Tag Archives: Torres_del_Paine

John & Pene’s trip to Torres del Paine

John & Pene returned in February from a 5 week trip to Chile and Argentina, during which they spent 5 days exploring Torres del Paine National Park from an eco camp on the edge of the National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences on this trip, and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of our entire trip was definitely Torres del Paine and our time in the eco camp.

Summer arrived with us and we spent three days hiking in perfect weather. Paine is truly stunning, not just the rocks, but also the enormity of the space and the big, big skies.

How was your stay at the eco camp?

We felt sure we made the right choice in this eco camp, which was a lovely place: the yurts were perfect and the guides’ enthusiasm and passion for the park was infectious.

The food was good, though not exceptional, and it was a pleasure to have good wines and beers readily available. It was also a pleasure to meet and enjoy the company of other guests in small groups, and we felt that four nights/three days was probably the right length of time.

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

Your advice was spot on and your administration was responsive and efficient.

Thanks also by the way for the ‘buffs’ which were awaiting our return and which will I am sure come in useful when I walk the West Highland Way later in the year.

Is there anything you would have liked to happen differently?

The main downside, which I know you recognise, is the distance you have to travel both in getting there and once you are there. I did the base of the towers, the horns and the condor cliff and each day I spent a minimum of 4 hours in transit. The situation is made worse this year because they are repairing the road, which means it is closed for large parts of the day and we had to return on a more circuitous route. Being driven through the park is no great hardship but it is disappointing when you have spent so much time, money and effort getting down there not to be able to spend more time in outdoor activities. For anyone spending more than 4 nights there they probably need to think of some alternative activities closer to hand around the Camp itself or on the outskirts of the park.

Another area of some confusion and frustration was in the timing of pick-ups. We were told we would be picked up at Puerto Natales at 5.30pm, then at 5.00pm and in the event they arrived at 4.00pm when we were out. We were not alone in having such difficulties, others complained of worse. Given that time in the Camp is so precious this is one area where they need to make improvements in their arrangements.

Melanie’s 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine

Melanie returned in January from a 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her trip and her experience in booking with Swoop and our partners… 

‘The trip was amazing! I had a great time.’ 

 What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my W Trek was seeing Las Torres. The weather was not very cooperative that day (rainy, cloudy) but our guide knew exactly what to do to maximize our chances of seeing Las Torres: we waited inside until a perfect window of opportunity presented itself, and we got a beautiful view of Las Torres. It was an exhilarating experience.

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

They were wonderful. Responded very quickly to my emails and very helpful in organizing the trip I wanted.

How was the operator we put you in touch with, and how were their guides on the trip?

They were great. Very organized, approachable and helpful. My guide was very knowledgeable, friendly, flexible, and always had our safety and enjoyment in mind.  

‘Overall, I had a fantastic experience. Thank you to both of you for all of your help and I wish you the very best!’

Lyndsay’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares & Tierra del Fuego

Lyndsay and her partner returned in February from a trekking holiday in Patagonia where she first did some day hikes from El Chalten. Next she embarked on a W Trek in Torres del Paine, finished off with a Kayaking trip out of the national park. The final segment of her adventure was a Trek Across Tierra del Fuego, finished off with a visit to a penguin colony. Here she tells us about each part of her trip, and her experiences in booking through Swoop and our partners… 

‘We had an amazing time, it was so much more than we thought it would be, and such a beautiful place to be, it was a privilege to spend time in that part of the world.’

El Chalten: Personalised Trekking Itinerary

The service provided by your partners in El Chalten could not be faulted, they booked great hotels, which suited our needs and were clean, comfortable with welcoming staff.

The personalised itinerary was great as it gave us a good feeling for the area and allowed us to feel comfortable to hike independently. The day we spent with the guide was great as we went to an area outside the national park, somewhere we would have not gone by ourselves, and the guide was very knowledgeable and friendly.

I don’t think we would have changed the itinerary but if we had had more time available a days rest in El Calafate before heading of to Puerto Natales would have been nice.

W Trek & Kayaking in Torres del Paine

The operator who ran our Self Guided W Trek and Kayak trip in Torres del Paine provided an excellent service. The guide for the kayaking part of the trip was very good, and was from the US so language was not a problem, he was very knowledgeable took us to a great campsite. All of the equipment provided was in excellent condition.

