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To guide, or not to guide…

To guide, or not to guide…

Many of our customers visit Patagonia to enjoy the extensive variety of hiking trails in Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares, Tierra del Fuego and further north towards the Lake District. They will often ask us “why should I use a guide?”. It’s fair to say that most of the walks are well marked in the national parks, and maps are easy to come by; so, what is the point of hiring a guide?

Primarily a guide is there to lead you on your trip and assist you in anyway they can, to ensure you have the best possible experience. They are local experts and are passionate about helping you. When out on the trails, having the luxury of following in someone’s footsteps allows you to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings. There’s peace of mind that you aren’t going to get lost, and you don’t constantly have to be on the lookout for the next way-marker.

However, simply leading a group along a trail is only a very small part of a guide’s job. There are a host of other benefits to using a guide:

  • In-depth knowledge of local fauna and flora, history and heritage
  • Health and safety back up
  • Transport support (this is particularly helpful if using public transport)
  • Accommodation support (they will help you get checked in quickly, and usually prioritised at meal times)
  • Recommendations for restaurants, cafes, photo opportunities

But don’t just take our word for it – our customers constantly want to share with us how having a guide on their trip really enhanced their experiences:

“Probably the best part of our trek was our trekking guide, Nicholas. He was a perfect fit for our group of 5 with superb social skills, direction, knowledge-base and flexibility” (Ted, November 2015)

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“My guide for the Huemul Circuit, Pablo, was incredible. He was professional, knowledgeable, and helpful in every way. That trek would’ve been much less enjoyable without him guiding us along. Similarly, Julieta, my guide for the Torres del Paine Full Circuit trek made that experience greatly enjoyable. She did so many little things, like having her friends make brownies and granola bars for us, that really made the adventure special” (Patrick, April 2015)

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“The trip was a big joy not least because of our very professional and pleasant guide! Whenever we had questions about things we saw he was able to give us an answer. Whenever we needed a break or wanted to spend some more time at a certain spot, he would understand and make that happen. He was very caring and always gave us the information we needed about what was going to happen the day. He had a good sense of humour on top of it all, which made the trip special as well” (Jenny, September 2015)

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“I had never hiked with a guide until I started to work for Swoop and quite honestly the idea did not appeal. I usually enjoy planning, route finding and independence. However I had not appreciated the enjoyment of being taken care of, so that you simply need to look around and move your legs. I saw birds that I simply wouldn’t have spotted alone and came away with a deeper understanding of the area through which I travelled which on previous trips I had only gleaned by poring over guide books.” (Harriet, Swoop Trekking, Mountaineering and Cyclying Specialist)

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However if you’re an experienced traveller and prefer to travel independently, then self-guided trips may be more suited to you. We can still help arrange all the nitty gritty details such as booking accommodation, transfers/public transport and meals, but you won’t have a guide there to shepherd you.

Here are some of the benefits of a self-guided trip:

  • Freedom and flexibility to work to your own time schedule
  • Hike at your own pace
  • Enjoy the seclusion and privacy of travelling without a group
  • Lengthen or shorten your day on your own terms

Many of our customers choose to hike independently and then take a guide for a couple of days to really get off the beaten track. Joining a guided kayaking trip or horseriding trip can be a really exciting way to finish your Patagonian adventure!

Whichever option you choose, you can be safe in the knowledge that the people of Patagonia are very helpful; you will find that a friendly face is never far away. Whether you choose a guide or not is ultimately down to your travelling style and personal preference.

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Doug Tompkins

All of us at Swoop were very sad to hear the news this morning that Doug Tompkins had died in a kayaking accident on Lago General Carrera in Aysen. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

In October this year I was lucky enough to meet Doug and hear him talk about his conservation projects in Chile and Argentina. Besides his fundamental role in the sustainability of Patagonia’s ecosytems, he’s also an inspiration to myself and myriad others as a businessman (founder of North Face) and as a mountaineer (finding a new route up Cerro Fitzroy in 1968).

For those that don’t know about Doug you may find the following interesting:

http://www.180south.com/
http://www.conservacionpatagonica.org/home.htm

Luke Errington
Founder & MD
Swoop Patagonia
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.

Places to eat in El Chalten

Places to eat in El Chalten

On Harriet’s recent trip to El Chalten she was on a mission to sample as many restaurants as she could. Here she takes you through the various options.

