Tag Archives: travel

Inma’s Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine

Inma recently returned from a guided W Trek in Torres del Paine, and here she tells us about her trip and provides some helpful advice for future visitors…

 How was your trip?

Overall I had a great time in Patagonia, met very nice people, had fun with my trekking mates, and the operator looked after us very well. Please note that any critical comment I might make is more to do with personal preferences/expectations than with the quality of the services.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the Torres del Paine portion of my trip was probably seeing the Torres during my W Trek.

Outside of Torres del Paine, the highlight was undoubtedly the ascent of Volcán Osorno in Los Lagos…very thrilling! 

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

Yes, I travelled in Chile for a few weeks, visiting Santiago, Los Lagos, Chiloé, Coquimbo and Vina/Valparaíso in addition to Patagonia.

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

I found Swoop Patagonia very responsive when resolving the queries/doubts I had. Both Chloe and Luke were friendly and approachable, so it’s always nice to deal with people like that.

I found the little gift you sent me (a Swoop Buff) and card a nice personal touch. Unfortunately, I used the Buff on the day of the trek it was raining (going up the Valle del Francés :-(), so unfortunately I have no photos wearing it to share.

In terms of the holiday planning, I found that there was not much to organise as I had queried for a specific trip on particular dates so I was introduced straightaway to the operators of the trip in Torres del Paine.

How was the operator in Torres del Paine, and how were their guides on the trip?

They were friendly and responsive. The trip pre-arrangements were straightforward, apart from the payment process, which took a few attempts due to problems with their secure online payment link. But I suppose this is understandable when one tries a new system, as it was the case.


One thing I didn’t like about the payment process was that they pass on to the customer the charges that their bank applies to them. I would rather if they had included an allowance in their original price to cover those charges.


Talking to local people and from my own research online it appears that this particular operator were a bit more expensive than other operators, but obviously not having the experience with their competitors I’m not in a position to say if that apparent higher price is due to a higher quality service.


Our guide was correct and professional, although I would have expected him to manage the group mixed abilities a bit better. I also felt that with a good guide book I could have learnt more about the local flora.

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

I would have liked that the ferry on Lake Grey hadn’t been cancelled due to technical problems, but obviously this was outside everyone’s control. 

As the day walks were easy and straightforward I would have liked to have had more time observing and learning about the local flora.

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


One thing I would suggest is to try to buy internal flights through a Chilean travel agency. I found that buying internal flights within Chile is significantly cheaper than buying them from the UK. This was confirmed when a UK Flight company quoted a flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas (with Sky Airlines) for £350, while I found a flight for the same dates (with LAN) through a local travel agency for £217 (and this included the additional charges of making an international transfer). It would be worth looking this to offer your clients better value.

Guided versus Self Guided

In retrospect, I personally don’t see the value of having a guide for the W Trek, as it is very clear and even in adverse weather conditions it is very easy to follow. Even if one is into flora and fauna, a good guide book would provide good information and would allow you to learn more by doing your own research rather than having someone telling you names. 

Obviously this is a question of preferences and some people want a hassle-free holiday where one booking gives them everything organised. In my case this was my first guided holiday and personally didn’t feel as involved in the planning and the experience. If one wants a bit more involvement and freedom, but still doesn’t want to go through the hassle of multiple refuge booking, I would definitely recommend a self-guided trek of the W (the operator Swoop put me in contact with offers a self guided version) as a better value (and maybe more “authentic”) option.

Xtine Hsieh 3

Swoop Patagonia News 13th December 2013

Welcome back

Xtine Hsieh 3

We’ve had dozens of customers return from Torres del Paine in the last few weeks, and many of them have shared their photos, experiences and tips for other travellers.

Ray hiked the W Trek.
Ainsley followed his trek with a 2 day kayak trip.
Thomas trekked in Torres del Paine in Winter 
Read more customer reviews of Patagonia.

Christmas escapes.

