Tag Archives: Buenos_Aires

Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

Ian and Sue returned in December from a 24 day trip to Chile and Argentina that was designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop.

‘We had the best holiday of our lives and would recommend it (and Swoop) to anyone!’ 

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Ian and Sue Feedback

The package you put together for us exceeded our expectations in every way.  The quality of the accommodation and guides was very high, and the choice of locations and activities was spot on for us.  We would recommend Swoop to anyone (and have done so).  The varied and unspoiled landscapes, the geology, and the incredibly rich variety of wildlife made Patagonia our perfect destination. If we are able to return to South America, I hope it will be under your auspices!

Ian and Sue’s Itinerary

Ian and Sue began their trip with a city tour of Santiago, followed by a night in the Hotel Boutique Oporto.

[Read Swoop’s list of recommended hotels in Santiago]

The city tour was faultless- a conversation with the courier led to an instant change to our afternoon itinerary, substituting a poet’s house with the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, and providing a driver to give us more time.  


Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Santiago

Our guide had been a guide in the museum, so was amazingly knowledgeable. We ate at Como Agua Para Chocolate, and loved it.

[Read swoop’s top picks for restaurants throughout Patagonia]

The next morning they flew on to Puerto Montt, and the nearby island of Chiloe for a 3 night stay at Chil Hue, for 3 days of excursions to take in the local scenery, wildlife, fishing villages and penguin colony.

Our guide met us on arrival and drove us to Ancud, stopping several times on the way to show us birds etc.

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Chilean Wigeon


Ringed Kingfisher







He was a fantastic guide with a wide knowledge of natural history, and the history of the island.  We had a great day out – including a short trip out to the penguin colony where we saw Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins.


Magellanic Penguins – Chiloé







The next day, our itinerary was to have been a visit to several of Chiloe’s wooden churches.  We had already visited a couple, and knowing our interest in natural history, our guide (Jamie) proposed a visit to a private national park owned by a friend of his (Parque Tepuhueico). 

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 After visiting Castro en route, we had a fantastic trek in the temperate rainforest.  Jaime had helped set up the trails, and had translated the interpretation boards into English, so was the perfect guide. 








On our last night, we went out for a traditional meal in Ancud. Needless to say, we loved Chiloe!

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Ian and Sue’s next stop was Punta Arenas, where they spent a day exploring the city, and the King Penguin Colonies of Tierra del Fuego.


On arrival at Punta Arenas, we were met by our guide, who dealt faultlessly with our questions.  Hotel Ilia was one of the nicest and friendliest places we stayed. The room was large, light and airy.  The decor was attractively modern and arty, and the breakfasts were great. 

Punta Arenas exceeded our expectations. It was a friendly and characterful Chilean city: a bit ramshackle in places, but full of charm (and feral dogs…).  O’Higgins provided a wealth of restaurants to choose between.  We ended up going to Brocolino both nights, and enjoyed it very much.

Our day trip to see the King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego was a great success. It was a full day, but very variable and enjoyable.  We were in a small group in a mini-bus, which stayed with us all day. 

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King Penguins – Tierra del Fuego

Porvenir was an attractive (v small!) city with a surprisingly good museum.  The penguin site (not yet referred to as a “colony” as they hadn’t bred successfully yet) was great – with interesting plants as well as birds.  


Lighthouse, Porvenir

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Chimango Caracara







The guide was excellent, stopping the bus to show us foxes, guanacos and rheas, and pointing out the dolphins on the short ferry crossing on the way back to the mainland.  On return, the bus dropped us off at O’Higgins for a meal as it was getting late.



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Patagonian Grey Fox







The following day, Ian and Sue headed to an eco camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park for 3 days of excursions.

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Patagonian Skunk


Lago Pehoe – Torres del Paine







We were picked us up in the afternoon, and driven to our accommodation, stopping several times en route to look at features, wildlife etc. 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”.  


Patagonia Camp

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Patagonia Camp







On arrival, the staff explained the options available for the next day.  The evening meal was great, with as much of the house wine as we wanted to drink (and the offer of a bottle to take back to the yurt) together with unwise quantities of pisco sour before and after the meal.


Lady’s Slipper


Patagonian Red Fox







For our first day of excursions we elected to go on the Fauna Trail Hike.  This was ideal for us, providing a good introduction to the scenery, flora and fauna of the area, together with an unexpected view of the rock paintings (see their wine label – and visit Majestic in the UK).  




Rock Paintings – Torres del Paine







We were also introduced to the lavish picnics provided by the camp.

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Magellanic Orchid

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Yellow Orchid






The next day, some of the trips could not run due to high winds. The guides asked us if we would like to go on a trek they hadn’t included in their list for some years, and the three guides, and just the two of us, had a great day out.  


