Category Archives: Travel Tips

Swoop’s Pick of Patagonian Restaurants

Swoop’s Pick of Patagonian Restaurants

After many years working as a tour leader wining and dining clients night after night, I have eaten my way through the very best that Patagonia has to offer. Below are just a few of my recommendations.

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 aspires 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. 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: Unrivalled selection of Chilean wines, this is THE place to come and 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 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 (fritters with homemade salsa) on arrival make this place a real gem. (San Pedro 543)

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

3. Casa Valdes – housed in a lovely wooden cabin with great views across the Llanquihue Lake to the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes, this local restaurant is serving up the very best in local fish and seafood. The atmosphere is buzzing but not too noisy but best to ask your hotel reception to book a table. (Santa Rosa 040 – Underneath the Cabanas del Lago Hotel)

4. La Jardineria: -a little way out of town, one block back from the lake front road, this is a small, intimate restaurant, housed in a restored traditional house, very popular with locals, run by a well travelled, local couple. (Blanco Encalada 1160,  Puerto Chico)

5. La Marca – best in town for a juicy steak (Calle Santa Rosa #539)

6. Mercado 605 – set in a beautifully restored wooden house this cafe by day / restaurant by night offers a wide variety of ‘pisco sours’ for example, sours including green chilli or honey or even avocado. The food is delicious too! (Imperial #605)

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 white 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 fresh fish and delicious meats even including guanaco on the menu, this restaurant is a great bonus for Puerto Natales. Set up on the first floor of the building, what really makes this place special are the incredible views 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. Hands down it offers the best steak in BA. Open parrilla (grill), ham hanging from the ceiling and homemade chimichurri (typical Argentine condiment to accompany meat dishes made of parsley, garlic and olive oil). 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)

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

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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 Argentine 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)

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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 locals alike, 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 reservations they offer you champagne while you wait for your table. (José Antonio Cabrera 5099 on the corner of Thames)

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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 Argentine 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 Patagonian lamb and after many years of trying out many places this has come top time after time. A 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)

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2. La Zaina: Set in a restored old building with an eclectic mix of memorabilia, this place serves a great selection of Patagonian meats (great pasta as well), warm home-made bread and an interesting wine selection. Service can sometimes 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. CerveceriaThe 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, with a garden to laze in sun after a hard days walking. Open late into the evening. (Av. San Martin 564)

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

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–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)

One of Swoop’s other Patagonia specialists, Harriet, has also reviewed the restaurants in El Chalten. For an even more detailed insight into what delicacies the town has on offer, read Harriet’s post “Places to eat in El Chalten”

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 chilli sauce), Centolla Provincal (king crab in 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)

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

Enjoy!

Charles and Eva’s Patagonia walking adventure.

Charles and Eva’s Patagonia walking adventure.

Charles and Eva returned in January from a two-week trip to Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and share some tips for other people planning a trip.

Charles and Eva’s Feedback:

We would give you five out of five! Our main worry before the trip was the complicated logistics; especially in Torres del Paine in the middle of the busy season. Swoop handled it extremely well; there was always a spot reserved for us on crowded buses and a warm bed waiting for us in the refugios bursting in the seams on a rainy cold day.

Do not do anything differently; you are doing just fine!

We will recommend you to anybody who likes the mountains, is fit enough for some serious walking and understands that life there is still a bit more simple than in Paris or New York.

Charles and Eva’s Itinerary:

Charles and Eva started their journey in El Calafate, where they enjoyed an excursion to the to the Perito Moreno Glacier before heading off to a 6 day hike through Torres del Paine.  While hiking Torres del Paine they took in the sights of Valle Frances, Lago Nordenskjold, Lago Grey and the Towers of Paine. After that they spent 5 days on some self guided day hikes from El Chalten, where they took in some fantastic views of Fitz Roy and came back to the Hostal Los Nires each night to relax and enjoy the evening.

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How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

Both Laura in Puerto Natales and Zoe in El Chalten were warm and helpful. We had only one or two very minor issues to deal with and both were handled promptly and with competence. In Dittmar we especially appreciated their detailed day-to- day itinerary with the instructions for the dummies. Whenever we were not quite sure about something, we just looked (in Torres Charles was wearing it in a waterproof plastic bag around his neck) and there was always an answer. Good job!

The itinerary was lovely; again, we would not change anything.

