Tag Archives: ushuaia

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Cathy’s Full Circuit, Montes Martial Circuit and Chalten Mountain Escape

Cathy returned in November from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, a Montes Martial Circuit in Tierra del Fuego, and a Chalten Mountain Escape in Los Glaciares. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trips, and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I wouldn’t have managed such a great trip without your help & expertise. I met several other people who used Swoop and they all felt the same. I am already recommending you to other people.

I think the only thing I would say is your idea of sending a pre travel gift felt very last minute – I wouldn’t have noticed had you not offered a gift, but since you did having it before I left would have given a better view of your efficiency!

How were our partners who ran your trips in Chile and Argentina?

All were very good, those who organised the Full Circuit especially. The itineraries were all as expected. The guides were excellent, again especially Armando on the Full Circuit.

They all dealt well with my requirement for a gluten free diet in the end, although one company were less proactive about this. I didn’t help by not being crystal clear on their form but instead of querying it as the Full Circuit partners did, they decided to ignore it. The guide, Luis, was very helpful about trying to remedy this and luckily I’m not coeliac, just gluten intolerant so I could cope with eating the fillings out of sandwiches for instance. The other two companies were brilliant with this, again especially on the Full Circuit.

I was delighted with the 3 treks I did – it was a great combination and worked really well, even with the weather!

What was the highlight of your trip?

Difficult to choose a highlight! It was all fantastic. I think possibly waking up 2 mornings in a row to the view below from Lake Caminante is well up there.

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

I visited Buenos Aires briefly which was very enjoyable. Especially the cemetery at Recoleta which I visited on Halloween, appropriately!

I also did a Patagonian cooking workshop in Puerto Natales – it was brilliant and you should recommend it to anyone who has time to do it! http://encuentrogourmet.com

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Swoop’s Top Pick of Restaurants Throughout Patagonia

After many years working as a tour leader wining and dining clients night after night, Sally has had the chance of discovering, eating and thoroughly enjoying the very best that Patagonia has to offer. Below are just a few of her recommendations.

Sally’s Top Restaurants in Chile

Santiago: Providencia

1. *Top Pick* : Liguria: Traditional Chilean cuisine, excellent quality and very buzzing – take your dictionary! (3 locations, my favourite is Av. Providencia 1373 – very near Manual Montt metro)

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2. Baco: Fantastic wine selection, good for tapas type food and great steaks. (Nueva de Lyon 113)

3. El Giratorio: 17th floor rotating restaurant – incredible views of sunset over the city and the Andes. Food is traditional and tasty but also trying to be fine-dining. (Av 11 de Septiembre 2250, Floor 16)  

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Santiago: Bellavista

1. Como Agua Para Chocolate: Delicious fish and meat dishes, great wine selection, wonderful decor and atmosphere and staff generally speak very good English. (Constitución 88 – street parallel to Pio Nono, main street of Bellavista)

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Santiago: Lastarria

1. Bocanariz: Unrivaled selection of Chilean wines, this is THE place to come to experience the very best in Chilean wine – the food is delicious as well if you fancy staying for dinner. A great addition to the quirky neighbourhood. (José Victorino Lastarria 276 – next to church)

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–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Santiago–

Pucon

1. *Top Pick* : Rincon del Lago: Not in the centre so off the tourist trail, this little family run place serves up really reasonable, traditional food, nothing fancy but good wholesome grub – great after a day out on the trails. (G. Urrutia 635)

2. Trawen: long established place on the main street but still serving up delicious local dishes, top notch pisco sours and unmissable desserts. (Av. O’Higgins 311)

Puerto Varas

1. *Top Pick* : Las Buenas Brasas: It’s popular with tourists and for a very good reason – the food is delicious, the service spot on, the pisco sours are strong and the added extras of “Sopaipilla y pebre” on arrival make this place a real gem. (San Pedro 543)

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2. Cafe Danes: Great for lunch, cakes (kuchen) and empanadas – try the Empanada de horno – beware the portions are huge! (Del Salvador 441)

