Tag Archives: Punta_Arenas

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)

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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)

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–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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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!’ 

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Ian and Sue Feedback

The package you put together for us exceeded our expectations in every way.  The quality of the accommodation and guides was very high, and the choice of locations and activities was spot on for us.  We would recommend Swoop to anyone (and have done so).  The varied and unspoiled landscapes, the geology, and the incredibly rich variety of wildlife made Patagonia our perfect destination. If we are able to return to South America, I hope it will be under your auspices!

Ian and Sue’s Itinerary

Ian and Sue began their trip with a city tour of Santiago, followed by a night in the Hotel Boutique Oporto.

[Read Swoop’s list of recommended hotels in Santiago]

The city tour was faultless- a conversation with the courier led to an instant change to our afternoon itinerary, substituting a poet’s house with the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, and providing a driver to give us more time.  

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Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Santiago

Our guide had been a guide in the museum, so was amazingly knowledgeable. We ate at Como Agua Para Chocolate, and loved it.

[Read swoop’s top picks for restaurants throughout Patagonia]

The next morning they flew on to Puerto Montt, and the nearby island of Chiloe for a 3 night stay at Chil Hue, for 3 days of excursions to take in the local scenery, wildlife, fishing villages and penguin colony.

Our guide met us on arrival and drove us to Ancud, stopping several times on the way to show us birds etc.

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Chilean Wigeon

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Ringed Kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was a fantastic guide with a wide knowledge of natural history, and the history of the island.  We had a great day out – including a short trip out to the penguin colony where we saw Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins.

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Magellanic Penguins – Chiloé

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, our itinerary was to have been a visit to several of Chiloe’s wooden churches.  We had already visited a couple, and knowing our interest in natural history, our guide (Jamie) proposed a visit to a private national park owned by a friend of his (Parque Tepuhueico). 

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Chiloé

 After visiting Castro en route, we had a fantastic trek in the temperate rainforest.  Jaime had helped set up the trails, and had translated the interpretation boards into English, so was the perfect guide. 

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

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Chiloé

Ian and Sue’s next stop was Punta Arenas, where they spent a day exploring the city, and the King Penguin Colonies of Tierra del Fuego.

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On arrival at Punta Arenas, we were met by our guide, who dealt faultlessly with our questions.  Hotel Ilia was one of the nicest and friendliest places we stayed. The room was large, light and airy.  The decor was attractively modern and arty, and the breakfasts were great. 

Punta Arenas exceeded our expectations. It was a friendly and characterful Chilean city: a bit ramshackle in places, but full of charm (and feral dogs…).  O’Higgins provided a wealth of restaurants to choose between.  We ended up going to Brocolino both nights, and enjoyed it very much.

Our day trip to see the King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego was a great success. It was a full day, but very variable and enjoyable.  We were in a small group in a mini-bus, which stayed with us all day. 

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King Penguins – Tierra del Fuego

Porvenir was an attractive (v small!) city with a surprisingly good museum.  The penguin site (not yet referred to as a “colony” as they hadn’t bred successfully yet) was great – with interesting plants as well as birds.  

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Lighthouse, Porvenir

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Chimango Caracara

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guide was excellent, stopping the bus to show us foxes, guanacos and rheas, and pointing out the dolphins on the short ferry crossing on the way back to the mainland.  On return, the bus dropped us off at O’Higgins for a meal as it was getting late.

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Guanaco

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Patagonian Grey Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day, Ian and Sue headed to an eco camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park for 3 days of excursions.

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Patagonian Skunk

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Lago Pehoe – Torres del Paine

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were picked us up in the afternoon, and driven to our accommodation, stopping several times en route to look at features, wildlife etc. The eco friendly camp we stayed at exceeded all our expectations.  We had the nearest yurt to the lake with distant views of the “Horns”.  