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They shared their maté with us, explaining the simple ceremony involved, and we felt very included.  We had a fantastic view of an Austral pygmy owl.  

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Austral Pygmy Owl

The last  section of the walk was very challenging for me – a narrow path on loose scree – and they seemed to have forgotten my vertigo.  They admitted that if this section of the walk had been longer, they would have graded the walk as “Difficult” rather than “Moderate”!

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On our final day at the camp, four of us had elected to go on the Grey Lake Boat Trip, but on arrival at the jetty, we found that the boat had been cancelled due to high winds. Instead, we did the Grey Beach Hike in the morning (very close views of a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers), together with a short hike to the Lake Toro viewpoint in the afternoon. 


Magellanic Woodpecker

This provided a great day out, and showed off the guides’ ability to think on their feet.  We rounded the day off with a self guided walk to the local waterfall.

Patagonia_002_Waterfall at Patagonia Camp

Our stay at the eco friendly camp was the high spot of our holiday. The accommodation and surroundings were great, and the guides were all of the highest quality: we felt really looked after.


Following their stay in Torres del Paine, Ian and Sue headed across the border to the town of El Calafate, where they visited the Perito Moreno Glacier, and took some day hikes from the nearby town of El Chalten.

P07820_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1320 The hotel in El Calafate was friendly, comfortable and stylish.  We were directed to the Laguna Nimezwhich was a must (we ended up going there again the next evening).  Not feeling able to face the queues at La Tablita, we ate at La Zaina, which was very good.

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The day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier was a great success.  The guide was, as usual, everything we could ask for.  Although the viewpoints provided great views of the glacier, we found the boat trip well worth it, providing closer views of the ice walls, together with the sculpted icebergs floating in the lake. 

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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Perito Moreno Glacier






The boat lingered at each viewpoint long enough for everybody to get the photos they wanted.

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Perito Moreno Glacier

On our excursion to the Petrified Forest, our guide was very knowledgeable, both geologically and botanically.  

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Petrified Forest

In addition to the geology, this trip provided our best views of the flora of the steppe

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Following the excursion, we were taken to El Chalten.  Hotel Lunajuim was very friendly- the room was great, full of quirky modern art produced by the owner’s wife: we enjoyed our stay very much.  We ate at the Estepa, which we liked very much, and returned to on our last night.

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Our excellent guide took us (together with a picnic) to Laguna Capri.  This was an ideal trek for us, culminating in a satisfying view of the glacier.  We ate at La Tapera – very good again, with a great choice of wines displayed in the wine racks with price tags tied round the necks.

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The following day our guide Zoe took us to Lago del Desierto.  She was a great guide, and managed to show us torrent ducks, which had been on my list of “hope to sees” (and give us an excellent picnic). 

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Torrent Ducks

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Ashy Headed Goose







That evening, we ate at La Vineria, which must be one of the best wine bars in the world!  Their smoked platter was worth a mention as well as the wine.

On our last day in El Chalten we took a self guided trek towards Laguna Torre – we only made it to the three viewpoints en route, but the views were spectacular, and the route easy to follow.

Patagonia_003_Scenery above El Chalten Patagonia_004_Scenery above El Chalten






The next stop was Tierra del Fuego, for a few days exploring the birds and wildlife of the National Park.

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Southern Lapwing

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Black faced Ibis







Hotel Tierra del Fuego was a good place to stay – quite central and fairly near the waterfront.  We ate at Le Estancia – the food was quite good, but the service was patchy – much of their efforts seemed to be directed towards rich Americans presumably on their way to Antarctica.

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Black Necked Swans

Patagonia_007_Upland Goose at Tierra del Fuego

Upland Goose







The guided excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park was enjoyable.  Our guide was knowledgeable, and urged us to suggest any changes to the itinerary we wanted, although we did find him a little impatient.  We ate at Moustacchio for the next two nights.  We found it very friendly, with a wide menu of well-cooked food (as Sue is allergic to crab, we tended to avoid predominantly fishy restaurants). 

The following day, our guide had booked us onto a Beagle Channel cruise, which culminated in a visit to an estancia, followed by a two hour minibus transfer home.  We decided to stay on the boat to return to Ushuaia rather than take the bus.

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This was one of our favourite days.  The weather was cold and wet but, on arrival at the penguin island, the sun came out, and the boat beached on the sand, giving us the best views we had ever had of penguins going about their normal lives. 

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In addition to the Magellanic penguins, there were a few Gentoo, and three King Penguins.

