Tag Archives: Argentina

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Greg and Michelle’s Off The Beaten Track Adventure

Greg and Michelle’s Off The Beaten Track Adventure

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

Greg’s itinerary

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

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Dramatic skies in Torres del Paine National Park

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

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

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Crossing a river on the Oggioni trek

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

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Celebrating the beauty of wilderness

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Taking a quiet moment alongside Lago Grey

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

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

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

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Greg and his sister Michelle on Paso del Viento

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Trekking past a refugio on the Huemul Circuit

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The second zip-line crossing on the Huemul Circuit

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

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

How were Swoop Patagonia?

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

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On a day hike out of El Chalten

What would you say to others considering a similar trip?

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

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The group day hiking around El Chalten

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

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Spectacular ice formations

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

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

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Michelle sporting her Swoop buff

What was the highlight of your trip?

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

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Fitzroy

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Greg bathing in a glacial lake

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

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

Tapera

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.

Facturas

Get there early before stocks sell out.

Self Catering in El Chalten

Supermercado

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!

Buenos Aires Graffiti Tour

Buenos Aires Graffiti Tour

Swoop’s own Sally finished off her most recent trip to Chile and Argentina with a few days to see what was hot, new and happening in the the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.
She checked out new hotels, enjoyed some wine tasting and here she tells us about her experience of doing a city tour with a difference – a Graffiti Tour.

The tour took in the gritty southern neighbourhoods of La Boca and Barracas allowing us to see a very different side to Buenos Aires to the leafy streets of Palermo or the elaborate facades of Recoleta. It certainly took us to places that we’d never have got to on our own.

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The tour managed to incorporate fascinating street art, big and small, local politics, national history and even some quirky snippets of cultural history which you certainly wouldn’t read about in your average guide book. I even got a basic introduction into how graffiti works and its lingo – tags, blows and many more!

The guide, Cecilia, really made the tour. She was extremely informative, passionate and was able to give anecdotes about the artists which really brought the murals to life. Her way of explaining history and politics was interesting and easy to follow.

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It isn’t a tour that is going to take you to the Obelisc or the Plaza de Mayo, you aren’t going to be told about the founding of Buenos Aires, nor a complete history of the city or Argentina. What you are given though is an alternative city tour, gaining in depth information into some aspects of Argentine history, through the context of the street art that you are seeing.

Beginning in La Boca she explained about the immigration of the early 1900’s, how La Boca came to be, and the background behind the photogenic ‘El Caminito’. Using the different art pieces Cecile explained about the history of expression and repression during the Military Dictatorship of the 70’s and 80’s and the return to democracy. Once in Barracas she even touched upon the economic crash of 2001.

For many, this form of associating historical facts and events with incredibly powerful, visual art is a far more interesting and memorable way to get to grips with the complicated and fascinating history of Argentina.

My top 5 pieces of art seen were….

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1) Up a back street in La Boca was an enormously powerful mural in memory of the 30,000 disappeared during the Military Dictatorship. The piece showed names of those that were never found, drawings of faces and a ‘Mothers of May’ grief stricken, claiming her dead husband, father or son. Hugely emotive.

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2) The Globe – I found this fascinating as I couldn’t and still can’t decide if the people are spinning in or spinning out. What do you think?

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3) The Bikes – lining the walls of Barracas where lines and lines of these delightful bicycles.

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4) The Turtle – artistically incredible.

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5) The History of La Boca with their tin houses, firefighters and the cargo bridge – a symbol of the area.

If you’re looking for a fun, interesting way to get under the skin of this fascinating, vibrant, sometimes restless city and learn a little about the Porteños themselves, then this graffiti tour will be an excellent addition to your itinerary.

Ask the Swoop team to find out more.

 

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.  

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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

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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.

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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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Chiloé

 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. 

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

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Chiloé

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.

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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.  

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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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Guanaco

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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

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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”.  

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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.

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Lady’s Slipper

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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).  

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Guanaco

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

Anne’s Family Christmas in Patagonia

Anne’s Family Christmas in Patagonia

Anne and her family returned in January from a Christmas holiday in Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here she tells us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

‘Everything went fantastically, we LOVE Patagonia, and we so appreciated the careful planning.’

Fam on glacier

Ann’s Feedback

Our family of 4 recently returned from a truly awesome trip to Patagonia organised by Sally at Swoop Patagonia. I typically am the trip organiser for our family, and usually eschew travel agents.  Thank goodness I was lured to Swoop Patagonia because the trip would not have happened without them, or at least it would not have been the fantastic trip that it was.  Sally was unbelievably helpful and responsive and so very knowledgable about Patagonia. In the early stages, we Skyped and swapped innumerable emails and she patiently and competently figured out what kind of trip we were dreaming of and put all of the pieces in place.

Lake above Peuma Hue

We spent time in El Chalten, El Calafate and in the Bariloche area.  Our hikes (both guided and independent) were among the most jaw-droppingly beautiful we have ever experienced (and this is compared to Bhutan, New Zealand, and many places in the US).

The accommodations in El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche were locally run, extremely comfortable and brimming with friendly people. Sally worked with local operators to ensure that ALL of the details were covered, ranging from delicious box lunches for our hikes, to numerous transfers to and from airports, trailheads etc.

