Category Archives: Reviews

An Englishman in Patagonia: book review

An Englishman in Patagonia: book review

In ‘An Englishman in Patagonia’, John Pilkington beautifully details his eight-month backpacking trip, south from Santiago, winding his way along the Andes, through the heart of Patagonia to the end of the world in Ushuaia, before heading back up the Argentine coastline. Spurred on by the tales of legendary adventurers such as Ferdinand Magellan, Captain Fitzroy, Charles Darwin and contemporary travellers like Bruce Chatwin, Pilkington sets out to lift the veil on the mystery surrounding Patagonia.


Beginning his journey by immersing himself in the frenzy of Santiago, Pilkington moves on to attend a house-moving ceremony on Chiloé Island (more exciting than it sounds), explores remote estancias (ranches) in Aysen, and hikes amongst the lofty peaks of the Fitz Roy range and Torres del Paine. He delves into the maritime history of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel, runs errands for a Canadian adventure company in Punta Arenas, and catches a US Airforce flight to King George Island on the Antartica Peninsula, before eventually heading north again to spend time with the remote farmers on the Atlantic coast and the friendly Welsh communities in the Chubut Valley. This voyage of discovery finishes by unravelling one of Patagonia’s greatest legends – the story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Armed with a lightweight tent and a sturdy pair of walking boots, the author regularly jaunts off the beaten track to discover the true Patagonia. Along the way he meets an intriguing collection of unique characters, many of them with strong British or European heritage. He meets the descendants of Scottish sheep farmers, hippies from Switzerland, emigrants who escaped a crumbling post-war Germany and of course enjoys tea with those brave Welsh settlers. From all of Pilkington’s encounters, it soon becomes evident that Patagonians share a fierce sense of identity, a pioneering spirit and an unshakable fortitude that has allowed these hardy people to forge a living in one of the wildest places on earth.


Some of the Swoop team have been lucky enough to meet John Pilkington in person and they all speak very highly of his amicable nature. You get the impression that the residents of Patagonia also readily warm to this lonesome British traveller, and as a result the tales of their lives in the region naturally pour forth. He remains impartial and non-judgemental throughout, siding with neither the Chileans or Argentinians when addressing their many differences and causes for quarrel.

By the end of the book, the reader will have garnered a new perspective on Patagonia. It is not a barren land, buried away at the bottom of the world, but a place of wonder and enchantment with plenty of welcoming people to share it with.

Sophisticated Simplicity Hidden in the Lake District

Sophisticated Simplicity Hidden in the Lake District

On my recce trip of the Patagonian Lake District in the spring of 2016, I discovered a few hidden gems nestled in the heart of the Patagonian Lake District. This one, a four drive north of Bariloche, was perched on a hillside, in a clearing of trees. The experience of visiting the beautiful wooden house of Caballadas left me speechless; I was utterly mesmerised by its beauty and tranquility.

Due to a delayed flight from Buenos Aires I ended up arriving in the dark. It was a long and bumpy journey but as I approached the entrance, the lights of the house beckoned me home. The actual driveway is hard to find as there are no signs, no obvious indication of what lies beyond – this is intentional.

Up and up I drove, until I finally reached the main house where I was greeted by Isabel, who was relieved that I had finally arrived. As I stepped inside it immediately felt like home – it was warm, with a roaring fire and the tantalising smell of home cooked food.

After a much needed dinner of beetroot soup followed by roast chicken and a glass or two of wine by the fire, I settled into bed and fell asleep to the sound of silence.

I awoke with the first light of day to be greeted with the view – the sky was electric pink, the valley floor was covered by a thick layer of mist and a bowl of mountains arose through it. All I could hear was the sound of parakeets flocking from tree to tree, cattle lowing in a nearby field; pure peace.

The Caballadas estate of 20,000 hectares sits in the northern part of the Lanin National Park. It has been in the same family since 1904 which pre-dates the formation of the park. It houses rivers, lakes and a huge variety of virgin forests. The most special perhaps are the forests of monkey puzzle trees (the Araucaria).