Techado Negro

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This slightly tumble down restaurant with its brightly coloured walls prepares wonderful, wholesome, home-cooked food. If you are looking for a taste of home then head here for homemade pasta, fish, milanesas (a thin slice of meat covered in breadcrumbs and fried) or salads.

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Look out for their excellent value menu del dia (menu of the day) with generous portions. There is also a great amount of choice for vegetarians .

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Hosteria Senderos

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If you’re looking to splurge a bit, then head to Hosteria Senderos. For a mouth watering steak try the Bife de Chorizo; the trout and local lamb are also good.

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The chef really knows how to work local ingredients into delicious treats and the waiter will tempt you with a a wide selection of Argentine wines.

Cervecería Artesanal El Chaltén

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This tiny little beer house is so snug and cosy that you may find it hard to get a seat and could end up sharing a table with others. Come early or persevere, either way you will be given a choice of delicious pizzas and pasta to accompany your home brew. The rustic wooden décor lends the bar a congenial atmosphere which is ideal for après-trek drinks.

La Tapera

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A rustic wooden eatery with seating around a fire pit. The tapas are yummy and the rest of the Argentine fare is hearty. Try stews, steaks or nibbles, all washed down with Argentine wine.

Wafleria

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A map shop that serves waffles is a dream come true for me. I sat planning my trekking routes with chocolate pouring down my chin. The gregarious waiters make this a great place for a savoury or sweet waffle whilst you wait for Fitzroy to appear from behind the clouds.

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Expect to feel guilty and gluttonous afterwards!

Panaderia Que Rica

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Before you head into the hills or onto the bus to Calafate, it is worth stocking your backpack with sandwiches, empanadas (savoury pasties), facturas (sweet pastries such as croissants) and alfajores (shortbread and caramel sandwich) from this heavenly bakery.

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Get there early before stocks sell out.

Self Catering in El Chalten

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If you plan to self cater, unfortunately El Chalten is not very well served. The small supermarkets of La Tostadora Moderna on Avenida San Martin, El Gringuito on Cerro Solo or El Super on Avenida Lago del Desierto have a few offerings but try to shop in Calafate before you jump on the bus. For elusive vegetables and fruit head to the Verduleria on Cabo Garcia.

Other places that looked good:

La Estepa

La Estepa
A good slightly more upmarket establishment with good food and excellent wines.

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Resto Patagonicus
Covered with nostalgic photos of climbers and pictures of El Chalten in years gone by. Tuck into Argentine style pizzas, pastas and of course meat.

For more delicious options across the whole region, read Swoop’s Top Pick of Patagonian Restaurants to get your mouth watering!

Choosing your hotel and neighbourhood in Buenos Aires

Choosing your hotel and neighbourhood in Buenos Aires

On Swoop’s Sallys most recent visit to Patagonia she spent a few days in her beloved Buenos Aires checking out new hotels, old haunts and getting up close and personal with a few juicy steaks. Below she shares a few thoughts on choosing the right hotel for you in Buenos Aires.

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As in many big cities, Buenos Aires has its edgy side and so choosing where you stay can make a real difference to your enjoyment of the city. There are bohemian quarters, business quarters, the hustle and bustle of the city centre and safer neighbourhoods with bars and cafes. Where you choose to stay will be a very personal choice depending on how you enjoy cities, the style of hotel you feel most comfortable in and the length of time you have to enjoy this vibrant, diverse city.

Below I have tried to give a little detail on each neighbourhood where you might choose to stay so you can get a little more its flavour, style and close by amenities and attractions.

Palermo

Palermo is very pleasant! It has some historic buildings dating from the 1920s and is a more relaxed and safer neighbourhood than the ‘MicroCentro’ or ‘San Telmo’. It is residential with an abundance of bars and restaurants. What it lacks are the main historic sights and museums, but these are easily and quickly accessed by the metro. Many of the eateries are fairly new so, in my opinion, lack a certain amount of Porteño identity. That said, there are a few historic restaurants such as ‘El Preferido de Palermo’ and ‘Lo de Jesus’ which do ooze the porteño flavour.
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If you’re looking to mix with young porteños, visit historic sights by day then return to a trendy (safer) suburb in the evening, then Palermo is for you. Although not thought of as a bohemian area, I think that compared to most residential streets of anywhere in the UK, it would feel really rather bohemian, oozing with character, great food and a relaxed, charming character (there are enough holes in the pavement and graffiti to remind you that you’re in Buenos Aires).