The only suggestion we would make about this trip is perhaps to walk the W Trek in the reverse direction, as you would then have a great view of the mountains as you walked.

The only hiccup here (and indeed of the trip as a whole) was that our hotel at the end of the kayaking trip had not been booked (I’m not sure if this was down to the hotel or the operator). The hotel moved us to another hotel, which unfortunately was not great, it had no hot water, or heating, and breakfast was not available early in the morning, and we had to leave early to get the bus to Rio Grande. Although not a major issue, an apology from them would have been nice.

I would recommend taking a padlock with you so that you can store your luggage in the lockers at the refugios. You can leave luggage at Refugio Torre, Refugio Paine Grande and at Campo Italiano whist you walk up the valleys, this is useful as it eases the amount you needed to carry during the day.

We would have loved to spend an extra day in Puerto Natales after this part of the trip, but unfortunately we were on a tight schedule.

Tierra del Fuego Crossing

This was an amazing part of the trip, if somewhat hard work at times, an excellent trek. It may have been good to make the trekking each day more equal in time, but the nature of the terrain and the type of trip it is would make this very difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, it may be something that could be born in mind.

Our guide was knowledgeable, competent, friendly, amusing and inspired confidence when we where in the middle of nowhere and made us feel very comfortable with what we where doing. He looked after us very well and had even brought a Spanish /English dictionary along for times of miscommunication.

It was a great trip, however I do think an extra day after crossing the Beban Pass to camp in the valley would have been brilliant as the mountains where just so wonderful to look at.

Swoop Patagonia

Swoop provided a great service; you were so helpful and knowledgeable. Your partners were very professional and provided the service they said they would- there was no hassle!

The service provided by yourselves was second to none and we could have not asked for anything more, you were always ready and able to help with any query no matter how small. We will recommend you unreservedly.

Overall

I am sure you can gather our highlight was trekking across Tierra del Fuego. However we would say this is trekking and more! No paths, marked routes, climbing over tress, walking across rivers, through bogs, along the sides of valleys on scree for up to 12 hours a day. It was amazing and beautiful and tranquil but anyone undertaking it should realise it is not an easy trek it is serious hard work.

‘Once again thank you so much you made a dream come true and we had the most wonderful time.’

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Barbara & Douglas’ 5 Week Patagonian Adventure

Barbara and Douglas returned in February from a 5 week trip that included a 4 night Patagonian Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their trip, and their experience of booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip… Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary’

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our trip was 5 weeks altogether with 4 nights of it on the cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Overall the cruise was one of our many highlights, with the landing on Cape Horn very special and the experience at Pia Glacier quite something.

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

Yes, we visited Santiago and Valparaiso before flying south to Balmaceda where we picked up a rental 4×4. We spent a week driving south on the Carretera Austral and were able to drop the vehicle at Villa O’Higgins. This was difficult to arrange and expensive but we managed to book through a local agent and Europcar.

Another highlight was our 2 day crossing into Argentina, from Villa O’Higgins, by boat and on foot and our first sighting of Mt. Fitzroy! 5days in El Chalten was a recommendation from Luke which was excellent, great day hikes and fantastic food and drink.

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We had a brief visit to El Calafate and visited Perito Merino glacier, then on to Puerto Natales to go to Torres del Paine. We completed  the W Trek ourselves using pre booked refugios which proved to be very good and Luke had given us advice about this.

The weather was kind and the scenery was awesome. We went to Punta Arenas and the the cruise after this. Spent 2 nights in Ushuaia and 2 nights in Buenos Aires before flying home.

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

Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip. Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary and we organised the whole trip ourselves using  Luke’s knowledge and advice. He directed us to their excellent partners for both our flights and our cruise booking.

Were you well looked after by the cruise operator?

The cruise operator was excellent, not cheap but a very special part of our trip at the end of our 5 weeks. We were ready for some luxury and they hit the mark, nice cabin, great meals, excellent service and well organised excursions.

How did you find the services and excursions provided?

Services and excursions were all very well executed, swift disembarkation for all excursions with safety a high priority. Enjoyed the on board presentations by knowledgeable staff.