The estate is best explored on horseback, so a gorgeous chestnut horse called Manzanito (Little Apple) was saddled up for me Isabel took me off to explore. What really struck me during my 3 hours in the saddle was how dramatically the scenery changed from open plains, to thick riverside vegetation, to monkey puzzle trees perched high on ridges and then, into sight came the magnificent Lanin Volcano – towering over its neighbours at 3,728m.

The estancia is an exclusive yet traditional base for those wanting to horse ride through stunning scenery, across interesting, challenging terrain; if you’re slightly more adventurous they can also organise a few nights of overnight camping so you can explore even further into the mountains.

The estancia has more than 40 horses and actively encourages guests to come a day early so they can choose their horse themselves or at least have the opportunity to saddle up their own horse. The tack room of the stables was extremely impressive – utterly fascinating and more like a museum. Your horse trip will be guided by Isabel’s charming husband, Santiago – a professional polo player with faultless English. He will also be accompanied by a handful of local gauchos. (cowboys).

The estancia also makes a wonderful base for fly-fishing – there are numerous rivers in the vicinity with world-class fishing and your own private guide will be set up for you.

By mid-morning the mist had lifted and by the time I returned to the main house for lunch the view was there for me in all its glory – wow! The whole front of the house, dining area and lounge have enormous windows that look out across the sweeping valley below. After lunch we visited the nearby Quillen Lake to get even closer views of the Lanin Volcano – perfectly positioned as a backdrop to the lake.

On the return journey I didn’t notice the bumps in the road, as the scenery of the winding Alumine river, the jagged mountains and the open plains certainly were worth it.

Caballadas manages to house its guests with a sophisticated simplicity which is hard to find anywhere else. The food is wholesome, tasty and homemade, the view is intoxicating and the hospitality is genuine. If you are looking for an exclusive, private experience that is still truly Patagonian, then this home will not disappoint.

If you’d like to visit Patagonia and fall in love with Caballadas just like Sally did, get in touch.

Double the adventure for Nor & Cindy: 5 weeks in Patagonia and Antarctica

Double the adventure for Nor & Cindy: 5 weeks in Patagonia and Antarctica

A handful of Swoop’s customers choose to venture to both Patagonia and the Antarctic on the same trip. Swoop only specialises in these two destinations and so is perfectly placed to offer the dream trip to someone looking for a double-adventure! We know both regions inside out and can tie two ends of an incredible journey together.

For the icebergs and majesty of Antarctica and the vast wilderness and iconic peaks of Patagonia, a trip combining the two offers myriad opportunity for adventure, exploration, excitement….

Adventurous customers Nor and Cindy asked us to help them plan such a trip. Their epic 5 week journey packed in so many highlights of both areas it’s been understandably hard for them to process and filter all of the fantastic experiences they had. Nevertheless, Nor kindly sifted through his photos and memories to share with us for the blog.

Looking back, how do you feel about the way your itinerary panned out?

In retrospect, it would have been good to have done Antarctica last, because it was so spectacular that it was sometimes hard to get excited about other things we saw after that!


How was the accommodation in Patagonia?

In Ushuaia, the Hotel Arakur was a great getaway. The pools were great there and they even let us hang out there after we had checked out.

The staff at Hosteria Senderos in El Chalten were great – very accommodating; I think they were probably the most helpful staff of any place we stayed.

What did you make of the hikes and guides in the Patagonian destinations you visited?

In Los Glaciares National Park we did the three major hikes in two and a half days and loved them. We found we liked El Chalten in some ways more than Torres del Paine, for the fact that the hikes were really good and we could just walk from our hotel to the trailhead.


In Torres del Paine, Patagonia Camp was one of the highlights of our whole trip, where we had the same guide for all the excursions and we really enjoyed his company.


We also visited the Alta Vista vineyard just outside of Mendoza, and they provided one of the best winery tours we have ever had; they also have a lovely garden and serve a picnic lunch.

How was your Patagonian cruise?

The Stella Australis was comfortable, much more of a cruise than an expedition. Cape Horn was the “Big One” for me on this cruise – I loved it.


