Tag Archives: Torres_del_Paine

Rachel’s 35 day Adventure in Patagonia

Rachel returned in December from a 35 day trip to Chile and Argentina, planned and arranged through Swoop Patagonia. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia.

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Wow – what a great holiday for me. I always wanted to experience the size and wilderness of this far off land but for a long time did not know quite where it was. My trip covered only the lower half of Patagonia, and I still travelled 4,000 Km from the bare Steppe over the mountains to the tropical forests around the fjords of Chile, ending at Cape Horn, somewhere I never thought I’d get the chance to see.

Rachel’s trip began with a stay at Las Marianas Hotel in Bariloche, ‘a lovely, friendly hotel with a great café with a nearby cafe that had a tree going up through the middle of it- they made delicious soups!’.

She then travelled north for a 4 night stay at Estancia Huechahue where she spent 3 days horse riding, walking, and taking part in estancia life…

This working Estancia is about the size of Purbeck- it was absolutely wonderful, the highlight of my trip for sure. Magnificent European trees towered above this elegant country ranch, which looks out onto a beautiful landscape of lupins and lavender alongside a steam, and the irrigated mown lawns led into big apple tree orchards. The pink/grey hills rising up to granite tops with condors, vultures and from the green fields down by the river the weird cries of the Ibis were breath taking. Except for unexpectedly strong cold gales trying to blow us off our horses, we had a wonderful spoilt time riding here. We had some very exciting days here, ended with drinks in front of a fire and fantastic home cooked meals; this was very different from the next 18 day road trip that followed! 

The next part of Rachel’s adventure was a road trip from Bariloche to Chalten, and then from Chalten to Ushuaia

On this part of the trip I travelled with a group of 12 people, mainly from Australia and New Zealand in a strengthened bus (to take the rough roads and steep hills over the high steppe of barren soil with the odd tussock and a few bushes). We had a wonderful guide and driver for this part of the trip. Mel, our guide was just wonderful, the best guide. She made the trip so interesting by adding her own anecdotes and stories. I also loved our driver, Franco, who took great care of me, was very sweet and supportive, and kept the bus very clean. There were Guanacos, Condors, miles of fences made of wood and plain wire, no habitation or any sign of tracks going anywhere. Just persistent biting cold wind that tried to blow one over. 

This part of the trip took Rachel first to Coyhaique, where she visited another Estancia and then along the famous Ruta 40 to El Chalten, where she enjoyed some lovely (although wet and cold at times!) walks in Los Glaciares National Park, and spent time relaxing and looking in the local arts and craft shops ‘I wish I had done more shopping here!’. In El Calafate, she stayed in an ‘absolutely gorgeous’ hotel, with ‘a lovely lake view room’, and took a tour/ walk/ boat trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

‘The Perito Moreno Glacier was absolutely spectacular and incredible- definitely a highlight of my trip’

Next, Rahcel’s road trip took her to Torres del Paine National Park,  where she hiked to Grey Glacier, the French Valley, and The famous Towers of Paine.

‘The Grey Glacier was just lovely, and the French Valley was absolutely fantastic’

From Torres del Paine, Rachel’s trip headed across the Magellan Strait to Tierra del Fuego, finishing in the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, where she visited a King Penguin Colony, a type of Penguin usually only found on sub Antarctic Islands.

‘The penguin viewing was extraordinary, and allowed us to see the beautiful creatures at their very best. It was exceptionally good.’

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Tierra del Fuego was where Rachel ended the road trip buy taking a catamaran through the waters of the Beagle Channel, spotting a variety of wildlife including sea lions, and a variety of bird life. The next day she took a day trip to Martillo Island to see colonies of Gentoo and Magellan Penguins, which was ‘absolutely fascinating’, followed by a day of bird watching in Tierra del Fuego National Park.

The final leg of Rachel’s trip was our Fuegian Glaciers and Cape Horn Cruise , which took her out into the Beagle Channel, to the Pia and Garibaldi Glaciers where she went on a ‘wonderful walk’, and then through Glacier Alley.

‘Everyone on the boat was very friendly- the company was superb and the boat was not too crowded, with an experienced and well-travelled crew. 

