Tag Archives: Torres_del_Paine

Sam’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

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

‘I had a wonderful time – helped by the fact that we had some exceptional weather and a good group of trekking companions’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I found the Swoop team to be very quick to respond to all my queries (especially given the short notice prior to trip departure). Please note that this was greatly appreciated.

How were our partners who run the W Trek?

They also performed well – I found the 5 day W Trek to be relatively easy over the 5-days and to finish off with the boat cruise up to Grey Glacier was a real highlight. Our guide Miriam was excellent, offering just the right amount of info at each location, and was always very conscious of how the group was travelling.

Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight?

I enjoyed the luxury of having a hot-shower and shelter at the end of each days trekking, but didn’t feel that the additional cost over camping was entirely justified, particularly as we found  that some of the food did not meet our expectations.

Lis’s Trip to Torres del Paine & Tierra del Fuego

Lis returned in December from a trip to Patagonia during which they took W Trek in Torres del Paine followed by a visit to Isla Navarino in Tierra del Fuego. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Patagonia…

What three words would best sum up your experience in Patagonia?

Wild, Beautiful, Fantastic.

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia overall?

It’s genuinely hard to pick one thing overall, it was so varied and beautiful. The light and the windswept, dramatic wilderness of it all was perhaps the most abiding memory of Patagonia – the sheer space and also the diversity.

We dipped in and out of different parts of Patagonia, including a 3 day W Trek (thanks Swoop Patagonia for organising it for us!) in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park, and spending time in Punta Arenas which really felt like a frontier town at the edge of the earth.

Then we also flew in a tiny plane down to Isla Navarino, where there really is the last town before Antarctica (and the most southerly Yacht Club in the world!). This was definitely the most unusual aspect of our trip, and included our best story: drinking with the locals on the German frigate (now a bar) at the Yacht Club, with a Penguin swimming in the bay – and especially the luxurious Lakutaia Lodge and services of local guide Denis (quite brilliant).

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

Patagonia is pretty huge – we would have liked to see more of it; then again, with some smart planning of flights and buses (which are excellent for long distance travel in Chile) we could get around in not too many days. There are so many options for hiking and National Parks – definitely pick your top ones and don’t try to do everything.

We’d also have liked to cross the border into Argentinian Patagonia (a well trodden path at different points) and to take a boat ride (whether the Navimag or a more luxury cruise ) – would recommend investigating these options.

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

They were great: very generous with their advice and support when we were considering  options before making a decision. It was a very personal, tailored service; and thus felt very responsive and flexible to our needs.

What did you think of the operators we set you up with in Torres del Paine?

The operators were reliable, helpful and professional. The Fast Track W Trek we did in Torres del Paine was quite expensive (as there were only two of us in the group); but in return we received a great service, excellent guide (just for the two of us), top equipment and planning and good food. It suited what we needed very well.

How was the W Trek itself, and how were your guides?

The trek was fantastic: we did a 3-day Fast Track loop which suited perfectly as we only had 3 days to spare. I would recommend this itinerary – others do a 5 day W Trek or the Full Circuit, but the 3 days were honestly pretty stretching, even for us as pretty seasoned walkers. The variation on each day was marvellous too, meaning we felt like we saw the range that Torres del Paine had to offer; we left very satisfied.

Talking with other walkers, it’s worth choosing your refugio carefully – some had a reputation as serving pretty meagre portions of food which isn’t great when you’ve walked 9 hours!

Our guide (Viktor) was fantastic – seasoned, professional, good fun, knowledgeable, everything we could have wanted. The packed lunches, tent and equipment which he bought from them were very good quality, and they provided excellent fresh bread for my partner who is gluten free. He went above and beyond to support us and make sure things ran smoothly. Would definitely recommend the operator and Viktor in particular.

How was your stay at Lakutaia Lodge?

Lakutaia Lodge was great too – again, there were only about 6 guests staying there so we had 1:1 attention and service – for instance, they changed the menus around so we could have King Crab on our last day when we had to leave early.

