Tag Archives: El Calafate

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.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Celebrating the beauty of wilderness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Greg and his sister Michelle on Paso del Viento

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trekking past a refugio on the Huemul Circuit

Huemul crossing still

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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fitzroy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

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!

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!’ 

P10490_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1866

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.  

P00470_IMG_8733

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.

P01760_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 228

Chilean Wigeon

P01550_IMG_8943

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.

P02150_IMG_9144

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). 

P01870_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 240

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. 

P03520_IMG_9519

P03350_IMG_9470

 

 

 

 

 

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

P02440_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_01 175

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.

P02910_IMG_9365

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. 

P05120_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_01 277

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.  

P05270_IMG_9758

Lighthouse, Porvenir

P07950_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1354

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.

P06090_IMG_0087

Guanaco

P08072_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1366

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.

P07700_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 078

Patagonian Skunk

P05510_IMG_9875

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”.  

P06691_IMG_0177

Patagonia Camp

P06692_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1152

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.

P06020_IMG_0035

Lady’s Slipper

P07020_IMG_0407

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).  

P05630_IMG_9898

Guanaco

P06030_IMG_0042

Rock Paintings – Torres del Paine

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were also introduced to the lavish picnics provided by the camp.

P07290_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 016

Magellanic Orchid

P07550_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1303

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.  

P06950_IMG_0378

P06480_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1086

 

 

 

 

 

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.  

P06690_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1117

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”!

P07360_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1255

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. 

P07070_IMG_0449

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.

P07010_IMG_0383

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.

P08070_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1387

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. 

P08780_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 337

Perito Moreno Glacier

P08200_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 234

Perito Moreno Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

The boat lingered at each viewpoint long enough for everybody to get the photos they wanted.

P08880_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 366

Perito Moreno Glacier

On our excursion to the Petrified Forest, our guide was very knowledgeable, both geologically and botanically.  

P09770_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1722

Petrified Forest

In addition to the geology, this trip provided our best views of the flora of the steppe

P09390_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 553P09440_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1756

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

P06830_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1140

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.

P10460_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1862P10230_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 694

 

 

 

 

 

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). 

P10990_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 877

Torrent Ducks

P10900_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 080

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.

Patagonia_003_Scenery above El Chalten Patagonia_004_Scenery above El Chalten

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop was Tierra del Fuego, for a few days exploring the birds and wildlife of the National Park.

P01800_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 233

Southern Lapwing

P01180_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_01 124

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.

Patagonia_006_Black Necked Swans at Tierra del Fuego

Black Necked Swans

Patagonia_007_Upland Goose at Tierra del Fuego

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.

P13060_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 1567P12820_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 378

 

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. 

P13230_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 483

In addition to the Magellanic penguins, there were a few Gentoo, and three King Penguins.

P13260_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 478

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). 

P13970_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 571

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.  

P15450_Patagonia_2014_Sue_03 051

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.

P16230_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_03 408

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.  

P16830_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_02 094

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!

unnamed

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!

Teri & Deb’s Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares Adventure!

Teri & Deb’s Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares Adventure!

Teri and Deb returned in March from a trip to Patagonia, which included 4 days of excursions in Torres del Paine, and some hiking in Los Glaciares National Park. here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We had a great trip and enjoyed both areas of Patagonia. 

P1020392

How was your time with Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares National Park?

We were very well taken care of from pick up & delivery services to hiking recommendations…all good. They even loaned us hiking poles during our stay in El Chalten.

We hit some rocky weather but it didn’t spoil our adventure. Sometimes we didn’t get to see the full view points on our hikes (due to snow, clouds & wind on Laguna los Tres & Laguna Torre) until we were leaving town on the bus, but then we might never have hiked in 100 Kph winds if we hadn’t ventured forth! It was an experience.

P1010963

We loved El Calafate (& the beer by the same name), and would have liked to explore the wine country after trying the local Malbecs too.

Glacier hiking on Perito Moreno was a huge highlight. We had great guides, good weather and it was a spectacular site. We only wish they would re think the age restriction on the Big Ice hike.

El Chalten is a beautiful hiking town, and a very sweet location. It was very gusty though and we sure appreciated the Buff supplied by Swoop, it kept my nose stuck on my face when the wind threatened to tear it off and fly it to Antartica.

All transportation was very comfortable and timely (except the American leg on Delta).  We spent a lot of time traveling, but those busses have great views and are cushy compared to flying.