The remainder of the cruise took Rachel to Wulaia Bay, and Cape Horn, but unfortunately the ship was unable to land here due to bad weather, nonetheless, Rachel said that it was ‘worth every penny’.

Her trip ended with a stay at the ‘unbelievable and lovely’ Arakur Hotel in Ushuaia, before flying back home to the UK.  Below Rachel lists some of the highlights of her trip…

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One of the main highs for me was feeling fitter than I have for years so I could enjoy the hard walking up the mountains through the spectacular old southern beech woods besides tumbling streams falling into large lakes, looking at glaciers, craggy mountain tops, moss, flowing lichens, small alpine flowers and hillsides red with fire bush.

Then there was the highlight of sitting in sunshine listening to the blue 5 mile wide glacier calving, and watching huge blocks tumbling in the lake.

Spending time very close to 70 king penguins and ending with sailing the Beagle channel and seeing Cape Horn were wonderful also.

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Maria’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Maria returned in February from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

My trip was great, thanks for all your help in planning it!

How was your W Trek?

My W Trek was great and I was lucky with the Patagonian weather!

I realise now that I really didn’t necessarily need a guide as the trails are so well marked, and my group walked slower than I would have liked, but it was nice having company, and the guide was very nice too. One day I chose to trek alone, as the Guide decided not to take the group up to the final lookout (due to their fitness levels). Perhaps it might be useful to have treks of different levels of speed.

Harriet from Swoop Says: Generally if people don’t have much trekking experience we recommend that they do the trek guided trek because we don’t know how they will get on. Some people like yourself decide that they would have been fine without a guide and others are not as fit and capable of navigation. In addition a guide adds a lot of value to people’s treks in terms of local knowledge and as you say, being in a group and with a guide is a lot of fun. It is quite hard to divide people up according to ability because we have no way of assessing this but we can definitely warn people that their group may be quite slow so we will bear that in mind in future. I am glad you were able to get up to the viewpoints in spite of your slow group. What great views!

I found that the budget you had recommended did not quite stretch far enough in Chile. Of course I know this was only a recommendation, but even on my very frugal budget (cheapest dorm rooms, no alcohol or souvenirs, local food etc), I struggled. I would advise people to change over more Chilean pesos – maybe 300.

Argentina was much cheaper, although it would’ve been better for me to take euros to change at the unofficial rates, as they were much better than the Blue dollar rates believe it or not

These aren’t criticisms of your services however, just some things that I hope may be helpful. Thanks again for all your help once again!!

Harriet from Swoop Says: It is interesting what you say about Euros, none of us have experienced Euros getting a better rate than dollars so it is something we will look for when we are in Argentina in March. Thanks also for your feedback about your budget. It is very hard for us to calculate budgets for people and it’s definitely something we should have more information about on our site. When I go out in March I am going to put together some more detailed information about budgeting so your information is really useful! 

Swoop’s tips on Currency in Patagonia

 

 

Duane’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Duane returned in March from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop and our partners?

Great thank you, I enjoyed every day of my trip!

I would certainly recommend you and your partners to others, as the information provided to me ahead of time was very helpful. I am also thankful for the accommodations being taken care of, as my Spanish was lacking.

Thanks for the memories.

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Is there anything you would change about your trip?

I can’t think of any negatives – the lowest points, if any, were the refugios, but I enjoyed my stays there as well.

Seeing the many campers nearby, however, and the fact that most if not all of the facilities in the refugios were available to them, I thought that next time it would probably be better to do a self-guided camping trip (tent and sleeping bag already prepared, so I’m carrying only clothes, food, etc.).

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was at the base of Las Torres, as it was also my 40th birthday, and the sky was unusually clear. I also loved the view of Glacier Grey.

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

I highly recommend that others spend more time in Puerto Natales, as it is a very charming town. On second thought, don’t - too many people might alter the charm. :)

 

Helen’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Helen returned in December from a trekking holiday to Torres del Paine. Here she tells her about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘I had an amazing trip…I loved Chile, it is such a wonderful place. I could not have asked for more. In fact I loved it so much I have now arranged to take a 12-month sabbatical and am going back to South America in October!’

