Tag Archives: hotels

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.


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: Tierra Chiloe – Where luxury meets authenticity

Hotel Review: Tierra Chiloe – Where luxury meets authenticity

Sally returned from her trip in Patagonia and came back with even more knowledge about the region. Here she talks about the luxurious Tierra Chiloe.

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The hotel itself is an extremely impressive wooden building, perfectly designed to create comfortable spaces inside, create the most of the incredible view, yet be totally unobtrusive to the landscape. Set high up on a hill, surrounded by rolling countryside, the hotel looks out onto the one of the many channels that surround the Chiloe Archipelago.

Inside the decor feels very authentic with wooden furniture, woolen throws over the chairs, woven baskets and even fun little touches such as wooden pigs that have been turned into seats!
Tierra Chiloe Int

All the rooms have floor to ceiling windows and are located on the 2nd floor making the view just that bit more impressive. The rooms are made entirely of wood which gives them the feel that you’re in a wooden cabin.
The room has charming touches such as woollen Chilote slippers for all its guests, a metal water bottle for each guest (which can be refilled from containers in the reception), wooden pegs and with the bed looking straight out to sea to give you the sensation that you’re on a boat.

Tiera Chiloe bedroom

As I sit writing, tucked away in a hidden corner of the gardens of the hotel, looking out onto the still bay with the yellow autumn trees reflecting perfectly, I can hear the bird calls of the mischievous ‘chucao’, the green-hooded fire crown (hummingbird), the oystercatchers on the beach below and many more. Across the bay I can hear a farmer rounding up his cattle and the sound of oars, dipping in and out of the water as a local fisherman rows home his catch.
The peace and tranquility is utterly mesmerising.

Dinner is served from 8pm, starting with a pisco sour and a few appetizers whilst sat in the lounge. There is a lovely atmosphere as the hotel manager, Andres, does the rounds to ensure that all the guests have had a good day and jazz or folkloric music is played subtly in the background. On check-in or at breakfast, guests choose their dinner with 2 choices for each course (guests choose their dinner when they check-in or after breakfast as everything is made to order).


Each day there is a choice of two excursions which are either full day or half day. The excursions are either vehicle based including some short hikes to places of cultural interest and natural beauty or can involve longer hikes and kayaking.


The gem of the hotel though is the ‘Wiliche’, the wooden boat. The boat goes out every other day and the hotel ensures that all clients are able to take at least one excursion by boat. There are three different routes that the Wiliche takes but each excursion includes the opportunity to go kayaking, do excursions in a small zodiac or do some short hikes. Lunch is served on board – canapes, a salad and quiche and fresh fruit was on the menu the day I sailed aboard the Wiliche. Delicious.
On the boat

On arrival guests are given a briefing of all the excursions, how they work and are given a half day arrival option such as horse riding, or a visit the the nearby village of Dalcahue or Rilan.

The location, interior, service and attention to detail really is 5* in the luxurious lodge. If you are looking to immerse yourself in local culture and beautiful scenery but not scrimp on the comfort level, then this hotel would make a wonderful addition to any itinerary to Patagonia.

Would you like to read more about Sally’s day out on the Wiliche?


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.


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.

Where to Stay in Santiago

Where to Stay in Santiago

Although Santiago is a sprawling city, the city centre is quite compact with many of the historic buildings, bars and restaurants nestled together in just a few neighbourhoods. Below is a little description of each neighbourhood so you can see which area you think might suit you best.

Bella Vista

Nestled under the Saint Christopher Hill, Bella Vista is a neighbourhood of contrasts. It is famous for being a bohemian neighbourhood where artist have their studios. There are student bars selling cheap beer in litre bottles, a private University, and live music. On a parallel street there are fine dining restaurants serving up the very best in Chilean cuisine, first class boutique hotels and shops selling handmade souvenirs. The neighbourhood ends with the entrance to the funicular that takes you up the Saint Christopher Hill which gives magnificent views over the whole of Santiago and the snow capped Andes.

Top pick hotel – the Castillo Rojo: http://www.castillorojohotel.com/

bella vista

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As the name suggests, this castle-like building, built in 1927, looks like something out of a fairytale with turrets and balconies. Recently restored and open for just 1 year, the interior of this building retains all of its original charm complete with original features, antiques and furniture made and sourced in Chile.