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

Not at all, all our pre planning paid off and we would do the exact same.

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

-For anyone planning to do the crossing from Villa O’Higgins to El Chalten: be aware that the company Heilo Sur in Villa O’Higgins does not operate this any longer and the website information is out of date. The boat across Lago O’Higgins is now run by Robinson Crusoe, the man and horse who helps with luggage was not there(!) so be prepared to walk the 22kms if you go. Robinson Crusoe sold us tickets for a bus from Desertio Lake to El Chalten which never turned up.

-Bring American dollars if you plan to visit Argentina as this is the currency they wish.

-The crime levels in Buenos Aires seem to be escalating, we heard many reports of street crime and scams to distract tourists while pickpockets were at work.

-The walking tours for tips are an excellent way to see a city, we did these in Valaparaiso and Buenos Aires

5 Days of Excursions based from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Ros returned in early February from a solo trip to Patagonia where she enjoyed  5 days of treks and excursions based from an eco camp in Torres del Paine National Park.  Here she tells us about her trip and her experience in booking through Swoop and our partners…

What was the highlight of your trip?

The hike to the base of the towers at Torres del Paine and the Grey Glacier boat trip

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

I also went kayaking in Puerto Varas, which was very good and I am now in Valparaiso which is brilliant.

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

The wildlife safari programme at the eco camp was ideal for me as a single traveller.

Were you well looked after by Cascada & their guides on the trip?

The connections worked smoothly and the guides were charming and very professional.

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

The Sunday programme at the eco camp was uninspiring and rather a waste of a day compared with the other days, also it was a short day and when we got back to camp it would have been nice if we had been able to make a cup of tea or coffee.

Second sitting at breakfast got a raw deal… staff were preoccupied with laying the tables for dinner and largely ignored us!

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

Read the weekly programme carefully some people thought they could do the hike to the towers on any day.

Don’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Don returned in February from a trip to Patagonia where he embarked on a Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his trip and his experiences in booking with Swoop Patagonia and our partners…

How was your trip?

I thoroughly enjoyed my Classic Full Circuit Trek, my fellow hikers and guides, and the overall Patagonian experience – and in saying this, I had just spent a month in Antarctica on a yacht just before walking this trek, so I had a high hurdle for being impressed! 

What was the highlight of your trip?

There were a couple – the mental and physical exhilaration of the John Garner Pass day was great, but what surprised me most was the enormously beautiful meadows and bush in the Enchanted Valley… It really seduced you into the delights of Patagonia.

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

Antarctica – Ushuaia/ Puerto Williams.

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

The Operator you recommended for my Full Circuit was great, so yes. Also the way you thought outside the box on the trip departure dates really helped make this work for me.

Were you well looked after by Chile Nativo & their guides on the trip?

Extremely well – Mauricio (Guide Leader) and Miriam (Assistant) were terrific on the hike. Very professional and fun as well. Johanna in the office is an outstanding organiser as well.

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

No.

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

Keep your pack light! 

Michal’s Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine

 Michal returned in late January from a Self-Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his trip and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Thank you very much for all your help and advice. Our trip to Patagonia exceeded our expectations. Everything ran smoothly without any hiccups at all.’

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the Self Guided W hike was definitely Valle del Frances. The weather was perfect and the sheer beauty of this place is simply stunning.

How was the travel and accommodation on your trip?

Travel arrangements were perfect. Hotel Sierra Nevada was very good and Amerindia by means of the smile glued to Monica’s face, simply unforgettable.

I blessed the decision to overnight in Chileno twice due to the unsettled weather, as this enabled us to spend a few hours under the towers, to see them and to take these unforgettable shots.

Is there anything you would have liked to happen differently?

We noticed that during the walk people were getting lunches in big paper bags. This seemed a little excessive as no one needed them and they littered every refugio. This is probably something to pass on to Sur Fantastico… A few trees in Amazonia chopped down unnecessarily!

[Regarding the paper bags, we 100% agree with you, and have complained about it also. The good news is that from next season (Sept 2014) people will no longer be given paper bags, and will be given only recyclable bottle of water!]

