Tag Archives: chile

Eric & Nancy’s Patagonian Dream

Eric & Nancy’s Patagonian Dream

“I had for many decades dreamt of travelling to Patagonia. Our five days hiking in Torres del Paine are five days that we will never forget. Thank you so much for your help in organizing this trip. It would have been most difficult for us to do on our own.”

Eric and Nancy had always wanted to visit Patagonia and Swoop helped them to arrange a classic hiking trip in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Eric gives us feedback from their unforgettable five day hike in the park and time spent in Puerto Natales:

How did you find the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park?

Your partners and guides did an excellent job. Our guide was informed, an excellent communicator, read our group well and challenged us accordingly. He is a skilled guide who we would happily use again.

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How was your accommodation?

All of our connections worked out perfectly. The accommodations in the park were good, perhaps excepting the 2nd refugio, but we acknowledge that they were overwhelmed by adverse weather conditions on that night. Our hostels in Puerto Natales worked out well.

How was your experience of using Swoop Patagonia?

After floundering somewhat in our attempt to access travel information for hiking in Patagonia, we found your website indirectly through a blog. The information on that site was immediately helpful. Your prompt response to our questions and your questioning of our intentions and abilities were most helpful.

Swoop can help you book the Patagonia trip of a lifetime. Do get in touch to find out how.

Jenny’s Torres del Paine dream trip

Jenny’s Torres del Paine dream trip

In September, Jenny took a memorable trip to Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. Jenny does an amazing job below of telling us all about her experiences, the trip highlights and what is was like travelling with Swoop Patagonia and our partners.

 

Jenny’s feedback

Out of all the places I have seen in Chile during my trip (Santiago, Valparaiso, Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine), Torres del Paine was absolutely the highlight.

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Not only was I excited about being in Patagonia, a wish that has been on my list for quite a while, but choosing an organised hike with a tour operator was a very good choice as well. You can certainly do the trip by yourself; you will meet many people, the paths are marked very well, you can probably buy books that guide you through the park and its characteristics. But having a local guide just gives you the opportunity to learn so much more about what you see, about Torres del Paine National Park, its geology, flora, fauna and history, and getting this first-hand information right away, with the chance to get answers to more detailed questions as well, is a clear advantage in my eyes.

The trip on the W trek was organised perfectly by a tour agency recommended by Swoop Patagonia. The operation manager and one of the main organisers there were always very friendly and helpful whenever there were questions arising prior to the trip or even when urgent support was needed just the night before the trip.

Torres del Paine 09-2015 Jenny Block _1

During the trip itself, even though parts of the hike were unexpectedly demanding (but still a big joy!), we always had enough time so we didn’t need to rush through the park, but enjoy the scenery whenever we wanted. The Torres del Paine National Park is a very special place, and I’m glad we were able to fully enjoy its beauty!

The trip was a big joy not least because of our very professional and pleasant guide! Whenever we had questions about things we saw he was able to give us an answer. Whenever we needed a break or wanted to spend some more time at a certain spot, he would understand and make that happen. He was very caring and always gave us the information we needed about what was going to happen the day. He had a good sense of humour on top of it all, which made the trip special as well.

Torres del Paine 09-2015 Jenny Block _3

I’m thankful Swoop Patagonia put me in contact with their local partners in Torres del Paine! I would definitely recommend Swoop to friends and family, because I think first-hand advice from people who know the region just makes planning so much easier. And Swoop is doing their job very well, as far as I can tell from my experiences.

We Know Because We Go: Harriet, Chloe & Sally’s Patagonia Trips in the Spring

We Know Because We Go: Harriet, Chloe & Sally’s Patagonia Trips in the Spring

In Spring 2016 Harriet, Chloe and Sally will be downing tools and heading to Patagonia. Regular trips like these ensure we stay close to our roots and maintain our in-depth knowledge of the region. We test out new trips, visit new parks, hike new routes and eat in new restaurants – all in the name of research, of course.

Harriet – Trekking, Mountaineering & Aysen Specialist

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On a Swoop recce to Reserva Cerro Castillo in 2015

I am focusing all three weeks of my trip on the little visited Aysen region of Chile. I am planning to follow the spine of the Andes from north to south: trekking from Lago Verde to Lago Palena, visiting the Queulat National Park, sightseeing and relaxing on the Lago General Carrera. The final week of my Aysen adventure will be spent in the Patagonia Park, getting to know the various treks and day hikes there.