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Patagonia Camp

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Patagonia Camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

On arrival, the staff explained the options available for the next day.  The evening meal was great, with as much of the house wine as we wanted to drink (and the offer of a bottle to take back to the yurt) together with unwise quantities of pisco sour before and after the meal.

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Lady’s Slipper

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Patagonian Red Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our first day of excursions we elected to go on the Fauna Trail Hike.  This was ideal for us, providing a good introduction to the scenery, flora and fauna of the area, together with an unexpected view of the rock paintings (see their wine label – and visit Majestic in the UK).  

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Guanaco

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Rock Paintings – Torres del Paine

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Magellanic Orchid

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Yellow Orchid

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, some of the trips could not run due to high winds. The guides asked us if we would like to go on a trek they hadn’t included in their list for some years, and the three guides, and just the two of us, had a great day out.  

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They shared their maté with us, explaining the simple ceremony involved, and we felt very included.  We had a fantastic view of an Austral pygmy owl.  

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Austral Pygmy Owl

The last  section of the walk was very challenging for me – a narrow path on loose scree – and they seemed to have forgotten my vertigo.  They admitted that if this section of the walk had been longer, they would have graded the walk as “Difficult” rather than “Moderate”!

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On our final day at the camp, four of us had elected to go on the Grey Lake Boat Trip, but on arrival at the jetty, we found that the boat had been cancelled due to high winds. Instead, we did the Grey Beach Hike in the morning (very close views of a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers), together with a short hike to the Lake Toro viewpoint in the afternoon. 

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Magellanic Woodpecker

This provided a great day out, and showed off the guides’ ability to think on their feet.  We rounded the day off with a self guided walk to the local waterfall.

Patagonia_002_Waterfall at Patagonia Camp

Our stay at the eco friendly camp was the high spot of our holiday. The accommodation and surroundings were great, and the guides were all of the highest quality: we felt really looked after.

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Following their stay in Torres del Paine, Ian and Sue headed across the border to the town of El Calafate, where they visited the Perito Moreno Glacier, and took some day hikes from the nearby town of El Chalten.

P07820_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1320 The hotel in El Calafate was friendly, comfortable and stylish.  We were directed to the Laguna Nimezwhich was a must (we ended up going there again the next evening).  Not feeling able to face the queues at La Tablita, we ate at La Zaina, which was very good.

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The day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier was a great success.  The guide was, as usual, everything we could ask for.  Although the viewpoints provided great views of the glacier, we found the boat trip well worth it, providing closer views of the ice walls, together with the sculpted icebergs floating in the lake. 

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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Perito Moreno Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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

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Petrified Forest

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

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Following the excursion, we were taken to El Chalten.  Hotel Lunajuim was very friendly- the room was great, full of quirky modern art produced by the owner’s wife: we enjoyed our stay very much.  We ate at the Estepa, which we liked very much, and returned to on our last night.

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Our excellent guide took us (together with a picnic) to Laguna Capri.  This was an ideal trek for us, culminating in a satisfying view of the glacier.  We ate at La Tapera – very good again, with a great choice of wines displayed in the wine racks with price tags tied round the necks.

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The following day our guide Zoe took us to Lago del Desierto.  She was a great guide, and managed to show us torrent ducks, which had been on my list of “hope to sees” (and give us an excellent picnic). 

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Torrent Ducks

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Ashy Headed Goose

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening, we ate at La Vineria, which must be one of the best wine bars in the world!  Their smoked platter was worth a mention as well as the wine.

On our last day in El Chalten we took a self guided trek towards Laguna Torre – we only made it to the three viewpoints en route, but the views were spectacular, and the route easy to follow.

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

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Southern Lapwing

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Black faced Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Tierra del Fuego was a good place to stay – quite central and fairly near the waterfront.  We ate at Le Estancia – the food was quite good, but the service was patchy – much of their efforts seemed to be directed towards rich Americans presumably on their way to Antarctica.