Their excursions were thoughtful and really interesting (bird watching – not something I’d ever think I’d have enjoyed but was breathtaking), tour of the town of Puerto Williams, short trek, museum…); and we also loved using their bikes and canoes.

Local guide Denis accompanied us solicitously during our stay and was so knowledgeable and accommodating – it really made the trip.

The Lodge manager was equally very hospitable and accommodating, looked after us very well. She even introduced us to a famous Chilean opera singer who arrived to stay as we were leaving!

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

Only the weather coming in on our third day, and my falling over & spraining my ankle! Otherwise perfect.

Sam’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Sam returned in January from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

What was the highlight of your trip?

The geography I witnessed on my 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine was absolutely stunning. Trekking through the rolling hills and craggy mountains for hours a day was an incredible experience. I never tired because I was constantly struck and energised by the beauty of its nature.

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

Yes – Santiago, Vina del Mar and Valparaiso.

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

You guys were great! Thank you for everything!

How were our partners who ran the trek, and how were their guides on the trip?

They were great. Carlos was an excellent, informed and thoughtful guide. He made the experience unforgettable.

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

Nope!

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

It’s no joke when they say you could experience four seasons in one day – pack layers!

Also, I stayed an extra couple nights to see penguins and Punta Arenas is a bit of a sleepy town. Could have done just one there.

Nada’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Nada returned in February from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop were very quick to reply to emails and provided very helpful information!

Did you enjoy your 5 day W Trek itinerary?

On the first day of our 5 day W Trek I would have preferred if we walked a little more than two hours, for example it might have been nice to walk into the park (rather than travelling in by bus), or to start very early in the morning on one of the days so that we could have seen the sunset/ escape the crowds. I understand  however that such alterations would probably depend on the preferences of the other people in the group as well.

How were your guides on the trip?

Victor was a chilled & a nice guy. He was able to provide very good information about Flora & Fauna, you could tell he knows the area well. There were a few moments where I got the feeling he has been doing it for a very long time and is a little bit fed up with it…

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

Yes, I had another two weeks to travel in Chile.

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

You need to book bus ticket in advance – luckily Swoop and their partners in Torres del Paine told me that and booked everything for me! That was a great service!

Laurie & Rob’s W Trek from an eco camp

Laurie & rob returned in March from a W Trek based from an eco camp in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their trip and their experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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

Swoop were great at coordinating with their partners who ran the trek we wanted to do in Torres del Paine. Overall we appreciated all their input, and there is nothing we would have wanted to go differently.

How was your 7 day W Trek?

Overall the 7 day W Trek and stay at eco camp was awesome. We found the itinerary a little strict at times. For instance a little more down time would have enhanced the overall experience. So too would the ability to have dinner when we wished to. We do, though, appreciate that when running a large group a schedule is helpful in order to keep things running smoothly.

How were the staff at the eco camp, and their guides on the trek?

We were a group of 6 that travelled with another group of 6. Roberto and Niko were our guides. Both were great, however, we found Roberto offered more information to the group. Niko was quieter, his stated philosophy being that if you want to ask questions he is more than willing to answer.

What did you think of the eco camp and the accommodation there?

The camp was great. We stayed in both the Superior and Standard Domes. Certainly the Superior domes were more comfortable with the bathrooms, but the Standard domes were also great.

In terms of the Refugios: Refugio Los Cuernos was not great overall; very crowded; very ‘basic’ facility; nowhere to hang out other then your bunk when the dinner rotations start. We arrived around 3 pm, this is a long time with nowhere to hang out (it was raining outside).

A number of items should have been recommended in the ‘suggested things to bring’, such as flipflops for showering, Chilean dollars (note that when we picked up by Cascada, we were not given the opportunity to obtain Chilean currency).

Our group was split into two rooms, one had 9 bunks (all allotted to our group) and the other had 3 bunks allotted to our group. My husband and I were to be split up between the two rooms. I wasn’t very happy about that! When I mentioned this to our guide he said that there was nothing he could do. A group of 3 women were travelling together and one of the women offered to go into the other room. Nonetheless it was a loud (snoring and no insulation in the walls of the very small and crowded rooms) and uncomfortable night. Our experience in the other lodge (Lodge Paine Grande) was much better.