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For their final few days, Ian and Sue visited Buenos Aires, where they spend time exploring the city; it’s museums and art galleries.

[Read Swoop’s blog post about things to do in Buenos Aires]

On our departure day, our guide had already taken our details, and checked us in on line for our flight: this was a great idea- I wish other operators had done the same. After checking in at our hotel, we visited MALBA (a fantastic gallery). 

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The Hotel Esplendor was friendly and helpful. That evening we went to a nearby Parilla recommended by the hotel – it was OK, but I think I will stick to your recommendations in future! 

Our group tour of Buenos Aires in the morning was excellent.  The guide was very informative, and when one of the passengers expressed an interest in visiting Evita’s grave, she just added it to the itinerary.  At the end of the tour, she dropped the passengers off wherever they wanted.  

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A warning to other travellers: we were squirted with something outside the National Gallery, but when people offered to “assist”, we shouted at them until they went away (successfully avoiding robbery – although my mobile was later pinched on the underground: but that’s another story). 

A visit to El Ateneo, a bookshop in a converted theatre, should be on everyone’s to do list: there is even a cafe on the stage.  As an alternative to steak, we ate an Italian restaurant highly rated by the hotel (Il Gran Caruso): this was excellent.

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On our final day, we had a tour of the Opera House (very good), and spent the rest of the day at the San Telmo Market.  We really enjoyed ourselves, but are still kicking ourselves that we bought so little – everything was amazingly cheap and stylish.  

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Our Iberia flight home arrived back early, and we managed to catch an earlier coach home.

A satisfying end to the best holiday we have ever had. Thank you, Sally!

Anne’s Family Christmas in Patagonia

Anne’s Family Christmas in Patagonia

Anne and her family returned in January from a Christmas holiday in Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here she tells us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

‘Everything went fantastically, we LOVE Patagonia, and we so appreciated the careful planning.’

Fam on glacier

Ann’s Feedback

Our family of 4 recently returned from a truly awesome trip to Patagonia organised by Sally at Swoop Patagonia. I typically am the trip organiser for our family, and usually eschew travel agents.  Thank goodness I was lured to Swoop Patagonia because the trip would not have happened without them, or at least it would not have been the fantastic trip that it was.  Sally was unbelievably helpful and responsive and so very knowledgable about Patagonia. In the early stages, we Skyped and swapped innumerable emails and she patiently and competently figured out what kind of trip we were dreaming of and put all of the pieces in place.

Lake above Peuma Hue

We spent time in El Chalten, El Calafate and in the Bariloche area.  Our hikes (both guided and independent) were among the most jaw-droppingly beautiful we have ever experienced (and this is compared to Bhutan, New Zealand, and many places in the US).

The accommodations in El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche were locally run, extremely comfortable and brimming with friendly people. Sally worked with local operators to ensure that ALL of the details were covered, ranging from delicious box lunches for our hikes, to numerous transfers to and from airports, trailheads etc.

Scotch on perito moreno

The pre-trip information that Sally sent us was extensive and very well documented (e.g. packing list for hiking, suggestions for our time in Buenos Aires, specifics of domestic flights, transfers etc etc.). Sally also quickly answered questions that arose during the trip (eg. How much should I tip?) and yesterday we Skyped for close to an hour reliving our trip and going over all the details AND fantasising about future trips to Patagonia.

Caity at hut

We particularly appreciated all of the transfers that you arranged for us- I am not used to arriving at an airport and seeing a sign with my name on it and a friend driver to whisk me to my destination! I kept waiting for the time that the person would not show up, or some such, but it never happened!

I could not be more pleased and grateful for the amazing service and family trip of a lifetime! THANK YOU!


Ann’s Itinerary

The trip began in Buenos Aires, from where the family flew on to El Chalten in Los Glaciares National Park, for three days of guided and independent day hikes in the region.

‘Our hikes were unbelievable, and our accommodation was outstanding. The staff who supported us and our guide, Alex, were all great’

They then travelled back to El Calafate for a day excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier, which included a 1.5 hours ice hike, a boat excursion to the face of the glacier, and an hour on the viewing platforms in front of the glacier.

‘We had a really knowledgeable guide, and felt very safe and secure’

Perito Moreno

The next stop was Peuma Hue, a luxury eco-lodge at the heart of the Argentine Lake District, blended into 500 acres of national park, 2 miles of lakeshore, pristine forest, mountains, rolling hills, waterfalls and creeks, all just 25 minutes from Bariloche.

Peuma Hue

‘Peuma Hue was ridiculously beautiful, and the accommodation was outstanding. We went for some fantastic runs, took a boat trip to Frey, went kayaking on the lakes, took a yoga class, and went on a magical horse ride to beautiful waterfalls.’