If you’re wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the Christmas period check out our last minute trips still running throughout December and January:

Torres del Paine Q&A


We had our second Google On Air Hangout yesterday where Luke and Kerri discussed the most common questions people have about Torres del Paine.

Our next hangout will be on the 8th January so get thinking about some questions to ask!

Watch the Torres del Paine hangout here

Or you can join our Discovering Patagonia community to chat with fellow travelers and share tips and advice.

Reciprocity fee for entering Argentina (USA, Canada, Australia)

This one definitely falls into the boring-but-important category, and if you are a UK passport holder then you’re lucky enough to not need to read this.

If however you hold a US, Canadian or Australian passport then please get yourself a strong coffee and read on…

First and foremost this is a payment that MUST be made PRIOR to arriving in Argentina.

The lack of such proof of payment will generate the denial of entry of the passenger and consequent returning to their departure city by the airline. We strongly urge passengers to take the necessary precautions so that those passengers who travel to the mentioned airports with a scheduled arrival starting on November 1st, 2012 (Jorge Newbery) and December 29th, 2012 (Ezeiza) have the electronic receipt with them.

The National Immigration Agency has changed the method by which tourists and business visitors from the US, Canada, and Australia will be required to pay in order to gain visa entry to Argentina. The reciprocity fee will shortly no longer be payable at the airport upon arrival. Instead the payment must be carried out online, prior to arrival, using the credit card based Provincia Payment System.

How do I make payment?

1. Sign up here https://virtual.provinciapagos.com.ar/ArgentineTaxes/Registro.aspx. You’ll need your passport number. You’ll also be asked to create a password which you’ll need for….

2. Go to bottom left of this page to login: https://virtual.provinciapagos.com.ar/ArgentineTaxes/. This is where you’ll enter your credit card details and make payment.

3. Print the payment receipt, and present it to Immigration Control on arrival in Argentina

When does this take effect?

The system will be effective as of 31st October 2012 for flights to Aeroparque and 28th December 2012 for Ezeiza International Airport. A press release clearly states that “after these dates cash payments will not be accepted at the airport”.
The change in payment method follows a decision to increase the fee for US citizens from US$140 to US$160, which came into effect in April of this year.

 What if I’m entering Argentina by land or sea?

This fee is ONLY payable for international air arrival at the two Buenos Aires airports (Aeroparque and Ezeiza)for Canadians , Australians and Americans. It does NOT apply for international arrival by air at any other airport (such as Mendoza, Cordoba or Salta), and NOT to arrival by land, road or sea. Also it does not apply to any other nationalities.

How much is the feee?

Australians: get multiple entries for their $US 100 fee, but it only lasts one year from the first entry after payment, after which you need to pay again.

Canadians: get a single entry for their $US 75 fee.

Americans: get multiple entries for 10 years (transferable to a new passport if you show your old one) for their $US 160.

Ezeiza Airport

Getting to the airport in Buenos Aires by bus

There are two airports in Buenos Aires and it can sometimes be a bit confusing to figure out which one you need to go to.

The international airport is called Ministro Pistarini or Ezeiza for short given that it is located 14 miles from the centre of Buenos Aires in an area called Ezeiza Partido. British Airways flies to and from Ezeiza, so if you’re coming to or from London, this is where you’ll be.

For those flying on to Patagonia, you need to head towards the smaller internal airport, Jorge Newberry in the very nice Palermo district of Buenos Aires, about 1.2  miles from the centre.

If you’re doing all this in one day, Aerolineas Argentinas are now offering a free bus service to get you from one to the other.

This is valid for all passengers travelling with the airline internationally, regionally or with a domestic connection. Manuel Tienda Leon is the bus company chosen to provide this service and the conditions are as follows:

  • Transfer is valid for those passengers travelling with Aerolineas and on a same day connecting flight.
  • Buses run every hour and are free of charge.
  • Check in time at Ezeia is 2.5hours before departure whereas check in time at AEP is 1.5 hours before departure, the bus will get you there on time for this.