Punta Arenas

1. *Top Pick* : Restaurante Brocolino: From it’s exterior it looks like nothing special, but trust me, inside you’ll be greeted with mouth watering aromas of king crab in wine wine, Patagonian lamb, and sinful desserts. For me what really makes this restaurant special is Hector the chef, a true Patagonian character! (O’ Higgins 1049, Punta Arenas)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Punta Arenas–

Puerto Natales

1. *Top Pick* : Cormoran de las Rocas: With offering of fresh fish, delicious meats even including guanaco, this restaurant is a great bonus for Puerto Natales; set up on the first floor of the building, what really makes this restaurant special are the incredible views out over the Last Hope Sound. (Miguel Sanchez 72)

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–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in Puerto Natales–

Sally’s Top Restaurants in Argentina

Buenos Aires: Microcentro

You could spend a lifetime in Buenos Aires and still not have explored all of its wonderful, quirky, unique gastronomic offerings; here is just a brief list of some of my favourites.

1. *Top Pick* :  El Establo – My all time favourite restaurant in Buenos Aires is El Establo.  It is old school, bright lights, white table cloths, old waiters that don’t write anything down and popular with tourists but hands down the best steak. Open parrilla, ham hanging from the ceiling and homemade chimichurri. Order the ½ Bife de lomo, jugoso (rare fillet steak) – it simply melts in your mouth. (Paraguay on the corner of San Martin in Retiro)

Buenos Aires: San Telmo

1. Gran Parrilla del Plata: Excellent quality steak, reasonably priced, great service, great decor. (Chile 594 – on the corner with Peru)

gran parilla del plata

2. La Brigada: Quite pricey but a real meat experience! (Estados Unidos 465)

la brigada

3. Cafe La Poesia: Atmospheric cafe in the heart of San Telmo; translating as ‘Poetry Cafe’, it is a literary institution with photos of famous Argentinian authors, prose around the walls and plaques on some of the tables where famous authors have sat. Great for coffee, snacks, drinks and picadas (shared platters). One of the protected ‘Cafe Notables’ of Buenos Aires. (Chile 502 on the corner of Bolivar)

la poesia

4. Bar El Federal: Another great ‘Cafe Notable’ of San Telmo with its incredible wooden decor, pavement tables and ecelctic mix of students, backpackers, artists and old timers reading the daily news. Order a coffee/beer and watch the world go by. (Peru on the corner of Carlos Calvo)

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Buenos Aires: Palermo

1. *Top Pick*: Don Julio: Excellent steak, great service and a wonderful wine list. Definitely my *Top Pick* in Palermo. (Guatemala 4691 on the corner of Gurruchaga)

2. La Cabrera: Popular with tourists and local a like this restaurant, located on 2 different corners of the same street, serves up enormous steaks that are strictly encouraged to share accompanied with a delicious selection of side dishes – excellent service, great atmosphere and as they don’t take reservation they offer you champagne while you wait for your table. (José Antonio Cabrera 5099 on the corner of Thames)

la cabrera

3. El Preferido de Palermo: Another ‘Cafe Notable’; this is a great place to stop for a drink just to have a look inside. The food is traditional and offers some real Argentinian treats. (Jorge Luis Borges 2108 on the corner of Guatemala)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Buenos Aires–

Bariloche

1. *Top Pick* :  Alto el Fuego: Excellent quality meat, unusual wines and good value. (20 de Febrero 451)

2. Holly Restobar: A good option is you’re looking for something other than steak; the ribs are excellent. Also has fabulous views out across the lake. (Avenida Juan M. de Rosas 435)

–Here are some more ideas on Places to Stay in Bariloche–

El Calafate

1. *Top Pick* :  La Tablita: a visit to El Calafate isn’t complete without trying the slow cooked Patagonia lamb and after many years of trying out many places this has come top time after time; word of warning- order 1 between 2 (even though it isn’t a dish for 2, the portion is enormous!) ; also,  don’t miss the Calafate ice-cream. (Rosales 28 – cross over the bridge past the petrol station and it is down on your left hand side)

la tablita

2. La Zaina: Set in a restored old building with a eclectic mix of memorabilia, this place serves are great selection of Patagonia meats (great pasta as well), warm home mae bread and an interesting wine seection. Service can sometime be slow but then, what’s the hurry?! ( Gdor. Gregores 1057 – on the corner of Tomas Espora)

