Tag Archives: chile_nativo

Ted and Rick visit Torres Del Paine

Ted and Rick visit Torres Del Paine

In November, Ted and Rick and a group of their friends took on a seven day circuit in Chile’s iconic Torres Del Paine National Park. They recount their trip and experiences of booking travel with Swoop Patagonia.

TedBrna1Ted’s feedback

“Many thanks for supervising a terrific and memorable trek. I would absolutely recommend you, certainly over other groups I contacted before selected your agency to organize our tour. Swoop always sent accurate communication – no question was left unanswered.  I really can’t think of anything you may have neglected.

IMG_5682Probably the best part of our trek was our trekking guide, Nicholas.  He was a perfect fit for our group of 5 with superb social skills, direction, knowledge base and flexibility. It was a shame that the wildfire had wiped out a lot of the native beech trees on the hike but that certainly did not detract much from the amazing beauty of the Park!  The highlight to me was the hike to the Towers and view there though the entire 5 day trek was awesome.“

Rick’s feedback

Trip went like clockwork and as planned. Swoop’s recommendations were spot on. Would definitely recommend Swoop and use them if I go back. Swoop’s local partners could have not been better or more helpful. Zoe and her team were great.

IMG_1536Self guided hikes were great, trails well marked. There was plenty of reading material for each hike so you knew what to look for on the hike. Reaching the Mirador base at Las Torres and Lago de los Tres at Fitzroy were certainly the highlights. Incredible views.

Ted & Rick’s itinerary

IMG_5741The group’s trip began in Punta Arenas, where we arranged a transfer for them to Torres Del Paine National Park. Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine then took Ted, Rick and their friends on a five day hike around the famous W circuit staying at refugios along the way. Of his time spent in the refugios, Ted said “Food was generally very good and better than expected – I personally was very satisfied. Our guide also carried probably 10 lbs of avocados on the trek and personally enhanced our lunches daily with them! The refugios also provided plentiful hot water for washing/showers and adequate toilet facilities”

Ted’s top tip would be to take a towel along as not all refugios provide towels (although it’s something Swoop Patagonia are currently working hard to ensure!):  “I wish I had brought a microfiber quick dry towel for the trip – the other 2 guys said you recommended a towel in your list but I missed that!”

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Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

Sarah & Michael returned in April from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks so much for all your help and information which allowed us to have a wonderful W trek! We had an unforgettable time in Patagonia and the itinerary created by Harriet was spot on.

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We took our W Trek from 5th-9th April and we were so lucky- we had lovely weather! Not a drop of rain! :)

Puerto NatalesWe got on great with our guide Victor who met us on Sunday at your partners’ office in – the whole experience was very positive- we enjoyed the refugios, the food, the lunches.

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The route was well planned and we were comfortable with the distances each day. There were some fabulous views too- Patagonia is such a lovely part of the world.

Thanks you too Harriet for the itinerary you prepared for us before we left, and for suggesting Perito Moreno and El Chalten– we took a day trip to Perito Moreno from El Calafate as you suggested and did the mini ice hiking which was a great experience. Again we had a beautiful sunny day for it which was lovely.

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We weren’t so lucky in El Chalten where it poured rain for our day hike  to Laguna de Los Tres- but we had a better day for Laguna Torres. We really enjoyed them- it’s a great town, lovely hiking, lovely views and met lovely people.

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And Chloe thank you so much for the thoughtful presents you sent just before we left- they’ve been with us on all our treks & we’d be lost without them!!

Thanks again for all your help!

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Patrick’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Patrick’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Patrick returned in April from a trekking holiday in Patagonia that included treks in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks for all the help leading up to my trip. It was a fantastic journey and Swoop’s assistance was a great part of making it a success. 

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How were Swoop Patagonia? 

You guys were fantastic. Patagonia is such a big area and it’s kind of intimidating to begin the planning process. But with Swoop’s help, I was able to put a solid travel plan together with ease. I’d say the biggest thing I appreciated was you getting me started with ideas and connecting me with reputable companies in Patagonia. It was like working with a friend who just got back from her own trip.

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How were Swoop’s partners who supported you in Chile and Argentina?

Both were fabulous.

Zoe in El Chalten was amazingly helpful with bus transportation, hiking planning, and just offering advice on how to get the most out of the area. And my guide for the Huemul Circuit, Pablo, was incredible. He was professional, knowledgeable, and helpful in every way. That trek would’ve been much less enjoyable without him guiding us along.

