Tag Archives: Buenos Aires

Swoop’s Pick of Patagonian Restaurants

Swoop’s Pick of Patagonian Restaurants

After many years working as a tour leader wining and dining clients night after night, I have eaten my way through the very best that Patagonia has to offer. Below are just a few of my recommendations.

Santiago: Providencia

1. *Top Pick* : Liguria: Traditional Chilean cuisine, excellent quality and very buzzing – take your dictionary! (3 locations, my favourite is Av. Providencia 1373 – very near Manual Montt metro)

liguria 2

2. Baco: Fantastic wine selection, good for tapas type food and great steaks. (Nueva de Lyon 113)

3. El Giratorio: 17th floor rotating restaurant – incredible views of sunset over the city and the Andes. Food is traditional and tasty but also aspires to be fine-dining. (Av 11 de Septiembre 2250, Floor 16)  

giratorio

Santiago: Bellavista

1. Como Agua Para Chocolate: Delicious fish and meat dishes, great wine selection, wonderful decor and atmosphere. Staff generally speak very good English. (Constitución 88 – street parallel to Pio Nono, main street of Bellavista)

agua con choc

Santiago: Lastarria

1. Bocanariz: Unrivalled selection of Chilean wines, this is THE place to come and experience the very best in Chilean wine – the food is delicious as well if you fancy staying for dinner. A great addition to the quirky neighbourhood. (José Victorino Lastarria 276 – next to church)

bocanariz

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Santiago–

Pucon

1. *Top Pick* : Rincon del Lago: Not in the centre so off the tourist trail, this little family-run place serves really reasonable, traditional food; nothing fancy but good wholesome grub – great after a day out on the trails. (G. Urrutia 635)

2. Trawen: Long established place on the main street but still serving up delicious local dishes, top notch pisco sours and unmissable desserts. (Av. O’Higgins 311)

Puerto Varas

1. *Top Pick* : Las Buenas Brasas: It’s popular with tourists and for a very good reason – the food is delicious, the service spot on, the pisco sours are strong and the added extras of Sopaipilla y pebre (fritters with homemade salsa) on arrival make this place a real gem. (San Pedro 543)

42

2. Cafe Danes: Great for lunch, kuchen (cakes) and empanadas (savoury pasties) – try the Empanada de horno but beware, the portions are huge! (Del Salvador 441)

3. Casa Valdes – housed in a lovely wooden cabin with great views across the Llanquihue Lake to the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes, this local restaurant is serving up the very best in local fish and seafood. The atmosphere is buzzing but not too noisy but best to ask your hotel reception to book a table. (Santa Rosa 040 – Underneath the Cabanas del Lago Hotel)

4. La Jardineria: -a little way out of town, one block back from the lake front road, this is a small, intimate restaurant, housed in a restored traditional house, very popular with locals, run by a well travelled, local couple. (Blanco Encalada 1160,  Puerto Chico)

5. La Marca – best in town for a juicy steak (Calle Santa Rosa #539)

6. Mercado 605 – set in a beautifully restored wooden house this cafe by day / restaurant by night offers a wide variety of ‘pisco sours’ for example, sours including green chilli or honey or even avocado. The food is delicious too! (Imperial #605)

Punta Arenas

1. *Top Pick* : Restaurante Brocolino: From its exterior it looks like nothing special, but trust me, inside you’ll be greeted with mouth-watering aromas of king crab in white wine, Patagonian lamb, and sinful desserts. For me what really makes this restaurant special is Hector the chef, a true Patagonian character! (O’ Higgins #1049)

2. Toques de la Patagonia: With a stunning view of the city, serving up creative dishes using organic and locally grown vegetables and herbs. (Almirante Manuel Senoret #1041)

Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Punta Arenas

Puerto Natales

1. *Top Pick* : Cormoran de las Rocas: With fresh fish and delicious meats even including guanaco on the menu, this restaurant is a great bonus for Puerto Natales. Set up on the first floor of the building, what really makes this place special are the incredible views over the Last Hope Sound. (Miguel Sanchez 72)

cormoran2

Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in Puerto Natales

Sally’s Top Restaurants in Argentina

Buenos Aires: Microcentro

You could spend a lifetime in Buenos Aires and still not have explored all of its wonderful, quirky, unique gastronomic offerings; here is just a brief list of some of my favourites.