The trip ended with three days in Buenos Aires, where the family spent time exploring the city.

‘The only thing I might do differently would be to spend new year’s eve and day outside of Buenos Aires as almost everything was closed!’

wine tasting in BA

 Thank you again for making this dream trip come true!

Jeanette’s Backcountry Ski Trip in Bariloche

Jeanette’s Backcountry Ski Trip in Bariloche

Jeanette and her family returned in July 2014 from a Winter Backcountry Ski trip in Bariloche. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…


What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of our trip was the Backcountry skiing at Baguales Lodge.  The accommodations were a rustic dream, getting there was an adventure, the food was gourmet, and the skiing spectacular.

Jeanette 1

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

Buenos Aires: we ate at two great restaurants in Sal Telmo (La Brigada) and Palermo. We went to the San Telmo market on Sunday and the Teatro Colon.

Jeanette 6

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

Swoop helped us find the best trip operator in the area, choose our outdoor adventure activities, and referred us to the best guide company.

[Here’s some more information on How Swoop Work.]

Jeanette 2

Were you well looked after by our partners in Patagonia & their guides on the trip? 

Yes, definitely.  Mike and Juan did a great job planning our itinerary, managing all our backcountry and avalanche gear, guiding us while we were in Patagonia.  They are knowledgeable, experience, professional, entertaining, and attended to our every need. We couldn’t have been happier.

Jeanette 3

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

We wish there had been more snow at Cerro Cathedral and Frey, but even under those circumstances (which no one has any control over) our guide provided us with alternatives that were excellent.

[Here’s some more information on Weather in Patagonia]

Jeanette 5

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

Contact Swoop Patagonia and their recommended partners.

Jeanette 4

Patagonia on the Web – 17th July

Patagonia on the Web – 17th July

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this week.

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:.

Patagonia-POTM-June-2014-Artur-Stanisz-620x422landscapephotographymagazine.com June winner was this stunning shot of Torres del Paine by Artur Stanisz from Canada

tumblr_n8upsqeke51sqdai9o1_500We stumbled on this picture on Twitter from  http://bonchant.tumblr.com/. Gives the atmosphere of what travelling around Torres del Paine is like with a fantastic view around each corner. 
3d47e68710a5f184a807256fea75272eLove this shot from the street’s of San Telmo found on Pinterest San Telmo, Test 1 by Moises Torne on Flickr

Swoop’s blog of the week:

obeliskManda’s blog about her unexpected trip to Buenos Aires really captures how great the city is even if you haven’t planned going there originally.

Read our very own Sally Dodge’s views on the vibrant city of Buenos Aires .

Swoop’s Article of the week:
Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 16.42.44Great piece from Ben Lerwill on patagonia for National Geographic this month talking about his  trip in Tierra del Fuego.

If you are interested in this kind of trip take a look at our Austalis Cruises and our Patagonian cruise page to find an adventure right for you .

Buenos Aires & San Telmo

Buenos Aires & San Telmo

Sally’s thoughts on Buenos Aires and  San Telmo

Unfortunately Buenos Aires is not as safe as it once was. There are more homeless people, shanty towns have grown enormously and so inevitably the level of crime has increased as well. At night, a certain level of caution is an absolute must (i.e. don’t stray too far from well lit, busy areas where there are bars and restaurants, and take taxis).


Plaza Dorrego – San Talmo

San Telmo was once a poor neighbourhood (and parts of it still are), but vast amounts of money have been invested opening up boutique hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and clothes shops. It also has the lovely Plaza Dorrego which is buzzing with life until at least 1am. It is definitely not as polished or affluent as other neighbourhoods like Palermo or Recoleta, but in my opinion it has more character.

To give you an idea, the following links are to my four favourite restaurants in the area:





The Babel Suites, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Babel Suites, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Babel Suites are a relatively new addition to the lively (and still slightly edgy) San Telmo. As a result they offer pretty good value in the lower-mid range of hotels.  This was my base for my first night in Buenos Aires and it served me very well.

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘Suites’ the idea is for your room to be spacious, and some limited space and facilities for self-catering; so public areas are normally very limited.
In this case there’s a breakfast room and on the roof terrace a few tables and sun loungers, and a very small pool.

The rooms are nicely done with plenty of space, a sofa area, and a balcony overlooking the lively Calle Mexico.

NB: there are a few different properties in Buenos Aires with the name ‘Babel’; be sure not to confuse them.

Book a room here if you want: to stay in San Telmo, with a cool spacious room, at a good price.

Melanie’s 5 day W Trek in Torres del Paine

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

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

 What was the highlight of your trip?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara & Douglas’ 5 Week Patagonian Adventure

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.