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Similarly, Julieta, my guide for the Torres del Paine Full Circuit trek made that experience greatly enjoyable. She did so many little things, like having her friends make brownies and granola bars for us, that really made the adventure special. I didn’t work with your Chilean partners’ office folks as much, but they were very friendly and helpful when I did interact with them.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was the Huemul trek. It was more of a back-country adventure, which I really enjoyed. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves and the terrain was varied and challenging. Plus, the scenery, while perhaps not as famous as Torres del Paine, was still iconic Patagonia. I got pretty lucky with the weather, so I was able to get some great shots!

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

I did make it down to Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego and I would say that area is not quite as magical. The hike up Cerro Guanaco in Tierra del Fuego national park was as challenging as any day of hiking I did in Patagonia and offered incredible sights from the top. But other than that, nothing else in that part of the area really amazed me. I suppose part of this could be that I visited Ushuaia after seeing the rest of Patagonia, so maybe I’d recommend people start in Ushuaia and then head elsewhere.

Thanks again for all your help! If there are any websites where I can brag about you guys, let me know.

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Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Mark & Nat returned in March 2015 from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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Would you recommend Swoop to friends, family or colleagues planning a trip to Patagonia?

We would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to our family and friends. Your service really helped us weed through the many options available in Patagonia.

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Local knowledge and experience were clear – we really valued being able to tailor an itinerary to suit us, and giving our business to local operators.

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How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

Both were excellent. Julietta who looked after us on the Full Circuit in Torres del Paine was a stand-out guide, and the team in Chalten was also very helpful when we had to make unplanned changes to our itinerary.

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Our plans changed in Chalten due to an injury incurred along the way, so instead of taking the Huemul Circuit, we ended up staying three nights in a house on the Los Huemules reserve. This was an excellent alternative – we were able to self-cater and go for day walks, and it got us out of El Chalten (for a change).  Worth offering to other clients in the future.

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The Laguna del Diablo day walk was especially enjoyable, and Aguas Arriba lodge was a great suggestion for a luxurious wind-down base.

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What would you have changed about your trip? 

Perhaps travelling later in the season (we were there mid Feb) – the number of people in Torres del Paine and scale of the refugios was a little overwhelming. We were very pleased that we did the Full Circuit instead of just the W Trek for this reason.

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There also seemed to be a bit of a communication gap between the trekking and kayaking companies in Torres del Paine re what gear to bring. This was resolved quickly but could have been avoided.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight was the John Garner pass on the Paine Circuit.  We had excellent weather, and this was an unexpected vista.

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The kayak tour was also a highlight, especially the hospitality and company provided by our guide, Jose Luis. Do make sure that you warn people that it is 42km on day one, and can be extremely windy – this caught us a little off guard.

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Do you have any tips for fellow travellers planning a trip?

Be prepared for the Patagonian winds, and do the Full Circuit over the W Trek if you are physically able to.

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Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

Nancy returned in March 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We can’t thank you enough for an excellent and memorable end-to-end experience. This was, by far, my favourite vacation ever and the Torres del Paine hike was certainly the highlight of the trip. Please extend our thanks to the rest of the Swoop team as well as to our guide and your partners in Torres del Paine. Thanks again and we can’t wait to travel to S. America again soon!!

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What did Swoop do well? 

I truly appreciated the extremely quick and thoughtful responses from multiple members of the Swoop team, including the initial correspondence with Luke, the Skype call with Harriet to discuss options, and the follow-up email post trip from Chloe.

Given the wealth of options for activities, trails, transportation, lodging etc in Patagonia, it quickly became overwhelming for us to try to plan this trip on our own while maximising our time in Chile. So we were so glad to find Swoop (and that you accommodated our request just 2 weeks before our trip)!

You can tell that the Swoop team is genuinely invested in working with their clients to tailor their trip to fit their specific needs/interests. The website is  very informative and easy to navigate and we appreciated the pre-trip tools like the packing list and the generous postcard and head scarf gift, mailed internationally! We also felt extremely lucky to be paired with two other hikers who we got along with very well!

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What could we have done differently? 

It might help to assess each hiker’s physical shape, hiking experience, and any concerns they may have about the hike before their trip and to communicate this to the tour guide as this could help improve communication overall between the tour guide and hikers and prevent injuries throughout the hike (see below for more notes on this). Of course, we completely understand that Swoop is not responsible for any injuries but some basic steps towards injury prevention could have been beneficial. In addition, it may be worth setting expectations with your hikers that they will need to share rooms with fellow hikers (this was definitely not an issue at all for us, but I could see where this could be surprising for others).