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Calafate–

El Chalten

1. *Top Pick* : La Tapera: Delicious hearty stews, cosy, warm atmosphere and great views of Fitz Roy from upstairs. (Antonio Rojo & Riquelme – next to the Walk Patagonia office)

2. Cerveceria -The Micro Brewery! A visit to El Chalten isn’t complete without a visit to the micro-brewery. They brew 2 different beers, 1 pale (rubia) and 1 dark (negro) and serve with bowls of popcorn (they also serve bottled beers and wine). Great atmosphere, cosy, garden to laze in sun after a hard days walking and open late into the evening. (Av. San Martin 564)

3. La Vineria - “The best wine bar in South Patagonia” -taken from their website, quite a claim but almost definitely true. It has an incredible selection of Argentinian wines (and artisanal beers), great picadas (shared platters)of meats, cheeses and tapas Argentinian style; Sebastian the owner is extremely knowledgeable. (Lago Del Desierto Ave, 265 – next to the Chalten travel office)

vineria

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Chalten–

4. La Wafeleria: - A well deserved stop after a long hike or great place to settle in for the day if the weather closes in. (Av. San Martin 640)

Ushuaia

1. *Top Pick* :  La Casa de los Mariscos: - It’s an easy place to walk past without noticing, it looks quite shabby from the outside, there is no king crab tank in the window and the doorway is very small. But once inside it is buzzing, cosy and wafts delicious aromas. Try the Centolla Fugeian – king crab in a chilli sauce, Centolla Provincal – king crab in a parsley and white wine sauce or Centolla Natural –  king crab salad. (San Martin, 232 – corner with Deloqui)

2. El Almacen de Ramos General: No stay in Ushuaia is complete without a stop at this wonderful little gem! It’s a bit of everything from museum to cafe to restaurant to bar. With an eclectic mix of memorabilia, chocolate coated meringue penguins, cape horn beer and homemade pasta. (Av. Maipu 749)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Ushuaia–

Other Restaurants Outside of Patagonia that Sally Just Can’t Help Recommending!

Mendoza

*Top Pick* : Ocho Cepas: Set in a beautifully restored old colonial house, the restaurant is split between the different rooms of the house, with its very own wine cellar. The steak is great, the menu interesting and the atmosphere intimate. (Peru 1192 – on the corner of Espejo)

Puerto Iguazu

1. *Top Pick* :  El Quicho del Tio Querido: If you aren’t enticed in by the delicious smell of cooking meat from it’s enormous open air grill then you will be by the fascinating live music (played after about 9:30pm); the steaks are incredible, the service great and the atmosphere relaxing. (Av. Pres. Juan Domingo Perón 159)

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2. Aqva: A little on the pricey side but serving up local river fish in delicious sauces – a definite top pick if you’re a bit meated out (Av. Cordoba on the corner of Carlos Thays)

aqva

Any feedback and new recommendations are welcomed (vegetarian options to follow), and why not take a look at our Before You Go Page for more travel tips and recommendations for your trip to Patagonia.

Enjoy!

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Luke’s Review of Arakur Hotel, Ushuaia

Arakur is a new hotel up on Cerro Cortez, above Ushuaia. I stayed here after my trip to Antarctica and welcomed a bit of luxury after 10 days on a small expedition vessel. The hotel is about 15 minutes from the centre of town and several hundred meters higher up the mountain. This gives you spectacular views across the Beagle Channel. The light down here is amazing even from sea level, and from this position up on the mountain you have a view that will mesmerise anyone with an eye for Mother Nature.
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The hotel has only recently started receiving its first guests so they are still finding their feet when it comes to service; however you can already see that they are aiming very high in terms of the levels of attention they will provide their guests. It’s a large hotel but has some interesting and unique design features that make it feel a bit more boutique, and they’ve succeeded in giving it the feel of a classic Patagonia ‘Lodge’.
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The hotel has many selling points, but  the most important in my opinion is that this is, I think, the only hotel in/near Ushuaia from which you can walk straight onto beautiful hiking trails. They have 100 hectares of wildlife reserve (tbc) with some beautiful trails for walks of up to 3 hours. You will walk through Lenga forest to some spectacular views of the Valle Andorra, and the Glaciar Vinciguerra, and of course out across the Beagle Channel.
Having met their senior guide, I suspect that over time this may evolve into the number one base for day hikes around Argentine Tierra del Fuego.