1. *Top Pick* :  El Establo – My all time favourite restaurant in Buenos Aires is El Establo.  It is old school, bright lights, white table cloths, old waiters that don’t write anything down and popular with tourists. Hands down it offers the best steak in BA. Open parrilla (grill), ham hanging from the ceiling and homemade chimichurri (typical Argentine condiment to accompany meat dishes made of parsley, garlic and olive oil). Order the ½ Bife de lomo, jugoso (rare fillet steak) – it simply melts in your mouth. (Paraguay on the corner of San Martin in Retiro)

Buenos Aires: San Telmo

1. Gran Parrilla del Plata: Excellent quality steak, reasonably priced, great service, great decor. (Chile 594 – on the corner with Peru)

gran parilla del plata

2. La Brigada: Quite pricey but a real meat experience! (Estados Unidos 465)

la brigada

3. Cafe La Poesia: Atmospheric cafe in the heart of San Telmo; translating as ‘Poetry Cafe’, it is a literary institution with photos of famous Argentine authors, prose around the walls and plaques on some of the tables where famous authors have sat. Great for coffee, snacks, drinks and picadas (shared platters). One of the protected ‘Cafe Notables’ of Buenos Aires. (Chile 502 on the corner of Bolivar)

la poesia

4. Bar El Federal: Another great ‘Cafe Notable’ of San Telmo with its incredible wooden decor, pavement tables and ecelctic mix of students, backpackers, artists and old timers reading the daily news. Order a coffee/beer and watch the world go by. (Peru on the corner of Carlos Calvo)

el federal

Buenos Aires: Palermo

1. *Top Pick*: Don Julio: Excellent steak, great service and a wonderful wine list. Definitely my *Top Pick* in Palermo. (Guatemala 4691 on the corner of Gurruchaga)

2. La Cabrera: Popular with tourists and locals alike, this restaurant, located on 2 different corners of the same street, serves up enormous steaks that are strictly encouraged to share accompanied with a delicious selection of side dishes. Excellent service, great atmosphere and as they don’t take reservations they offer you champagne while you wait for your table. (José Antonio Cabrera 5099 on the corner of Thames)

la cabrera

3. El Preferido de Palermo: Another ‘Cafe Notable’; this is a great place to stop for a drink just to have a look inside. The food is traditional and offers some real Argentine treats. (Jorge Luis Borges 2108 on the corner of Guatemala)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Buenos Aires–

Bariloche

1. *Top Pick* :  Alto el Fuego:  Excellent quality meat, unusual wines and good value. (20 de Febrero 451)

2. Holly Restobar: A good option is you’re looking for something other than steak; the ribs are excellent. Also has fabulous views out across the lake. (Avenida Juan M. de Rosas 435)

–Here are some more ideas on Places to Stay in Bariloche–

El Calafate

1. *Top Pick* :  La Tablita: A visit to El Calafate isn’t complete without trying the slow cooked Patagonian lamb and after many years of trying out many places this has come top time after time. A word of warning: order 1 between 2 (even though it isn’t a dish for 2, the portion is enormous!) ; also, don’t miss the Calafate ice-cream. (Rosales 28 – cross over the bridge past the petrol station and it is down on your left hand side)

la tablita

2. La Zaina: Set in a restored old building with an eclectic mix of memorabilia, this place serves a great selection of Patagonian meats (great pasta as well), warm home-made bread and an interesting wine selection. Service can sometimes be slow but then, what’s the hurry?! ( Gdor. Gregores 1057 – on the corner of Tomas Espora)

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Calafate–

El Chalten

1. *Top Pick* : La Tapera: Delicious hearty stews, cosy, warm atmosphere and great views of Fitz Roy from upstairs. (Antonio Rojo & Riquelme – next to the Walk Patagonia office)

2. CerveceriaThe Micro Brewery! A visit to El Chalten isn’t complete without a visit to the micro-brewery. They brew 2 different beers, 1 pale (rubia) and 1 dark (negro) and serve with bowls of popcorn (they also serve bottled beers and wine). Great atmosphere, cosy, with a garden to laze in sun after a hard days walking. Open late into the evening. (Av. San Martin 564)

3. La Vineria – “The best wine bar in South Patagonia” – this quote taken from their website is quite a claim but almost definitely true. It has an incredible selection of Argentine wines (and artisanal beers), great picadas (shared platters) of meats, cheeses and tapas Argentine style. Sebastian the owner is extremely knowledgeable. (Lago Del Desierto Ave, 265 – next to the Chalten travel office)

vineria

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Chalten–

4. La Wafeleria: – A well-deserved stop after a long hike or great place to settle in for the day if the weather closes in. (Av. San Martin 640)