Unfortunately, we were neither able to hike to Valle del Silencio nor to Campamento Japones as we did not have the climbing permit and did not know that such permit was needed. We also wanted to visit Valle Bader but again lack of permit stopped us. I understand it is something off the beaten track but certainly worth visiting.

[Regarding the special permission to get into the Silencio, Bader and Pingo Valleys: After the terrible fire in the park a couple of year ago, the rangers closed these valleys to tourists travelling without certified guides because there are no rangers to cover these areas. see our Off the Beaten track trips in Torres del Paine ]

The other thing worth mentioning is the need for sleeping bag liners in Refugio Chileno as I was not aware of this either.

We spoke today with the commercial manager and they told us that they ask for a security deposit of USD$ 50, or your passport, in exchange for the liner. When you leave and return the liner they return your deposit/ passport. Unfortunately this measure was put in place because several guests took the liners with them!]

These were all just tiny niggles however, which did not bother us at all. It has to be said that we found the service of your partners in Torres del Paine perfect.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also hiked for a week in Nahuel Huapi Park. This equally blew us away.

‘To summarise, Swoop Patagonia and your partners scored 5 out of 5… We received what we needed in a very unobtrusive and friendly way what we appreciate. We only regret we did not have enough time to stay a few days in El Chalten and to hike there. I simply did not realise Patagonia being that beautiful.’

 

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Become a Patagonian Gaucho with these horse riding trips.

A unique way to experience Patagonia is on horseback , you’ll see the sights of Patagonia from the viewpoint of a gaucho and have a truly one of a kind experience.
We have a number of great horse riding trips throughout February,March and April.
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Firstly take a look at the Estancia ride: A 10 day trip that allows you to experience gaucho life, spending each night at different Patagonian Estancias. It’s great for people who prefer not to camp and are up for spending long hours in the saddle and is best suited for experienced riders that are up for some fast and technical riding throughout the Patagonian mountains and pampas.

We have availability for trips starting on 19th February, 4th March and 19th March 2014.

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For something a bit more challenging there’s Riding to Glaciers with Gauchos.
This trip is run by incredibly experienced horse riding specialists from the area. It is a trip for experienced riders that are up for a real adventure in the Patagonian wilderness. You’ll get to see some of the very best of Torres del Paine National Park and camp underneath the stars like true Gauchos.As well as horse riding you will take a fabulous boat trip that travels up the Last Hope Sound and you will get a chance to see some of the other wildlife Patagonia has to offer as well as the Balmaceda Glacier before docking at the Serrano Glacier.

We have availability for this incredible trip from on the 2nd February and 2nd March.

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We also have a spectacular horse moving ride that includes 3 days riding alongside free-running horses, where you’ll get the chance to see parts of Patagonia that not many people get to see. The route takes you across Torres del Paine , through the lush greens of the south to the dry pampas of the north, all on horse-back. You’ll be staying overnight at estancias adding to the authenticity of the trip.
We have availability for this once in a lifetime trip for the 2nd April 2014.

If you are interested in any of these trips get in touch with us and start your gaucho adventure.

Pam’s W Trek & Tyndal Glacier Kayak in Torres del Paine

Pam and her friend returned in early February from a trip to Antarctica, followed by a W Trek and Kayaking Trip in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her trip…

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine and the guides who looked after you?

The scenery on our W Trek was amazing, and for Patagonia, apparently the weather was ok. We did of course get to experience the winds!

We were a little unlucky in that the other 4 people in the walking group were 20- something year olds. Fit and fast. My friend and i were much too slow for them ( compounded by the fact my friend is an avid photographer). I told Victor, the guide, to go on with the others. The weather meant it was not really feasible for people to hang around waiting. So we did most of the walk without a guide, tho Victor did wait for us on occasions when he thought the route was a bit tricky. There wasn’t really anything else he could have done.

How was your Tyndall Glacier Kayaking trip in Torres del Paine, and how were the guides who supported you?

Our paddling trip was excellent. I had to admire the courage of Herman setting up a paddle business in such an area- with winds, currents, cold water, rain etc to deal with.

We had 2 guides, Brooke and Rob and they were excellent. We managed to get right to the Tyndall Glacier and had a lot of fun. I would recommend this trip, though preferably with some prior paddle experience. 