We used guide services only during the trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier. The guide was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and bilingual in English and French.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

It is hard to single out just one or two things; the overall experience was very special. We had rain and shine; experienced wind that made us crawl on the belly and a whiteout like in January in the Rockies, but also some incredibly perfect, glorious days with blue skies and jaw-dropping views. We saw condors and vicunas, lovely lenga and nire beech trees, orchids, beautiful tiny alpine wildflowers and more. I think every day there was precious.

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Our tips to other people:

  • Use the wonderful Swoop flexibility and get an extra day or two wherever possible, especially in El Chalten as a backup for a rainy day. We did the Fitz Roy hike twice and it was worth every penny.
  • Learn some Spanish – it really helps.
  • Do not go cheap on GoreTex – it is nice to be dry.
  • We spent five fun days in Buenos Aires. We stayed in a nice hotel in the Microcentro (American Towers; ca $100 a night with all taxes included via Expedia) and did all the touristy things we could think of. We also gained ca 6 pounds each.

Thanks for everything!

Want to have your own walking adventure in Patagonia? Talk to us today. 

Tony’s Patagonia experience

Tony’s Patagonia experience

Tony came back from spending almost a month in Patagonia traveling through some extraordinary landscape on the way. Here he tells us about his experiences in Los Glaciares, Torres del Paine, and the Atacama, and in booking with Swoop Patagonia.

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Tony’s Feedback

Overall the trip went perfectly. Everything happened as it was supposed to. The route work really well with hardly any travelling back over the same ground and the amount of time in each part was just right. Although I think you could have done better with the weather it was actually a lot better than I had been expecting from the forecasts just beforehand. This was a great trip. Really wouldn’t have changed anything. Thank you so much.

Tony’s Itinerary

Tony flew into Buenos Aires Airport and in his first full day did a short day hike in Chalten to get a feel for the place, before embarking on a group guided hike the next day to Laguna de Los tres  where you can take in a breathtaking view of Fitzroy. The next day he made the most of his time there by enjoying a self guided hike.

The next step on his journey was catching a bus to El Calafate to see the stunning Perito Moreno glacier before getting ready to embark on the full circuit trek through Torres del Paine.

While trekking through the park Tony stayed in supported camping at different points on the full circuit.  He enjoyed a route that took him through the Ascencio Valley , around Lake Paine , following the Los Perros river before hiking alongside the Grey Glacier and ending up back in the French Valley and spending a night in the Hotel Rio Serrano.

After all that hiking it was time to hit the water and paddle to the serrano waterfall and to the Serrano Glacier where a BBQ lunch was enjoyed.

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Next up on his tour of Patagonia was a desert adventure in the Salar Atacama, the driest desert in the world, which is surrounded by imposing volcanoes and is home to unexpected wildlife like flamingos and other birds. While in the Salar Atacama he visited the geothermal fields that are flanked by soaring peaks.

After the harshness of the desert it was back to Buenos Aires for a city tour before heading back home.

How did you find travelling during your trip?

All BA flights were great. Comfortable, excellent staff/service, reasonably good food, great choice of films. However I do think you should advise travellers to book in online beforehand as I didn’t (know) and had no choice of seat (only me so didn’t matter) BUT it was full on the way out and not having checked in on line meant I was potentially kicked off (there was some discussion before I was let through which I believe was to check if there was enough spaces for me). All Internal flights were fine and on time.

My Bus  journey to Salta was great. Thanks so much for getting me the good seats – so comfortable – could have stayed on for another 10 hours, watching the stunning scenery pass by. The buses always provided good views and a nice drive but they always felt very slow. A top tip though is to stop at the info centres that help you get orientated with walks available.

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How did you find your hiking expeditions? 

I really enjoyed the 3 day walks – Day one in Tumbado, day 2 Fitzroy ( which was guided) and day 2 Torres del Paine. Walk Patagonia were amazing with lovely staff and the guide was excellent on my walk. My Torres del Paine trek was most excellent despite some poor weather. We were lucky to have great views of the towers as we approached them and great views in and from the French Valley on our last day. The trip to Lagoons/Trip to Geyser were okay but I think it would be better to try and do all of this type of stuff in one day and with an English speaking group the bus very (over an hour) late picking up for geyser trip and then the bus broke down en route so we almost missed the geyser activity.