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How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

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I spoke to Luke on the phone 2-3 times whilst I was researching my trip to Chile. He had such fantastic knowledge and really took time to help me think through lots of ideas and options. I was really impressed by this as I felt it was going above and beyond what Luke needed to do as he would get no finical benefit from doing so. In the end this helped me lock down my itinerary and resulted in a fantastic trip.

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What could we have done differently?

Nothing really. Everything you did during the booking, the little ‘gift’ prior to me going and the follow up work really well.

 

 

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

Yes, absolutely.

 

What did you think of your itinerary?

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The part of my trip that I booked with Swoop was the 7 day Full Circuit, and I can safely say this was the highlight of my trip! The trek was amazing and the beauty of the scenery was second to none.

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It was fantastic: really well thought out, with a good mix of long days and short days which meant people could recover. We had some days that were fairly easy and then the odd day where you were pushed and hardened. I know the guide was concerned that I had not done any trekking before – and Luke had asked me how fit I was.

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I managed the trek well but I was glad that I do go running and go to the gym, as the trip would not be good for people without a certain level of fitness.

The food we had was great considering the conditions we were all in. The refugios were rustic, but as I would expect, and to be honest – hope for!

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How was your guide?

Our guide was called Mauricio and he was just fantastic. He is so knowledgeable, so energetic, so witty, and judged the group and everyone’s personality very well. He has been doing this job a while so has lots of contacts all around the tour, which he uses very well.

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Nothing was too much trouble and he ensured all his guests had everything they needed. He also looked after the Porters very well and you can see how he worked to make sure the whole team were happy and content. I can’t rate him highly enough… a seasoned professional at all times. The group was great and worked really well with everyone just clicking.

Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

Nothing at all :)

‘So the whole crew and all the people working on the trek where fab and really made my trip as good as it could have possibly been. Thank you.’

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Protecting Torres del Paine

Three years ago while, hiking in Torres del Paine, I was lucky enough to meet Drew, who has subsequently joined a small team of people dedicated to helping travellers and local residents to ensure the sustainability of Patagonia’s most famous national park. Here Drew talks about the Torres del Paine Legacy project, it’s aims and how you can get involved…

With all the beauty that Torres del Paine has to offer, it’s no surprise that the National Park attracts over 175,000 visitors each year. CONAF, the Chilean National Forest Corporation, expects this figure to increase by over 10% per year. But the travellers who visit the park do not go unnoticed…

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What impact are Travellers having on Torres del Paine National Park?

Since 1985, the park has suffered three major forest fires, affecting over one fifth of the park’s 242,000 hectares; sadly, each of these has been started by travellers.

Growth in visitation has increased foot traffic along the iconic W and Circuit treks to the point where the limited trail system is in need of repair, yet the ability to do so lacks both financial and human resources.

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Is anything being done about it?

There are numerous, ongoing efforts to restore the health of Torres del Paine National Park, but with such a massive geographical area and increased strain on resources, it is a long and slow process. It is because of this shortfall of support that the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund was born.

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What does the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund do?

Through traveler-supported sustainability initiatives, the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund enables visitors to become a positive economic and ecological force in the park and in the region through responsible behaviours and direct contributions to enhancement projects.

The Fund’s mission is to enhance the experience and long-term health of Torres del Paine and its surrounding communities as tourist destinations through sustainability projects that are supported by travellers and local businesses.

In partnership with local private and public leaders in Última Esperanza and international NGO, Sustainable Travel International, the Fund is a platform for residents in the community to propose projects that enhance the destination, such as reforestation, trail restoration, and waste management.

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How can I get involved?

We welcome you to join us in this mission. 100% of all donations made will go directly to sustainability initiatives, so you can trust that your generosity will have a direct, indirect, and induced positive impact on the legacy of this destination long after your stay. Here’s how to Donate, please do mention Swoop Patagonia in the ‘how did you hear about us’ section.