This old, historic neighbourhood, which is little more than a few streets, has a village-like feel, nestled in the hustle and bustle of the centre of Santiago. It has great restaurants and cafes, artistic independent shops and is within walking distance of the `Plaza de Armas’, Museo de Bellas Artes (fine art museum), the Santa Lucia Hill and the neighbourhood of Bellavista. On a Saturday and Sunday it also has a fun little antiques market. It has a number of lovely boutique hotels that have recently opened in restored historic houses.

Top pick hotel – Lastarria Boutique: http://www.lastarriahotel.com/en/acerca-de/

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On entering the hotel, one shouldn’t be put off by the small lobby and reception area. Once you climb the first flight of stairs you enter the charming breakfast room which leads onto the terrace and garden – a small oasis in the centre of the city. The perfect place to relax after a day of sigh-seeing or travelling up from chilly Patagonia!


Providencia is the first residential neighbourhood that you reach just outside of the city centre. Although more residential, it has plenty of bars, restaurants, cafes and is on the metro line 1 (the red line) which makes it just a short trip into the centre of town (as a first time visitor, you would still feel as if you are in the city centre). Providencia is safer and calmer than the city centre and just a short taxi ride to the neighbourhoods of Bellavista and the more affluent Las Condes and Vitacura.

The more luxurious hotels in this area tend to be larger, more business like hotels but the Santiago Park Plaza still manages to capture some of the local flavour. There are also number of more guest house style boutique hotels with my top pick being the Meridiano Sur. If you are looking for a characterful mid-range hotel then this is a great option.

[Read Sally from Swoop’s tips on Things to do in Santiago]

Tina & Steve’s W Trek & Huemul Circuit

Tina & Steve’s W Trek & Huemul Circuit

Tina and Steve returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine and Huemul Circuit in Los Glaciares National Park. Here they tell us abut their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners….

‘I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks.’

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Our trip started with a visit to Swoop’s office in Bristol where we met Luke and some of the team. Other than having heard a bit about Torres del Paine from a friend, we had no real knowledge of the region or what we could do in the short time available to us. During that visit and over the course of subsequent e-mails Luke, and the Swoop Team, helped us come up with a plan to squeeze plenty of activity into our two-week timeframe.

Torres del Paine National Park

We started in Torres del Paine where we did a Self-Guided W Trek organised by Swoop’s recommended partners in Puerto Natales. We had just one night in Puerto Natales at the start after a 36-hour journey from Devon, with an early transfer next day into the park to begin the walk.

The walking was great, very mixed terrain, and hugely changeable weather; we really did get everything from hot sun to snow, invariably accompanied by the notorious wind; luckily the rain was largely overnight. It was nice to be able to change and shower in the Refugios each night (contrast the next bit of the trip), although Refugio food was distinctly unmemorable.

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Walking highlights here were the beautiful lakeside walks, and the trek to Glacier Grey. Sadly the French Valley (the middle bit of the W) was closed to walkers due to snow. Swoop’s partners were superb – Johana met us (unannounced, which was a lovely surprise) off the bus when we arrived late in Puerto Natales, got us to the hotel safely, and came up with the best packed lunch of our whole trip for the first day’s walking the next morning.

We must also mention the young lady who was waiting to check us back into the hotel when we returned from the park, again late at night. I’d stupidly left our passports, travel documents and lots of cash in the taxi we’d taken from the bus station – she confidently made lots of phone calls, poured us a cold beer, ushered us over the road to eat in the fab restaurant Aldea (highly recommended) just before they closed, and happily the young cab driver bowled up with all our stuff about 15 minutes later.


Los Glaciares National Park

We transferred to El Calafate, visited the Perito Merino glacier, and had a night in Hosteria La Estepa – very comfortable, lovely welcoming manager Agustino, and a very nice dinner.

Then on to El Chalten; Swoop had put us in contact with a Chalten-based expedition company who organised this bit of our stay. We picked up some rental camping gear, had one night on a self-guided (rather wet) walk, and then went off with our guide Fabio to do the Huemul Circuit. This was just awesome and for me was the very best bit of our trip. The walking was strenuous at times, but we saw some amazing stuff. The trek involves four days of walking with three nights of wild camping – I think we saw no more than four other people during the whole period.

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Highlights – the zip-wire river crossing, the joys of very basic camping food, wonderful scenery, the blow-you-off-your-feet (literally) winds, and the last night camp eating our supper just below the glacier Viedma.