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What were the other excursions on your trip like?

I went on quite a few  different activities while in Patagonia. We went Mountain Biking to Death Valley one afternoon and Moon Valley the next morning, which was a lot of fun and we missed all of the crowds. Horse riding was amazing and I absolutely loved it. We rode 5 hours along and up to and over Death Valley then over the cliff and down the sand dunes. I had only been on a horse for 2 hours walking on the flat before but I was really pleased to be doing something so exciting and there were some incredible views. Although maybe punters should be warned that the path up is narrow, strewn with boulders with vertical drop down one side. For me it was better that I didn’t know however.

My trip to Fortaleza was full of highs and lows. I was a bit concerned when found nobody at the office when I first called in as per itinerary instructions but no big deal. The hike was just the guide, Jose, and myself. Jose was great and really got me through the trip. The conditions in exposed areas was very hairy and some travellers might have been concerned that they hadn’t been warned about how it could be. Personally it was best I didn’t know beforehand and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It was tranquil, traumatic, challenging, and exciting/ Day 2’sa short paddle in the lagoon is a bit oversold I reckon and I opted not to bother. At night however Jose did me proud with his food preparation and we had a lovely evening even though it rained. The boat trip back to Natales was fine but weather was poor so not quite what it could have been otherwise.

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My time in the city of Buenos Aires was lovely. On my initial journey through the city,  it really didn’t look like my sort of place but I loved walking around it on my return. I really enjoyed the marina area, waterfront parks and the Eco Park and it was all helped by the lovely weather and some great sightseeing opportunities.

Interested in a Patagonia adventure like Tony’s? Get in touch with us today.

Torres del Paine – What is a Refugio

Torres del Paine – What is a Refugio

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The refugios in Torres del Paine allow you access to the mountains so that you can complete the entire W trek without the need to camp. There are 8 refugios in Torres del Paine. Torre Central and Norte, Chileno, Cuernos, Domos Frances, Paine Grande, Grey and Dickson

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A map of the Torres del Paine refugios

What is a Refugio?

refugio masculine noun

  1. english translation of REFUGIO: refuge, shelter
  2. swoop definition of REFUGIO: warm, friendly, convivial places with shared dorm-style rooms for 6 people, and hot meals and showers. The accommodation is basic but comfortable
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You will find a communal dining room…

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….shared bathrooms…..

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……and 6 person dorms.

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And some refugios have an area to hang out.

Your bedding and meals are provided so you only need to carry your trekking clothes, a change of clothing and personal belongings. More on what to pack here.


What will you eat in a refugio?

Refugios provide you with dinner, breakfast and give you a packed lunch.

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Breakfast

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Lunch

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Dinner

Each refugio has a small shop selling snacks and a bar with beer, wine and of course pisco sours.

Top Tips for Staying in Refugios

  • We highly recommend you upgrade to a cabin at Refugio Cuernos to get some privacy, bathe in the hot tubs and because Refugio Cuernos does get very crowded. 
  • Don’t forget to take a lightweight travel towel so you can use the hot showers and a headtorch for night time toilet trips.
  • The food is not very inspirational so take some trail mix from the Unimarc supermarket in Puerto Natales and grab some avocados to make your sandwiches a little more tantalising.
  • Wifi is only available occasionally at Paine Grande Refugio and in Hotel Las Torres (a short walk from Refugio Las Torres).  There is almost no phone signal in the park.
  • The showers sometimes run out of hot water so you may want to wait until after dinner.
  • If you would like some privacy then why not camp at a refugio? They will provide you with tent, sleeping bag and mat and you can shower and eat your meals inside the refugio.

unnamed (8)Have some privacy for a night at the Cuernos Cabins

Find out more about trekking Torres del Paine or get in touch with us today.

Sally’s experiences sea kayaking in the Northern Fjords

Sally’s experiences sea kayaking in the Northern Fjords

While on her recent trip to Patagonia, Swoop’s Sally Dodge went on a kayaking expedition in the Northern fjords. Here she gives her day by day account of her experiences and tips for people who are interested in doing the same.

Sea-Kayak, Petrohue River & Relconcavi Fjord

Day 1

An hours drive from Puerto Varas, around the shores of Llanquihue lake leads to the village of Ensenada where our kayaking partners have their main office and store all their equipment. Here, we sorted our possessions into dry bags, checked we all had the correct equipment and then headed off, kayaks on the roof, to drive to the drop in point about 30 minutes away.