Palermo is divided into 2 separate districts, Palermo Soho (Viejo) and Palermo Hollywood. The main hub of restaurants and hotels is in Palermo Soho and is my favourite of the two neighbourhoods. It is the area of the city of a massive block between Av. Santa Fe, Av. Juan B Justo, Av. Cordoba and Av. Scalabrini Ortiz. With most bars and restaurants concentrated within in this within Malabia, Cabrera, Thames and Guatemala.

 My 2 favourite boutique hotels are the Legado Mitico or the Bobo. They both are oozing with charm, local character, excellent service and both with good locations. The Bobo is a little more ‘trendy’ than the Legado but both are lovely.
For a mid-range option, the Esplendor Palermo Soho is a great choice.

San Telmo

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San Telmo gives you the historic ‘barrio’ feel but is also just a stones throw from the city centre (literally, 5 blocks). Although culturally more interesting with its historic cafes, facades and cobbles street, I’ll admit that it might feel a little dirty and daunting if you’ve just stepped off the plane.

My favourite boutique hotel in San Telmo is the San Telmo Luxury Suites right in the heart of the neighbourhood. More more budget friendly, midrange options you could choose either the Los Patios de San Telmo or the Babel Boutique.

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If you are making a visit to Buenos Aires at the start and end of your trip, it might be an idea to stay in Palermo at the start of your trip and in San Telmo at the end of your trip.

 Downtown / Centre – Micro Centro & Monserrat

This is the business district of the city where you also find the ‘Plaza de Mayo’, Government Palace and the Obelisc. The streets are small, cramped and rather pedestrian unfriendly but if you have just 1 night (midweek), then staying right in the heart of the city has its attractions. The Continental 725 is a lovely hotel choice right in the centre with stunning views from its roof top bar, a 2 minute walk from the main historic sights and you really are right in the thick of the hustle and bustle that drives this city.

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Once you’ve decided on your place to rest your head, then you can start to plan a little more with some ideas of ‘Things to Do“.

 

Sally’s Walking Tour of Santiago

Sally’s Walking Tour of Santiago

Sally has guided hundreds of visitors around Santiago over the last 8 years, and this is her recommended route for seeing very best sites of Santiago in an afternoon…

1. Taking the metro

The metro in Santiago is easy to use, clean, safe* and reliable – 1 ticket costing about CLP$500 (60p) will take you anywhere on the lines. These can be bought from manned booths in any metro station.

Take the metro nearest to your hotel to the La Moneda station on Line 1 (the red one). (When you get off the train, wait until the train leaves before leaving the platform, as the paintings are quite something). When leaving La Moneda station, take the exit for ‘Amunategui’

*a reasonable level of caution should be taken at all times to prevent pick-pocketing.

2. Av. Bernardo O`Higgins and the flag

As you come out from the underground you are presented with an enormous flag (find the flag then you know you´re in the right place!). This flag was placed here in 2010 to mark the Bicentenary of the Independence of Chile from Spain (in fact 1810 really marked the start of Chile’s war of independence against Spain as they didn´t gain full independence until 1818).

The avenue between yourself and the flag is the ‘Avenida Bernardo O’Higgins’ – commonly known as the Alameda – named after the poplar trees that line it. Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile’s hero of its Wars of Independence, had an Irish father and Chilean mother (hence the name).

3. Palacio La Moneda

Rounding the corner you will be presented with the Government Palace – Palacio La Moneda. This literally translates as ‘The Mint’ as it was originally designed for minting coins when built in 1805. In 1845 it became the government headquarters and home to all Chilean Presidents (although the President hasn’t actually lived here since about the 30’s). The building looks very clean and new considering the pollution problems of the city because in reality it is. During the Military Coup of 11th September 1973, the building was heavily bombed and much of it destroyed. During this coup, the democratically elected President at the time, Salvador Allende was killed (or, as some sources say, took his own life) and the military dictatorship ruled by Augusto Pinochet began.

Palacio La Moneda

4. Plaza de la Constitution & the Statues

Walk around to the other side of La Moneda to find the Plaza de La Constitucion.