Again, this partner of Swoop’s was absolutely faultless – a friendly welcome, very helpful in the shop, a great mountain guide, and an upgraded hotel in Chalten. Both agents were responsible for recommending and booking various hotels, bus transfers, taxi pick-ups etc, and everything went totally smoothly – not a single glitch in the plans.

Our trip ended with a stopover in Buenos Aires, where we had some great cocktails (we seem to have developed a Pisco habit), and the biggest steak you’ve ever seen. So top marks to Swoop – always available to respond to questions or with advice during the planning stage, but also happy to leave us to communicate directly with their partners in Patagonia, who (as I’ve said) were both superb.

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I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia (there are some other interesting-looking challenges); and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks. Antarctica, anyone?

Anja & Dave’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Anja & Dave’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Anja and Dave returned in November 2014 from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on their trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

anja dave 3What did you think of Swoop and our partners?

We had an amazing time and I would recommend you all any time to friends and family. In fact, I am getting together with a friend this afternoon who is heading down to Patagonia and will make sure that she contacts you for the planning and tour.

The overall experience with Swoop and your partners in Chile was seamless and very positive. You were responsive, helpful and very pro-active. Communication remained fluid and up-to-date and the follow through on everything promised was on point. So, overall, the experience was excellent!

Your partners in Chile did an excellent job communicating with us right until our departure for the trek – they were great on email and coordinated the different players wonderfully.

anja dave 2

What did you think of the W Trek itinerary?

The ‘Original W-Trek’ itinerary was excellent – we had a great guide who was really wonderful and very concerned with our well-being and safety. I would have appreciated a tad bit more education and history, but it was an excellent experience.

Is there anything you would have changed about the trip?

Regarding the itinerary, if we could have gotten to the starting point of the Trek with a tad less “waiting around” that would have been even greater. With just a bit of more efficient travel planning, we might have been able to shave off a day by spending less time in Punta Arenas…this would be my only suggestion for optimizing the trip.

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How was your accommodation on the trip?

The lodging was great. We stayed at the KAU Lodge in Puerto Natales and the staff was great but I wish they had been a bit more forthcoming with suggestions about where to go and where to eat in that city…in addition, we almost missed our bus to Calafate…on the day we left after the trek was over, a cab was supposed to pick us up at 6:40 to catch the 7:00am bus to Calafate. The cab never showed up so at the last minute, the only present manager at the lodge, who was scheduled to serve breakfast and spoke NO English, abandoned his task at the breakfast bar and hopped in his private car to drive us to the bus station. That was truly outstanding service and I hope you can thank him for us.

[Read more about our most recommended hotels in Patagonia]

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

In addition to the W Trek, we also spent time in Los Glaciares National park ( at El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier, which was amazing). We heard about it during the trek and ended up taking a taxi there but not having much time to see it or to walk the glacier. One suggestion I have is to integrate the return from the W Trek with the bus ride to Calafate and the tour of the Moreno glacier a bit more.

That’s it – thanks again and well done!!!

anja dave 5

Luke’s Review of the Estancia 440, Puerto Varas

Luke’s Review of the Estancia 440, Puerto Varas


I stayed here prior to a wonderful 5 hour hike around Volcan Osorno and it felt very homely as part of a long trip when when I was on the road most days.
In some respects the name is a bit of a misnomer as this is a small town hotel with just a handful of rooms, however the decor and the photos on the walls ooze Patagonian gaucho culture. The architecture and design are also very much in keeping with the feel and aesthetic of the Chilean Lake District, with wood all around you. Each of the rooms is quite unique, and the public areas feel very welcoming.

Chrissy (originally from Punta Arenas) turned this into a hotel three years, and runs it on a day to day basis, with her family are in the adjacent building, so everything feels very homely.  It’s a short 5 minute walk from the western edge of the lakefront with all of its cafes, bars and restaurants.
The internet was reliable than most places, and I was disturbed in the night by several dogs barking in the local neighbourhood, but somehow that didn’t really matter – this was a place to relax, even in the midst of a relatively busy itinerary.

Use this as your base in Puerto Varas Estancia 440, Puerto Varas if you want: small, welcoming and homely

Luke’s Review of Arakur Hotel, Ushuaia

Luke’s Review of Arakur Hotel, Ushuaia

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

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

Luke’s Review of La Campanilla, Ushuaia

Luke’s Review of La Campanilla, Ushuaia

La Campanilla, is a small owner-run hotel on the outskirts of Ushuaia.
I stayed here the night before my expedition cruise to Antarctica. As you enter La Campanilla the first thing you’ll see is a large photograph of Ernest Shackelton as his men in front of the ice-bound Endurance; especially thought provoking for anyone heading down to Antarctica. You also be welcomed by your charming hosts, whose photos of their own travels you can see up on the wall next to reception.