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Hiking Off the Beaten Track in Torres del Paine

Ben returned in January from a trip to Torres del Paine, during which he did some hiking ‘off the beaten track’, followed by a kayaking trip. Here he tells us a little about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘The trip was simply amazing. Thanks for organizing and taking care of us. Your help was outstanding and I could not have asked for more.’

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How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

IMG_4295Your service was great, very personal, quick and wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to talk us through several options and for convincing us to adjust our initial plan.

Your help was outstanding and I could not have asked for more. I would definitely recommend you.

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How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Swoop’s partners were always great, everything was arranged for and the whole trip was an experience. The whole trip was well planned, exciting but also allowed for flexibility, and the guides were a lot of fun. Overall they are great guys over there.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was definitely hiking off the beaten path, spending nights in the middle of nowhere.

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Vicky’s 7 day Luxury Camp W Trek

Vicky returned in February from a Trek in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco friendly camp. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘All of us thoroughly enjoyed the trip! Torres del Paine was breath taking – I really hope we have the opportunity to go back again in the future’

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

Everyone at Swoop was very responsive and prompt – we really appreciated this as we didn’t know much about the logistics of traveling in Patagonia and had never been.  Everyone was very patient with all of our many, many questions. This was very, very much appreciated.  We would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to anyone traveling to Patagonia!!

How was your experience with swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek?

We felt that the services from Swoop and Swoop’s partners were fantastic.  The pick up times and locations were clear, and everyone did everything they could to make it easier on us (ie. picking us up at our hostel for transfers, etc.).

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine?

We really enjoyed the W Trek itinerary! Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the park, wildlife and geography – we were all very impressed.  The guides were very patient with us and managed the group well.  We were worried about pace of the group if it was going to be a large group.  The guides ended up dividing our group of 14 into 2 groups: our group with 6 people (mostly our age) and then the other group with 8 people, who were mostly older guests.  But they would still bring both groups together at the end of the day so we can chat and socialise which was nice.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The major thing that we would have liked to change is the responsiveness of Swoop’s partners in finalising the booking. It took them a long time to respond to emails, and we did not receive information on our pick up until after we had arrived in Calafate despite sending multiple emails. We had originally asked them about the Isla Magdalena tours, but they never responded until Harriet from Swoop emailed them for us. By then it was about 3 weeks out and we had already booked our own tours through another operator. Towards the end, I kind of gave up trying to contact them and just directed most of our questions to Harriet at Swoop – so I really appreciate her and Swoop’s patience with us.

Another minor thing that I would have liked to change is a little bit more flexibility on the day that we visited Grey Glacier.  The 2nd half of that day – we drove back from Pudeto to the camp and stopped at 2 lookouts along the way that gave a great view of Los Cuernos. There were a few other amazing lookout points along the way that we didn’t get to stop at due to the guides wanting to keep the group on schedule for dinner – it would have been great to have some more time for pictures and sight-seeing, as this was the only day that we could view the massif from this angle.

What were the highlights of your trip?

We wanted to go to Patagonia for the trekking, and I would say that was the main highlight.  It’s hard to pick a favourite hike – we saw amazing scenery everywhere.  I don’t think we missed too much by minimizing time spent in the cities due to our limited travel days.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

Prior to arriving in Torres del Paine, we spent 3 days hiking on the Argentina side. We hiked Laguna de Los Tres one day and Laguna Torre on the 2nd day. The third day prior to our transfer day to the camp, we visited Perito Moreno Glacier and did the mini-trekking activity there.

After we left Torres del Paine, we transferred to Punta Arenas.  We were hoping to do the Isla Magdalena Penguin Tour but the tour was cancelled for that day due to windy conditions. We did do the Seno Otway Penguin tour instead.

From there we spent 1 extra day in Santiago and did a little bit of sight-seeing in the city before coming home.

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

Ask a lot of questions and, if there’s time, do background reading on the region.  This was something I had wanted to do prior to leaving but ran out of time.

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Chantal’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Chantal returned in January from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

I had the most fantastic adventure in Torres del Paine! THANK YOU!

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How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop Patagonia was great in informing and accommodating me with a local operator and finding a suitable group for my level of hiking. The website also had abundant information about travel to and around Chile. They also send you a very thoughtful pre-adventure gift :) I would recommend anyone to go through them!

