be totally unobtrusive to the landscape. Set high up on a hill, surrounded by rolling countryside, the hotel looks out onto the one of the many channels that surround the Chiloe Archipelago.

Inside the decor feels very authentic with wooden furniture, woolen throws over the chairs, woven baskets and even fun little touches such as wooden pigs that have been turned into seats!
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All the rooms have floor to ceiling windows and are located on the 2nd floor making the view just that bit more impressive. The rooms are made entirely of wood which gives them the feel that you’re in a wooden cabin.
The room has charming touches such as woollen Chilote slippers for all its guests, a metal water bottle for each guest (which can be refilled from containers in the reception), wooden pegs and with the bed looking straight out to sea to give you the sensation that you’re on a boat.

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As I sit writing, tucked away in a hidden corner of the gardens of the hotel, looking out onto the still bay with the yellow autumn trees reflecting perfectly, I can hear the bird calls of the mischievous ‘chucao’, the green-hooded fire crown (hummingbird), the oystercatchers on the beach below and many more. Across the bay I can hear a farmer rounding up his cattle and the sound of oars, dipping in and out of the water as a local fisherman rows home his catch.
The peace and tranquility is utterly mesmerising.

Dinner is served from 8pm, starting with a pisco sour and a few appetizers whilst sat in the lounge. There is a lovely atmosphere as the hotel manager, Andres, does the rounds to ensure that all the guests have had a good day and jazz or folkloric music is played subtly in the background. On check-in or at breakfast, guests choose their dinner with 2 choices for each course (guests choose their dinner when they check-in or after breakfast as everything is made to order).

Excursions

Each day there is a choice of two excursions which are either full day or half day. The excursions are either vehicle based including some short hikes to places of cultural interest and natural beauty or can involve longer hikes and kayaking.

Wiliche

The gem of the hotel though is the ‘Wiliche’, the wooden boat. The boat goes out every other day and the hotel ensures that all clients are able to take at least one excursion by boat. There are three different routes that the Wiliche takes but each excursion includes the opportunity to go kayaking, do excursions in a small zodiac or do some short hikes. Lunch is served on board – canapes, a salad and quiche and fresh fruit was on the menu the day I sailed aboard the Wiliche. Delicious.
On the boat

On arrival guests are given a briefing of all the excursions, how they work and are given a half day arrival option such as horse riding, or a visit the the nearby village of Dalcahue or Rilan.

The location, interior, service and attention to detail really is 5* in the luxurious lodge. If you are looking to immerse yourself in local culture and beautiful scenery but not scrimp on the comfort level, then this hotel would make a wonderful addition to any itinerary to Patagonia.

Would you like to read more about Sally’s day out on the Wiliche?

 

Matthew’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Matthew returned in March from a Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

What did Swoop do well? 

I liked using Swoop because they responded in a timely fashion to all of my queries, and could speak fluent English. I had a lot of trouble when I first started looking for a company, and Swoop were able to solve the problems I was unable to resolve with the Chilean companies.

What could we have done differently? 

If possible, it would have been great to have received some guidance on how to get to Puerto Natales, opportunities for extra activities by taking the bus straight from Punta Arenas Airport to Puerto Natales,  things to consider when packing, etc. I know you have the website, but I one sheet would be great. Also you could mention how much food you get if you buy the trek with meals included… So much!

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?

Yes.

How were Swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek in Torres del Paine?

They were fine, the itinerary was good, and was pretty accurate, and there is nothing I would change about the trip.

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

1. Choose a trek with meals included, you will not go hungry! No need to bring additional food.

2. The third day is the longest, so start early and enjoy the French Valley.

3. No need to bring your own food.

4. Do not stay in Punta Arenas, go straight to Puerto Natales and going Kayaking.

5. The conversion of USD to Pesos drops in the rufigos, so be prepared.

6. The trails are well traveled so don’t worry about getting lost.

7. The beds are single beds unless you can get a cabin on the third night (get the cabin if you can!).

8. Take the last ferry (630ish), cause if you take the 5PM you have to wait for the late ferry before leaving.

9. Make accommodation reservations in Puerto Natales for the night you return from the trek.

10. Make sure you have enough things to do at night (eg, deck of cards, etc).

11. Bring sunscreen.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

The French Valley Glacier and the Towers.

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6 days of Excursions in Torres del Paine

Brent and Megan returned in February from a 5 night stay at an eco friendly camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park, where they had a choice of excursions into the park each day. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Megan and I had an exceptional time in Patagonia.’

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How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

We appreciated the advice and insight that Luke was able to give for the hikes and for the possible tours. I would and have already recommended Swoop to other people.

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How the excursions and guides in Torres del Paine?

Our guides were excellent; very knowledgeable enthusiastic about their work. Unfortunately, two days before we left for Chile my wife fell and hurt her ankle so we had to stick to the low intensity excursions but still did one 22 km hike and made it within the allotted time. We were not able to try any of the longer or more intense hikes but still enjoyed the ones that we were able to participate in.

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How was the weather in Torres del Paine?

The weather was good- we had two days of clouds and two days of sun.

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What did you think of the eco friendly camp?

The camp facilities were excellent. It was very nice to have a good bed to go back to after being out all day. The food was excellent, and the staff were exceptional. We would definitely recommend other people to stay there.

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Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

We spent one day in Valparaiso, and then we drove from Santiago to Mendoza in Argentina and toured wineries and ate at some amazing restaurants. Hindsight being 20/20 If I knew how utterly screwed up the border crossings would be, I would have flown.  It was a beautiful drive but the border control experience (and the additional permit fee and insurance) ruined the experience.

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What were the highlights of your trip?