Surrounded by trees and statues, this square is a great place to do a spot of people watching; also of interest are….

1)     The flags:  If the President is in residence there will be a flag flying above the palace with the Chilean coat of arms in the middle. If you pay attention you can see the Andean Condor and Huemul, a native Chilean deer. Surrounding the square there are also 14 flags which represent the 14 regions of Chile.

2)     The statues:

  1. Salvador Allende – complete with glasses, the statue of the ex-president shows his famous last words – “Tengo fe en Chile y su destino” (I have faith in Chile and its destiny).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Diego Portales – at the back of the square, directly looking at the palace is Diego Portales; famous for writing the Chilean constitution in the early 1800’s that lasted nearly 100 years. He was assassinated in 1837 – if you look closely at his statue, under his right eye is a bullet hole which the statue received 11th September 1973; this is apparently the exact place where he received the shot when he was killed.

5. Wandering to the Plaza de Armas

With your back to La Moneda, walk to the far right hand corner of the park (the corner of Agustinas & Morande). Continue along Morande for 3 blocks until the corner with Catedral, turn right 1 block on Catedral and you will reach the Plaza de Armas.

To point out along the way:

1)     Café Haiti – traditionally Chile was (and still is) a great tea-drinking nation. When coffee started to be introduced in the mid 1900’s a new form of café was thought up in order to entice people (men) to drink it; these were known as the “Cafés con Piernas”, quite literally Coffee with Legs. Whilst city men came to have this new drink on their coffee break and discuss business they were served coffee by ladies in rather short dresses. Many of these cafes still exist around the city (of varying levels of nudity), the Café Haiti being one on Morande/Huerfanos.

2)     (Ex) Palacio de Tribunales – although no longer the Palace of Justice this impressive building, recently restored, stands proud in the centre of Santiago. Around the top of the building you can see crests depicting important Chilean laws – one to note would be divorce, not legalized in Chile until 2004.

3)     Shopping Centre – with the law court on your right, step inside the shopping centre on your left, a complete contrast of old a

nd new. Take note of the interesting use of an old façade with a modern interior.

4)     (Ex) Congreso Nacional – although the Chilean congress is now in Valparaiso, the original Congress building takes up 1 whole block (Mornade/Compania/Bandera/Catedral). Unfortunately you can’t get into the grounds but the gardens are beautiful with native trees from all over Chile.

6. Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas was first laid out during the founding of Santiago on 12th February 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia and has stood as the centre of the city ever since. During colonial times it served as the military headquarters, into the 1800’s it was the place for the upper classes to see and be seen, and today it serves as a place for protests, chess, religious preaching or for children to swim in the fountain; a hive of activity and definitely worth some time to just sit and take it all in.

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To point out as you sit and watch:

1)     Pedro de Valdiva – in the top corner of the square is the statue of Pedro de Valdivia, Chile’s own conquistador. After a failed attempt by Diego del Almagro to reach the Chilean central valley, Pedro de Valdivia set out from Peru with is troops. After walking through the Atacama Desert for months on end, they finally reach the green, lush Maipo Valley where they decided to found Santiago at the base of the Cerro Santa Lucia.

2)     Cathedral – designed by the same architect as La Moneda, Joaquin Toesca, this cathedral was first built in 1748. (free entry).

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3)     National History Museum –  built in 1808, this building first served as the head quarters for the Spanish Court, in 1811 it became the National Congress and later the central post office; since 1978 it has housed the National History Museum since 1978, built in 1808 it first served (10:00 – 18:00; Tues-Sun; CLP$600)

7. Mercado Central

From the corner of the Plaza de Armas by the Cathedral, walk 3 blocks along Puente – be especially careful of cameras and your bags.

Built in 1872 as the central market, this British structure now houses solely the fish market and plenty of fish restaurants. It is alive with life, music and fresh seafood. This market was chosen as the 5th best market in the world by National Geographic: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/food-markets/

8. Cerro Santa Lucia

From the Mercado Central, retrace your steps back to the Plaza de Armas, cross it diagonally to get to the corner of Estado with Merced. Walk down Estado for 2 blocks and then turn left onto 

Agustinas for 3 ½ blocks until you reach the base of the Santa Lucia Hill. Follow the path in – you’ll have to sign your name but the entry is free. As you go under the footbridge there is a staircase on your left – follow the stairs to the top.