The rooms are cosy but comfortable and breakfast will stand you in good stead for a day ahead exploring the Tierra del Fuego national park. A taxi ride to San Martin in the middle of town costs around $7 and takes about 10 minutes.

Book a room here if you want: friendly and familiar, at a good price, and don’t mind being outside town. 

Lis’s Trip to Torres del Paine & Tierra del Fuego

Lis returned in December from a trip to Patagonia during which they took W Trek in Torres del Paine followed by a visit to Isla Navarino in Tierra del Fuego. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Patagonia…

What three words would best sum up your experience in Patagonia?

Wild, Beautiful, Fantastic.

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia overall?

It’s genuinely hard to pick one thing overall, it was so varied and beautiful. The light and the windswept, dramatic wilderness of it all was perhaps the most abiding memory of Patagonia – the sheer space and also the diversity.

We dipped in and out of different parts of Patagonia, including a 3 day W Trek (thanks Swoop Patagonia for organising it for us!) in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park, and spending time in Punta Arenas which really felt like a frontier town at the edge of the earth.

Then we also flew in a tiny plane down to Isla Navarino, where there really is the last town before Antarctica (and the most southerly Yacht Club in the world!). This was definitely the most unusual aspect of our trip, and included our best story: drinking with the locals on the German frigate (now a bar) at the Yacht Club, with a Penguin swimming in the bay – and especially the luxurious Lakutaia Lodge and services of local guide Denis (quite brilliant).

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

Patagonia is pretty huge – we would have liked to see more of it; then again, with some smart planning of flights and buses (which are excellent for long distance travel in Chile) we could get around in not too many days. There are so many options for hiking and National Parks – definitely pick your top ones and don’t try to do everything.

We’d also have liked to cross the border into Argentinian Patagonia (a well trodden path at different points) and to take a boat ride (whether the Navimag or a more luxury cruise ) – would recommend investigating these options.

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

They were great: very generous with their advice and support when we were considering  options before making a decision. It was a very personal, tailored service; and thus felt very responsive and flexible to our needs.

What did you think of the operators we set you up with in Torres del Paine?

The operators were reliable, helpful and professional. The Fast Track W Trek we did in Torres del Paine was quite expensive (as there were only two of us in the group); but in return we received a great service, excellent guide (just for the two of us), top equipment and planning and good food. It suited what we needed very well.

How was the W Trek itself, and how were your guides?

The trek was fantastic: we did a 3-day Fast Track loop which suited perfectly as we only had 3 days to spare. I would recommend this itinerary – others do a 5 day W Trek or the Full Circuit, but the 3 days were honestly pretty stretching, even for us as pretty seasoned walkers. The variation on each day was marvellous too, meaning we felt like we saw the range that Torres del Paine had to offer; we left very satisfied.

Talking with other walkers, it’s worth choosing your refugio carefully – some had a reputation as serving pretty meagre portions of food which isn’t great when you’ve walked 9 hours!

Our guide (Viktor) was fantastic – seasoned, professional, good fun, knowledgeable, everything we could have wanted. The packed lunches, tent and equipment which he bought from them were very good quality, and they provided excellent fresh bread for my partner who is gluten free. He went above and beyond to support us and make sure things ran smoothly. Would definitely recommend the operator and Viktor in particular.

How was your stay at Lakutaia Lodge?

Lakutaia Lodge was great too – again, there were only about 6 guests staying there so we had 1:1 attention and service – for instance, they changed the menus around so we could have King Crab on our last day when we had to leave early.

Their excursions were thoughtful and really interesting (bird watching – not something I’d ever think I’d have enjoyed but was breathtaking), tour of the town of Puerto Williams, short trek, museum…); and we also loved using their bikes and canoes.

Local guide Denis accompanied us solicitously during our stay and was so knowledgeable and accommodating – it really made the trip.

The Lodge manager was equally very hospitable and accommodating, looked after us very well. She even introduced us to a famous Chilean opera singer who arrived to stay as we were leaving!

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

Only the weather coming in on our third day, and my falling over & spraining my ankle! Otherwise perfect.