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At the drop in point, we changed into our wetsuits, received our safety briefing and instructions and then we were off; as we slipped into the river there were enormous salmons jumping out of the water.

The first day of this two day kayak took us down the emerald green Petrohue river which is boarded by thickly vegetated, sheer cliffs. As we paddled down, steering to avoid tree trunks and roots, we were passed frequently by vibrant blue Ringed Kingfishers and Dark Bellied Cinclodes.
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We stopped for lunch on a beach before carrying on down stream to the Ralun hot springs. As the locals sat tucking into their picnics with toes dipped in the hot, steaming water, we certainly created a bit of a stir turning up in our kayaks.

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The hot springs were very rustic – the type with a spade on the side to dig down for the heat.

Back in the kayaks we paddled down to the mouth of the river and out into the most northerly fjord of Chile, the Reloncanvi Fjord. Here the water opened up, the birds changed and the wind got up a little. Passing Peruvian Pelicans and Brown-Hooded Gulls, we paddled our way to the western bank of the fjord to Yoland’s farm. Our paddling work for the day was done.

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Nestled amongst rolling hills and shrouded in forest is the achingly picturesque farmhouse of Señora Yolanda. We set up tents at the bottom of her garden and then walked up to the farmhouse for a cup of tea and a guided tour of the farm accompanied by Juan Carlos, her son and Muster, the dog.

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Señora Yoland was a real treat. She was house proud and welcoming with a lively character and a beaming smile. Her house was filled with black and white photos of her pioneering ancestors and old calendars showing photos from the dry and sandy north of Chile – a world so far removed from the lush green mountains of Yolanda’s reality.

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Our roast lamb dinner was really delicious, cooked in the wood burning oven and seasoned with local herbs; the conversation and experience were really humbling and the house so cosy.

Walking back down the garden, the stars were absolutely incredible.

As I snuggled down in my toasty warm sleeping bag I could hear the water lapping on the shore and nothing else – total and utter silence.

Day 2

I woke up with the first light of the day at 07:15 and opened my tent door to absolute tranquility. The sun was just coming up and with not a breath of wind, the forested hills, clouds, low lying mist and a strip of already bright clear sky was totally mirrored in the fjord below.

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The only noises were the cracklings of barnacles, a cormorant flapping its wings to take off and the lapping of water. As the sun rose the high clouds over head turned a beautiful shade of pink and the clouds on the horizon also. Just poking out above the clouds was the tip of the Volcon Yates at 2111m – its snow capped peak was illuminated pink.

As I sat writing peacefully, taking in the surrounding scenery, 3 dolphins appeared, playing in the morning calmness. The cloud cover was high and the sky blue so hopefully we were in for a beautifully sunny day.

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Once the rest of the group had risen, we walked up to the farmhouse where the chimney was smoking, a sure sign that Señora Yolanda had made fresh bread. She welcomed us into the kitchen, the table had been set and sure enough there was fresh ‘pan amasado’, fresh eggs, scrambled ‘a la chilena’, and honey.

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After breakfast, Juan Carlos took us for another walk around the property proudly showing off his apple press – it was like stepping back 100 years or going to a ‘medieval fair’ in the UK where they have re-enactments of what life was like! This was real, functioning and very much still in operation.

By 11:00, we’d packed up our tents, had said our goodbyes and then got back on the water. As we paddled off I could still see Muster tearing around the field, smoke coming from the chimney and Señora Yolanda tending to the garden – it felt very special to have seen into her world even if just for 1 night.

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Paddling across the fjord with the scenery moving much slower than on the river, it really did put into perspective the immense scale of the scenery.

We passed mussel farms and fishing houses made of corrugated iron – these did not look anywhere near as warm, cosy and weather resistant as Señora Yolanda’s house.

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Lunch of tuna salad was served on a beach with a 15 minute siesta in the sunshine, how glorious. We then set off for the final hour of paddling rounding the peninsula to reach the village of Cochamo; charming, sleepy with coloured fishing boats and a traditional wooden church.

We’d made it – the weather had been kind, the scenery stunning and the hospitality humbling. The kayak trip was great fun, perfect for a beginner looking to gain some paddling experience, delve deep into the scenery and soak up some local culture.