View from Cerro Santa Lucia

When Benjamin Vicuna Mackena became Mayor in 1872, he set about to make major changes to the city of Santiago. He not only oversaw the canalization of the Mapocho river (the fast flowing brown trickle that runs through the city), but also transformed the Cerro Santa Lucia into the landscaped park that you see today; more than 1,000 trees were planted, and gardens and fountains built. The hill has the remains of an old fort on the top from which you get some great views of the city.

Stop off at the kiosk on your way back down, for a refreshing “Mote con Huesillo” – a traditional drink made of peach juice, peaches and pearl barley.

Follow the path back down through the park to get to the Neptune fountain and the other exit to the park (you don’t have to sign out). Turning right, you will see the Santa Lucia metro stop which you can hop on to take you back to where you started.

This tour will take you 3-4 hours (longer if you stop for lunch at the Mercado Central)

9. Do you have more time? My other top suggestions would be:

-Lastarria Nieghbourhood

Located at the foot of the Cerro Santa Lucia this neighborhood has been revitalized by artists who have restored buildings, quaint little bars opening and some new boutique hotels. For a great wine bar, check out “Boca Nariz Vino Bar” – more than 35 Chilean wines by the glass and a selection of up to 300 by the bottle.

-Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Pre-Columbian Art Musuem)

An amazing introduction into the indigenous cultures of Latin America from Mexico down to Tierra del Fuego. Inaugurated in 1881 and recently restored, this museum is famous in Latin America and located just 1 block from the Plaza de Armas. (10:00 – 18:00; Tues – Sun; CLP$3,900)

-Cerro San Cristobal & the Bellavista neighborhood

Between the Mapocho river and the San Cristobal hill is the bohemian district of Bellavista where you’ll find a mix students, artist, the after-work crowd and tourist all enjoying the delights of live music, street side cafes and local art. There are plenty of bars and restaurants but a few of my top picks would be, “Como Agua Para Chocolate” – great for steaks and fish dishes, and “Galindo” – great for reasonably priced local food, local beers and plenty of locals.

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At the end of Pio Nono you will find the start of the San Cristobal hill and the funicular station to take you up to the top. Exiting the funicular you will have to climb a few stair to get you up to the 14m-high statue of the Virgin with incredible views of the city of Santiago, the Coastal mountains and the snow peaks of the Andes.

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View from Cerro San Cristobal

Spending the night in Santiago? Read Sally’s top tips on Where to Stay.

Are you visiting Buenos Aires? Here are Sally’s tips on Things to do in Buenos Aires

Patagonia on the Web – 23rd May

Patagonia on the Web – 23rd May

Patagonia is all over the internet with bloggers, adventurers  and social media addicts posting all about their experiences and sharing their photographs.
Each one providing more inspiration for a Patagonian adventure!

Here are our pick of photos and blogs from this week:

Swoop’s Top 3 Photographs:

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 12.52.24This week the discovery of the ‘Titanosaur’ was all over the news.
Discovered in La Flecha, this epic creature could have weighed up to 77 tons.
Read more about this amazing discovery.

BnwI6N9CcAATX6kCopyright Worldland Trust

@worldlandtrust posted this great picture of a hairy Armadillo.
This picture was taken in their partners reserve in Patagonia.
Find out more about the Worldland trust.

BoHcj8sIMAAYxxFCopyright Arcteryx

A great photograph from @Arcteryx of @alpineartist & Marc Andre Leclerc on their latest climb in Patagonia.

Blog of the week:

25 photos that will make you want to hike Torres del Paine.
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Backpacker Steve has some brilliant tips ,videos and advice for independent travellers and has a number of blog posts dedicated to trekking in Patagonia.

If you want to experience the same kind of trip with the help of some experienced guides take a look at  Swoop’s trekking page. 

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.

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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. 

Buenos Aires & San Telmo

Buenos Aires & San Telmo

Sally’s thoughts on Buenos Aires and  San Telmo

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

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Plaza Dorrego – San Talmo

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

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

http://www.parrilladelplata.com/

http://www.parrillalabrigada.com.ar/

http://www.cafelapoesia.com.ar/english/que-notable.php

http://barelfederal.com.ar/

The Babel Suites, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Babel Suites, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

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

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

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

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

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