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

Absolutely! The Torres del Paine hike was the highlight of my overall trip to S. America and it wouldn’t have been possible without the professional guidance and support from the Swoop team. In addition, the price of the overall package was extremely reasonable considering all of the transfers needed for the 3 days.

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Did you enjoy your itinerary? 

Yes! Based on all the research we did online, it was clear that the 3 key sights to see in Torres del Paine were Base Torres, French Valley, and Grey Glacier but weren’t sure if this would be feasible in just 3 days. The hike to the base of the Torres was definitely the most rigorous (but rewarding!) hike, so we thought the sequencing of the 3 hikes on this Fast Track W Trek was perfect, with a gradual decrease in difficulty level.

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How were your guides? 

We had an amazing, responsible, and knowledgeable guide. He gave us sufficient briefings each night before the next hike. We loved the lunch he packed us on Day 1 (fresh salmon sandwiches) and we were so touched when he carried hot tea for us to enjoy at the top of each hike as well as extra avocado, tomato, and cream cheese to supplement those dry boxed lunch sandwiches from our refugios :-)  We also had an especially long and tiring hike of the French Valley on Day 2, but he made sure we were all settled at Paine Grande right before going to bed and had everything we need before he started pitching his own tent for the evening.

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What was the highlight of your trip? 

The highlight of the trip was visiting the base of the Torres, because of the beautiful, rewarding view after a tough trek! That day started off very foggy and we weren’t sure we’d actually see the view from the top but were incredibly lucky that the weather cooperated with us for the day! The catamaran boat rides were also beautiful – we enjoyed beautiful weather both ways!

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

I found Swoop’s packing lists to be particularly useful. Initially, I doubted that we’d really need gear for 4 seasons but am really glad we packed accordingly as it was pretty cold/rainy (especially for the Base Torres and Grey Glacier legs).

You should also pack your own towels (even for Lodge Paine Grande as they ran out of their rentals).

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

Yes, we spent a total of 9 days in South America and our itinerary included 1 day in Buenos Aires, 1 day in El Calafete (to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier), 1 day in Puerto Natales (horse back riding), 3 days in Torres del Paine, and 2 days in Mendoza wine tasting.

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Matthew’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Matthew returned in March from a Self Guided W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

What did Swoop do well? 

I liked using Swoop because they responded in a timely fashion to all of my queries, and could speak fluent English. I had a lot of trouble when I first started looking for a company, and Swoop were able to solve the problems I was unable to resolve with the Chilean companies.

What could we have done differently? 

If possible, it would have been great to have received some guidance on how to get to Puerto Natales, opportunities for extra activities by taking the bus straight from Punta Arenas Airport to Puerto Natales,  things to consider when packing, etc. I know you have the website, but I one sheet would be great. Also you could mention how much food you get if you buy the trek with meals included… So much!

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

Yes.

How were Swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek in Torres del Paine?

They were fine, the itinerary was good, and was pretty accurate, and there is nothing I would change about the trip.

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

1. Choose a trek with meals included, you will not go hungry! No need to bring additional food.

2. The third day is the longest, so start early and enjoy the French Valley.

3. No need to bring your own food.

4. Do not stay in Punta Arenas, go straight to Puerto Natales and going Kayaking.

5. The conversion of USD to Pesos drops in the rufigos, so be prepared.

6. The trails are well traveled so don’t worry about getting lost.

7. The beds are single beds unless you can get a cabin on the third night (get the cabin if you can!).

8. Take the last ferry (630ish), cause if you take the 5PM you have to wait for the late ferry before leaving.

9. Make accommodation reservations in Puerto Natales for the night you return from the trek.

10. Make sure you have enough things to do at night (eg, deck of cards, etc).

11. Bring sunscreen.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

The French Valley Glacier and the Towers.

Bill’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Bill returned in March from a trip to Patagonia, during which he embarked on some fantastic hikes in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National parks. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

The service I received from Swoop Patagonia was excellent.  All emails were answered  in a timely fashion and your staff responded very well to any questions I had.  Further, you provided a number of options that I could chose from, in terms of activities, places to visit and making the best use of the time I had available.

How were Swoop’s partners who supported you in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

The service I received from both partners was great.

The two different guides I had on the day hikes in Los Glaciares were excellent.  They both knew the routes, had good knowledge of the geology, plants and weather conditions we encountered.  Pablo (I think that was his name), who led the trek to Laguna de los Tres, had to make the decision to cut the trek short due to weather conditions (he thought we might run into heavy rain during the steepest part of the trek). I felt that he used good judgment in making that decision.

Regarding costs, I think the basic cost of the Self-guided W Trek was a little on the high side. I say that because this payment mainly covered transportation, and food/lodging arrangements at the refugios, and the boat on Grey Lake — no guide services.