Is there anything you would have changed about the trip?

Perhaps arriving later in the day, at the Refugio Los Cuerros might be an option, making sure all partners are in the same room, having a detailed ‘suggested things to bring’ for both EcoCamp and in particular for the trek, or perhaps camping instead of staying at the Refugio.

We would also have appreciated learning ahead of time that Refugio Los Cuerros has private ‘cottages’ available (none available by the time we arrived) so that we could perhaps have obtained one! Or continue on to Camp Italiano, and camp. Camping could be an option for those who wish it, and of course this option might be a little more expensive.

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

The beauty of the landscape. It felt surreal at times.

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

Pack light. Get Chilean pesos before heading out to the Camp.

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

Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche (Villa La Angostura); all were fantastic!!

Catherine’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Catherine returned in March from a 10 week trip to Chile and Argentina, during which she spent 5 days on a Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip…

 What was the highlight of your trip?

It was a great experience and we were lucky enough to have great weather…One of the highlights of my whole trip was the W Trek in Torres del Paine that you helped me arrange.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Your partners in Torres del Paine were very accommodating and easy to work with. Besides the W Trek, they arranged for bus tickets and a stay at the lovely Amerindia Hostel.

How were your guides on the W Trek?

Our guide Armando was so knowledgeable about the area including the geology, the history, and the flora and fauna.  He also had an amazing ability to spot wildlife.

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

I really appreciate that you let me know that I could easily do the hiking out of Calafate to Parque Nacional Las Glaciares on my own.  This helped me keep the trip expenses down and I did a lovely three day backpack there on my own — my first solo backpack! Thank you so much.

Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Chris & Steve recently returned from a trip to Patagonia where they spent 5 days Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park, followed by 7 days on the Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine based from an eco camp. Here they tell us about their trip and their experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

I was very happy with the service we got from Swoop Patagonia – you helped us create an itinerary that enabled us to do all that we wanted to do in the short space of time we had for the trip. I think ultimately that saved us a lot of time and effort in organizing the trip and we were grateful for that. It did prove exhausting, but we knew that and coped well and I am glad we didn’t have to miss out on anything, in fact I’d say we were super fit by the end of the trip!

How was your time with our partners in Los Glaciares?

The 3-day trek in Los Glaciares was excellent. I liked the guide, he was very knowledgeable about the local fauna and flora and had a good sense of humour, and so he was good company.

Luckily for us the people who joined us for our trek were very fit and keen and also wanted to do a more challenging walk. It was a great, scenic climb and set us up well for the rest of the trip. I loved the campsite where we spent our first night, and the food was great.

The second day’s walk was probably the highlight of this trek, with some amazing scenery culminating in the lagoons underneath Fitz Roy. I liked the fact that our guide was happy to take his time to allow us to enjoy the scenery and we arrived into camp after 8pm that night, and so we felt like we had made maximum use of the day.

On the third day we felt that we could have spent more time enjoying the views on the way down, but having said all that, the scenery was again amazing.

How was your time with our partners in Torres del Paine?

The Full Circuit Trek was scenically spectacular (obviously, that being why its famous). We again got lucky with the weather – we barely had any rain over the whole trip except for the John Gardner pass. I didn’t mind that so much as it kept it cool for the climb.

A lot was made out to us about the strength of the winds, but as someone pretty experienced at walking in the Lakes and Dales in winter and have nearly been blown of mountains in the UK in those conditions, didn’t find it too worrying.

The ecocamp was pretty cool. The food was really good and on the first day there was a Puma casually walking round the campsite, which was different. We could have happily spent a few days chilling out there.

I think on this trip we slightly regretted not doing it on our own. I think what would have worked best for us would have been a self guided trek but still with the porters – I don’t know if anywhere has that option. We did appreciate not having to carry our tents and having our food cooked for us though.