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Their itinerary was great! The half guided, half self guided circuit I took was planned to be completed in 7 days. The days were ver

y long but it was definitely achievable and worked with my short travel schedule.

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How was your guide on the W portion of the Trek?

The guide (Dorthe) was wonderful providing lots of info about the park (natural history, geology and political history). We got snowed out on our second last day and could not make it through the pass. Dorthe was very good about accommodating the group so we could keep going to finish the circuit instead of turning back. It added an extra day to the trip and we had to improvise for food (and pay a little more $) but it was all worth it! I am also very grateful that Dorthe gave me some second skin for my blisters.The porters were just as awesome!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

If I were to change anything I would do it in 8 or 9 days instead of 7. Eight days is good middle ground for full challenging trekking days without feeling rushed to have to keep going. I would definitely suggest taking more time to enjoy the park and rest :) The scenery is breath-taking!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlights were the John Gardner pass and the Patagonian winds! Despite the bad weather I am very fortunate and happy that I was able to complete the circuit.

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

I would highly recommend second skin as a necessary first aid item for blisters on the feet. This trek was my first of this length and second skin saved my feet! Also a leash/strap for sunglasses. The wind blew them right off my face and carried them a while. Luckily someone found them and brought them to camp!

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

After Torres del Paine, I took a day tour to Tierra del Fuego to see the King Penguins. My vacation finished with a 5 day stop in Santiago and Valparaiso. Although completely different than the Patagonia region it was good to learn about Chilean history.

It was an amazing trip! THANK YOU!

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Brandon’s Kayaking Trip in Torres del Paine

Brandon returned in February from a trip to Patagonia during which he took a Kayaking trip in Torres del Paine National Park, planned and arranged by Swoop Patagonia and our partners in Chile. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop did a great job coordinating service with their kayaking partners in Torres del Paine.

How were Swoop’s Kayaking Partners in Torres del Paine?

Swoop’s partners provided excellent communication. They were far more informative and descriptive in their emails that other contacts we had in Chile.

What did you think of the Kayaking Itinerary?

The itinerary was great: we took a 2-day kayaking trip along the Serrano River. We spent the perfect amount of time on the water, with a good combination of work and relaxation. The views were incredible and we really lucked out with the weather. We also appreciated how flexible the itinerary was for day 2.

How was your kayaking guide?

Dan was an excellent guide.  We had complete confidence in his skills and he was a pleasure to spend our trip with.  He does an excellent job of adapting the timeline and style of trip for the individual group.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The dinner was a little interesting. We probably would have preferred to not have tuna in the pasta – it would have been great with just the vegetables.  Perhaps they might consider adding something local like pre-packaged smoked salmon or trout to make the meal seem a little fancier.

 

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Karly’s Camping W Trek

Karly and her husband returned in January 2015 from their honeymoon in Chile, during which they took a Trek in Torres del Paine organised by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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How was your experience of booking your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

We had a great time on our trip with Swoop- it was the highlight of our honeymoon in Chile for sure!

What did you think of your W Trek Itinerary?

We would definitely recommend the Camping W Trek to family and friends who are in very good physical shape (we both found the hiking to be challenging, but manageable). We got very lucky with the weather and were astounded by the beauty of the park.

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How was your guide on the trip?

Our guide, Mauricio was extremely skilled and knowledgeable, and a great photographer as well! The meals were good, and my husband and I enjoyed great vegetarian food the whole time.

Do you have any recommendations for us that would have improved your experience?

I think my only recommendation would be to have more ways to tailor the trip for less experienced hikers (i.e. more down time, factoring in more time for the hikes to take pictures). Some of this is really just because I felt I could have spent hours at the lookouts, which isn’t totally possible, but I wonder if it would be possible to get a bit more time to take it all in, as the sights were truly overwhelming and unreal. Overall however, everything was great.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also went to Santiago, Vina del mar and Valparaiso, and were able to go to Isla Magdalena to see the Penguins when we were back in Punta Arenas.

Thank you for helping us to plan and arrange this fantastic experience!

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