Tag Archives: ushuaia

Travelling from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Customers often ask us about different ways to travel between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, so we’ve outlined a few different ways of making the journey below. Please do get in touch with us if you’d like further information…

1. Cruise

This Wildlife, Glaciers & Cape Horn Cruise is a wonderful way to explore the fjords, wildlife and glaciers of Tierra del Fuego, and to visit Cape Horn on your journey between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas.

cruceros glacier

If you’re keen on wildlife it’s a particularly great trip as you’ll witness some of Patagonia’s best (from Magellanic Penguins, to Cormorants, Elephant Seals and even Beavers), whilst also seeing some of it’s most beautiful Glaciers (Marinelli & Pia), and landing on the famous Cape Horn.

cruceros penguins

It lasts 4 days and gives you the one of the most full and varied experiences of all the cruises on offer in the region.

cruceros cape horn

2. Bus + Flight

Flights to Ushuaia leave only from Argentinian airports, so you first need to travel to El Calafate by bus, and then get a flight down to Ushuaia.

To get to El Calafate you can take a 3 hour bus trip north to Puerto Natales, and then a 5 hour bus across the border to El Calafate.

3. Bus

The journey from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas takes 11-12 hours by bus, including a ferry trip across the Magellan Straits at its narrowest point. It’s the simplest and cheapest option and actually much more enjoyable than it sounds!

The first part of the journey takes you through the Patagonian steppe and along the Magellan Straits, and then once you head towards the mountains around Ushuaia you suddenly enter a very different landscape.

4. Ferry

There is a 30 hour ferry between Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, which was designed for the local people of Puerto Williams. It is not a great tourist experience in our opinion, as you may not get to see that much, and you don’t stop off anywhere en route. You also have to get a taxi from Puerto Williams to Puerto Navarino on arrival, followed by a crossing over to Ushuaia.

5. Via Chilean Tierra del Fuego

This 4 day Cape Horn Adventure can start in Punta Arenas (flight to Puerto Williams), and end in Ushuaia (boat trip across the Beagle Channel), and there is also a shorter version if you have less time and/ or a smaller budget. You’ll be staying in a this lovely Lodge , which is a great base from which to explore Chilean Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.

lodge_lakutaia_cropscale_360x217

Alternatively, you can fly from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, from where you’d need to organise a taxi to Puerto Navarino and a boat trip from there to Ushuaia. The flights from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams depart at set times once a day from Monday to Saturday, but are very weather dependent so please be aware that they can often be cancelled.

6. Flight (local airline)

There are rumours that there may be a flight from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, but this is not currently a reliable option.

Paul’s 2 week Road Trip in Patagonia

Paul returned in March from a two week road trip from El Chalten to Ushuaia. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop did very well by getting me in contact with their partners who run the trip immediately after my inquiry. I was very pleased with the seamless communication and organisation of both companies and I would enthusiastically recommend them both.

How were Swoop’s partners who ran the tour in Patagonia?

This was my first time using a tour company, and they exceeded my expectations. Just about all aspects of their operation were outstanding.

The couple who oversaw the tour could not have done more to attend to each and every traveler. The local guides they employed went from outstanding to good, but mostly the former. This is an extremely well conceived itinerary with personal touches that were remarkable. Long trips were always broken up with stops at interesting places.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Patagonia is full of highlights because of its natural beauty, but the experience was certainly enhanced by the operation of the tour.  Weather called for a change of hiking plans at one point and the guide with Melinda and Franco came up with an alternative that was nearly as good as the planned activity for that day.  These are creative people who have obviously given great thought to the organisation of the tour. This was particularly reflected in the choice of restaurants that ranged from very good to mind blowing.

Rob & Amy Trek in Torres del Paine & Ushuaia

Rob and Amy returned in January 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine followed by some excursions in Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

You guys put together a fabulous trip for us in Patagonia and your recommendations for Ushuaia in particular were spot on.