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

We really appreciated Luke’s overall advice re getting around Patagonia. The bus from Ushuaia to Puerto Natales was great, as was the trip from Puerto Natales to El Calafate. We flew from there back to Buenos Aires.

How were the operators we put you in contact with for your W Trek and Kayaking Trip?

The W Trek operator did a great job in organising accommodation for us in Puerto Natales, booking our buses and renting us gear for the paddle trip.

All the paperwork from both operators went smoothly and they both replied to email promptly. So in that respect I would recommend both companies.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

Yes, El Calafate, the wonderful Perito Moreno Glacier, but we ran out of time for El Chalten, next time… 

Have you any thoughts, suggestions, or words of advice for any other experienced travellers such as yourselves travelling in the peak season?

I don’t mean to to sound harsh, and you may need to temper it with the fact that living in Australia we are less tolerant of crowds. And also the fact I operated guided walks, offering luxury by comparison. 

I found the trek too crowded for my liking ( and I realise we we there in peak season). The track was very degraded; it ‘s a classic case of the resource you are coming to see being destroyed by your very presence. 

I would not recommend a guided hike for the W trek as you really don’t need a guide and you stay at the same refuges anyway. It’s an expensive way to do it, when you have shared rooms and poor food. 

Overall…?

I just think I would look for something more remote if I were to do a guided walk again. Patagonia is certainly an impressive place. Thanks to you guys for setting me on the right path and helping me choose a great holiday

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Amanda & Patrick’s Multi-Activity Trip in Torres del Paine

Amanda and her brother Patrick returned home to New York in early January from a 10 day Multi Activity Trip spent hiking and kayaking in Torres del Paine National Park. Here Amanda tells us about her trip and her experience booking through Swoop and our partners, and shares some fantastic photographs…

‘Patrick and I can’t thank you all enough for helping organise a trip of a lifetime! Our friends and family back home can’t get over our photos and are quite jealous ;) We’ll make sure to refer them to you if they decide to travel down to Patagonia in the future.’ 

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What was the highlight of your trip?

I think the day our guide Nico took us on a 3 hour day hike in the morning to an “off the beaten path” view of Grey Glacier and then that afternoon/evening we went ice hiking on that same glacier. I also loved Laguna Azul and how hiking around that part of the park was so quiet and peaceful.

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

We flew right into Punta Arenas and spent a night in Puerto Natales on either end of our trip but we only had time for our expedition in Torres del Paine.

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

A+! It was so overwhelming at the start of our trip planning to know where in Patagonia we should go, then what guide company we should work with, etc.

After our conversation in August, you listened closely to what we wanted from our trip (a physically challenging trip without crowds with a mix of backpacking and kayaking) and the operator you put us in contact with did exactly that. So thank you for steering us towards Torres del Paine (a fantastic part of Patagonia in which to backpack and kayak), and toward this particular operator.

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How was the operator, and how were their guides on the trip?

Another A+! They made us feel very welcome in Puerto Natales when we arrived and set us up in a wonderful hostel in town. We felt very well taken care of and they did a great job coming up with a Plan B itinerary at the last moment when there was an unexpected weather forecast (tons of snow!).

Our guide, Nico, was fabulous and we couldn’t have asked for a more knowledgeable, flexible and personable guide!

When my brother got sick on the first two days of the trip, Nico, helped create a “Plan C” on the fly that accommodated my brother and still kept in line with what type of trip we wanted. We couldn’t have been happier.

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

I think the only aspect of the trip that I would have changed would to have been more involved in the food planning. I am used to planning backpacking trips for myself in the States and love food planning and while I so appreciated the operator taking care of this part, I ended up missing a few of my “backpacking staples” and would have enjoyed being a part of that pre-trip planning.

It was a nice luxury to have Nico prepare all of our meals though – I am not used to that having never taken a guided trip before!

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

If you’re looking for fantastic backpacking conditions – go to Torres del Paine. No bugs, perfect temperature, no bears or other worrisome animals, and you don’t even have to treat your water!

Having backpacked a lot, I was amazed at the perfect conditions for hiking and camping in the park. I just loved it. Leaving from Puerto Natales is also wonderful – it’s a really fun, welcoming town in which to stay on either side of your trip with backpackers from all over the world!

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