Nor and Cindy actually started their trip with a thirteen day expedition to Antarctica. They sailed on the Akademik Ioffe.

How did you find the Ioffe and your time in Antarctica?

We absolutely loved the trip! It was really an adventure as this was the only trip that the Ioffe was making south of the [Polar] Circle this year.


Overall the ship was very comfortable; our cabin was quite spacious and comfortable – as nice or better than on some cruise ships.

We all agreed that the staff was great with all of them having a speciality (mammals, birds, geology, etc) in addition to their zodiac driving duties. There were also two full time photographers on board who specialised in wildlife photography.

Would you recommend the Akademik Ioffe to others?

We’d highly recommend the Akademik Ioffe for your future customers.


How was your time in Ushuaia after the cruise?

We stayed at the Arakur Hotel, and loved it. Their swimming pool, hot tubs, game rooms are excellent. In fact all the facilities are very good. They run a shuttle into town every hour so even though we were out of town we didn’t feel isolated and being on the hillside with a view of the Beagle Channel below was great.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Antarctica by far but besides the cruise there, the Patagonia Camp for the ambience and El Chalten for hiking.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of a similar adventure to both Antarctica and Patagonia?

We would say that when you move as fast as we did, it’s hard to reflect so try not to plan everything and allow a little extra time for relaxing and flexibility.

Nor and Cindy used the expertise of the teams at both Swoop Patagonia and Swoop Antarctica to book their adventure. Get in touch if you would like to know more about either of these two thrilling destinations.

Sally’s Love Affair with the Patagonian Lake District

Sally’s Love Affair with the Patagonian Lake District

In my years living and working in Chile and Argentina I’ve visited the highlights, got lost in the unexplored, toured and detoured, and I am still utterly amazed by just how much more of Patagonia there is to explore.

On my recce trip I covered relatively little distance – as the condor flies – but from the extraordinary diversity of landscapes and experiences you’ll see from my photos, you would think I had criss-crossed the entire region.

In order to make full use of the precious three weeks I had there, the itinerary is quite relentless – I sometimes say to friends and family, when describing a recce trip, that I pack into one day what a normal itinerary would have spread across three or four.

Every day is an absolute adventure and all of us at Swoop who carry out these trips (that’s most of us!) return exhausted but elated; excited to start sharing all our fresh knowledge with our customers. Because our customers like such diverse adventures, we make sure we experience everything from sleeping under canvas or sharing a cushioned floor with 20 other sweaty hikers, to 5 star luxury and pretty much everything else in between.

Most of my time was spent in and around the Argentine and Chilean Lake District. I hiked, horsed, biked, birded, road tripped and hot-tubbed. From my first steak in Buenos Aires to my final 4 course dinner on a vineyard near Santiago, this trip was also a gastronomic delight.


My trip started in Buenos Aires with a bike tour – a refreshing way to see the city and great to get the legs moving after the long flight.


With a short flight down to Bariloche and a 4 hour drive north, I then rode out from an estancia with an incredibly intoxicating view.


I hiked the snowy passes of the Nahuel Huapi National Park.


I slept in a hut that clung to the hillside.

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The autumn colours turned the hillsides into multi-coloured delights.


With a short hop then over the Andes, I was then fascinated by fungi, ferns and faeces in the Tantauco Park on the island of Chiloe.


Warmed through with woollen slippers and a roaring fire on the island of Chiloe after a dip in a hot tub.


Stunned by the beauty of the smoking Villarica volcano.


Wine and dined on a vineyard near Santiago.

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A final bike ride through vineyards before heading home.

I spent a lot of time asking myself “Why do I love Patagonia?” Is it the smell of the forest, the call of the mischievous little thorn-tailed rayadito in the forest, the sound of the rivers, the satisfaction of hiking all day, the continually changing scenery or the scale of the landscapes? Or is it the people with their cheery smiles and positivity? Or is it the food and wine and home-brew? Whatever it is, Patagonia, it was an absolute privilege to gorge on your beauty.

With a heavy heart I left Chile, definitely leaving a part of me behind but certain that whether it is this year or next, I will be going back.