Find out more about kayaking in the lake district here. 

Eco Yurt Camps in Torres del Paine

Eco Yurt Camps in Torres del Paine

There are two main eco yurt camps in Torres del Paine: Patagonia Camp and EcoCamp. On the face of it, the two are quite similar, in that they both provide yurt/ dome accommodation from where you can explore the national park on day excursions of your choice.

There are a few subtle differences however that are useful to know before making a decision, in order to make sure you to get what you want out of your trip. Hopefully the below will help you to decide which one is for you…

Atmosphere

The Patagonia Camp is smaller (18 yurts compared to 25 at Eco Camp), and a little more relaxed compared with the larger, faster paced EcoCamp, which has a higher turnover of guests due to the variety of trips run from it.

Patagonia Camp tends to attract a more mature crowd overall, whereas Eco Camp has a wider variety of ages in general, and is also particularly committed to considering the environment.

Both camps are family friendly, with larger domes available to house up to 4 people.

Community Dome: Eco Camp

Community Dome: Eco Camp

Patagonia Camp Restaurant

Patagonia Camp Restaurant

Location

Patagonia Camp is located a little outside of the National Park, whereas EcoCamp is more centrally located, but actually the travel time from each to the Grey Glacier (for example) is the same.

At EcoCamp you have a view of the Towers, and are in very close proximity to the base of the towers trek starting point. Patagonia Camp, although a little further out, gives you a lake view with the whole Paine Masif as a backdrop, which you can see from your very own private terrace.

Torres del Paine Accommodation Map

Torres del Paine Accommodation Map

Accommodation

There is only one type of yurt at the Patagonia Camp, which has heating (you’ll want this in the colder months!), and a private bathroom, as well as it’s own private terrace. The downside however is that they do not offer a willing to share policy, so there is a single supplement to pay.

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Balcony View- Patagonia Camp

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Patagonia Camp Yurt Interior

 

 

 

 

 

That said, the most basic (and cheapest) of the EcoCamp domes (although cheaper for solo travellers, who are allowed to share), does not have heating or a private bathroom. In order to benefit from these facilities you would need a Superior dome or a Suite dome, which are larger, but of course more expensive.

Eco Camp - Standard Dome

Eco Camp – Standard Dome

Eco Camp - Superior Dome

Eco Camp – Superior Dome

Eco Camp - Suite Dome

Eco Camp – Suite Dome

Below is a quick reference table we have created to allow you to compare the different types of domes/ yurts available at each camp.

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Dome/ Yurt Comparison table

Excursions

When it comes to excursions, the Patagonia Camp has many advantages. The group sizes are generally smaller, and the selection of excursions is much more extensive and varied.

Patagonia Camp offers more off the beaten track excursions as well as the standard routes, and include activities other than trekking, such as kayaking and fishing.

Both establishments offer horse riding and other kayaking trips at additional cost.

An advantage of the Eco Camp is that it provides some more specialist activities as well, such as Puma Tracking and a great Multi Activity Winter trip.  They also have a yoga dome for those travellers looking to relax after a hard days trekking!

Horse Riding - EcoCamp

Horse Riding – EcoCamp

Kayaking Excursion - Patagonia Camp

Kayaking Excursion – Patagonia Camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patagonia Camp’s excursions are more flexible, with the option to take any one of 20 excursions on any day of the week, compared with a selection of 9 excursions on fixed days of the week at EcoCamp

What the EcoCamp does offer that Patagonia does not, is the option to take a multi day hike, such as the W Trek or Full Circuit.

Base of the Towers

Base of the Towers

Food & Drink

Generally, we have found the food and drink to be of a higher standard at the Patagonia Camp, where you also get to have your own private table for dinner

The wines at Patagonia Camp are very good also, as they have their own vineyard. Both offer unlimited wine with dinner.

Patagonia Camp Cuisine

Patagonia Camp Cuisine

Home made sweets

Patagonia Camp Cuisine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pricing

Pricing really depends on the time of year at which you are travelling, so do get in touch with us to find out the exact rates that would apply to you.

Because Patagonia Camp offer only one type of yurt, their pricing is much simpler, they simply have a low and high season rate, which varies according to the number of nights you spend there, and whether you are sharing, or travelling alone.

As they do not offer a willing to share policy, Patagonia Camp is less desirable price wise for solo travellers, because the single supplement really hikes up the price!