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Black Necked Swans

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Upland Goose

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guided excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park was enjoyable.  Our guide was knowledgeable, and urged us to suggest any changes to the itinerary we wanted, although we did find him a little impatient.  We ate at Moustacchio for the next two nights.  We found it very friendly, with a wide menu of well-cooked food (as Sue is allergic to crab, we tended to avoid predominantly fishy restaurants). 

The following day, our guide had booked us onto a Beagle Channel cruise, which culminated in a visit to an estancia, followed by a two hour minibus transfer home.  We decided to stay on the boat to return to Ushuaia rather than take the bus.

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This was one of our favourite days.  The weather was cold and wet but, on arrival at the penguin island, the sun came out, and the boat beached on the sand, giving us the best views we had ever had of penguins going about their normal lives. 

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

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For their final few days, Ian and Sue visited Buenos Aires, where they spend time exploring the city; it’s museums and art galleries.

[Read Swoop’s blog post about things to do in Buenos Aires]

On our departure day, our guide had already taken our details, and checked us in on line for our flight: this was a great idea- I wish other operators had done the same. After checking in at our hotel, we visited MALBA (a fantastic gallery). 

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The Hotel Esplendor was friendly and helpful. That evening we went to a nearby Parilla recommended by the hotel – it was OK, but I think I will stick to your recommendations in future! 

Our group tour of Buenos Aires in the morning was excellent.  The guide was very informative, and when one of the passengers expressed an interest in visiting Evita’s grave, she just added it to the itinerary.  At the end of the tour, she dropped the passengers off wherever they wanted.  

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A warning to other travellers: we were squirted with something outside the National Gallery, but when people offered to “assist”, we shouted at them until they went away (successfully avoiding robbery – although my mobile was later pinched on the underground: but that’s another story). 

A visit to El Ateneo, a bookshop in a converted theatre, should be on everyone’s to do list: there is even a cafe on the stage.  As an alternative to steak, we ate an Italian restaurant highly rated by the hotel (Il Gran Caruso): this was excellent.

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On our final day, we had a tour of the Opera House (very good), and spent the rest of the day at the San Telmo Market.  We really enjoyed ourselves, but are still kicking ourselves that we bought so little – everything was amazingly cheap and stylish.  

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Our Iberia flight home arrived back early, and we managed to catch an earlier coach home.

A satisfying end to the best holiday we have ever had. Thank you, Sally!

Travelling from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Travelling from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Customers often ask us about different ways to travel between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, so we’ve outlined a few different ways of making the journey below. Please do get in touch with us if you’d like further information…

1. Cruise

This Wildlife, Glaciers & Cape Horn Cruise is a wonderful way to explore the fjords, wildlife and glaciers of Tierra del Fuego, and to visit Cape Horn on your journey between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas.

cruceros glacier

If you’re keen on wildlife it’s a particularly great trip as you’ll witness some of Patagonia’s best (from Magellanic Penguins, to Cormorants, Elephant Seals and even Beavers), whilst also seeing some of it’s most beautiful Glaciers (Marinelli & Pia), and landing on the famous Cape Horn.

cruceros penguins

It lasts 4 days and gives you the one of the most full and varied experiences of all the cruises on offer in the region.

cruceros cape horn

2. Bus + Flight

Flights to Ushuaia leave only from Argentinian airports, so you first need to travel to El Calafate by bus, and then get a flight down to Ushuaia.

To get to El Calafate you can take a 3 hour bus trip north to Puerto Natales, and then a 5 hour bus across the border to El Calafate.

3. Bus

The journey from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas takes 11-12 hours by bus, including a ferry trip across the Magellan Straits at its narrowest point. It’s the simplest and cheapest option and actually much more enjoyable than it sounds!

The first part of the journey takes you through the Patagonian steppe and along the Magellan Straits, and then once you head towards the mountains around Ushuaia you suddenly enter a very different landscape.

4. Ferry

There is a 30 hour ferry between Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, which was designed for the local people of Puerto Williams. It is not a great tourist experience in our opinion, as you may not get to see that much, and you don’t stop off anywhere en route. You also have to get a taxi from Puerto Williams to Puerto Navarino on arrival, followed by a crossing over to Ushuaia.