Find more travel tips and hints on our page Patagonia Guide: Getting there.

Books and films About Patagonia

So the trip’s all booked, you’re fantasising about the new trekking gear you should (or maybe could) get, and you’re hungry to find out more about Patagonia.

Here are a few recommendations that we think will inform and inspire you before your big trip, you may also be interested to read our Patagonia Guide.


1. In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin

Chatwin’s collection of stories about his journeys through Patagonia, written in 1977, is a literary classic. Whilst it’s not exactly an easy going travel journal with a clear view of places to visit and things to do, it does provides some wonderful stories about the characters that he met and their own history in the region. http://tinyurl.com/6w2ec6k

2. Patagonia – a Cultural History, Chris Moss

Chris Moss has lived in Argentina for years and provides an insightful view of Patagonia’s history right from the start. You’ll get a sense of Patagonia’s influence on everyone from its indigenous people to 19th century explorers, the Welsh pioneers and even Butch Cassidy. http://tinyurl.com/7dtzc76

3. Mischief in Patagonia, Bill Tilman

This is out of print, but you should be able to find a copy and I’d recommend it wholheartedly. Tilman sailed from Britain, through the Magellan Straits, and up the Pacific Coast. He then embarked on an expedition across the Patagonian Ice Cap east to west. A wonderfully understated account of what must have been a truly extraordinary journey. http://tinyurl.com/7p4yxqt

4. Trekking in the Patagonian Andes

For a more practical guide to hiking in the region this is an excellent refernce and, in fact, I still have my 1998 edition on the bookshelf from my first visit. http://tinyurl.com/7383yhl

Films & Videos

1. In Patagonia (2010)

In Patagonia charts the journeys of an elderly Argentine lady exploring her roots in Wales, and a Welsh couple visiting Patagonia . It is filmed mainly in northern Patagonia around the Chubut Valley with some beautiful shots of the steppe, and in Wales. It received mixed reviews, but the shots of northern Patagonia are stunning and we certainly enjoyed it. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1020559/. More about the Patagonia film on the Swoop blog. One of our partners runs a trip to all the top locations in the film – a great way to see the area.

2. Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race 2011: The Last Wild Race

The 10 day race may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a good one to enjoy from your armchair. The race is run in Southern  Chilean Patagonia every year, through both iconic national parks and areas that are very rarely seen. You’ll be wowed by the landscapes as much as by the endeavours of the participants of the race.

3. A story for tomorrow, Gnarly Bay Productions

We only came across this beautiful short video of Chile and Patagonia today, but Charlotte and I were both mesmerised. http://vimeo.com/36519586


Of course, this is just a selection. Please do add your own suggestions and comments below.

Tipping guides in Patagonia

We are often asked the question: how much should I tip my guide if they’ve done a great job?

Rough rules of thumb might be:

  • If it’s a group of 1 or 2 people then maybe $10-$20 per day
  • For larger groups a tip of $3 to $5 per day might be appropriate

Obviously it’s always at your discretion, but there are some great guides out there who are passionate, knowledgeable and really go the extra mile to make your trip as good as it possibly can be, and it’s nice to reward them.

If you have a different view then please let us know in the comments…

Getting to Torres del Paine in Patagonia

The Quick Answers

How long does it take to get to Torres del Paine? - 2 hours from Puerto Natales, 5 hours from Punta Arenas, 7 hours from Calafate, and 10 hours from El Chalten. From Puerto Montt I’d recommend taking an internal flight which takes about 3 hours.

Is there a bus? - yes, buses are the main form of transport. For more advice about buses, car rentals, boats and flights in Patagonia see our low-down here

What if I don’t speak Spanish? - If you don’t speak Spanish it’s advisable to get your tour operator to book the buses for you. This saves any chance of confusion and is quicker and easier as the operator prints off the vouchers and emails them to you before your trip.