One of Swoop’s other Patagonia specialists, Harriet, has also reviewed the restaurants in El Chalten. For an even more detailed insight into what delicacies the town has on offer, read Harriet’s post “Places to eat in El Chalten”

Ushuaia

1. *Top Pick* :  La Casa de los Mariscos: – It’s an easy place to walk past without noticing, it looks quite shabby from the outside, there is no king crab tank in the window and the doorway is very small. But once inside it is buzzing, cosy and wafts delicious aromas. Try the Centolla Fugeian (king crab in chilli sauce), Centolla Provincal (king crab in parsley and white wine sauce) or Centolla Natural (king crab salad). (San Martin, 232 – corner with Deloqui)

2. El Almacen de Ramos General: No stay in Ushuaia is complete without a stop at this wonderful little gem! It’s a bit of everything from museum to cafe to restaurant to bar. With an eclectic mix of memorabilia, chocolate coated meringue penguins, Cape Horn beer and homemade pasta. (Av. Maipu 749)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Ushuaia–

Other restaurants outside of Patagonia that Sally just can’t help recommending!

Mendoza

*Top Pick* : Ocho Cepas: Set in a beautifully restored old colonial house, the restaurant is split between the different rooms of the house, with its very own wine cellar. The steak is great, the menu interesting and the atmosphere intimate. (Peru 1192 – on the corner of Espejo)

Puerto Iguazu

1. *Top Pick* :  El Quicho del Tio Querido: If you aren’t enticed in by the delicious smell of cooking meat from it’s enormous open air grill then you will be by the fascinating live music (played after about 9:30pm); the steaks are incredible, the service great and the atmosphere relaxing. (Av. Pres. Juan Domingo Perón 159)

eltiquoerdo

2. Aqva: A little on the pricey side but serving up local river fish in delicious sauces – a definite top pick if you’re a bit meated out (Av. Cordoba on the corner of Carlos Thays)

aqva

Any feedback and new recommendations are welcomed, and why not take a look at our Before You Go Page for more travel tips and recommendations for your trip to Patagonia.

Valparaiso

Bote Salvavida – for their lunchtime fish dishes.

Cafe Turri – for wonderful views.

Amor Porteño – for the best ice-cream in town!

Hotel Brighton – for the best view, and a good pisco sour…but we wouldn’t advise eating!

There are also some wonderful places to eat and drink on Almirante Montt Street; from cafes to fine dining, good places to grab a beer and great views.

Enjoy!

Tony’s Patagonia experience

Tony came back from spending almost a month in Patagonia traveling through some extraordinary landscape on the way, here he gives us his thoughts on his time in the region.

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. It was a great trip and I really wouldn’t have changed anything. Thank you so much.

Tony’s Itinerary

Tony flew into Buenos Aires Airport and headed straight to Los Glaciares National Park, where he took a mixture and guided and self guided day hikes from the mountain town of El Chalten.

He then headed to El Calafate to visit the stunning Perito Moreno glacier before getting ready to embark on the Full Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

While trekking through the park Tony stayed in supported camping at different points on the full circuit trail, taking 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 for a BBQ lunch.

Next up 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, as well as visiting several towns and villages.

After the harshness of the desert it was back to Buenos Aires to  for a city tour before heading back home.

Below, Tony tells us some more about his trip…

How did you find travelling during your trip?

All BA flights were great. Comfortable, excellent staff/service, reasonably good food, great choice of films. I do think you should advise travellers to check in online beforehand as I didn’t know to do this and therefore had no choice of seat. All Internal flights were fine and on time.

My Bus journey to Salta wa s 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 did feel rather slow. A top tip is to stop at the info centres that help you get orientated by taking short walks.

How did you find your hiking expeditions? 

I really enjoyed the 3 day walks – Day one in Tumbado, day 2 at Fitzroy (which was guided) and day 2 Torres del Paine.

Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares were amazing – 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 the Lagoons and Geyser in the Atacama 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 was late picking us up for the geyser trip, and then broke down en route so we almost missed the geyser activity.

What were the other excursions on your trip like?

I went on quite a few different activities while in Patagonia.

In the Atacama, 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. Some people may have wanted prior warning that the path up is narrow, strewn with boulders with vertical drop down one side… but for me it was better that I didn’t know!