5. Via Chilean Tierra del Fuego

This 4 day Cape Horn Adventure can start in Punta Arenas (flight to Puerto Williams), and end in Ushuaia (boat trip across the Beagle Channel), and there is also a shorter version if you have less time and/ or a smaller budget. You’ll be staying in a this lovely Lodge , which is a great base from which to explore Chilean Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.

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Alternatively, you can fly from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, from where you’d need to organise a taxi to Puerto Navarino and a boat trip from there to Ushuaia. The flights from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams depart at set times once a day from Monday to Saturday, but are very weather dependent so please be aware that they can often be cancelled.

6. Flight (local airline)

There are rumours that there may be a flight from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, but this is not currently a reliable option.

Some other useful links…

 

 

David’s W Trek in November

David’s W Trek in November

David returned in November 2014 from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile.

‘Thanks a lot for all your support. It was very helpful.’

How were Swoop Patagonia?  

I really appreciated your services. Despite the differences in our time zone, you guys never made me wait for an answer and that is a fundamental point for me. You guys did a great job.

It might be helpful to inform people about other services such as porters. I’ve met people that, like me, did not know the services of porters. I did not need one but few friends over there were willing to pay for one.

I would (and in fact did) recommend you for my friends. You guys delivered everything it was promised.

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How were our partners who ran the 5 day W Trek in Chile?

Swoop’s Chilean partners were also very nice, and very good at giving us the necessary info. We only had a little hiccup which was one email unanswered for a week. Later Gonzalo apologised and explained that he was out of town.

I definitely enjoyed the itinerary. The way the trip was split allowed us to get used to the trails and at the end we were walking at easy.

The guide was the highlight of our trip. He was very funny and knowledgeable. Each time we were approaching a Refugio he would go faster so that when we arrived there our ‘check in’ was taken care of. He always made sure that we were safe and comfortable without ever being patronising.

I guess if I was to change anything I would have liked to stay longer in each refugio, since there are so many beautiful things to see, especially around the ‘Cuernos’. But in terms of the itinerary itself I would not change anything.

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

I only had time to visit Punta Arenas, but I was equally impressed by its history.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Hard to say… I guess having met so many amazing people and walked through that beautiful landscape made for incredible memories. It would be unfair to pick a single moment.

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Larry & Susan’s Trek in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares, & Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Larry and Susan returned in March from a trip to Patagonia with friends Jane and Jim. Their trip included an Independent trek in Torres del Paine and El Chalten, followed by a cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in planning and arranging it with Swoop and our partners in Chile and Argentina…

What was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop?

Speaking for Susan and myself, I think that the most important point in terms of the structure of the trip was that it worked very well.  I believe that there are certainly logistical and language issues with a trip such as this, and I feel that the arrangements made by Swoop and the other operators were well worth the money.  Having self-arranged trips elsewhere in the world, at least 5 times previously, going via Swoop was a different structure, and I would encourage others to do likewise, especially with potential language issues.

What were the highlights of your trip?

In El Chalten, we were pleasantly surprised that a small village of its size has the amenities that it does.  Nothing like walking into the Mirador for Fitzroy, and walking out to enjoy a pint at the microbrewery, followed by a great restaurant meal, and a good sleep at Kaulem. For me, El Chalten was the highlight, given the total surprise at what we had expected for facilities, and the relative ease at getting into the objectives.

The cruise was wonderful; great meals, wonderful tablemates, very knowledgeable interpreters.  The choice of a berth in the lower deck was the right one, given the rough seas, going towards Cape Horn.

Swoop is commended for recommending Parc Nationale los Glaciares; this was a highlight also.

How did you find the Trekking in Torres del Paine & Chalten?

I would not describe the “W Trek” as a life-changing experience.  Having hiked, scrambled, and climbed in the Canadian Rockies for 35 years I guess I have been spoiled.