What if I don’t have much time? – If you don’t have much time, it is definitely worth thinking about taking a transfer via car from place to place. Tour operators usually arrange this as part of their itinerary and the cost of a private transfer is normally included in the price. Taking a private transfer rather than a bus can save you hours of waiting around in bus stations and is also a lot more comfortable, you can have a snooze after a long hike and be delivered to your hotel at the other end.

Is there a plane? - There are regular flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas and from Buenos Aires to Calafate, from which you can take a bus to the park. There are irregular flights to Puerto Natales’ tiny airport, see Sky Airline’s website for details. You can’t fly from Calafate to Punta Arenas.

How much does it cost? - The bus costs between £6 and £10 for most journeys each way.

>> Also see our guide to getting to Torres del Paine on the Swoop Patagonia website.

I’ve been reading lots of forum posts in the Torres del Paine forum on Tripadvisor and many of them have a similar theme – how do I get to Torres del Paine? Information about getting to Torres del Paine is for some reason scarce and patchy on the internet so I hope that this blog post gives you a clear idea of how to get there, regardless of where you may be coming from.

I’ll start from the beginning, before you even step on the plane to Patagonia. You need to decide which order you’re going to do your trip in and which places you’re going to visit first, as this will depend on whether you fly to Chile or Argentina.

Firstly, there are numerous airlines that fly to this part of the world from the UK including TAM (Brazilian carrier), America Airlines, Delta and LAN Airlines, but I would recommend LAN Airlines from the UK. For people travelling from the UK, Patagonia isn’t as far away as you may think. Flights depart from London Heathrow and usually travel via Madrid, Spain, (or even New York, US or Lima, Peru) to either Santaigo or Buenos Aires.

London –> Santaigo, for Patagonian Chile (Journey time: 17 – 28 hours)

London –> Buenos Aires, for Patagonian Argentina (Journey time: 21 – 28 hours)

It usually takes about 17 hours or up to 35 hours (max) to arrive right in the heart of Patagonia. Once you’re here, the time difference is only 3 or 4 hours (which may vary slightly depending on day light saving), so planning time to recover from jet lag isn’t necessary.

It’s best to get your flights booked as soon as possible, and you may get return flights for approx £800 if you book in advance. If you’re going to Torres del Paine in November for example, get your flights booked in August as the later you leave it the more expensive they get and you could end up paying as much as £1500 for flights in December. For more information about internal flight prices, please read our article about flights to Patagonia.

From El Chalten

From Buenos Aires if you go to visit El Chalten and trek in Los Glaciares National Park, you are roughly a 10 hour bus journey from Torres del Paine National Park itself.

The bus from El Chalten to Calafate departs at peak season from 15th April to 15th October at 18:00pm. From 15th October – 15th December at 07:30am & 18:00pm. From 15th December – 28th February at 07:30am, 13:00pm and 18:00pm

The trip takes between 3 and 4 hours and costs $5 Argentinian pesos each way. We have some great trips that start in Chalten, some visit the the Perito Moreno glacier and trek to the base of Mount Fitz Roy before proceeding on to Torres del Paine National Park:

Patagonia Link

Pura Patagonia Winter Trip

W Circuit and Fitz Roy Adventure

Patagonian Wilderness

From Calafate 

Take the bus from Calafate to Puerto Natales (the nearest town to Torres del Paine). This bus journey takes approximately 5 hours and luckily, you can sit back and relax with: Turismo Zaahj, in August to October they depart every Tue, Thur & Sat at 8:00am and in November every Mon, Wed and Fri at 16:30pm as well.

After arriving in Puerto Natales it’s recommendable to have a good nights sleep in one of the town’s luxurious hotels, Hotel & Spa Indigo or a more simple hostel such as Hostal Amerindia, really whichever your budget allows.

The next day, take a private transfer into the park with Turismo Zaahj, a slightly bumpy journey that lasts about 2 hours. A private transfer for two people isn’t cheap, costing US$ 520 or approx £314 for a trip in November 2011.

