Tag Archives: Torres del Paine

Wowed by Patagonia’s Wildlife

Wowed by Patagonia’s Wildlife

I knew Patagonia would be incredible, but I can honestly say that it totally and utterly surpassed all of my expectations. It really is another world down there, where you can be so perfectly free and alone with nature. I so often found myself gazing open mouthed at the breathtaking scenery before me: intimidating peaks, gargantuan glaciers, and curious creatures of all shapes and sizes, all the while experiencing exhilarating and ever-changing elements.

Gazing up at FitzRoy & down onto the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap at Piedra Negra.

As Swoop’s wildlife and cruise specialist, my trip in March 2016 naturally had a focus on creature spotting and adventures on water, as well as encompassing some of Patagonia’s iconic trekking routes. I crammed as much as possible into my three weeks: kayaking with sea lions and dolphins in the Magellan Strait, exploring the Chilean fjords, glaciers, and Cape Horn on an adventure cruise, trekking the famous trails in Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine National Parks, ice hiking on Perito Moreno glacier, horse riding gaucho style across the Patagonian steppe, humpback whale watching in Francisco Coloane Marine Park, and a spot of puma tracking, topped off with stays in incredible hotels, lodges and eco camps.

The longer I was there, the more I realised that Patagonia really has something for everyone, and the more that I saw, the more I realised there was left to see! Here’s the story of my journey…

25769626324_02745e017d_cPia Glacier, Chilean Fjords.

After a long journey, sweetened by bird’s eye views of the volcanoes of the Chilean Lake District from the plane, I finally touched down in Punta Arenas, and began my Patagonian wildlife adventure. You can read here what my Top 5 Wildlife Experiences were, but looking back on the whole trip, I realise now that I saw so much more than I expected to, not just in the obvious places, but in moments when I least expected, like when a hairy armadillo popped out to say hello en route back to my hotel room!

25770455114_a9bdfe336b_cHairy Armadillo, Calafate.

My trip began with a few days exploring Punta Arenas, and kayaking along the Magellan Strait among seal lions and dolphins, before boarding an adventure cruise through the Chilean Fjords, down to Ushuaia. I visited stunning glaciers and remote islands and forests that are largely unaccessible and untouched by humans, as well as getting to land on (a rather wet and windy) Cape Horn. Getting up close to a large colony of Magellanic penguins was one of the wildlife highlights of this trip, closely followed by three separate humpback whale sightings, and numerous birds.

Views over Ainsworth Bay, Chilean fjords.

Next up was a three day hike on the iconic trails of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre loop, to Piedra Negra, Laguna de Los Tres, and Laguna Torre (where I was able to film a Magellanic Woodpecker up close), followed by an ice hike on Perito Moreno Glacier, and a stay at a luxury lodge near Calafate for some horse riding …and unexpected armadillo spotting!

Perito Moreno glacier, post calving.

Perito Moreno Glacier – ice cave.

Horse riding at a luxury lodge near El Calafate.

Fitzroy at sunrise.

In front of Fitzroy at Laguna de los Tres.

As if I hadn’t been lucky enough with unexpected whale sightings already, the next part of my trip took me to to Francisco Coloane Marine Park for a dedicated humpback whale watching trip. After braving the choppy waters rounding the Froward Cape, we arrived in this very special area of sheltered channels in the Chilean Fjords, where hundreds of humpback whales come to feed between the months of December to April.

26102711680_9ce7d44526_cHumpback Whale breaching, Francisco Coloane Marine Park.

To be bobbing around in tranquil waters, surrounded by up to 20 whales at a time, breaching, spraying water into the air, and showing off their tail flukes, within metres of our boat, was a truly magical experience that will stay with me forever. A huge harem of sea lions collecting around a humungously hariy and intimidating alpha male was one of the additional wildlife treats of this trip.

Alpha sea lion and his harem in the Chilean Fjords.