My time in Torres del Paine was full of highs and lows. On the Full Circuit, it was just the guide (Jose) and myself- Jose was great and really got me through the trip. The conditions in exposed areas felt somewhat hairy, so it could be worth warning travellers might have been concerned about this. Again, it was best for me that I didn’t know beforehand, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It was tranquil, traumatic, challenging, and exciting all in one!

At night,  Jose did me proud with his food preparation and we had a lovely evening even though it rained. The boat trip back to Natales was fine but weather was poor so not quite what it could have been otherwise.

My time in the city of Buenos Aires was lovely. I thought on the way through that it really would not be my sort of place, but on my way back at the end of the trip I loved walking around there. I particularly enjoyed the marina area, waterfront parks  and the Eco Park and it was all helped by the lovely weather.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Nick’s 19 day trip to Chile & Argentina

Nick’s 19 day trip to Chile & Argentina

Nick and Ruth (his Mum) returned in March 2015 from a 19 day trip to Chile and Argentina, planned and arranged by Swoop Patagonia, based on Swoop’s own Day Hike Patagonia Itinerary . Here Nick tells us about their experiences on the trip, and in booking with Swoop Patagonia.

Nick’s Feedback

‘Swoop were great, a pleasure to deal with from start to finish. The whole thing was  fantastic, and you did an amazing job organising it. It was particularly good of you to book 20 days of more-or-less solid sunshine… so I’m sort of stuck for suggestions!

All the organisation was efficient, really well done. Right amount of email and phone calls, very patient with inquiries etc, all the information was fine. Can’t really think of anything that could have been better.

Torres del Paine was probably my favourite place. Best day’s walking was probably Laguna de los Tres (from El Chalten). Most incredible sight, probably the inside of a crevasse on the Viedma glacier. Penguins and sea otter on Chiloe were brilliant. I could go on, but then it’s not highlights any more!’

Nick’s Itinerary

Nick and his mum began their trip with 3 nights in Buenos Aires, where they spent their time at leisure, exploring the city, guided by Swoop’s tips on Things to do in Buenos Aires.

17192491025_a351849f94_z

La Boca, Buenos Aires

They then flew to Bariloche for a night at Las Marianas, where they spent another day at leisure, guided by Swoops tips on Things to do in Bariloche.

Next, they travelled across the waters of Lago Nahuel Huapi, Lago Frias & Lago Todos los Santos, crossing through the Andes to reach the lakeside town of Puerto Varas.

From here, they travelled by car and ferry to the beautiful island of Chiloe, where they took two day excursions to see some of the wild and varied wildlife inhabitants, starting with the protected nature reserve in the Bay of Caulin – a fantastic spot for spotting local and migratory birds.

After this, they continued their drive out to the Pacific Coast to visit the Punihuil Penguin Colonies, spending the night at La Casita del Mar.

Screenshot (283)

Sea Otter in the waters of Chiloé

[Read more about activity options available from this idyllic cabin by the sea on Chiloe Island.]

17166655586_cf04dde6a8_z

Chiloe Island

Torres del Paine was their next stop, and they spent 3 days taking guided excursions from an eco camp in the heart of the park.

16985280417_dc242f4bf4_z

View from Mirador Ferrier, Torres del Paine

The next stop was Los Glaciares National Park, where Nick and his mum took an afternoon excursion to stand, stare, and observe ice calving from the Perito Moreno Glacier.

‘The colours of the ice were just amazing’

The following day they travelled on to the mountain town of El Chalten….

16572679803_8404f98a81_z

The road to El Chalten…

Here they spent 2 and a half days taking day hikes to Laguna Torre, and Laguna de los Tres, and ice hiking on the Viedma Glacier.

17191191922_78be1d8e8d_z

Rio de las Vueltas Valley

Ushuaia was their next destination, and they spent time exploring the area independently, as well as taking a full day guided excursion in Tierra del Fuego National Park, including a trek on the Pampa Alta trail and visits to Ensenada & Lapataia bay.

Finally, they flew back to Buenos Aires where they spent a leisurely afternoon and evening before flying on home.

We asked Nick a few specific questions about his trip…

What did Swoop do well? What could we have done differently?

All the organisation was efficient, really well done. Right amount of email and phone calls, very patient with inquiries etc, all the information was fine. Can’t really think of anything that could have been better.