P1010985

How was your time in Torres del Paine

The eco friendly camp…ahhhh!  What a delightful way to wrap up our trip. Blissful location, comfortable, great food, good wine, just a wee bit of travel to get where you were going to hike.

We were fortunate enough to see a Puma up close on our first excursion from camp.  She had just fed on a Guanaco kill and was lazing in a rock overhang right beside our trail.

P1020132

Were also lucky enough to get to do both our big hikes – the French Valley and Base of the Towers.  Weather threatened our Base hike but knowing how much we wanted to see it, they decided to give it a go on our last day in camp. It turned out to be spectacular. We were thrilled.

How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop was a font of information about itinerary options and tips. We were just a bit confused early on to be introduced directly to your local partners. I suppose we were thinking that you would be our single point of contact and all coordination/details would be with you. Your partners wonderfully helpful and delightful to us however. They were ready & waiting for us on arrival and all went smoothly –  so I would say you have your ducks in a row and are working with some great folks over there.

We appreciate all that you did to make our trip a success.  We were a bit late in getting the planning started but with your help it was stellar.  Not just another location checked off the bucket list for these 60+ hikers, but a beautiful, surreal series of experiences, sights and memories that will warm our hearts for a lifetime. Thank you.

P1010904

Rachel’s 35 day Adventure in Patagonia

Rachel’s 35 day Adventure in Patagonia

Rachel returned in December from a 35 day trip to Chile and Argentina, planned and arranged through Swoop Patagonia. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia.

helfer horse

Wow – what a great holiday for me. I always wanted to experience the size and wilderness of this far off land but for a long time did not know quite where it was. My trip covered only the lower half of Patagonia, and I still travelled 4,000 Km from the bare Steppe over the mountains to the tropical forests around the fjords of Chile, ending at Cape Horn, somewhere I never thought I’d get the chance to see.

Rachel’s trip began with a stay at Las Marianas Hotel in Bariloche, ‘a lovely, friendly hotel with a great café with a nearby cafe that had a tree going up through the middle of it- they made delicious soups!’.

She then travelled north for a 4 night stay at Estancia Huechahue where she spent 3 days horse riding, walking, and taking part in estancia life…

This working Estancia is about the size of Purbeck- it was absolutely wonderful, the highlight of my trip for sure. Magnificent European trees towered above this elegant country ranch, which looks out onto a beautiful landscape of lupins and lavender alongside a steam, and the irrigated mown lawns led into big apple tree orchards. The pink/grey hills rising up to granite tops with condors, vultures and from the green fields down by the river the weird cries of the Ibis were breath taking. Except for unexpectedly strong cold gales trying to blow us off our horses, we had a wonderful spoilt time riding here. We had some very exciting days here, ended with drinks in front of a fire and fantastic home cooked meals; this was very different from the next 18 day road trip that followed! 

The next part of Rachel’s adventure was a road trip from Bariloche to Chalten, and then from Chalten to Ushuaia

On this part of the trip I travelled with a group of 12 people, mainly from Australia and New Zealand in a strengthened bus (to take the rough roads and steep hills over the high steppe of barren soil with the odd tussock and a few bushes). We had a wonderful guide and driver for this part of the trip. Mel, our guide was just wonderful, the best guide. She made the trip so interesting by adding her own anecdotes and stories. I also loved our driver, Franco, who took great care of me, was very sweet and supportive, and kept the bus very clean. There were Guanacos, Condors, miles of fences made of wood and plain wire, no habitation or any sign of tracks going anywhere. Just persistent biting cold wind that tried to blow one over. 

This part of the trip took Rachel first to Coyhaique, where she visited another Estancia and then along the famous Ruta 40 to El Chalten, where she enjoyed some lovely (although wet and cold at times!) walks in Los Glaciares National Park, and spent time relaxing and looking in the local arts and craft shops ‘I wish I had done more shopping here!’. In El Calafate, she stayed in an ‘absolutely gorgeous’ hotel, with ‘a lovely lake view room’, and took a tour/ walk/ boat trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

‘The Perito Moreno Glacier was absolutely spectacular and incredible- definitely a highlight of my trip’

Next, Rahcel’s road trip took her to Torres del Paine National Park,  where she hiked to Grey Glacier, the French Valley, and The famous Towers of Paine.

‘The Grey Glacier was just lovely, and the French Valley was absolutely fantastic’

From Torres del Paine, Rachel’s trip headed across the Magellan Strait to Tierra del Fuego, finishing in the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, where she visited a King Penguin Colony, a type of Penguin usually only found on sub Antarctic Islands.