Last but not least, it was off to Torres del Paine, for some long awaiting puma spotting. I was greeted on arrival by enormous herds of guanacos, peacefully grazing with the stunning backdrop of the towers, and with just one early morning and one late afternoon scheduled for puma spotting, my adventure ended with two separate sightings in 5 minutes – two females, each with cubs – what a privilege.

26374556025_e2341afe26_cPuma female, Torres del Paine.

Based from several different hotels, eco camps and luxury lodges, I then explored the iconic hiking trails of Torres del Paine, trekking to the Grey Glacier, and the famous towers with some gaucho led horse-riding across the steppe. Along the way I bumped into numerous other unexpected creatures, including hog nosed skunks, foxes, flamingos and caracaras.

Herd of guanacos, Torres del Paine National Park.

For much more detail on the incredible wildlife Patagonia has to offer, read my Top 5 Wildlife Experiences blog post, and to see all of the photos of my trip, click on the images below. I tasted just a little of the immense variety the region has to offer including horse back riding, kayaking, a cruise along the fjords and hiking in Torres del Paine. Contact us if you would like us to help you arrange your own unforgettable Patagonian adventure.

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Greg and Michelle’s Off The Beaten Track Adventure

Greg and Michelle’s Off The Beaten Track Adventure

Greg, along with his sister Michelle and two other friends, asked Swoop to help them explore some of the more unknown destinations in Patagonia. Their jam-packed itinerary took them to many of the well-known highlights but via routes that enabled them to truly discover Patagonia’s wild beauty. We put together a challenging, action-packed programme with some of our most trusted partners to deliver an unforgettable adventure.

Greg’s itinerary

Greg and Michelle flew from New York to Santiago in Chile. A connecting flight took them on to Punta Arenas where they had two bus transfers, first to Puerto Natales and finally arriving in Torres del Paine National Park to embark on the avid hiker circuit.

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Dramatic skies in Torres del Paine National Park

Hardly pausing for breath, they ventured out on their first hike to see the famous granite towers that give the park its name. From there they hiked on to Japones Camp – a climbers only campsite near to the towers at the far end of Valle Ascensio. A night at the camp was followed by a hike of the Oggioni Pass. This trek is one of the more challenging and technical in the region. Climbing Oggioni highlighted that even within a group of friends on a tour of Patagonia, different people appreciate different things. Greg explains:

“In Torres del Paine we found the trails in particular on the W trek a little bit crowded. We loved the Oggioni Pass and this was a highlight-especially descending from the pass. However Liz and Marc, who were also on our trek, didn’t enjoy the Oggioni and didn’t really mind the crowds on the W trek, so it is a matter of taste.”

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Crossing a river on the Oggioni trek

After the strenuous Oggioni pass crossing, the group rejoined the traditional Paine cirsuit route at Dickson camp headed across to Perros Camp and then completed the John Gardiner pass with some ice hiking (read about Swoop’s Harriet and her ice hiking experience). From there, it was down into the French Valley via Lago Grey, and the group had completed their full circuit of the Torres Del Paine National Park.

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Celebrating the beauty of wilderness

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Taking a quiet moment alongside Lago Grey

After their trek, the group had a 2 day kayak along the Serrano river planned which was unfortunately cancelled due to high winds and so they headed on, to Puerto Natales and finally into Argentina, to the town of El Calafate, to see the Perito Moreno glacier.

A bus from El Calafate to El Chalten took Greg and his friends to the highlight of their trip: the Fitzroy range to see some of Patagonia’s most dramatic mountain and glacial landscapes. Two days of self-guided hiking straight out of town took the group to see Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre. They were well fed during their time in El Chalten too; using Harriet from Swoop’s handy El Chalten restaurant guide, the group made their way around town, particularly enjoying the vegetarian options.

After their warm up, they embarked on the tough but rewarding four day Huemul Circuit.

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Greg and his sister Michelle on Paso del Viento

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Trekking past a refugio on the Huemul Circuit

Huemul crossing still

The second zip-line crossing on the Huemul Circuit

Elated as opposed to exhausted, the group ended their epic trip in El Chalten and from there a series of transfers arranged by Swoop took them back to Buenos Aires and home to the United States.