(One small thing: the Buenos Aires hotel address on the important information sheet was wrong — there are two Hotel Esplendors in Palermo, and the street address given was the other one).

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?

Yes, definitely, especially if they want to do what we did and cram a lot into a little amount of time — I can’t imagine how long it would have taken me to sort all that out!

 How did you enjoy the different areas you visited on your trip?

I loved them all! It was a really good variety of places. Often, the towns themselves didn’t seem to be all that (El Calafate, Bariloche), but generally we were there for the stuff round the towns, so that hardly mattered (and they all had enough good places to eat and so on).

Screenshot (281)

Pedras Blancas Glacier (Laguna de los Tres hike)

 What did you think of the excursions and activities you took  part in?

Great, yes. If I’d been on my own, I would probably have done less guided stuff, and more on my own — but it was primarily Mum’s holiday!

 How  were your accommodations?

Fine — again, a nice mixture of places. The eco camp in Torres del Paine was particularly cool — and I imagine far cheaper than staying in one of the hotels!

What did you think of the guides and staff  who looked after you?

They were all lovely! The guides were all great. The staff at various places put up with all our questions, mum’s neurosis about missing flights, etc etc. I honestly haven’t got a single bad word to say about any of it.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Hmmmm… Torres del Paine was probably my favourite place. Best day’s walking was probably Laguna de los Tres (from El Chalten).

Screenshot (282)

Stunning viewpoint at end of Laguna de los Tres hike

Most incredible sight, probably the inside of a crevasse on the Viedma glacier.

16570049804_35da69fc8c_z

Inside a crevasse – Viedma Glacier

Penguins and sea otter on Chiloe were brilliant. I could go on, but then it’s not highlights any more!

Screenshot (284)

Magellanic Penguins of Chiloé

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

I think it’s well worth starting in Buenos Aires, as we did. It’s a great place to spend a couple of nights getting over the long flight, and if you change dollars at the blue rate there, you’ll get much more for your money throughout the rest of your Argentinian trip.

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.

GrafBuenos8

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.

GrafBuenos7

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….

GrafBuenos1

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.

GrafBuenos2

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?

GrafBuenos3

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

GrafBuenos4

4) The Turtle – artistically incredible.

GrafBuenos5

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.

 

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.

 BuenosAires

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.
 PalBike

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

SanT

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.

SanT

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.

Screenshot (164)

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“.

 

Hotel Review: Legado Mitico

Hotel Review: Legado Mitico


This luxury hotel offers a totally unique hotel experience. The door onto the street is unassuming with just a small plaque to suggest that the hotel is even there. The reception desk is manned by just 1 gentleman, and then behind a curtain leads into what is a cosy lounge and library.

Library

The library’s collection is really impressive with books by distinguished authors from all over South America, historical editions of books from Argentinean authors such as Martin Fierro – the classic tale of the Gaucho.

The hotel rooms all have a different name (rather than number), theme and decor. They are extremely comfortable with great attention to detail to all the decorations, furnishings and facilities.
Screenshot (159)

On my latest visit I stayed in the room called ‘La Primera Dama’, ‘The First Lady’ which is a room totally themed around Evita Peron. The touches are subtle but include, photos of her life, a cabinet above the bath of replica possessions and a bodice with pearls above the fireplace.

There are 3 categories of rooms – classic, deluxe and superior – for more details about the room categories, please just ask.

MitCompFood

The hotel doesn’t have a bar in the traditional sense but drinks and snacks are served upon request from reception in the lounge, library area – all guests are invited to a glass of wine in the library on arrival. The hotel has a spacious outside garden/terrace on ground level (and a sundeck on the roof which is really rather too small to mention).

MItHot

The hotel has a great location in Palermo Viejo (Soho), positioned just 4 blocks from the Subte (underground/subway) with pavement cafes and restaurants just a stone’s throw away – See ‘Restaurants Blog for more details.

This hotel is great for those who seek a unique, luxury, hotel experience which will add to your stay in this bustling city rather than just being a place to rest your head.

Tina & Steve’s W Trek & Huemul Circuit

Tina & Steve’s W Trek & Huemul Circuit

Tina and Steve returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine and Huemul Circuit in Los Glaciares National Park. Here they tell us abut their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners….