If you were to do it all again, what would you change?

I would allow more time. Maybe two nights at Torre Central Refugio in order to improve the chances for getting some good views and photos of the actual Torres that are so iconic to any trek in Torres del Paine National Park. The day I trekked up to the “mirador” (where most people have their lunch and take in the spectacular view), on the 2nd day of the 5-day Independent W Trek, the “Torres” were shrouded in clouds and I couldn’t see much.  My trekking companion had been up there a day earlier and had fantastic, clear, views and photos of the three rock towers. Weather can make a huge difference!

I also would have allowed another day in Argentina to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. But I was unable to extend my flight itinerary due to the fact that I was using award miles for payment.  Also, if I had booked the trip 6 months to a year in advance, I’m sure that I would have had more flexibility

‘Overall, I would certainly recommend Swoop Patagonia to friends, family or colleagues planning a trip to Patagonia. Thanks again for the excellent customer service that I received.’

 

Per’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Per returned in March from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and out partners…

‘I am very satisfied with the whole experience, it was really great, and booth Swoop and their partners in Torres del Paine did a great job!’

How were Swoop Patagonia? 

Swoop were very good, they answered all of my questions, provided relevant information, and helped out with all of my booking needs.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

They were very good also. I had an excellent guide for the W Trek, and a great itinerary… everything worked perfectly!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The only room for improvement that I can think of was that the food in our last refugio (Paine Grande) was under par compared to the others, and the drinks were also more expensive.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The views in Torres del Paine are clearly the highlight, on top of that we had fantastic weather! The small group I was with was also very nice with cool people.

Maria’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Maria returned in February from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

My trip was great, thanks for all your help in planning it!

How was your W Trek?

My W Trek was great and I was lucky with the Patagonian weather!

I realise now that I really didn’t necessarily need a guide as the trails are so well marked, and my group walked slower than I would have liked, but it was nice having company, and the guide was very nice too. One day I chose to trek alone, as the Guide decided not to take the group up to the final lookout (due to their fitness levels). Perhaps it might be useful to have treks of different levels of speed.

Harriet from Swoop Says: Generally if people don’t have much trekking experience we recommend that they do the trek guided trek because we don’t know how they will get on. Some people like yourself decide that they would have been fine without a guide and others are not as fit and capable of navigation. In addition a guide adds a lot of value to people’s treks in terms of local knowledge and as you say, being in a group and with a guide is a lot of fun. It is quite hard to divide people up according to ability because we have no way of assessing this but we can definitely warn people that their group may be quite slow so we will bear that in mind in future. I am glad you were able to get up to the viewpoints in spite of your slow group. What great views!

I found that the budget you had recommended did not quite stretch far enough in Chile. Of course I know this was only a recommendation, but even on my very frugal budget (cheapest dorm rooms, no alcohol or souvenirs, local food etc), I struggled. I would advise people to change over more Chilean pesos – maybe 300.

Argentina was much cheaper, although it would’ve been better for me to take euros to change at the unofficial rates, as they were much better than the Blue dollar rates believe it or not

These aren’t criticisms of your services however, just some things that I hope may be helpful. Thanks again for all your help once again!!

Harriet from Swoop Says: It is interesting what you say about Euros, none of us have experienced Euros getting a better rate than dollars so it is something we will look for when we are in Argentina in March. Thanks also for your feedback about your budget. It is very hard for us to calculate budgets for people and it’s definitely something we should have more information about on our site. When I go out in March I am going to put together some more detailed information about budgeting so your information is really useful! 

Swoop’s tips on Currency in Patagonia

 

 

Duane’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Duane’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Duane returned in March from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop and our partners?

Great thank you, I enjoyed every day of my trip!

I would certainly recommend you and your partners to others, as the information provided to me ahead of time was very helpful. I am also thankful for the accommodations being taken care of, as my Spanish was lacking.

Thanks for the memories.

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Is there anything you would change about your trip?

I can’t think of any negatives – the lowest points, if any, were the refugios, but I enjoyed my stays there as well.

Seeing the many campers nearby, however, and the fact that most if not all of the facilities in the refugios were available to them, I thought that next time it would probably be better to do a self-guided camping trip (tent and sleeping bag already prepared, so I’m carrying only clothes, food, etc.).

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was at the base of Las Torres, as it was also my 40th birthday, and the sky was unusually clear. I also loved the view of Glacier Grey.

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

I highly recommend that others spend more time in Puerto Natales, as it is a very charming town. On second thought, don’t – too many people might alter the charm. :)