We again enjoyed the company of the others on our trek, who were really nice people and we had many nice evenings chatting with them and working our way through many bottles of Carmenere.

We also greatly appreciated the guides offering us the chance to walk up to the towers in the dark using our head torches and sit under the stars for a few hours before the sun came up on the towers. This was a highlight of the trip for me and I realize the guide didn’t have to do that. That experience, along with the hike into the French Valley under the horns, were probably my highlights on the Paine trek, though I also really enjoyed the quietness of the northern part of the circuit.

Overall, it was a really great trip and lived up to our expectations.

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

I’d say if you have a little more time than us, then do the Full Circuit trek independently. If Id have had a few more days I’d have taken a little longer over it to do shorter distances each day, and that would have made it easier to carry all our stuff.

We also had a great Steak Stew in a place called Isobel in El Calafate and can recommend the Pop hotel in Buenos Aires as a convenient, good value and English speaking place (for those whose Spanish was as inept as ours). Oh, that brings me to another tip – learn some Spanish!

Marilyn’s W Trek from a Torres del Paine eco-camp

Marilyn recently returned from a 7 day W Trek in Torres del Paine based from an eco camp in the National Park. Here she tells us about experiences on the trip…

What did you think of the service provided by our partners in Torres del Paine?

They had a good website containing comprehensive information & an efficient payment system.

How was the W Trek itinerary and how were the guides who accompanied you?

The itinerary and guides on the trip were excellent. Porters are provided for you on days 2, 3, & 4 so you don’t have to carry anything except your daypack on any day of the trek. You are provided with a small but adequate dry bag with a weight limit of 4kg for days 2, 3, & 4, and this is more than adequate.

What were your thoughts on the eco camp?

The camp is in an excellent position, with very unobtrusive architecture and wonderful views of the towers, which are particularly impressive at sunrise. Another benefit is that it is above, & well removed from, the zoo of traffic on the road to the park trailhead & Hotel Torres.

How did you find your accommodation?

The basic domes at the eco camp are comfortable, but very hot in the sun & not able to retain heat well when it’s not sunny…and you need to be a hobbit to get in & out of the doors comfortably!

The bedding is cumbersome & heavy (this seems to be a Chilean thing), so I’d say you’re better off in a sleeping bag.

They need to treat the doors of both domes & toilet blocks with a good dose of WD40 – they were really loud & squeaky & therefore disturbing especially during the night.

The showers were good, but there were only 2 washbasins & no laundry basins which seems to be a bit of an oversight

Eco-toilets are an admirable idea, but it is difficult to flush all matter away with a foot pump.

On the nights where we stayed at refugios elsewhere, the sleeping bags were decent, and cotton sleep sheets were available if needed. Refugio Los Cuernos is a bit of a bun fight unless you are put in a cabin. There was blocked plumbing, no soap or loo paper, 3 toilets between over 100 women, and noisy corridors with banging doors.

Did you enjoy the food?

The food at the eco camp and Refugio Paine Grande was great, but the food at Refugio Los Cuernos was awful. The dining and lounge domes at the eco camp were great, and beautifully furnished.

Food at the eco camp is plentiful & very good. You do not need to bring much in the way of additional snacks for any day where lunch is provided by the eco camp (days 1,2, 5,6,7), and you get to make & choose your own lunch items – as much as you like.

How was your trip overall?

Overall a splendid trip but lacking cultural interest cf Himalaya. Stunning scenery – I really lucked in with very good weather.

Do you have any tips for future visitors?

Don’t take too much snack food – Ecocamp is not a weight watchers venue.

In peak season the number of trekkers is out of control for the facilities available- there seems to be no regulation on the number of people camping in every square inch of the campsite areas with little or no hygiene/facilities = defaecating in bush, contamination of water sources.

Watch your knees- I was warned about this by a work colleague who had done the W trek. The pace is fast as not at altitude & 2 of days are long with much of it steep uphill & downhill. In hindsight, I would have been better to go slower & use a trekking pole

What was the highlight of your trip?