Sally spent three weeks exploring the Patagonian Lake District. If you’d like to discover this region for yourself, get in touch with Sally – she’d love to hear from you.

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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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Harriet’s Aysen Recce: Discovering Deep Patagonia

Harriet’s Aysen Recce: Discovering Deep Patagonia

With my anticipation building as I fly towards the Andes, the panoramic views from the flight down the chain of mountains to Patagonia is a great appetiser for my trip. I arrive amongst the bald peaks and forest filled valleys of Aysen by flying into Balmaceda airport. This tiny airport is out on the steppe and as you drive to Coyhaique, Aysen’s capital, the mountains grow around you until you are surrounded by rocky outcrops and glacier rounded hills. Aysen is a region the size of England but with just 100,000 people and 60,000 of those live in Coyhaique.

I love this place and it feels like I am coming home.  This is my Patagonia: with its warm-hearted people, who greet you with a kiss and take time to talk and to get to know you. This is my Patagonia: with wooden houses in all shapes and sizes, covered in shingle and with an enormous wood burner at their heart, where delicious jams are bubbled up.  This is my Patagonia: with its dry steppe, its mishmash of ice and granite, with wild enchanted lengas in the valleys and a green, fascinatingly forested, coast.

I had just three weeks to get to know this area better and this is a taste of what I did:


Watching for condors with Alejandro, Tim and Magda above the Valle de La Luna and Coyhaique Alto. One of the best places to see condors, and they soar past incredibly close!


Kayaking with Rolando near Puerto Aysen and discovering the meaning of ‘backwater’ on the Horseshoe of Ducks – a horseshoe shaped section of stream filled with ducks.


Boating with Ian to the foot of San Rafael Glacier, both hoping and fearing that an enormous piece of ice will calve into the lake in front of us.


Exploring a secret place in Patagonia that was very special indeed!


Arriving at the Chacaubuco Lodge, surrounded by guancos and welcomed by Isabel and Manuel. This is the future Patagonia National Park.


Hiking the Lagunas Altas hike in Chacabuco Valley, Patagonia Park after a briefing with local guide, Sergio.


Finishing the trek at Lago Jeinimeini (pronounced ‘Hay-Kne-May-Kne’) where Ferdinando greets us and takes us to Chile Chico.

My Swoop recce was three weeks of the most spectacular adventures, making new friends and being treated to incredibly ‘un-Patagonian’ good weather. I finished exhausted (both emotionally and physically), smelling bad – having not really had time to do my laundry properly, and with ideas darting around my brain like viscachas. The warmth of the Patagonian people and the time people have one for another and for visitors is what makes Patagonia so special, perhaps more than the ice, the forests and the mountains. This is what brought tears to my eyes as I headed back to Balmaceda airport and back to the UK.

Many people hire a car and hurry along the Carretera Austral but I hope this summary of my trip will make you explore the valleys either side of the road, meet local people and share a maté with them and remember the Patagonian saying:

“Quien se apura en la Patagonia, pierde el tiempo” – He who hurries through Patagonia wastes time.

Harriet’s Aysen Recce

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James’ Argentine adventure

James’ Argentine adventure

James and his girlfriend travelled to Argentine Patagonia in July of 2015. Their trip was not without its dramas, as a general transport strike threatened to scupper the couple’s plans to discover the area. Thankfully, our partners and guides in Argentina were on hand to smooth out any problems and ensure they still had a fantastic adventure. Here James shares their adventure with us and gives us feedback on their experience.

How were Swoop Patagonia?

We are very impressed with your diligent follow-up. We are also very happy with how you helped us when we were stuck, and even made suggestions for our other destinations. We will definitely recommend Swoop to our friends. We really thank you for your recommendation and coordination. We can’t wait for our next visit to Patagonia in the near future!

IMG_7101How did you enjoy our partner’s itinerary? How were their guides? Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

We were quite touched that our guide tried to assess our fitness level and arrange tours accordingly. It was our first time trekking on ice and although we are a young and fit couple we were worried that it would be beyond our ability. As a precaution our guide lent us two trekking poles which were very very handy.