We asked Greg a few questions about his adventure and for his top tips. Here’s what he said:

How were Swoop Patagonia?

“We would absolutely recommend Swoop. We really valued Swoop’s expertise, the fact that you had been to the places we were going and could link together all the different treks with local buses. All the buses worked out really well and we were happy with how it all worked out. When our kayaking trip was cancelled due to high winds our guide went out of his way to find alternative activities for us.”

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On a day hike out of El Chalten

What would you say to others considering a similar trip?

“In our opinion, El Chalten is much better and you should forget Torres del Paine and go straight to Fitzroy! The local operators were great and it was just a much nicer environment. Make sure you do your research on the various trekking options out of El Chalten to get the most out of your time there.

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The group day hiking around El Chalten

We would recommend you take the trip to Estancia Cristina near El Chalten, (we took the hiking option which included a 3 hour boat ride with a trip to the Upsala glacier), then we were driven up to a viewpoint and hiked back for 7 miles. We really enjoyed it and saw fossils along the way. Having visited both, I would say the lesser known Upsala glacier is much more enjoyable to visit than Perito Moreno with far fewer people fighting to see it.”

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Spectacular ice formations

“In terms of places that we stayed, in Torres del Paine, we liked Refugio Grey but didn’t like the dorms at Cuernos and Dickson refugios. One thing worth remembering is that we would have preferred to have camped every night rather than having stayed in refugios and this is possible, so think about that choice before you book.

We thought the buffs that Swoop sent were essential and would not go to Patagonia without one – it is so windy! We’d also recommend you take your own snacks on the treks to liven up the food a little.”

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Michelle sporting her Swoop buff

What was the highlight of your trip?

El Chalten and the Fitzroy range were the definite highlights of the trip – we loved the Huemul Circuit.

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Fitzroy

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Greg bathing in a glacial lake

If you’re looking for a unique experience in Patagonia and would like help planning your adventure, we’d love to help; get in touch!

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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Tony’s Patagonia experience

Tony came back from spending almost a month in Patagonia traveling through some extraordinary landscape on the way, here he gives us his thoughts on his time in the region.

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. It was a great trip and I really wouldn’t have changed anything. Thank you so much.

Tony’s Itinerary

Tony flew into Buenos Aires Airport and headed straight to Los Glaciares National Park, where he took a mixture and guided and self guided day hikes from the mountain town of El Chalten.

He then headed to El Calafate to visit the stunning Perito Moreno glacier before getting ready to embark on the Full Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

While trekking through the park Tony stayed in supported camping at different points on the full circuit trail, taking 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 for a BBQ lunch.

Next up 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, as well as visiting several towns and villages.

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

Below, Tony tells us some more about his trip…

How did you find travelling during your trip?

All BA flights were great. Comfortable, excellent staff/service, reasonably good food, great choice of films. I do think you should advise travellers to check in online beforehand as I didn’t know to do this and therefore had no choice of seat. All Internal flights were fine and on time.

My Bus journey to Salta wa s 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 did feel rather slow. A top tip is to stop at the info centres that help you get orientated by taking short walks.

How did you find your hiking expeditions? 

I really enjoyed the 3 day walks – Day one in Tumbado, day 2 at Fitzroy (which was guided) and day 2 Torres del Paine.

Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares were amazing – 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 the Lagoons and Geyser in the Atacama 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 was late picking us up for the geyser trip, and then broke down en route so we almost missed the geyser activity.

What were the other excursions on your trip like?

I went on quite a few different activities while in Patagonia.

In the Atacama, 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. Some people may have wanted prior warning that the path up is narrow, strewn with boulders with vertical drop down one side… but for me it was better that I didn’t know!

My time in Torres del Paine was full of highs and lows. On the Full Circuit, it was just the guide (Jose) and myself- Jose was great and really got me through the trip. The conditions in exposed areas felt somewhat hairy, so it could be worth warning travellers might have been concerned about this. Again, it was best for me that I didn’t know beforehand, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It was tranquil, traumatic, challenging, and exciting all in one!