Book a couple of nights here if you want: some well deserved comfort and luxury, and an opportunity to stretch your legs in the foothills of Tierra del Fuego.

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.

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Things to do in Punta Arenas

There are many interesting sights and activities in and around Punta Arenas, and here we’ve gathered together a few ideas for things to see and do in this wonderful city…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mirador Cerro de la Cruz

For a stunning panoramic view of the city, the straight of Magellan, and the island of Tierra del Fuego in the distance, climb to Mirador La Cruz Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cerro de la Cruz). This spot is just a ten-minute walk from Plaza de Armas (Plaza Muñoz Gamero) and is one of the most iconic places in the city, particularly beautiful at night.

Plaza Muñoz Gamero

The Central Plaza in Punta Arenas: Muñoz Gamero, and it’s surrounding area is an interesting place to visit, with many beautiful buildings to take in, including the government buildings and cathedral. For some good luck on your trip, rub or kiss the toe of the statue of the indigenous Ona man in the centre of the Plaza!

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Punta Arenas Cemetery

It might sound strange to visit a graveyard on your holiday, but this cemetery dates back to 1840′s, and is internationally famous for its magnificent mausoleums, beautiful European architecture, and perfectly shaped pine trees.

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Many local aristocratic families and European immigrants are buried here, particularly English and Croatians. We’d definitely recommend a visit!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Museums

The following are Swoop’s top four recommendations for Museums to visit in Punta Arenas…

-Palacio Mauricio Braun, Magallanes 949

This palatial mansion houses a regional history museum, which shows great evidence of the wealth and power that Punta Arenas had in its hay day (perhaps not so obvious today). The house’s original owners, the Brauns, were a family of huge importance throughout the Southern Patagonian region. The museum is divided into two sections, one displaying regional history and the other displays the families original opulent furnishings.

(Open Mon-Sat 10:30 – 17:00; Sundays & Public Holidays 10:30 – 14:00;  Entrance $1,000)

-Museo Regional Salesiano Maggiorino Borgatello, Av. Bulnes 336

This museum is considered one of the most complete on the natural and human history of Patagonia. On its four stories it houses collections of stuffed animals, history of the indigenous inhabitants of the region, displays on missionary history, Antarctica and its explorations.

(Open Tues – Sun 10:00 – 12:30 / 15:00 – 17:30; Closed on Mondays;  Entrance CLP$2,000)

-National Maritime Museum, Av. Pedro Montt 981

An in-depth look into the extensive maritime history of Chile. The museum also has specific displays on the War of the Pacific (1879) and its great naval hero Arturo Pratt.

(Open daily 09:30 – 12:30 / 14:00 – 17:00;  Entrance CLP$1,000)

-Museo de Recuerdo, Av Bulnes 01890

The Patagonian Institute (Instituto de la Patagonia) houses the Museo del Recuerdo, with a collection of antique farm and industrial machinery imported from Europe, a typical pioneer

house and shearing shed (both reconstructed), and a wooden-wheeled trailer that served as shelter for shepherds. The library also has a display of historical maps and a series of historical and scientific publications. Best to take a taxi.

(Open Mon – Fri 08:30 – 12:00 / 14:30 – 18:00; Sat 08:30 – 12:00; Closed Sundays; Entrance CLP$1,000)
Austral Brewery, 508 Patagona St. 

This is the southernmost brewery in the world, where you can learn about the production process of the traditional Austral beer (the most popular beer in this part of the country) and enjoy a beer tasting session.

Shepherd’s Monument

This traditional monument is located in Bulnes Avenue, 11 blocks away from Plaza de Armas, and is one of the many iconic places of the city.