‘I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks.’

tinasteve 6

Our trip started with a visit to Swoop’s office in Bristol where we met Luke and some of the team. Other than having heard a bit about Torres del Paine from a friend, we had no real knowledge of the region or what we could do in the short time available to us. During that visit and over the course of subsequent e-mails Luke, and the Swoop Team, helped us come up with a plan to squeeze plenty of activity into our two-week timeframe.

Torres del Paine National Park

We started in Torres del Paine where we did a Self-Guided W Trek organised by Swoop’s recommended partners in Puerto Natales. We had just one night in Puerto Natales at the start after a 36-hour journey from Devon, with an early transfer next day into the park to begin the walk.

The walking was great, very mixed terrain, and hugely changeable weather; we really did get everything from hot sun to snow, invariably accompanied by the notorious wind; luckily the rain was largely overnight. It was nice to be able to change and shower in the Refugios each night (contrast the next bit of the trip), although Refugio food was distinctly unmemorable.

Tinasteve 1

Walking highlights here were the beautiful lakeside walks, and the trek to Glacier Grey. Sadly the French Valley (the middle bit of the W) was closed to walkers due to snow. Swoop’s partners were superb – Johana met us (unannounced, which was a lovely surprise) off the bus when we arrived late in Puerto Natales, got us to the hotel safely, and came up with the best packed lunch of our whole trip for the first day’s walking the next morning.

We must also mention the young lady who was waiting to check us back into the hotel when we returned from the park, again late at night. I’d stupidly left our passports, travel documents and lots of cash in the taxi we’d taken from the bus station – she confidently made lots of phone calls, poured us a cold beer, ushered us over the road to eat in the fab restaurant Aldea (highly recommended) just before they closed, and happily the young cab driver bowled up with all our stuff about 15 minutes later.

tinasteve5

Los Glaciares National Park

We transferred to El Calafate, visited the Perito Merino glacier, and had a night in Hosteria La Estepa – very comfortable, lovely welcoming manager Agustino, and a very nice dinner.

Then on to El Chalten; Swoop had put us in contact with a Chalten-based expedition company who organised this bit of our stay. We picked up some rental camping gear, had one night on a self-guided (rather wet) walk, and then went off with our guide Fabio to do the Huemul Circuit. This was just awesome and for me was the very best bit of our trip. The walking was strenuous at times, but we saw some amazing stuff. The trek involves four days of walking with three nights of wild camping – I think we saw no more than four other people during the whole period.

tinasteve 3

Highlights – the zip-wire river crossing, the joys of very basic camping food, wonderful scenery, the blow-you-off-your-feet (literally) winds, and the last night camp eating our supper just below the glacier Viedma.

Tinasteve2

Again, this partner of Swoop’s was absolutely faultless – a friendly welcome, very helpful in the shop, a great mountain guide, and an upgraded hotel in Chalten. Both agents were responsible for recommending and booking various hotels, bus transfers, taxi pick-ups etc, and everything went totally smoothly – not a single glitch in the plans.

Our trip ended with a stopover in Buenos Aires, where we had some great cocktails (we seem to have developed a Pisco habit), and the biggest steak you’ve ever seen. So top marks to Swoop – always available to respond to questions or with advice during the planning stage, but also happy to leave us to communicate directly with their partners in Patagonia, who (as I’ve said) were both superb.

tinasteve 4

I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia (there are some other interesting-looking challenges); and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks. Antarctica, anyone?

Buenos Aires Airports

Buenos Aires Airports

There are two different airports in Buenos Aires, and often people need to travel between them to catch connecting flights. We’ve put together some information and advice on the two airports and how to move between them, as well as some ideas on things to do should you decide to spend a night or two in Buenos Aires.

1. The 2 Buenos Aires Airports

Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), also known as Ezeiza is 30km to the south of the main part of town, and is mainly used for international flights.

Jorge Newberry (AEP) is just to the north, and only a 10-15 min taxi ride from the nicest parts of the city; and is mainly used for domestic flights.

2. Travelling Between Buenos Aires Airports

Moving between the two airports can take 1 to 2 hours depending on traffic, and as customs and baggage reclaim can take a while we’d normally allow at least 5 hours between arriving into one and departing the other.