Or, catch the public bus with Turismo Zaahj, this takes about 2.5 hours into the park and stops off at Cerro Castillo on the way to pick up other travellers.

From Punta Arenas

If, like many people you fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas (a distance of nearly 2000 miles), you can choose either to stay the night in Punta Arenas before heading off to Puerto Natales the next day (we recommend Hotel Carpa Manzana, a pretty standard hotel but you get a good nights sleep, it’s reasonably priced and in the centre of town). Or you can land at Punta Arenas airport, and get the bus straight to Puerto Natales (depending on what time you land).

  • From Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales go with Buses Fernandez. The journey takes 3 hours and tickets cost approx 4000 Chilean pesos each way (approx £6). The bus leaves from 745 Armando Sanhueza in town each day throughout the year at 08:00, 09:00, 13:00, 14:30, 17:00,18:30, 19:00 and 20:00.
  • From Punta Arenas airport we recommend Buses Pacheco, as they can pick you up from the airport. They run everyday at 08.00 – 11.00 – 15.00 – 18.00 – 19.30 leaving from 900 Avenida Colon in Punta Arenas. Please enquire to find out when they leave from the airport.

Buses Pacheco also run a service which takes you straight from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine National Park. This is a daily service and leaves Punta Arenas at 07:30 & 14:30 and returns to Punta Arenas from the Park Administration at 13:00 & 18:15. Bear in mind that this journey takes roughly 5-6 hours to complete.

If time is tight and you’re not willing to dust off your Spanish to book your space on a bus, we’d definitely recommend asking your tour operator to do it for you.

However, the following trips start in Punta Arenas and include the bus journey to Puerto Natales and into the park, essentially the hassle-free version!

Torres del Paine W Circuit Trek

Torres del Paine 5-day

W Multi-sport Adventure

Amazing Paine (W Circuit)


From Puerto Natales

If you are already in Puerto Natales and now just want to get into the park, you can take a private transfer (more comfortable and doesn’t stop in Cerro Castillo like some buses do) or you can take a bus. The journey from Puerto Natales takes about 2-2.5 hours and is primarily along a half-built road which the Chilean government ceased funding, so the journey is a bit bumpy (beware if you get travel sickness). However, you get a stunning view of the park on your way in.

Buses Pacheco runs the following itineraries:

  • Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine at 7:00am arrives at Laguna Armarga 09:15, Puedto at 10:15, Park administration at 11:15.
  • Return Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales at 13:00 from Administration, 13:30 from Pudeto, 15:00 from Laguna Armarga
  • Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine at 15:00 arrives at Laguna Armarga at 17:00, Pudeto at 18:00, Administration at 18:30
  • Return Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales leaves from Administration at 18:15, Pudeto at 19:00, Laguna Armarga at 19:45.

Note that Puerto Natales has a small airport about 4.5 miles from the centre called Teniente Julio Gallardo. In peak season Sky Airline flies here from Santiago twice-weekly.

We work with a whole host of trips operators whose trips start in Puerto Natales and include the journey to the park in their trip prices:

Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

Fast Track W Circuit

The Original Torres del Paine W Trek

W Circuit 7 days

From Ushuaia

An exciting way of getting from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas is by ferry. It takes 4 days to complete the crossing and on the way you see Cape Horn, Piloto and Nena glaciers, Magdelana Island to see penguins. Although this is quite a costly boat trip, you could save money by doing the self-guided circuit in Torres del Paine instead of paying for a guide. This would mean you get to do both and the boat trip would be a fantastic beginning to your holiday or a reward for your hiking.

Once the ferry lands in Punta Arenas, you simply take the bus straight to Torres del Paine or Puerto Natales with Buses Pacheco as above.

As you’ll see from the table of distances below, Patagonia is a vast place and the distances from town to town are great. This means that you could spend days wasting time on a bus getting from Buenos Aires to Calafate for example, and for this reason we don’t always recommend catching the bus.