The trails in both countries are well maintained and clean; the daily itinerary was very do-able, for people of our age and relative fitness.

We found the Refugio staff to be less than helpful, not at all service based, and the meals monotonous and of dubious quality, especially some of the vegetarian options.  I certainly think these young people could learn a lesson about guest expectations and service from the folks at Palermo, and on the Cruise.  I picked up bed bugs at one of the Refugios as well.  Could they not charge a little more, and offer a little more?

On the ground , we found your partners in Torres del Paine very helpful and a good resource, although we also took in the 3:00 p.m. talk at Erratic Rock.  She could do with a little more prominent sign.

How were your other accommodations during  the trip?

In Buenos Aires, we found the Palermo Hotel and its concierge service quite exceptional.  We are not normally effusive in our praise, but Luke really picked a winner here. The facility in El Calafate was unexceptional,  no strong memories, one way or the other.

In Chile, the people at both Erratic Rock were helpful, and it was appreciated that they held our spare kit while we were elsewhere (as did Palermo, in Buenos Aires).

The B&B in Punta Arenas could have been better.  We were in side by side rooms, nearby the upstairs dining area.  Noise from the front desk carried, the staff seemed to be oblivious to their all night “yakking” and then the German group got up (or maybe never went to bed) at 4:00 a.m. or so, to have breakfast.  So, a real lack of commitment to other guests, and I’d encourage you to find something smaller, and quieter.

Overall…

In conclusion, a well planned and well organized trip, for which considerable recognition should also go to my wife, Susan, as well.  I really think her secret job is also tour operating, and should you have any vacancies, please keep her in mind!

This is a trip we have been working on since we read Bruce Chatwins’ book, “In Patagonia”, in approximately 1980.  We still have the book, and brought it along to reread.  Then, we were poor University students and all we could afford was “armchair travelling”.  So, 34 years later and the circle closes.  We have fulfilled one of our dreams as a couple, between armchair and wheelchair, I guess you’d say.

Thank you, once again, for the effort. Cheers! Larry.

Lis’s Trip to Torres del Paine & Tierra del Fuego

Lis returned in December from a trip to Patagonia during which they took W Trek in Torres del Paine followed by a visit to Isla Navarino in Tierra del Fuego. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Patagonia…

What three words would best sum up your experience in Patagonia?

Wild, Beautiful, Fantastic.

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia overall?

It’s genuinely hard to pick one thing overall, it was so varied and beautiful. The light and the windswept, dramatic wilderness of it all was perhaps the most abiding memory of Patagonia – the sheer space and also the diversity.

We dipped in and out of different parts of Patagonia, including a 3 day W Trek (thanks Swoop Patagonia for organising it for us!) in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park, and spending time in Punta Arenas which really felt like a frontier town at the edge of the earth.

Then we also flew in a tiny plane down to Isla Navarino, where there really is the last town before Antarctica (and the most southerly Yacht Club in the world!). This was definitely the most unusual aspect of our trip, and included our best story: drinking with the locals on the German frigate (now a bar) at the Yacht Club, with a Penguin swimming in the bay – and especially the luxurious Lakutaia Lodge and services of local guide Denis (quite brilliant).

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

Patagonia is pretty huge – we would have liked to see more of it; then again, with some smart planning of flights and buses (which are excellent for long distance travel in Chile) we could get around in not too many days. There are so many options for hiking and National Parks – definitely pick your top ones and don’t try to do everything.

We’d also have liked to cross the border into Argentinian Patagonia (a well trodden path at different points) and to take a boat ride (whether the Navimag or a more luxury cruise ) – would recommend investigating these options.

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

They were great: very generous with their advice and support when we were considering  options before making a decision. It was a very personal, tailored service; and thus felt very responsive and flexible to our needs.

What did you think of the operators we set you up with in Torres del Paine?