At night,  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.

My time in the city of Buenos Aires was lovely. I thought on the way through that it really would not be my sort of place, but on my way back at the end of the trip I loved walking around there. I particularly enjoyed the marina area, waterfront parks  and the Eco Park and it was all helped by the lovely weather.

Amber and Mark’s trip to Chiloe Island and Torres del Paine

Amber and Mark’s trip to Chiloe Island and Torres del Paine

Amber and Mark give us some wonderful feedback from their trip to Chiloe Island, Torres del Paine, and Los Glaciares in March 2015, as well as some great tips for people considering a similar itinerary.

Amber and Mark’s Itinerary

After arriving in Santiago, Amber and Mark flew to Puerto Montt and onto the island of Chiloe, where they enjoyed a scenic drive through The Bay of Caulin- A fantastic spot to see local and migratory birds. Whilst in Chiloe they stayed at the homestay of La Casita del Mar and enjoyed two days of trekking and sea kayaking in the Bay of Ancud. An early morning transfer took them to Puerto Montt airport where they flew to Punta Arenas and then took a bus for the rest of the journey to Puerto Natales.

After a night at the Hotel Indigo, they embarked on a self guided W trek in Torres del Paine, staying in various cabin’s, Refugio’s and Hotels. Their self guided trek took them to some of the most impressive sights that Torres del Paine has to offer – The famous towers, Lago Noredenskjold, the French Valley and the Grey Glacier.

In the last few days of their trip they enjoyed a guided excursion to the Perito Moreno glacier  before taking some self guided day hikes to Laguna Torre, Laguna de los tres and Loma del Pliegue Tumbado from El Chalten.

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Amber & Mark’s Feedback

How was your time in Chiloe?

Swoop’s partners in Chiloe were amazing, Britt made us two delicious meals (so similar to how I cook that it was wonderfully comforting) and was a gracious host. They were appropriately attentive and kind. Our kayak day was perfect and Jack gave great tips on where to go. The dogs were amazing. :-)

James was a great guide, he was super knowledgeable and clearly passionate about Chile. I would not have guessed that he had only recently moved to Chiloe from Santiago. In hindsight, we probably would have preferred a little less time with a guide, as it felt a little more scheduled that perhaps we would have liked.

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How did you enjoy your time in Torres del Paine? 

Laura and Carlos, Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine were great. They were super helpful when someone stole our bus tickets at Punta Arenas. I would have been helpful to have had more detailed instructions on where to get the bus as I think had we been waiting in the right place, we would have been there to get our tickets before someone else took them.

Laura was also super gracious when we missed our bus to Calafate (the time had been changed to 7am from 8am which she told us on the first day and updated on our voucher but we didn’t update it on our itinerary and we had a very late night the night before due to Grey II being cancelled). She picked us up at the bus station, dropped us at a great coffee shop, and kept our bags for the day.

We had a few complications with the Grey II boat as it was cancelled last minute and we ended up having to hike 3 hours to Grey, then 40 mins round trip to the glacier, and then 3 hours back to Paine Grande to wait 3 hours for the catamaran across Pehoe instead. It was unavoidable but frustrating as we weren’t mentally prepared for it.

The refugios were great. Food was a plenty. It was great overall!

In Puerto Natales, I would recommend staying at the same hotel before and after the W trek for ease. Both the Indigo and Altiplanico were great hotels.

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How did you enjoy your time in El Calafate and El Chalten? 

El Calafate was good. The Perito Moreno glacier was amazing. We took the 3 hour trip, but 3 felt that 2 hours would have been plenty of time.

Swoop’s partner Zoe was nice when we arrived in El Chalten and helpful in adjusting our schedule after our delay in leaving Puerto Natales.

The hotel Senderos was great. The food there was the best we had…on the whole trip! We really liked the Cervercia. We thought La Taperia was overrated. 