Our top tip for visiting Patagonia Camp would be to stay for 5 nights (if time allows you), as the average price per night is much lower that way, allowing you to get the most for your money (however this will be changing in the 16/17 season so get booking now to take advantage!).

The CAMP

VIew of the Patagonia Camp

The Eco Camp prices are somewhat more complicated, as they 4 different season prices, 4 different types of domes, and a different price depending on how many nights you stay, and whether you are a solo traveller willing to share, or want a double/twin, triple, or quadruple room!

The good thing for solo travellers is that there is a (same sex) willing to share policy, and no single supplement is applied if you are willing to do so. They also offer some really excellent low and shoulder season rates.

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View over the Eco Camp

What Our Customers Think

Read more about customer experiences of Patagonia Camp and EcoCamp, and Get in Touch for more information and advice.

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‘The eco friendly camp we stayed at exceeded all our expectations. We had the nearest yurt to the lake with distant views of the Horns’ – Ian & Sue on Patagonia Camp – December 2014.

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‘The eco camp was great, so unique and beautiful views- we LOVED it, it was awesome’ – Karen on the Eco Camp – November 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Review: La Aldea, Chalten

Hotel Review: La Aldea, Chalten

Harriet recently stayed at the motel-esque La Aldea in Chalten, here she reviews and gives her top tips for staying there.

La Aldea has a slightly motel-esque feel with external doors on all the rooms leading off from the garden and a first floor balcony. The rooms have all your basic requirements, hot shower, comfy bed, clean towels and sheets but they are a bit dated.

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Laminate flooring covers the floors,  the shower rail is easy to fall down and there is a cheap/antiquated feel to the fittings. 

The Aldea has the best internet in town, is close to the bus station. It is a good option for those looking for a private room with bathroom on a budget. 

Top Tip: Upstairs rooms are better than downstairs because the wooden floors make the downstairs ones noisy.

 

Hotel Review: Cabañas Ricanor, Near Chalten

Hotel Review: Cabañas Ricanor, Near Chalten

We drove for 45 minutes north from Chalten along a bumpy road. The Estancia Ricanor is a basic gaggle of cabanas set in the woods and with views of Cerro Electrico and Cerro Fitzroy. The cabanas are great for groups of 4 or a couple with a guide. They consist of a communal sitting, dining and kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. The decor is a little dated and the cabanas feel aged but the setting is beautiful. They are great base for day hikes in the  Huemules reserve where you will find quiet and magical treks .

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We bought all our food and drink with us and this is recommendable as the selection at the campsite is not huge. The kitchen is stocked with pans, cutlery and crockery and we whizzed up a mean pasta dish and drank beer cooled in the fridge.

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The cabanas provided all our basic needs, comfy beds, clean linen and towels, hot shower and a kitchen for self catering.  I felt very much at home but this is functional and far from luxurious accommodation. The radiator looked slightly terrifying so it is a good idea to get your guide or the receptionist to turn that on for you.
On site there is also space for camping and a restaurant with pastas and milanesas (breaded meat).

Top Tip : Visit the Cerveceria before you head here so you can fill the fridge with local beers.

Hotel Review: Hosteria Senderos, Chalten

Hotel Review: Hosteria Senderos, Chalten

Of all the places I stayed in Chalten on my recent trip this place had the friendliest staff. You are greeted by beaming smiles and the reception/dining area is stylish with large sofas to lounge and large windows. The interior is all made of varnished wood and this hotel definitely feels stylish. After this excellent intro the rooms actually feel quite small.

My room was in the eaves of the hotel and had views of Fitzroy and Cerro Solo (and would have had views of Torre). Once again the varnished wood interior gave a stylish feel and there were plenty of lights, sockets and functional furnishings such as drawers, hangers, a large side storage area under the window made good use of the small space.

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The breakfast was a huge buffet with fresh fruit salad, an array of cheeses and meats, croissant, breads and cereals.

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My only complaint would be the poky bathroom. Although the shower was hot and powerful it was quite a small space to shower in and if you were any taller it would be uncomfortable.

Top Tip – Eat at their wonderful restaurant. I ate in the restaurant in the evening and the food was excellent. The waiter went out of his way to be accommodating.