‘The penguin viewing was extraordinary, and allowed us to see the beautiful creatures at their very best. It was exceptionally good.’

helfer pengs

Tierra del Fuego was where Rachel ended the road trip buy taking a catamaran through the waters of the Beagle Channel, spotting a variety of wildlife including sea lions, and a variety of bird life. The next day she took a day trip to Martillo Island to see colonies of Gentoo and Magellan Penguins, which was ‘absolutely fascinating’, followed by a day of bird watching in Tierra del Fuego National Park.

The final leg of Rachel’s trip was our Fuegian Glaciers and Cape Horn Cruise , which took her out into the Beagle Channel, to the Pia and Garibaldi Glaciers where she went on a ‘wonderful walk’, and then through Glacier Alley.

‘Everyone on the boat was very friendly- the company was superb and the boat was not too crowded, with an experienced and well-travelled crew. 

The remainder of the cruise took Rachel to Wulaia Bay, and Cape Horn, but unfortunately the ship was unable to land here due to bad weather, nonetheless, Rachel said that it was ‘worth every penny’.

Her trip ended with a stay at the ‘unbelievable and lovely’ Arakur Hotel in Ushuaia, before flying back home to the UK.  Below Rachel lists some of the highlights of her trip…

Highlights 

One of the main highs for me was feeling fitter than I have for years so I could enjoy the hard walking up the mountains through the spectacular old southern beech woods besides tumbling streams falling into large lakes, looking at glaciers, craggy mountain tops, moss, flowing lichens, small alpine flowers and hillsides red with fire bush.

Then there was the highlight of sitting in sunshine listening to the blue 5 mile wide glacier calving, and watching huge blocks tumbling in the lake.

Spending time very close to 70 king penguins and ending with sailing the Beagle channel and seeing Cape Horn were wonderful also.

Helfer 1

Vicky’s 7 day Luxury Camp W Trek

Vicky returned in February from a Trek in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco friendly camp. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘All of us thoroughly enjoyed the trip! Torres del Paine was breath taking – I really hope we have the opportunity to go back again in the future’

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

Everyone at Swoop was very responsive and prompt – we really appreciated this as we didn’t know much about the logistics of traveling in Patagonia and had never been.  Everyone was very patient with all of our many, many questions. This was very, very much appreciated.  We would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to anyone traveling to Patagonia!!

How was your experience with swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek?

We felt that the services from Swoop and Swoop’s partners were fantastic.  The pick up times and locations were clear, and everyone did everything they could to make it easier on us (ie. picking us up at our hostel for transfers, etc.).

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine?

We really enjoyed the W Trek itinerary! Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the park, wildlife and geography – we were all very impressed.  The guides were very patient with us and managed the group well.  We were worried about pace of the group if it was going to be a large group.  The guides ended up dividing our group of 14 into 2 groups: our group with 6 people (mostly our age) and then the other group with 8 people, who were mostly older guests.  But they would still bring both groups together at the end of the day so we can chat and socialise which was nice.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The major thing that we would have liked to change is the responsiveness of Swoop’s partners in finalising the booking. It took them a long time to respond to emails, and we did not receive information on our pick up until after we had arrived in Calafate despite sending multiple emails. We had originally asked them about the Isla Magdalena tours, but they never responded until Harriet from Swoop emailed them for us. By then it was about 3 weeks out and we had already booked our own tours through another operator. Towards the end, I kind of gave up trying to contact them and just directed most of our questions to Harriet at Swoop – so I really appreciate her and Swoop’s patience with us.

Another minor thing that I would have liked to change is a little bit more flexibility on the day that we visited Grey Glacier.  The 2nd half of that day – we drove back from Pudeto to the camp and stopped at 2 lookouts along the way that gave a great view of Los Cuernos. There were a few other amazing lookout points along the way that we didn’t get to stop at due to the guides wanting to keep the group on schedule for dinner – it would have been great to have some more time for pictures and sight-seeing, as this was the only day that we could view the massif from this angle.

What were the highlights of your trip?

We wanted to go to Patagonia for the trekking, and I would say that was the main highlight.  It’s hard to pick a favourite hike – we saw amazing scenery everywhere.  I don’t think we missed too much by minimizing time spent in the cities due to our limited travel days.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

Prior to arriving in Torres del Paine, we spent 3 days hiking on the Argentina side. We hiked Laguna de Los Tres one day and Laguna Torre on the 2nd day. The third day prior to our transfer day to the camp, we visited Perito Moreno Glacier and did the mini-trekking activity there.