A Map of distances between towns in Chile and Argentina and Torres del Paine

This is a screenshot of a Google map we prepared earlier..

For more free advice and info get in touch 



Map of Torres del Paine

It can be difficult to find a decent map of Torres del Paine National Park, so we hope that these maps will help you to understand the layout of the park and the best ways to trek whilst you’re there.

We’ve also put together an interactive map of Torres del Paine on the main website.

There are generally two hiking routes in Torres del Paine; the W Circuit or the Full Circuit. The first is considered the easier of the two as it takes between 3-7 days depending on your trekking experience, and does a semi circuit of the park, normally started from East to West.

The map of the W Circuit shows the route that this trek takes. takes in the park’s two main valleys; Valle Ascencio on the right (which is where you trek up to the granite ‘torres’, the towers which give the park its name) and Valle Frances in the middle, with the trek to Grey Glacier on the very left of the ‘W’.

See trips that follow the W Circuit:

The 4-Day W Trek

The Original Torres del Paine W Trek

Blue Paine

Self-guided W Trek

W Circuit Map 

The Full Circuit starts in the East at the bottom of Asencio Valley and tends to go anti-clockwise round the park. It takes in the less-known, and more rugged areas of the park, following the well-marked path, visiting Lago Dickinson & Glacier Perros, and staying at campsites such as Campamento Serron and Camping Los Perros along the way. It tends to take 10 days to complete and the most difficult part of the Full Circuit trekking through Paso John Garner, a muddy but rewarding trek up to see Grey Glacier.

Trips that take in the Full Circuit:

Torres del Paine Full Circuit

Paine Circuit 130km

Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

Map of the Full Circuit

As a great way to finish your trek, some travellers opt to spend a couple of days kayaking out of the park instead of getting a transfer. The fast-moving Rio Serrano, just to the lake of Lago Toro on the southern boundary of Torres del Paine eventually joins up with Seno Ultima Esperanza or Last Hope Sound, the pretty fjord in the nearest town to the park, Puerto Natales.

Rio Serrano Kayaking Trip

Map of Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales

Why booking in advance is the way to go


We often receive enquiries from travellers who don’t feel that it’s necessary or cost effective to book their adventure holiday in advance. It’s easy to understand their logic, if you’re a confident person who is happy just to rock up and see what’s available and you’re not too bothered about having organised everything down to a tee before you go, then booking a couple of tours when you arrive would seem like a good idea. 

However, we are all too aware of the problems facing travellers when they try to book on arrival and unfortunately waiting until you’re in Patagonia to book a trip certainly has its downsides. We spoke to an anonymous traveller who tried to organise her trips when she got to Argentina, a decision that resulted in a seemingly never ending list of difficulties. After listening to her experience, it was clear that rather than save time and money, in fact, the whole experience of trying to organise her tours in Argentina had been so frustrating that it actually ruined her holiday;

‘To cut a long story short, I had a pretty bad time overall in Argentina. I wouldn’t recommend anyone go there at all really! I found it very difficult to organise the trips from the UK so (stupidly) left it until I got out there as I  had a week with a friend in Buenos Aires. That week was bad enough in BA. When I got there, it was even more difficult to organise tours. I thought I would meet more people and tour operators but no!’

Although this is just the account of one traveller, and there are no doubt many people that have successfully organised their trips on arrival, it’s true that travllers may experience a bit of culture shock when they get to Patagonia, where for example, you can’t flush toilet paper, the power cuts out a lot, or as I have personally experienced, there may be an unannounced strike in the town where you are staying. Booking with local operators who can organise the bits that can easily go wrong limits the culture shock and maximises your time in Patagonia:

‘I flew to El Calafate and went to see Perito Moreno Glacier and then the next day went on an All Glaciers catamaran tour. This was the the worst day of the holiday – I had no cash on me to buy the ticket to get into the park (despite booking the tour). The reason I had no cash is that Argentina ALWAYS run out of cash in cash points and I couldnt get any out for this reason for 3 days. I managed to communicate to the mini bus driver (who didnt speak English) that I had no money and we found money off other bus drivers (he didnt have enough – it was only about £10). Then I had to stay on the catamaran from 9am-5pm with no money to buy a hot drink or food! It wasnt great to say the least!’