I don’t think you could or should do anything differently – your communication is perfectly clear and timely and both of your partners receive our highest marks.  By all means I would recommend you to friends and family.

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine

The W Trek was exactly as promised.  The self-guided version was great for us and was well explained by your partners at the start when they met us at their office in Puerto Natales.  Moreover, they were able to secure dinner reservations for us the night before our trek – New Years Eve – at a fantastic restaurant in Puerto Natales – that’s service!

[Read Sally’s top picks for dining out in Patagonia]

How was the Accommodation during your W Trek?

Our accommodations in Puerto Natales (Amerindia) were perfect, and the refugios on the trek exceeded our expectations.  How did we get a double room for our last night?  So awesome!  The cabin upgrade was so worthwhile. In comparing the price of our trip with other travellers – we got the better deal!

What was the highlight of your W Trek?

Well, crystal clear weather at the Torres – 2 hours of brilliant blue sky while we lounged by the lake!  Wow!

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

Use Swoop and their partners in Chile! The W-trek is not a wilderness experience as there are lots of people but the scenery is breath-taking.

How was your day trip in Ushuaia?

Swoop’s partners in Ushuaia did a great job on our day trip. The guide was very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna, geology and history. It was a little expensive for a day hike but this company has it dialled in!

Did you visit anywhere else during your trip?

We visited El Calafate and did the Big Ice trek on Perito Merino. We also spent 8 days on the Valvilov in Antarctica and finished off with 2 days in Buenos Aires.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

We wish we had made time for FitzRoy – next trip – and, we will contact you guys before we go.

We might have added an extra day onto the W-Trek but it was totally doable in the 4-night time frame you arranged.

Everything else – perfect – thanks you guys! And, thanks for the buffs!  We are wearing them daily back here in Durango, CO  USA!

Dennis’ Sailing trip from Ushuaia to Cape Horn

Dennis returned in December from a 7 day sailing trip around Cape Horn. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our sailing partners…

Thank you Chloe and a big thanks to Luke also! Because I am the worst travel agent ever I had a few snags in my overall travel plan but the sailing trip that Swoop Patagonia organised for me was better than I could have imagined!

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I really appreciate you and your help in finding me the perfect trip for the way I like to do things, thank you! I like the way I could communicate and get answers from you guys and felt very comfortable with the trip before I even got going, thank you for that also!

How was Swoop’s Sailing partner?

Atilio is a great man and a great captain; professional and personable. I would sail with him anywhere. The way he was able to time sailing windows to get us around the horn was remarkable! He truly worked himself and his boat hard to make sure we SAFELY but surely made the ultimate goal of the sailing. I am sure that just the experience of sailing with someone so knowledgeable about the boat and his environment would have been enough, but we really got the vibe from him that if there was a chance to make it around safely, he would give it the best chance possible, and that is what he did!

I would strongly recommend anyone of any or no sailing skill to set sail with him. He let us get as involved as we liked and even though I am sure we got in his way sometimes, he never let on and was nothing but encouraging to us! I have met many people, and have worked on many boats in my travels so far, and I put him at the top of the list as a truly great person of the world.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

I had a great time driving down to Ushuaia and camping around when I was not on the boat, the roads were decent, gas was very available and finding places to camp was pretty easy.

The national park in Ushuaia was very friendly and clean and had a few great hikes to go on in and around the park. My problem was I did not get the proper paperwork for the rental car and it got a bit messy, that was just the car company and me and some miscommunications, part of me being a terrible travel agent, oh well, it got exiting!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the 20 days spent in Argentina and Chile are for sure meeting the captain and experiencing his environment for the 7 days I spent with him and his boat, it was a great time! I have a lot of pictures and even more memories!

I look forward to seeing what the next adventure brings and will use your services and recommend you to everyone I meet who may need your services!!! Thank you again, Dennis.