After we left Torres del Paine, we transferred to Punta Arenas.  We were hoping to do the Isla Magdalena Penguin Tour but the tour was cancelled for that day due to windy conditions. We did do the Seno Otway Penguin tour instead.

From there we spent 1 extra day in Santiago and did a little bit of sight-seeing in the city before coming home.

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

Ask a lot of questions and, if there’s time, do background reading on the region.  This was something I had wanted to do prior to leaving but ran out of time.

Catherine’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Catherine returned in March from a 10 week trip to Chile and Argentina, during which she spent 5 days on a Trek in Torres del Paine National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip…

 What was the highlight of your trip?

It was a great experience and we were lucky enough to have great weather…One of the highlights of my whole trip was the W Trek in Torres del Paine that you helped me arrange.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Your partners in Torres del Paine were very accommodating and easy to work with. Besides the W Trek, they arranged for bus tickets and a stay at the lovely Amerindia Hostel.

How were your guides on the W Trek?

Our guide Armando was so knowledgeable about the area including the geology, the history, and the flora and fauna.  He also had an amazing ability to spot wildlife.

How did Swoop Patagonia do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

I really appreciate that you let me know that I could easily do the hiking out of Calafate to Parque Nacional Las Glaciares on my own.  This helped me keep the trip expenses down and I did a lovely three day backpack there on my own — my first solo backpack! Thank you so much.

Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Chris & Steve recently returned from a trip to Patagonia where they spent 5 days Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park, followed by 7 days on the Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine based from an eco camp. Here they tell us about their trip and their experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

I was very happy with the service we got from Swoop Patagonia – you helped us create an itinerary that enabled us to do all that we wanted to do in the short space of time we had for the trip. I think ultimately that saved us a lot of time and effort in organizing the trip and we were grateful for that. It did prove exhausting, but we knew that and coped well and I am glad we didn’t have to miss out on anything, in fact I’d say we were super fit by the end of the trip!

How was your time with our partners in Los Glaciares?

The 3-day trek in Los Glaciares was excellent. I liked the guide, he was very knowledgeable about the local fauna and flora and had a good sense of humour, and so he was good company.

Luckily for us the people who joined us for our trek were very fit and keen and also wanted to do a more challenging walk. It was a great, scenic climb and set us up well for the rest of the trip. I loved the campsite where we spent our first night, and the food was great.

The second day’s walk was probably the highlight of this trek, with some amazing scenery culminating in the lagoons underneath Fitz Roy. I liked the fact that our guide was happy to take his time to allow us to enjoy the scenery and we arrived into camp after 8pm that night, and so we felt like we had made maximum use of the day.

On the third day we felt that we could have spent more time enjoying the views on the way down, but having said all that, the scenery was again amazing.

How was your time with our partners in Torres del Paine?

The Full Circuit Trek was scenically spectacular (obviously, that being why its famous). We again got lucky with the weather – we barely had any rain over the whole trip except for the John Gardner pass. I didn’t mind that so much as it kept it cool for the climb.

A lot was made out to us about the strength of the winds, but as someone pretty experienced at walking in the Lakes and Dales in winter and have nearly been blown of mountains in the UK in those conditions, didn’t find it too worrying.

The ecocamp was pretty cool. The food was really good and on the first day there was a Puma casually walking round the campsite, which was different. We could have happily spent a few days chilling out there.

I think on this trip we slightly regretted not doing it on our own. I think what would have worked best for us would have been a self guided trek but still with the porters – I don’t know if anywhere has that option. We did appreciate not having to carry our tents and having our food cooked for us though.

We again enjoyed the company of the others on our trek, who were really nice people and we had many nice evenings chatting with them and working our way through many bottles of Carmenere.

We also greatly appreciated the guides offering us the chance to walk up to the towers in the dark using our head torches and sit under the stars for a few hours before the sun came up on the towers. This was a highlight of the trip for me and I realize the guide didn’t have to do that. That experience, along with the hike into the French Valley under the horns, were probably my highlights on the Paine trek, though I also really enjoyed the quietness of the northern part of the circuit.

Overall, it was a really great trip and lived up to our expectations.

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

I’d say if you have a little more time than us, then do the Full Circuit trek independently. If Id have had a few more days I’d have taken a little longer over it to do shorter distances each day, and that would have made it easier to carry all our stuff.

We also had a great Steak Stew in a place called Isobel in El Calafate and can recommend the Pop hotel in Buenos Aires as a convenient, good value and English speaking place (for those whose Spanish was as inept as ours). Oh, that brings me to another tip – learn some Spanish!