Some of these issues could have been avoided if this person had booked beforehand as local operators are especially good at organising transport for their clients in and around the national parks. They provide you with a neat set of prepaid vouchers which means cash for transfers, boats and buses isn’t an issue when you arrive. It’s small things like help with booking accommodation and paying for services beforehand that can make all the difference to how smoothly your holiday goes.

‘I would never go alone again to a country where they dont speak English (I was a bit naive and assumed such a tourist place would have a lot of English speaking people. Not even the tour operators could speak good English).’

Most people do a lot of research before booking a holiday. According to the Toluna survey of 2,004 UK consumers, while just under 10% of people take less than a day to research their holiday, the majority (64%) take two weeks or more. Indeed, careful research and planning puts you in a stronger position and avoids the disappointment of turning up to find that the interesting trips are booked up and the feeling of being utterly ripped off because you’re doing everything last minute.

By providing you with a wealth of trips to browse and through working with reliable and creible local operators we can organise trips that fit your dates and budget. As Spanish speakers, we are also able to organise the logistics and make sure that your itinerary meets your needs so that if you don’t speak great Spanish, you won’t have to face stressful conversations with Patagonian bus drivers!

El Chalten – Swoop’s top tips

On my first visit to El Chalten in 1999 I was wowed by Mount FitzRoy and the other peaks and glaciers that lie within a few miles of the small town. In January 2011 I returned to the town that, in the Los Glaciares National Park of Argentina is the base for some of Patagonia’s very best trekking, mountaineering and mountain biking. It’s changed a lot since my first visit: dusty streets and a few shacks replaced with paved roads and good transport links, a range of good bars and restaurants and lots of different accommodation options. (However, there’s still no mobile phone signal and internet connections are very slow indeed).

El Chalten was built from nothing in 1985 to make the most of the incredible opportunity that the area presented in terms of adventure travel. It sits just a few miles to the East of Mount FitzRoy and Cerro Torre and a series of other peaks that separate Argentina from the South Patagonian Ice Cap and act as the border with Chile. And the conspiracy theorists also argue that its creation was also a move by the Argentinians to secure the border. This geography presents some spectacular views of granite peaks and blue glaciers, and great trekking opportunities to viewpoints (‘miradors’) of the mountain range, including Lago Toro and Laguna del los Tres. Unlike it’s Chilean counterpart, Torres del Paine, the FitzRoy has the benefit that you can access almost every route and viewpoint with day hikes from El Chalten, ideal if you don’t fancy camping or Refugios.

From El Chalten you can also access the South Patgonian Ice Cap through two different passes: Paso Marconi to the North (via Piedra del Fraile and La Playita), and Paso del Viento to the south. Please note, unless you have significant mountaineering experience you will need a guide for this.

A few of our top tips for El Chalten:

  • Hiking – if you only have one day visit Laguna los Tres
  • Where to stay out side of town – spend at least one night out of town. One of our partners runs an Adventure Camp about 20kms north of town. Alternatively Hosteria Pillar is a great base for hiking about 10kms north of town.
  • For Hotels in El Chalten – if you want affordable, informative and friendly we’d recommend El Paraiso where we always stay. Gonzalo speaks perfect English and really goes the extra mile to help you out.
  • Where to eat – Como Vaca serves some of the best steak I’ve ever tasted
  • If you’ve got an hour free – do visit the Visitor Centre - some interesting history, and very helpful and knowledgeable staff. It’s at the southern end of town, over the bridge.

More detailed posts on getting to El Chalten, hotels in El Chalten, and bars in El Chalten to follow.