More info on moving between the two here:  http://blog.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/getting-to-the-airport-in-buenos-aires-by-bus/

Buenos Aires Airports

3. Spending the Night in Buenos Aires

It often makes sense for people, on their way into Argentina to fly into EZE, spend the night in Buenos Aires, and then fly south from AEP; with a short and simple taxi to the airport the following morning. Here’s a link to our most recommended hotels in Buenos Aires: http://www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/hotels-buenos-aires/

4. Things to do in Buenos Aires

For a few more thoughts and ideas about things to do in Buenos Aires you can also read Sally’s blog post: http://blog.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/things-buenos-aires/ . Equally, should you decide to stop-over in Santiago then Sally’s Santiago walking tour may also be of interest: http://blog.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/things-santiago/

Things to do in Buenos Aires

Things to do in Buenos Aires

During her many years living and working in Patagonia, Sally had the pleasure of really getting to know this wonderful capital city, whether taking groups on City Tours, or simply exploring under her own steam. These are Sally’s tips on the top must sees of Buenos Aires…

I may be slightly biased, but Buenos Aires really is an incredible city. Whether you enjoy music, dancing, architecture, art galleries, history museums, street art, food markets, craft markets, antiques, wining, dining, cocktails bars, night clubs or laid-back leafy squares, this city really does have something for everyone. If you’re planning to spend a night or two here, you might like to take a look at our most Recommended Hotels in Buenos Aires.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn arrival (here’s some more information on Buenos Aires’ Airports) we really do suggest taking a guided tour, whether it be a “sit in bus” style tour, a walking tour or a cycling tour. These are great ways to orientate yourself in the city, learn a bit of background history and culture and get some insider tips from a local “Porteño”. You will visit locations such as the 80m Obelisc that stands proud in the middle of the enormous Avenida 9 de Julio, the Government Palace locally known as the “Pink Palace”, the Recoleta Cemetery where Evita was finally laid to rest and the artistic, tango neighbourhood of La Boca.Casa Rosada

Once you’ve visited the must sees of this sensational city, here are some of my top recommendations of how to spend and free time you might have.

  1. Avenida de Mayo – Walk the Avenida de Mayo from the Casa Rosada until the Plaza de Congreso stopping on the way to poke your head into or stop for a coffee in the Café Tortoni (825) a great way to get a feel for what Buenos Aires would have been like in the early 1900’s.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Teatro Colon (Opera House) – This world famous building sits proudly on the very wide Avenida 9 de Juilo. The inside is breathtaking and a tour not only takes you into the auditorium and many rooms of the Opera House but gives you a great overview of the history of Buenos Aires at the time it was built. Tours in English on the hour, every hour lasting 50 mins from 09:00 – 19:00 – ARG$130. (The entrance is on the left hand side of the building on Tucuman).
  3. San Telmo neighbourhood and its cafés  – San Telmo is where the aging and young bohemians of Buenos Aires hang out. Traditionally where the upper classes lived until 1871 when a yellow fever out break drove them out. Nowadays you can still see some of the traditional 1800`s architecture, antique shops and sometimes tango in its square. There are also some great cafes – La Poesia – Chile/Bolivar & El Federal – Peru/Carlos Calvo;  Plaza Dorrego for people watching, some handicrafts and maybe some tango.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Train Lovers…..
    •  Metro Line C – for metro lovers, the stations along these lines have some fantastic mosaics.
    • Retiro Station – a grand old station with its tea rooms still running.

5. Ecological Reserve – beyond Puerto Madero you find the extensive Ecological reserve which is quite good for bird spotting and escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. Take a pic-nic, plenty of water and watch the ships as they sail in and out of the River Plate.

6. Palermo neighbourhood – all within relative proximity to each other you can head to Palermo (take metro line D and get off at Plaza Italia) and visit:

  • Museo Evita, Lafinur 2988; open 11 – 19, ARG$20.
  • MALBA (Museum of Latin American Art), Avda. Figueroa Alcorta 3415; open12 – 20, ARG$45.
  • Palermo parks.
  • Around Plazoleta Cortazar – Palermo Soho and Palermo Viejo is where all the trendy young Porteños can be found, quirky clothes shops, some great street art and cafes.

7. Galerias Pacifico – a beautiful old shopping centre, on the busy (quite tacky) pedestrianized street Florida but with this one great highlight – –100% worth a look inside.

8. Puerto Madero – the newly developed dock yard is a great place for strolling and also has 2 old naval ships docked in docks 3 & 4 that you can visit. A wonderful place to come in the evening as it is well lit, safe and has plenty of restaurants.

Be safe and enjoy!

(Look out for Freddo`s Ice-cream shops – not to be missed!)

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

Puerto Madero with the Pink Palace in the background