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The Autumn colours of Aysen

I am very excited about the Patagonia Park. It’s an area that is receiving a large amount of coverage in the press at the moment, because of its link with the late Doug Tompkins, The North Face founder. I know a particular corner of Aysen fairly well, as in 2002 I spent 3 weeks in the Tamango Reserve volunteering on a biodiversity study.

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Admiring Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) in Queulat in 2010

The Tamango Reserve is now to be integrated into the New Patagonia National park. I am very keen for Swoop to be able to offer some new and exciting adventures within the national park and only by getting into the area and exploring it with our local partners will I be able to truly understand what I am offering our customers.

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Pedalling towards Lago General Carrera in 2010

The trek between Lago Verde and Lago Palena is reported to be one of the best in Aysen. I first discovered the trek on a friend’s blog, as the photos he took are absolutely incredible. I am entranced by the apparently enchanted forests and what looks like some great streams to swim in, but also the apparent remoteness and tranquility. I can’t wait to experience it for myself.

Chloe – Wildlife & Cruise Specialist

Prepping for the Patagonian winds on the Devonshire coast

My first ever trip to Patagonia – I’m SO excited! As Swoop’s cruise and wildlife specialist, I’m starting off with a 4 night ‘Wildlife, Glaciers and Cape Horn‘ cruise through the Chilean Fjords from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia (pronounced ‘oosh – why – ah’). I will be heading out on a number of excursions to see glaciers and wildlife including penguins, elephant seals, sea lions and dolphins.

Penguins of Isla Magdalena

My next stop will be the mountain town of El Chalten, where I’ll take a 2 day hike to Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre and go rafting, before heading to El Calafate for an ice hike on Perito Moreno Glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate

Next – the absolute highlight for me – a Humpback Whale Watching trip in Chile, where I’ll be spending three days studying the whales that congregate in the waters of the Magellan strait from my base at an eco research camp on Carlos III Island.

Breaching humpback Whale off Carlos III Island

On the final leg of the trip I’ll be venturing to the famous Torres del Paine National Park to hike the W Trek, and try out some of the park’s hotels, eco yurt camps and luxury lodges.

The famous Towers or ‘Torres’ of Paine

Sally – Lake District & Bespoke Trip Specialist

Sally Lago Nordenskjold (1)

The flights are booked but unlike Chloe, there is really only a loose plan as to how I’ll be spending my 21 nights! One thing that is for sure though is that I am just as excited.

I absolutely love Chile and having spent so much time there over the years it always feels like going home. On this trip I will have the opportunity to visit the new Tantauco Park in the southern part of Chiloe Island. It’s a private park of 118,000 hectares with a new network of hiking refugios, virgin forests, exquisite bird life and wonderful flora.

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The Bay of Ancud, Chiloe Island

I am utterly obsessed with Chiloe Island. It is charming, quaint, relaxing, captivating, intoxicating – time simply slows down. Whenever I visit, I am always filled with the sensation that I simply just don’t want to leave. As I was on the ferry leaving the island after my last visit I wrote a few words in my diary…

There is something about Chiloe that grabs me every time I visit, it sounds silly but something reaches deep down inside and touches my soul. It fills me with a feeling of deep satisfaction for having been here, experiencing the tranquility, calmness and simplicity to life. Thank you Chiloe.

I simply can’t wait to discover this new part of the island.

For the second part of my trip I am hoping to white water raft down the mighty Futaleufu river, then cross into Argentina to either hike, kayak or mountain bike (or all 3!), using the small town of San Martin de Los Andes as my base.

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If we’ve inspired you with our passion for Patagonia and you’re interested in any of the trips or activities on which we’re embarking, then we’d love to hear from you to help you plan your incredible adventure. In the meantime, you might like to take a look at our Itinerary Selector to help you decide what sort of trip might suit you best.

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Hotel Review:  Mitico Puelo – relaxing, tranquil, idyllic

Hotel Review: Mitico Puelo – relaxing, tranquil, idyllic

Sally returned from her trip in Patagonia and came back with even more knowledge about the region, along with some tales of bird watching, she wrote about her different experiences of hotels in the region.  Here she talks about the idyllic Mitico Puelo.

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The Mitico Puelo lodge sits on the shores of the Tagua Tagua Lake, accessible only by boat which makes getting to the lodge an adventure in itself. The drive to reach the lake takes you past lakes, volcanoes and fjords giving you a feeling of gradually leaving civilisation behind and reaching somewhere very special indeed.