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.

mcdavid cruise

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

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. 


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

John & Laura’s Christmas Trip to Patagonia

John and Laura returned in January 2014 from a Christmas trip to Patagonia, where they took a Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, and a Kayaking trip in Torres del Paine (both organised by Swoop), as well as arranging a Self Guided W Trek and various other day trips independently. Here they tell us about their experiences on their trip…

‘We had a great time…it was a brilliant trip!’


What was the HIGHLIGHT of your trip?

The 3 day Kayaking Trip and the Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia were probably the highlights… the kayaking for being a bit wild, and the cruise for being very luxurious but also in a wild place.

On the kayak trip on Lago Grey we were close to an iceberg when it turned over. I think the guide was rather shocked as we were within about 5m of it!

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

We started off in Buenos Aires (the only place that was hot), and from there we travelled to El Calafate, and on to El Chalten.

We then headed back to El Calafate, and on to Puerto Natales, from which we took the W trek in Torres del Paine, and a Kayaking trip.

Afterwards we headed to Puerto Natales, and on to Punta Arenas, from which point we took a Cruise to Ushuaia, and then headed back to Buenos Aires.

How well did SWOOP PATAGONIA do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trips or operators for you?

Very good – booking the kayaking through Swoop with a reputable company with good access to the lake was the most useful and didn’t cost much more (if any)* than the other quotes we had. 

*NB, you will not pay any more by booking through Swoop than you would by booking direct with a local operator. Read more about how we work here.

How were the OPERATORS Swoop put you in contact with?

Both the companies you put us in contact with (the Kayaking and Cruise companies) were very good.

How were the other operators you found yourselves?

Other operators were a little patchy.

We found a great guide kayaking for a day in the Tierra Del Fuego national park but the kayaks weren’t very good (although the clothing was).

We also did half a day of Horse Riding which was OK but I really wanted to see the gauchos and how they managed the estancia and the landscape. That seemed difficult to arrange although Estancia Mercedes sounded the best but was booked up. 

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

-Traveling on Christmas day was a PITA.

We had to leave at 4.30am and had a few hours kicking about El Calafate in the bus station as everywhere was closed. At least we managed to do it but getting information was a challenge (thanks for your help by the way – but it was pretty clear that the bus operators just made things up as they went along). Some buses were completely empty (e.g, El Chalten to El Calafate at 4.30am! on Christmas day :-) and others seemed to be fully booked so we had to run around to get a seat, even days in advance.

-We decided to book our W Trek in Torres del Paine independently [without Swoop’s support], and this was awkwardIt was very unclear from the website we used if we could cancel or rearrange the bookings.

On this trip we had a mix of tents and bunks, and availability was tight. But when we got there it seemed like certain guides were taking groups around who had booked late and companies must have been holding group bunk reservations, which we might have done had the procedure been clearer.

The tents were pretty pants to be honest. Neither of us are very tall but we struggled to fit in the tent with a small amount of kit – and it rained and rained and the tent leaked – partly as kit was unavoidably touching the sides and the ventilation wasn’t very good. They ought to spend more money on them considering how much they charge.

Also, Vertice’s huts were noticeably better than Fantastico Sur’s in the quality, warmth, food and service despite costing the same. In fact, accommodation seemed to be a lottery – for USD45 in Buenos Aires we got a huge posh suite with a kitchen but for USD135 in Ushuaia we got a pokey, noisy ground floor room that was somewhat dated. We booked both late due to the uncertainty with our plan. There is little correlation between price and quality.

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

1. Don’t travel on Christmas day

2. Try and get up to date info – even the latest Lonely Planet Chile is pretty poor for accuracy, which was frustrating.

3. It is an expensive place to visit, everything and everyone seems to have a chunk of your money, taxes, booking fees etc. Planning a budget was difficult – they are not afraid to ask for tips!

4. TAM airlines are not very comfortable, or attentive

5. It is cold. Even colder than I expected

6. Don’t eat for a week before or after a Cruise (the staff here were fantastic, friendly and fun – superb)

7. I think I’d advise against travel over Christmas as it is windy, very busy, expensive (due to availability) and there is nothing particularly extra to see. If (when) we go again I think we’d wait until February or March.

8. It was very safe at all times and we never really got any hassle – even from the stray dogs.

Some of that sounds a bit blunt but none of it spoiled the trip (or is any different to any of our other traveling experiences). We saw another person with a Swoop buff and they seemed very happy too. I’ll pass on your details to anyone who is interested in planning their own trip – I think you’ll hear from my mother once she has rounded up a few of her trekking buddies!