Highlights were Mirador Britanico, Glacier Gray, Torres Del Paine, views driving from Lago Gray back to the eco camp via Lago Pahoe in glorious weather.

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

I also went to Easter Island – a fascinating but bizarre place.

Incidentally, many thanks for my pre-departure present. It was so hot though that the best use for it would have been to mop up sweat.

Off the Beaten Track Expedition in Torres del Paine

John and his friends returned in February from an off the beaten track trekking and kayaking expedition out of Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his trip and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our local partners…

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Did the itinerary fit with your plans and aspirations for the trip? 

Yes the itinerary was as I had hoped and fitted our aspirations.

How would you describe the route, and terrain?

The route was manageable in general; we had one hard day of 10 to 12 hours, followed by an easier day of 6 hours. It was demanding overall due to the fact we trekked for 2-3 weeks overall, camping throughout.

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The Oggioni Pass was demanding, but not overly so, and took us about 10 hours. Cristian did say he might change the plan to go to Perros Camp rather than Dickson on coming down the pass but in my opinion it would be a pity to miss Dickson Camp, which is a lovely setting.

How was your guide?

One error from our guides was to try and take us ‘off piste’ to a higher track when going over the John Garner pass. This was a bit much for us on an already long day. He did learn from it but could have discussed it with us beforehand. I think he felt we were going well and were up for a challenge and felt as we had a guide we should make use of him by going off the track. In reality, Perros Camp to Lago Grey Camp is a long enough day without adding a couple of hours detour.

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The Pingo Valley was blissfully quiet although Zapata Camp had lots of mosquitos. Climbing Zapata was a demanding day and we were on the hill for 15 hours (5am to 8pm), partly because we started at Zapata Camp, not the Base Camp, and this did add and hour at the start and end of the day. Personally I think this was sensible and cannot see the sense of moving camp an hour nearer the mountain and taking a day to do so.

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The river crossing was also difficult and the usual crossing point was impassable. The crossing point used was above the lake and involved 2 smaller river crossings. I would have thought this was a more sensible and reliable route to use. Our guide had not used it before himself but I suspect he may do so in the future.

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The day on Zapata was windy and at times it looked doubtful if we could continue. To the credit of Cristian, we did plough on through difficult winds when it may have been tempting to stop and did make the summit.

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The 2 older members of our partly (aged 60) did not do Zapata but did have a long and rewarding day in the Fossil area around the mouth of the Tyndall Glacier. Having done Zapata, I feel their decision was a good one, as they would not have managed to last the day or move fast enough over the ground. To do Zapata you need to be able to sustain a long day in the mountains and move promptly over uneven ground.

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Our 2 guides were both very good and spoke excellent English. Cristian was extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife especially the birds and knew all the English names and their calls. For me that was a real bonus.

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Jamie, the cook, made some excellent food and this was very much appreciated by us all but especially by Richard, who sometimes feels ill on extreme exertion if not fed well but did not at all on this trip.

Jose, our Kayak guide was perhaps the most impressive as he did all of the cooking and guiding himself.

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Did our partners in Torres del Paine do a good job with the planning and logistics?

I could not really fault the operator’s planning and logistics, which was very flexible throughout the trip. For example they managed to get a food dump to Camp Dickson for us to pick up to avoid too much food being carried over the Oggioni Pass and arranged for wine to be carried into Zapata Camp and fresh coffee for the kayaking when we said we found Chilean coffee poor.

The kayak down the river was a lovely way to finish. At times it was windy and the single lady who joined us needed a tow at one point and the two Germans who joined us on the first day fell in, which must have been miserable we had wet suits which were fine the guide had dry suits and I know Cristian was considering dry suits for future multi day trips.

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Would you recommend Swoop for its help in finding the right trekking route, guide and operator for your trip?

The benefit of Swoop from our point of view was a contact in the UK and an ability to arrange a bespoke tour. Most companies just want to sell the W trek and are not interested in any other options.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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