The setting of the lodge is utterly idyllic surrounded by steep sided, thickly forested mountains, emerald waters and an abundance of birds. At night the only noise is the wind whistling through the trees and the sound of lapping water.

On the lake.

The building itself is beautifully built with large wooden beams, spacious lounges, big windows, large landings and open staircases. The rooms and bathrooms are very spacious and those on the first floor have large wooden balconies that look out over the lake and gardens in front. The interior decorations and fittings are all a little tired and old fashioned but this sense of faded glory does some how add to its charm.
By the fire

As I sat eating breakfast I was fascinated to watch some ‘Green-Backed Fire Crowns’ – a hummingbird native to the area, gorging themselves on the fuchsia bushes in front of the lodge. Morning and evening, there was a roaring fire in the lounge, a lovely space to sit, relax and take in the view. Dinner was served from 8pm, a 3 course set menu of wholesome local dishes – although there is no choice as to the menu, they are very good at catering for clients with specific dietary needs.
Dining/ lounge

The staff live on site and have quite a relaxed approach but do ensure that all clients feel totally at home; this is obvious from the comments made in the guest book.

The lodge is a great base for fly fishing, a jumping off point to the Tagua Tagua National Park and other excursions by boat and on foot up the Puelo river valley. This is an area visited by little so you really do feel like you are getting quite far off of the beaten track.

Swimming

If you are looking for somewhere to relax, surrounded by incredible scenery with the possibility of some activities but not looking for 5* luxury or service, then this lodge is the perfect option; a rustic choice in an idyllic setting.

Marcel’s 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine

Marcel’s 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine

Marcel returned in May from a 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us a little about his trip, and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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What was the highlight of the trip?

The highlight was our second day hike to the base of the Towers! This was supposed to be day one, but horizontal hail and gale force like winds made us change the itinerary and stay low the first day (good decision!).

How were your guides on the trip?

The guide (Carlos) was great, very good English, nice, knew great hikes, would want to have him as guide again in a heartbeat. All in all 3 great days.

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Is there anything you would have liked to happen differently?

If we had to choose something, it would probably be the accommodation. We experienced some troubles with hot water and heating, which was not ideal after returning from a day’s hiking in very cold temperatures! Compared to the very high level of everything else on the tour, this was the only area that fell a little short I think.

Overall…

Overall we had a very good time, beautiful park, nature absolutely great, transport there and back, all very well organized. We’d like to come back next year!

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Excursions from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Excursions from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Scott & Orlee returned in April from a trip to Chile, during which they spent 5 days of day hikes in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco camp. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop…

‘We had an amazing time in Chile, one that will not be forgotten with Patagonia being a definite highlight!’

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What did Swoop do well?

Communication and customer service which gained trust.  I also felt that I was being dealt with directly and not as part of the masses…a personalized service in helping organize our trip.

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What did you think of the eco camp in Torres del Paine?

This place is amazing.  Clean, comfortable, & hospitable.  I would (and already have) definitely recommend it to anyone!

We did encounter one issue that could have been serious…one morning the board walks connecting the domes and other facilities had frozen over with a very thin layer of ice that was not distinguishable from wet wood.  Unassumingly my wife led the way to breakfast and nearly fell right outside our dome (double scary when pregnant).  As I sort of rushed after her my feet went flying out from beneath me and fell within inches from hitting my head on the steps leading away from our dome.  I find it unlikely none of the staff noticed this on their way to prepare breakfast but regardless, guests should be made aware of this possibility and if the ground is unsafe, signs indicating icy or slippery ground should be placed in plain view at the very least. 

Also, our room had a hot water urn to make a tea or instant coffee.  These should be filled in anticipation of guests return from excursions so when we change for our brief & dinner we have hot water waiting for us (there was not much time to shower, change, etc…and the 1 time I went for hot water, there was none ready).

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How did you enjoy the excursions from the eco camp?

They were fantastic.  We also lucked out with the weather.  Our last excursion was the Lasso-Webber (sp?) trail hike in place of the French Valley (I think).  This should always be an option…just as rewarding as the towers and less effort.

 How were the staff and guides at the eco camp?

Guides were knowledgeable, funny, and comfortable to be around for long periods of time.  The drivers however went too fast at times on those bumpy roads and car sickness was not a welcomed addition to the trip.  

 Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

No, I don’t think so.

scott glacierWhat was the highlight of your trip overall?

Hard to say…the whole thing was a highlight.

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

If guests are not regular hikers I would definitely recommend this trip, it seemed a better mix of effort and comfort.

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

Yes, Santiago, Puerto Varas (driving around the lake and visiting Osorno was also amazing), and Chiloe.

‘All the best from us to you, Luke and Sally and thanks again for helping us plan a truly unforgettable experience.’

scott views

 

 

Volunteer work in Patagonia

Volunteer work in Patagonia

We’ve had lots of people ask us recently about volunteering in Patagonia and we haven’t been able to offer as many opportunities as we’d like to.

However this message arrived yesterday from Paula at Conservacion Patagonica and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

I was lucky enough to visit the future Patagonia National Park when I was touring Aisen in November last year. It’s an absolutely beautiful location and you can already see the benefits of all the hard work that has gone in there.

Volunteering with Conservacion Patagonica, November ’13 to March ’14

Photo credits to Eugénie Frerichs

Want to contribute sweat and muscle to the creation of a future national park? Think that building trails, collecting seeds, practicing a second language, and baking backcountry bread sounds like a good vacation?

Willing to get hailed on, hike hills, pull thistle and make new friends, all in the name of saving and restoring this spectacular landscape?

We’re accepting applications now for our volunteer program for the 2013 – 2014 summer season. The program will run in five three-week sessions, from early November through late March, with eight participants per group. Young and old, from Chile to China– all those who are fit, game, comfortable in Spanish and English, and willing to live and work in the backcountry of the future park are encouraged to apply!

Photo credits to Eugénie Frerichs

Applications are due by June 1, 2013.  If you’re interested in applying, please read more here. They are also looking to hire a field leader for the volunteer program; see job description here. And if the program’s not for you (or if you’ve participated already but can’t make it back), please spread the word to anyone you think might enjoy this experience.

Why Cruceros Australis is a Must-Do on any trip to Patagonia

Why Cruceros Australis is a Must-Do on any trip to Patagonia

For many people, making sure to see all the highlights you read about in your travel guide is really important on a trip to Patagonia. And in general, we’d agree. Although the visit to Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the more touristy aspects of a trip, the sheer size and magnificence of Perito Moreno means it’s a fantastic way to start understanding Patagonia.

That is, if you can combine it with getting off the beaten track or seeing places that the average Joe just won’t reach. One of the most exciting ways of doing this is taking an Adventure Cruise along the Chilean coast. Cruceros Australis stops off at some of the most secluded bays and islands in Patagonia, where you can see penguins and sea lions and gaze at some of Patagonia’s most impressive glaciers. You’ll also sail along Glacier Alley, a fjord lined with 15 glaciers that can’t be seen from any other angle.

If you like the sound of leaving the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind you for a few days, have a look at our Patagonian cruises: start in Punta Arenas or in Ushuaia.

Apart from luxurious cabins, delicious meals and expert guides, on the cruise you’ll learn about the Yagahan people who inhabited Patagonia before they were wiped out by hunters, disease and a lack of seal blubber. For us, the combination of beautiful scenery, wildlife and history is truly a winning formula.

But our top 5 reasons for cruising with Cruceros are:
1) Cruceros Australis is the only cruise company which regularly travels throughout the season to Cape Horn, the last point before Antarctica.
2) Not only is the cruise a luxury experience, but an educational one too, with lecturers on board, and specialist, multi-lingual guides accompanying guests throughout the trip.
3)  You’ll sail through the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, walk alongside the Pia Glacier; visit spectacular locations, see unique glaciers, flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world.
5) See South American Sea lions, dolphins and numerous bird species, and have the chance to get up close and personal with Magellan penguins and elephant seals, in their natural habitats.

Books and films About Patagonia

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

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

Books

1. In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin

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

2. Patagonia – a Cultural History, Chris Moss

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

3. Mischief in Patagonia, Bill Tilman

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

4. Trekking in the Patagonian Andes

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

Films & Videos

1. In Patagonia (2010)

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

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

The 10 day race may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a good one to enjoy from your armchair. The race is run in Southern  Chilean Patagonia every year, through both iconic national parks and areas that are very rarely seen. You’ll be wowed by the landscapes as much as by the endeavours of the participants of the race.
http://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/wenger-patagonian-expedition/id498965561

3. A story for tomorrow, Gnarly Bay Productions

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

 

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