IMG_3206

Claire’s trip to Torres del Paine, Tierra del Fuego & Bariloche

Claire returned in December from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, followed by a Montes Martial Circuit in Tierra del Fuego, and a Hut to Hut hike in Bariloche. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your Full Circuit in Torres del Paine?

I did the Torres del Paine Full Circuit from the 9th to the 15th of November and it was a fantastic trek. The weather was sometimes a bit harsh but the park was so stunning it didn’t really matter – And I guess it is all part of the Torres del Paine experience. We were also very lucky on some days with a beautiful blue sky.

IMG_3125 IMG_3026

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole week was very well organised by Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine, and our guide (Armando) was really good: very professional, very knowledgeable about the fauna, flora, history of the park and mountaineering expeditions, caring and a very good cook! I did really have a great time there and would like to thank you for putting me in touch with them.

IMG_3010

IMG_3061

 

 

 

 

 

How was your Montes Martial Circuit in Tierra del Fuego?

Likewise, the Montes Martial trek in Tierra del Fuego with Swoop’s partners in Ushuaïa was great. It was just Cathy (another swoop customer!) who did the Torres del Paine trek with me, along with the guide and the porter.

IMG_3393

We didn’t see anyone during 3 days and we had great fun hiking and camping in the snow. The views were stunning, almost like black and white pictures. Once again, they took great care of us.

IMG_3467

IMG_3413

How was your Hut to Hut Hike in Bariloche?

My last trek in Bariloche, was very good as well. As far as I understood, the other people from the group cancelled, but your partners in Bariloche still ran the trip for me. So it was just the guide and myself up in the mountains.

IMG_4430

There was still snow at the time we were there and before the trip they were not sure we would be able to go through the pass. They planned a plan B in case we couldn’t cross. Once again the organization was very good, with good food, a very knowledgeable and responsible guide. I was very lucky too with perfect weather for 4 days.

IMG_4384

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

I am very grateful to the Swoop team. From the very first e-mail I sent to you asking for some tips for traveling in Patagonia, right up to the end of my trip, you were full of resources and able to offer me very good trekking options. Your suggestion of the Navimag ferry was also a very good option for me to get from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. I had been traveling for 2 months already at that time (one month in Peru and one month from North Chile down to Puerto Montt) and it was a nice change from the bus. I would definitely recommend swoop Patagonia to friends and family.

IMG_3252

What was the highlight of your trip?

Overall my trip was amazing. I don’t know which part was the highlight. I still have my head full of incredible landscape and it’s a bit hard to come back to reality… The 3 treks were great – well “great” is weak. “Stunning” is more appropriate. They were very different from each other but all incredible. I think Hut-to–Hut was the most technical and the hardest of the 3 (the 3rd and 4th days were quite intense with some very steep climbs and descents). The full circuit was generally moderate, with the day of the John Gardner pass quite difficult (especially the first 2 hours down after the pass). The hardest thing in Torres del Paine is the weather that keeps changing. Montes Martial was very wild and very enjoyable. We didn’t see anyone else for 3 days!

IMG_3210

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Patagonia?

I managed to go to El Calafate and El Chalten where I did some stunning day hikes. I also visited Puerto Madryn and Piramides as well as Esquel (el parque de los Alerces is beautiful). I finished my trip with a week in the Salta region and a few days in Buenos Aires. I am planning to go back to Patagonia in the next few years to explore more the central part I haven’t been able to see and to the Bariloche area to climb a few peaks :) I wish I could have stayed longer in this region… Thank you very much for all the support, help and tips!

IMG_3206

 

cathy b

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…

cathy 1How 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.

cathy b

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

cathy 2

eltiquoerdo

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)

liguria 2

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)  

giratorio

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)

agua con choc

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)

bocanariz

–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)

42

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)

cormoran2

–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)

el federal

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)

eltiquoerdo

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!

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.06.43

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.
Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.05.14
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’.
Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.13.17
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA