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.

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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.

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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.

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

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I slept in a hut that clung to the hillside.

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

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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.

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

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Stunned by the beauty of the smoking Villarica volcano.

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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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About Sally Dodge

Sally is a true lover of all things Latin American with the Patagonian lakes and mountains as top of her list. Having worked as an English teacher and Tour leader in Chile and Argentina throughout the last 8 years, Sally has a wide and diverse knowledge of Patagonia. She has hiked and cycled throughout Patagonia for work and pleasure, and also loves nothing more than to end every trip to Patagonia with a juicy steak in the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.