Tag Archives: Torres del Paine

Amber and Marks trip to Chiloe Island and Torres del Paine

Amber and Marks 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

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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


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.


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.







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

Top Tips for Staying in Refugios

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

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

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

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.


Bushwhacking the Oggioni Pass – The Paine range’s most adventurous trek 

Bushwhacking the Oggioni Pass – The Paine range’s most adventurous trek 

 In Torres del Paine the W trek is the classic route that many people hike that takes you to 3 magnificent valleys – the ascencio, Frances and Grey valleys. For more experienced hikers there are a number of different routes including the Paine Circuit and others that take you off the beaten track and allow you to see another side to the park.
On my recent trip to Torres del Paine I wanted to see these routes that I hadn’t seen before.

The first route was the Oggioni pass high up above the Ascencio valley. This pass slices through the Paine range from the towers viewpoint directly to Dickson camp and looked incredible.  As I was short on time I recced the pass as a day hike from Hotel Las Torres but for very strong walkers you can hike across the pass to shorten a circuit trek or to create a completely different trek. Here is a description of the route and how we got on.


The sun rose in a glorious and triumphant glow,


We set off along the trail up the ascensio valley to the towers.


Instead of following the general migration toward the viewpoint…


…. We turned off and only caught this Scoundrels view of Las Torres.


The path became small as we stumbled through a boulder field….


….and into the woods.


We followed the Ascensio river as it bubbled its way down through beech forests.


There was no one around and we were on tenterhooks, certain that we would see a Huemul deer.


Our target lay on the ridge ahead.


At Japones Camp a climber’s camp with a ramshackle shelter made from Tarpaulin, string…


…and fallen branches and hung with victoriously and carefully chiselled wooden plaques in celebration of climbs past.


As the path narrowed we turned off it altogether…..


A tricky river crossing followed which involved crossing on all fours.

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Before doing this trek ask yourself if this is a river you feel able to cross.


The forest thickened…

– Swoop Patagonia’s BlogKfnWIhS-sN-Zv6zXj1x0BrEaLyaSa4wQ1dRR0ExdcmI,r4gPXkGuXJPX-Dd8Aa4Pm4aTztAIMSAK2preDebs7U0

…and we wander up through the forest, free of paths and people.




The edible Pan de Indio didn’t tempt us as we toiled.


As we left the treeline…


…the views started to open out…


…and as we climbed…


…the peaks of Escudo and Fortaleza dominated the Silencio valley.


Rock dykes guided us towards the pass.


The scree slopes became tougher……


…and tougher


We left the valley far below, this was no place for vertigo…




The final push to the pass was snowy and early in the season much of the scree slope can be covered in a layer of snow.


At Paso Oggioni the view opened up to reveal Dickson lake. If you are continuing onward the trail bushwhacks down to Refugio Dickson at the near end of Lago Dickson.


A further climb to Punta Oggioni reveals the Silencio valley. and a view back the way we’ve come…


…and a peek at the back of the towers and the peaks of Escudo and Fortaleza peaks.





My guide, Justin had been to the pass but never scrambled up to the viewpoint above. We whooped with excitement for a good 5 minutes…




The wind was starting to throw us around so we descended back to camp.

For more information on The Paine range’s most adventurous trek, get in touch today.

Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

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

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

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Ian and Sue Feedback

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

Ian and Sue’s Itinerary

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

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

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


Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Santiago

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

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

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

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

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Chilean Wigeon


Ringed Kingfisher







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


Magellanic Penguins – Chiloé







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

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








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

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


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

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

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

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King Penguins – Tierra del Fuego

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


Lighthouse, Porvenir

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Chimango Caracara







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



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Patagonian Grey Fox







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

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Patagonian Skunk


Lago Pehoe – Torres del Paine







We were picked us up in the afternoon, and driven to our accommodation, stopping several times en route to look at features, wildlife etc. The eco friendly camp we stayed at exceeded all our expectations.  We had the nearest yurt to the lake with distant views of the “Horns”.  


Patagonia Camp

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Patagonia Camp







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


Lady’s Slipper


Patagonian Red Fox







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




Rock Paintings – Torres del Paine







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

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Magellanic Orchid

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Yellow Orchid






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


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

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Austral Pygmy Owl

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

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


Magellanic Woodpecker

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

Patagonia_002_Waterfall at Patagonia Camp

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


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

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

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

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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Perito Moreno Glacier






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

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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

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Petrified Forest

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

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

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

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

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Torrent Ducks

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Ashy Headed Goose







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

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

Patagonia_003_Scenery above El Chalten Patagonia_004_Scenery above El Chalten






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

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Southern Lapwing

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Black faced Ibis







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

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Black Necked Swans

Patagonia_007_Upland Goose at Tierra del Fuego

Upland Goose







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patagonia on the web – January 2015

Patagonia on the web – January 2015

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

Swoop’s favourite photographs:

Torres-del-Paine-7-940x1285This great photograph of Men on horseback traveling across the Valle del Francés is from  @MatadorNetwork‘s photographic tour of Torres del Paine. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 15.34.00 Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 15.34.15Both these photographs were taken by @patraveleditor when she went on a Patagonian adventure with us, where she was lucky enough to spot a puma. f6ba4299500e783dd86a5eaa7fddacfcWe found this beautiful shot on Pinterest. Crazy Land, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina, by Greg Boratyn @GregBoratyn

Blog of the week: puma5-940x626The Matador network wrote a great piece about puma trackingcompete with some impressive photographs of the experience.

Jimmy’s Winter W Trek in Torres del Paine

Jimmy returned in early September from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop and our Chilean partners…

What did you think of Swoop Patagonia? 

I found Swoop very helpful and informative in giving me all of the options available, taking into account my preferences and finding the most appropriate tour company and itinerary.

What did you think of Swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek?

Our guide for the trip was excellent, very friendly and knowledgeable, however I was a little disappointed with some of the 3 day Winter W Trek itinerary. This was partly because of the time of year and restrictions on where we could stay in the park (with the refugios not open at the time). I felt that for the price we paid, we didn’t get to see as much of the park as we would have liked to. If I could have done the itinerary myself, I would have chosen to do a lot more hiking or tried to plan the trip a little later, so that we could have done the full W circuit.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of Torres Del Paine was the first day as we got to do a full day of hiking and got right up to the towers.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

We travelled throughout South America on our trip but nearby we also visited Los Glaciares (El Chalten, El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier), the Lake District in Chile and Argentina (Bariloche, Pucon etc.), which were all fantastic. I very much enjoyed the hiking and scenery in El Chalten.

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

Advice to other travellers would be to try and plan the trip so that you are in the park at the start of the peak season so that you can do the Full Circuit and stay at the refugios.