Not many companies are open in Winter, and even the cities themselves are quite quiet with only a few supermarkets open and not much else. But trekking in Winter months is entirely possible.

IMG_7031In El Chalten, windy weather meant that we weren’t able to reach Laguna Torre and headed back after completing 1/3 of the trek. We did have time for a few hours to go around Mount Fitz Roy which was very rewarding.

What was the highlight of your trip?

El Calafate was one of the main highlights of our trip… we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! It had always been our dream to see the Perito Moreno glacier. And we happily set off to our tour stopping here and there to take photos of the beautiful landscape and scenery while our guide taught us all about geology to botany and history to zoology. He was also armed with a DSLR Canon and took photos for us throughout the tour, including some close ups of flying condors and eagles with his zoom lens, which he then transferred to our SD cards.

IMG_7246Our guide has been leading trips for more than a decade and is very experienced. It felt like a first-person Discovery Channel documentary with a childhood friend.

Really thank you very much. We really could not ask for more and feel totally spoilt with the fabled Argentinian hospitality.

Danny’s Ice Cap Exploration

Danny’s Ice Cap Exploration

As the world’s third largest mass of ice, trekking and living on the Patagonian ice cap is a truly unique experience and a challenge. Danny contacted Swoop in May of last year looking for an experience that took him to the ice field for several days.


Danny’s trip to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field started with his group leaving El Chalten, entering the ice fields through Paso Marconi and leaving via the Paso del Viento. He travelled there in November, and below are a selection of his incredible photos and some feedback about the adventure he undertook.


What were the challenges you faced?
My challenge was one of language and communication – I wish the group would have been more mixed with fluent English speakers. Communication with the guides was fine, they were highly experienced and professional, but small talk in the group did not really work well for me, as the group mainly talked in Spanish.


What were your highlights?
The first day on the ice field, as we had perfect weather conditions. At the end, I think the most important success factor for this expedition is the weather, this Patagonian beast… But we were very lucky, and had some very sunny days.


What was it like living out on the ice field?
It is a unique and very special experience due to the vastness and remoteness of the ice field. It feels like visiting another planet. A yet unspoiled wilderness which is challenging but also very much rewarding.


How does this adventure compare to other skiing and trekking trips you have undertaken?
It is quite different. Most trekking and skiing trips are not in such remote areas, and do not require such specific experience. Additionally, this is not one of those popular destinations like Torres del Paine with thousands of visitors and an established infrastructure, but truly a hidden gem which is rarely visited.


How did it feel after completing your trip?
That this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think the only place on earth comparable to this is Antarctica. But even in Antarctica, there would not be the such incredible views on Cerro Torre and the Circo de los Altares.

IMG_1595IMG_1591Would you recommend Swoop to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?
Yes, absolutely.


To venture out onto the incredible ice fields yourself, get in touch with Swoop.

Estancia hopping in Torres del Paine

Estancia hopping in Torres del Paine

There’s not much that beats the thrill of discovering Torres del Paine’s rugged landscapes on horseback – a method of travel that’s been used in the region for hundreds of years and is still favoured today.

In September of last year, I had the pleasure of staying at one of Chile’s biggest ranches, the Estancia Cerro Guido and one of Swoop’s customers, Barbara, recently visited another Chilean ranch for a similar getaway. Here, we both give a little insight of our experiences of life as a Patagonian gaucho (cowboy).SWOOP_3_LUKE-ERRINGTON_ALL_CERROGUIDOLANDSCAPE

Luke: “For anyone who enjoys horse riding, the Estancia Cerro Guido is one of the top spots in the region and offers a true slice of Patagonian history. You can experience life on a real working estancia (ranch), and head out with the gauchos to explore the surrounding pampas (grasslands). You can also ascend the peak of Cerro Guido from which the the estancia takes its name.

The ranch is the hub of a vast estate that reaches out some 100,000 hectares (that’s more or the less the size of a small county in the UK). It’s still a working estancia employing and housing a number of gauchos and their families. So, alongside the 100 year old house of its founders, you’ll also find more modern accommodation, a church and a school for this local community.SWOOP_3_LUKE-ERRINGTON_ALL_CERROGUIDOHORSE

If you book well in advance you can sleep in the old house, which is more museum than hotel, and will give you a wonderful sense of the lives of the people who originally owned and cultivated this land. There are some other rooms with ensuite bathrooms that are perfectly comfortable.

You’ll eat well in the dining room here (most of the food is grown / reared on the estate) but it’s the views out to the Paine Massif that I’ll always remember. This is a very special spot from which to see the sun set behind the famous towers of Torres del Paine.SWOOP_3_LUKE-ERRINGTON_ALL_CERROGUIDOSKYLINE

So, there are a number of reasons I’d recommend this particular ranch:

  • It offers the chance to see how a large-scale ranch really works in Patagonia today and so is a “must-visit” estancia for anyone horse riding in the Torres del Paine region.
  • It’s a great place for a couple or a smaller group of friends to spend a final night in Torres del Paine, after hiking in the main part of the national park.
  • Finally, it’s an authentic and convivial place in which to enjoy a private celebration; so ideal for a larger group ( 8-16 people) who want a night or two in their own place.”

Around 100km south of Estancia Cerro Guido, on the Peninsula Antonio Varas you will find another classic Patagonian ranch, Estancia Mercedes. Swoop customer Barbara visited with her daughter in January of this year.

Before their horse-riding adventure, they stayed at the Singular Hotel, a unique luxury hotel situated in a restored and renovated cold storage plant in Puerto Bories. The Estancia Mercedes then offered quite a contrast to the first part of their trip.CUS_2_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_MERCEDESYARD

Barbara:My experience on the estancia was like living in a National Geographic magazine! After three nights at the Singular Hotel, my daughter and I went to Estancia Mercedes. While everything is fancier at the Singular, Estancia Mercedes is authentic. If you want to step off the tourist route and live with a Chilean ranch family, look no further.CUS_3_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_CHILEHORSEMOUNTAIN

We were welcomed by the entire Inglesia family who have a long and rich history in Puerto Natales that they are happy to share.CUS_4_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_HORSE+RIDER

We came for horseback riding which exceeded our expectations but in the end this stay was about becoming part of the Inglesia family for a few days.CUS_3_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_GROUPMERCEDESESTANCIA

I’ll admit that at night I missed how I could watch the sunset from my bed at the Singular but sunsets fade away unlike Estancia Mercedes which will be forever in our hearts. GO!”

Get in touch to book an unforgettable gaucho experience in Patagonia.

Peter and Natalie’s wintry Torres del Paine trek

Peter and Natalie’s wintry Torres del Paine trek

In May 2015, Peter and his girlfriend Natalie ventured to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile for a 5 day winter adventure, as part of a longer two month journey within South America. Here, Peter shares some of their highlights and tips for this challenging but exciting Patagonian experience.

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How was your winter trek?

The walk was great and we were really lucky with the weather; overall our timing could not have been better, yes we got some bad weather but it came at a ‘suitable’ time. Although it did make me realise that in winter we could have easily been unlucky; we met some people doing hikes who were at slightly different stages to us and unfortunately were unable to see the towers or other parts.

Overall, I would say that if you can face the cold, I would recommend you go in the winter. The lack of people in the region at that time was a real bonus – we practically had the trails to ourselves.

Our guide was great. We couldn’t fault him – he was very accommodating and understanding when Natalie unfortunately got sick. For me, my highlight was 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.

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Peter’s and Natalie’s trip 

Peter and Natalie took a private transfer to Torres del Paine National Park and started with a hike to the shore of Lake Pehoe. The rest of their trip included a trek through forests to Glacier Grey, a night in a cozy cabin on the Serrano River, hiking to Torres del Paine lookout and of course Peter’s highlight, the walk around Paine Grande, to the French Valley viewpoint.


Final tip from Peter and Natalie

We found once in Torres del Paine, that it was still possible, in winter, to get a bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. Had we known this beforehand, we would have definitely included a visit there in our itinerary.

Swoop can help you work out the tricky logistical arrangements of your trip, even in the more complicated winter months. Do get in touch to find out how.