Scotch on perito moreno

The pre-trip information that Sally sent us was extensive and very well documented (e.g. packing list for hiking, suggestions for our time in Buenos Aires, specifics of domestic flights, transfers etc etc.). Sally also quickly answered questions that arose during the trip (eg. How much should I tip?) and yesterday we Skyped for close to an hour reliving our trip and going over all the details AND fantasising about future trips to Patagonia.

Caity at hut

We particularly appreciated all of the transfers that you arranged for us- I am not used to arriving at an airport and seeing a sign with my name on it and a friend driver to whisk me to my destination! I kept waiting for the time that the person would not show up, or some such, but it never happened!

I could not be more pleased and grateful for the amazing service and family trip of a lifetime! THANK YOU!

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Ann’s Itinerary

The trip began in Buenos Aires, from where the family flew on to El Chalten in Los Glaciares National Park, for three days of guided and independent day hikes in the region.

‘Our hikes were unbelievable, and our accommodation was outstanding. The staff who supported us and our guide, Alex, were all great’

They then travelled back to El Calafate for a day excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier, which included a 1.5 hours ice hike, a boat excursion to the face of the glacier, and an hour on the viewing platforms in front of the glacier.

‘We had a really knowledgeable guide, and felt very safe and secure’

Perito Moreno

The next stop was Peuma Hue, a luxury eco-lodge at the heart of the Argentine Lake District, blended into 500 acres of national park, 2 miles of lakeshore, pristine forest, mountains, rolling hills, waterfalls and creeks, all just 25 minutes from Bariloche.

Peuma Hue

‘Peuma Hue was ridiculously beautiful, and the accommodation was outstanding. We went for some fantastic runs, took a boat trip to Frey, went kayaking on the lakes, took a yoga class, and went on a magical horse ride to beautiful waterfalls.’

The trip ended with three days in Buenos Aires, where the family spent time exploring the city.

‘The only thing I might do differently would be to spend new year’s eve and day outside of Buenos Aires as almost everything was closed!’

wine tasting in BA

 Thank you again for making this dream trip come true!

Ann & Karl’s 15 days in Argentina

Ann & Karl’s 15 days in Argentina

Ann and Karl returned in April 2015 from a 15 day trip to Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

Ann & Karl’s feedback

‘We just wanted to say a big thank you for this memorable holiday. Thanks for your expertise of the area – we had an amazing time with virtually no hiccups with any of the pre-arranged tours or transfers. We had a great dose of adventure, photographed picturesque scenery, and met very nice local people. We now have 3 days in BA before flying home but couldn’t wait to express our gratitude.’

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Ann & Karl’s Itinerary

Ann & Karl began their trip with a 3 night stay at Estancia Huechahue, a quintessential Patagonian ranch in the foothills of the Andes, where they took part in a variety of activities including horse riding and fly fishing.

Estancia Huechahue was excellent, an absolute highlight of the trip. It was quite different to what we imagined – a very rugged experience, but we would absolutely rush back again. The staff were very knowledgeable and the food was great. We were lucky enough to meet many of the owner (Jane) ‘s friends, and very much enjoyed making new friends and speaking to the local people.

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They then travelled down to Bariloche in the Argentine Lake District, for 2 days of kayaking and river rafting.

The kayaking/ rafting was great. It was our first time kayaking, and luckily we did not find it too challenging so were able to soak up all of the scenery in this beautiful location.

Next, they travelled on to El Calafate for an ice hike on the Perito Moreno glacier, which was ‘rather tiring, but great fun, with great guides who were very knowledgeable’.

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Their next two days were spent taking day hikes from El Chalten, which were ‘very enjoyable, and we were very lucky to have had great weather during our stay. We are not big hikers and we feel that 1.5 days is the ideal time to stay in this town.’

Ann & Karl’s last stop was Buenos Aires, where they made their own arrangements. They highly recommended visiting this open air live music show: La Bomba de Tiempo.

The trip superseded our expectations, we were really impressed and definitely needed your help! We would highly recommend Swoop to friends and family. Thanks, Karl & Ann.

 

Ali’s Trek and Ice Hike in Los Glaciares National Park

Ali’s Trek and Ice Hike in Los Glaciares National Park

Ali returned at the end of January from a trek in Los Glaciares National Park, where he hiked in and around El Chalten, exploring the many mountains, glaciers, lakes and valleys around the dramatic Mount Fitz Roy. Here he tells us about his trip and his experience of booking with Swoop and our partners, and shares some fantastic photos and videos!

Ali Habbtar Viedma Glacier from Paso Huemul

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my ‘Complete Chalten’ trip was seeing the Continental Ice Field and trekking between Paso del Viento and Paso Huemul with very few people and amazing scenery.

Video: Viedma Glacier & the Continental Ice Field

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

 Not this time, but hopefully next time.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

Swoop did an excellent job, the flexibility in trying to meet my schedule was great and the operator recommendations were fantastic.

Were you well looked after by the operator in El Chalten & their guides on the trip?

Zoe and the crew did an outstanding job in terms of adjusting the trek to get maximum benefit, it helped that I was a one-man group :)

The equipment and food provided was great, the hotels recommended and booked were excellent, and the guide, Gaston did an outstanding job- very professional, knowledgeable, and fun to trek with.

Ali Habbtar Snow-covered peace

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

Hopefully next time I’ll be able to plan further in advance without many changes.

Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?

Be ready physically and mentally, and enjoy nature at its best.