The last day we did one of the view point hikes and had great weather.  Out of the blue we had a Huemul deer wander right up to us.  On the other side of the hill that same morning we observed 22 condors flying above the neighbouring foothill.  It was pretty amazing.

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Magan’s Extended Paine Circuit & Kayaking in Torres del Paine

Magan returned in January from a trekking and kayaking trip to Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘The experience was AMAZING – I absolutely loved our group and Swoop and their partners were wonderful!’

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What did you think of your itinerary?

The Extended Paine Circuit itinerary was great! The John Garner pass day was super long and super hard but glad that we chose to keep going and not stay at the El Paso campgrounds.

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The glacier hike was amazing – it was shocking to me that many people that we were hiking the Full Circuit with were unaware of that option and were very disappointed that they hadn’t put it in their itinerary.

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How was your guide and accommodation on your trip?

Our guide (Eduardo) was PHENOMENAL: super knowledgeable and patient with us, and a huge enhancement to the trip! I would definitely recommend him to anyone!

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My celiac disease was well tended to well and many of the refugios were great! I hated the Refugio Paine Grande where the boat was located – I felt like I was at Disney and it took away from the experience.

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

I continued to travel in Chile – but just to Santiago and to a yoga retreat.  I also hiked the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu – the entire trip was amazing!

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was the John Gardner pass and the Glacier hike – they are very hard to beat!

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Dennis’ Sailing trip from Ushuaia to Cape Horn

Dennis returned in December from a 7 day sailing trip around Cape Horn. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our sailing partners…

Thank you Chloe and a big thanks to Luke also! Because I am the worst travel agent ever I had a few snags in my overall travel plan but the sailing trip that Swoop Patagonia organised for me was better than I could have imagined!

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I really appreciate you and your help in finding me the perfect trip for the way I like to do things, thank you! I like the way I could communicate and get answers from you guys and felt very comfortable with the trip before I even got going, thank you for that also!

How was Swoop’s Sailing partner?

Atilio is a great man and a great captain; professional and personable. I would sail with him anywhere. The way he was able to time sailing windows to get us around the horn was remarkable! He truly worked himself and his boat hard to make sure we SAFELY but surely made the ultimate goal of the sailing. I am sure that just the experience of sailing with someone so knowledgeable about the boat and his environment would have been enough, but we really got the vibe from him that if there was a chance to make it around safely, he would give it the best chance possible, and that is what he did!

I would strongly recommend anyone of any or no sailing skill to set sail with him. He let us get as involved as we liked and even though I am sure we got in his way sometimes, he never let on and was nothing but encouraging to us! I have met many people, and have worked on many boats in my travels so far, and I put him at the top of the list as a truly great person of the world.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

I had a great time driving down to Ushuaia and camping around when I was not on the boat, the roads were decent, gas was very available and finding places to camp was pretty easy.

The national park in Ushuaia was very friendly and clean and had a few great hikes to go on in and around the park. My problem was I did not get the proper paperwork for the rental car and it got a bit messy, that was just the car company and me and some miscommunications, part of me being a terrible travel agent, oh well, it got exiting!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the 20 days spent in Argentina and Chile are for sure meeting the captain and experiencing his environment for the 7 days I spent with him and his boat, it was a great time! I have a lot of pictures and even more memories!

I look forward to seeing what the next adventure brings and will use your services and recommend you to everyone I meet who may need your services!!! Thank you again, Dennis.

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Jeanette’s Backcountry Ski Trip in Bariloche

Jeanette and her family returned in July 2014 from a Winter Backcountry Ski trip in Bariloche. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of our trip was the Backcountry skiing at Baguales Lodge.  The accommodations were a rustic dream, getting there was an adventure, the food was gourmet, and the skiing spectacular.

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

Buenos Aires: we ate at two great restaurants in Sal Telmo (La Brigada) and Palermo. We went to the San Telmo market on Sunday and the Teatro Colon.

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

Swoop helped us find the best trip operator in the area, choose our outdoor adventure activities, and referred us to the best guide company.

[Here’s some more information on How Swoop Work.]

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Were you well looked after by our partners in Patagonia & their guides on the trip? 

Yes, definitely.  Mike and Juan did a great job planning our itinerary, managing all our backcountry and avalanche gear, guiding us while we were in Patagonia.  They are knowledgeable, experience, professional, entertaining, and attended to our every need. We couldn’t have been happier.

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

We wish there had been more snow at Cerro Cathedral and Frey, but even under those circumstances (which no one has any control over) our guide provided us with alternatives that were excellent.

[Here’s some more information on Weather in Patagonia]

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

Contact Swoop Patagonia and their recommended partners.

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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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Luke Reviews Casita Chil-Hue, Chiloe

Britt and his wife have lived here for 15 years, and have built two cabanas and a couple of smaller lodges in the land around their home. You couldn’t ask for a host more knowledgeable of Chiloe’s history and culture and passionate about sharing it.
He cooks a great breakfast too!

I stayed in the Casita which would suit a family of 3-4 really nicely, with a beautiful bedroom, kitchen/dining area and a loft area that kids would love.

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I woke up here to wonderful views out to the Pacific, put on my trainers and took as little as twenty pace to reach the beach and enjoy a wonderful early morning jog. The beach lies on the northern coast of Chiloe and stretches all the way to the island’s second town, Ancud.
It was a beautiful morning and, as is the case all the way along the coastline of Chiloe I saw so many different birds and not a single human being.
Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 13.15.45Ancud is a 10 minute drive away, and given that the town has little to offer in the ways of nice restaurants and bars that’s probably no bad thing.

Use this as a base on Chiloe if you want:
peace and tranquility and wonderful hosts, just a few feet from the ocean