Here’s some more information from Swoop’s Harriet on places to eat in Chalten.

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. 

Steve and Annie’s hiking adventure in Torres del Paine

Steve and Annie’s hiking adventure in Torres del Paine

Steve and Annie recently came back from Patagonia where they visited the Queulat National Park and Torres del Paine. Read their advice for other travellers planning on doing a similar kind of trip.

Steve and Annie’s feedback:

All in all a great trip.  Your ability to customize the itinerary to meet our schedule was really good.  I would definitely recommend Swoop!  

Steve and Annie’s itinerary:

Steve and Annie started their Patagonia adventure in Puerto Marin Balmaceda, where they were driven to the The Queulat National Park, located in the Aysen Region of Patagonia. They enjoyed a day and a half in the wildlife rich park before leaving for Punta Arenas and making their way to Tierra Patagonia within Torres del Paine. Tierra Patagonia is a little bit of luxury within the wilderness and you can often spot guanaco, foxes, ñandú and a wide variety of birds from the comfort of your room. From this haven they enjoyed multiple activities and particularly enjoyed a hike called ‘Dagostino’ before heading back home via El Calafate.

How did you find your itinerary?

The 1 night in Raul Marin was not worth the extra hours to get there and back.  Fundos Los Leones is a lovely place…but I would recommend a 3 night minimum….there is not a lot to do there, (aside from the water) so it would have to be for someone who wants to chill for a few days.

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What were your highlights and how did you find our partners?

Quelat is a gorgeous place and 1 1/2 days were not enough time….  Especially since Ruta 7 was shut down from 1pm -5pm daily ( and will be for quite some time).  For us on this trip with the limited number of days en route from Futaleufu to Tierra Patagonia I would have skipped this bit and stayed in Futaleufu another day or two and then gone to Chaiten and ferried to Puerto Montt.  We completely enjoyed Tierra Patagonia.

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The guides were well trained and the excursions well designed and matched the descriptions in the materials.  I would especially recommend the hike called Dagostino as it is not as taxing as the French Valley or to the base of the Paines, and has even more stunning views.

 

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.

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

Peter’s Winter W Trek

Peter’s Winter W Trek

Peter recently came back from a winter W trek, here he tells us about his experiences with Swoop, our partners and the trek itself.

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How was your winter W trek through Torres del Paine?

The walk was great and we were really lucky with the weather.

Day 1 was super windy with a few clouds – but was good to see how harsh this place could be.

Day 2 & 3 were the most perfect blue sky no wind days for the hikes into the french valley and grey glacier.

Day 4 the moving day was totally low cloud, couldn’t see a thing, but was okay because we walked out.

Day 5, was snowing on the drive and first hour or two of the hike to the towers. Then we continued on up through dense fog, and on the last scramble up to the towers it cleared to blue skies, so it couldn’t have been better. Just was we were heading down the fog rolled in again.

Overall our timing could not have been better, yes we got some bad weather but it came at suitable time. Although it made me realise in winter we could have easily been unlucky – we met some people doing hikes at slightly different stages to us and couldn’t see the towers or other parts.
Our guide was great. Couldn’t fault him. Was very accommodating and understanding when Natalie got sick.

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What were the guides like on your trek?

For me, my highlight would have been the walk into the french valley. Obviously the view to the towers on the last day was also incredible. Natalie really enjoyed the grey glacier, as she had never seen one before.

What would you have changed about your trip to Torres del Paine?

One thing that would have changed our plans was the advice we got (before leaving aus) that we couldn’t get a bus in winter from puerto natales over to el calafete in argentina to see perito moreno. We found this was not correct, it seemed buses were leaving natales almost every day to el calefete and we met multiple people who had done just that and see both. Anyway I can’t remember if it was you guys or the contacts at chile nativo that gave that advice, but that’s not the case and because we had already planned the next stage of our trip back up in northern chile we couldn’t just go while we were there. Our guide on the ground knew that it was possible, so perhaps the chile nativo contact based in Santiago (I think) could get updates from the guides in natales.