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The Estancia Peuma Hue

The Estancia Peuma Hue

On Sally’s recent visit to the Argentinian Lake District, she stayed at the Estancia Peuma Hue enjoying the fine food, hiking trails, stunning scenery and utter tranquility. Read on for her review.

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Sitting on the shores of the glistening Gutierrez lake nestled between forested slopes and surrounded by jagged granite peaks, The Estancia Peuma Hue really is a place of dreams.

The main house of the estancia is just a stone’s throw from the beach which sweeps for 2 miles in front of the property. The water is icy cold so swimming is only for the bravest, but once you’ve taken the plunge it is a refreshing, invigorating satisfaction.

The 500 acres of the lodge includes the Southen end of the Cerro Catedral or Cathedral Mountain – aptly named because of its Dali like granite pinnacles. This side of the range is only accessible from the lodge and hiking trails have been marked by Evelyn, the lodge owner. You are unlikely to meet other hikers on the trails which gives you a definite sense of being ‘off the beaten track’ and makes for some excellent bird watching. Whilst out on the trails myself, I was able to get extremely close to a family of magellanic woodpeckers who continued their work totally undisturbed as I sat filming them.

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The Estancia is passionate about animals of all shapes and sizes. They have their own horses that graze in the field in front which guests can ride and a gaggle of friendly dogs that love nothing better than accompanying guests on their hikes.

It wasn’t unusual to see Austral Parakeets flying over head, ashy headed geese out on the grass feasting on the fallen apples, dark bellied cinclodes on the beach and southern lapwings and black faced ibis on the grass in front.

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On arrival guests are given an introductory briefing about the different excursion options available to them and are well and truly made to feel at home. From the moment I arrived I felt like I had entered somewhere very special and was eager to head out and explore the beauty that lay outside.

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The Trails

The trails have been separated into 4 trails of different lengths and difficulty which can be combined to create 1 full day hike or 2 half day hikes. These trails can all be done self guided as they have handily been marked by different coloured ribbons on the trees which represent the different colours on the hand drawn map which you’ll be given on arrival.

The trails all start from the western side of the property and head up into Cerro Catedral which does mean that they start with an inevitable uphill. The shortest trail, the orange trail named ‘Camino del Jabali’ is a great one to do on the day you arrive to stretch your legs and get a feel for the place and surroundings; this trail is just a short 3 kms but affords lovely views back onto the Estancia and lake shore.

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The blue trail, named ‘Jacuzzi Falls’ is the longest and steepest of the trail and takes you up high above the estancia to give great views back on the Gutierrez lake and the estancia and valley far below. The trail continues up to a wonderful view point out over the Jacuzzi Fall. This trail is only 6.2kms but due to the gradient will take 3-3.5hrs.

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The remaining 2 trails, the pink and yellow, ‘Hilltop and Mirador Claussen’ can be tagged onto the blue trail or done separately. They lead to trails south of the estancia, with an initial climb then quite flat and give great views of the southern Mascardi Lake and southern mountains.

As I was visiting during the first days of Autumn, the lenga beach forests were starting to change colours which created some incredible shades of orange and red across the mountains which combined with the volcanic snow-less peaks in the distance and gave the foreground and background vibrant, unusual colourings.

Other Activities

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Whilst staying at the lodge, guests can spend their days riding the horses, guided, in the surrounding hills and valleys. They cater for complete beginners to more advanced riders.

There are kayaks which can be taken out on the lake and they even have a boat which can take the less adventurous out for a spin. These are all included in the price of your stay. Additionally guests can pay to take a day out fly fishing with an expert guide or perhaps take a hike up high over the ridge of the Cathedral Mountain.

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Gourmet Food

I was taken aback by the quality, variety and finesse of the meals I was served; even the pic-nic lunch was 5*! I was served delicious fish, juicy steaks, hearty soups, local craft beer, full bodied wine and the best breakfast of my whole 3 week trip. For the food alone I would return time and time again.

The owners are very involved with the day to day running of the Estancia and in the evening when the guests gather for a drink they personally come to chat with the guests, a really lovely touch. If you are looking to relax after a challenging hike in the south or perhaps looking for somewhere to enjoy a variety of activities from a luxury, cosy base then the Estancia Peuma Hue should not be missed.

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As I drove away, back onto the main road to Bariloche airport, I was saddened that I had to leave but full of gratitude to have been fortunate enough to have experienced such a truly unique, spellbinding place.