Places to Avoid

We’d recommend avoiding Zona Franca if you can it is a very commercial shopping experience although seemingly popular with the locals!

For more information of trips and excursions from Punta Arenas contact us at advice@swooptravel.co.uk

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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…

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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

Valerie’s Montes Martial Circuit in Ushuaia

Valerie returned in early February from a 3 day trek in Ushuaia, experiencing the valleys, forests, lagoons and summits of the Montes Martial Circuit. Heres she tells us below about her experiences on the trek, and in booking through Swoop Patagonia…

‘I really enjoyed the 3 days on the trek and the guides helped to make the time special.  I know anyone who decides to join this trek will truly enjoy themselves.’

What was the highlight of your trip?

There were so many highlights, it’s difficult to pick just one, but possibly the camping spot was so beautiful beside the calm lake with the mountains rising above the lake.

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

We stayed pretty much around Ushuaia, but did visit more of the Tierra del Fuego park, and took a Beagle Channel cruise to Penguin Island-beautiful!

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

Swoop looked after all details, all we had to do was pick up our backpacks, sleeping bags and pads the day before the start of the trek-everything else was taken care of!

Were you well looked after the operator we put you in touch with & their guides on the trip?

The company looked after all the details…and the guides were excellent-they helped us so much while actually trekking and at the camping spot!

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

The trek was great and I can’t think of anything to change!

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

Be prepared for the wet weather and mud-makes the trek interesting but when outfitted in wet weather gear, so much more comfortable!

Rob’s Patagonia Cruise

Rob recently returned from a Patagonia Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia and back to Punta Arenas as part of a wider trip to South America. Here he tells us about his experiences on the cruise, and booking through Swoop…

How was your trip?

Overall I had a great time and the overall enjoyment was greater than I had anticipated before departing.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip for me was always going to be the landing on Cape Horn, and this was one of the prime reasons for undertaking the trip in the first place. The glaciers, the penguins and the wind and the waves were all part of a fully supportive cast and all played their part in making the whole thing so good.

Did you visit anywhere else in Patagonia?

I didn’t visit anywhere else in Patagonia other than the Cruise, but continued on to visit other areas of South America.

How well did Swoop and our partners do in planning and arranging your trip?

The holiday was planned well and if there were glitches they were not major and were probably because I hadn’t read the itinerary properly.

Is there anything you wish had happened differently?

The cruise itself was excellent in most respects.

I do feel that more care could have been taken by the ship in ensuring that there were at least 3 English speakers out of the six people on each meal table. On the return leg we had five -a Chilean doctor and his wife who could speak Spanish English and some Italian and who was happy to translate in order to be inclusive, and the lovely smiley mother and grandmother of the waiter, who could speak no English. At the mealtimes when the doctor was not present or engaged in doctoring there was a lot of pointing and smiling but not much else! I don’t remember being asked which if any other languages I could speak or understand.

How were the other sections of your trip in South America, organised by our partners?

All of the trips and events around the cruise were good particularly the tour of Santiago. The guide was informative and knowledgeable and obviously loved her job and her city.

I was surprised by the day adventure up into the hills on the turn around day in Ushuaia as I don’t recall that being mentioned. It was enjoyable but came as a bit of a surprise to get a phone call saying that the guide and land rover were outside! I still can’t see it mentioned on the itinerary.

I suppose the one slight problem for me was the transfer from the cruise ship to a rendezvous in a café c 0.5 kms away. My bag was 18 kgs and had no wheels and I struggled somewhat even over that distance (I had earlier in the trip hurt my leg a little bit). I think that someone older than I would have struggled more particularly if it had been raining and /or very windy even over such a short distance. Many travellers were being met with taxis, perhaps to get to the airport, but I think a meet and greet at the ship would be a nice idea.

Apart from these few relatively minor things the trip was thoroughly enjoyable and was helped by the large amount of support out there -it wasn’t just getting you to the airport, it included check in, emigration, customs etc and really took the pressure off.

‘I would have no hesitation in recommending the whole experience to others. Despite the little grumbles it was really a wonderful holiday…Thanks a lot for making it so enjoyable!’

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