The operators were reliable, helpful and professional. The Fast Track W Trek we did in Torres del Paine was quite expensive (as there were only two of us in the group); but in return we received a great service, excellent guide (just for the two of us), top equipment and planning and good food. It suited what we needed very well.

How was the W Trek itself, and how were your guides?

The trek was fantastic: we did a 3-day Fast Track loop which suited perfectly as we only had 3 days to spare. I would recommend this itinerary – others do a 5 day W Trek or the Full Circuit, but the 3 days were honestly pretty stretching, even for us as pretty seasoned walkers. The variation on each day was marvellous too, meaning we felt like we saw the range that Torres del Paine had to offer; we left very satisfied.

Talking with other walkers, it’s worth choosing your refugio carefully – some had a reputation as serving pretty meagre portions of food which isn’t great when you’ve walked 9 hours!

Our guide (Viktor) was fantastic – seasoned, professional, good fun, knowledgeable, everything we could have wanted. The packed lunches, tent and equipment which he bought from them were very good quality, and they provided excellent fresh bread for my partner who is gluten free. He went above and beyond to support us and make sure things ran smoothly. Would definitely recommend the operator and Viktor in particular.

How was your stay at Lakutaia Lodge?

Lakutaia Lodge was great too – again, there were only about 6 guests staying there so we had 1:1 attention and service – for instance, they changed the menus around so we could have King Crab on our last day when we had to leave early.

Their excursions were thoughtful and really interesting (bird watching – not something I’d ever think I’d have enjoyed but was breathtaking), tour of the town of Puerto Williams, short trek, museum…); and we also loved using their bikes and canoes.

Local guide Denis accompanied us solicitously during our stay and was so knowledgeable and accommodating – it really made the trip.

The Lodge manager was equally very hospitable and accommodating, looked after us very well. She even introduced us to a famous Chilean opera singer who arrived to stay as we were leaving!

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

Only the weather coming in on our third day, and my falling over & spraining my ankle! Otherwise perfect.

Things to do in Punta Arenas

Things to do in Punta Arenas

There are many interesting sights and activities in and around Punta Arenas, and here we’ve gathered together a few ideas for things to see and do in this wonderful city…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mirador Cerro de la Cruz

For a stunning panoramic view of the city, the straight of Magellan, and the island of Tierra del Fuego in the distance, climb to Mirador La Cruz Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cerro de la Cruz). This spot is just a ten-minute walk from Plaza de Armas (Plaza Muñoz Gamero) and is one of the most iconic places in the city, particularly beautiful at night.

Plaza Muñoz Gamero

The Central Plaza in Punta Arenas: Muñoz Gamero, and it’s surrounding area is an interesting place to visit, with many beautiful buildings to take in, including the government buildings and cathedral. For some good luck on your trip, rub or kiss the toe of the statue of the indigenous Ona man in the centre of the Plaza!

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Punta Arenas Cemetery

It might sound strange to visit a graveyard on your holiday, but this cemetery dates back to 1840’s, and is internationally famous for its magnificent mausoleums, beautiful European architecture, and perfectly shaped pine trees.

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Many local aristocratic families and European immigrants are buried here, particularly English and Croatians. We’d definitely recommend a visit!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

King Penguins

There is a new colony of king penguins establishing at Tierra del Fuego, the only king penguin colony to be found outside the Sub-Antarctic islands. King penguins are usually only found on the Sub-Antarctic Islands, such as the remote and difficult to access South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. Observing them in Tierra del Fuego, therefore, is a very unique opportunity!

Read more about the Tierra del Fuego Penguins.

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Museums

The following are Swoop’s top five recommendations for Museums to visit in Punta Arenas…

1-Palacio Mauricio Braun, Magallanes 949

This palatial mansion houses a regional history museum, which shows great evidence of the wealth and power that Punta Arenas had in its heyday (perhaps not so obvious today). The house’s original owners, the Brauns, were a family of huge importance throughout the Southern Patagonian region. The museum is divided into two sections, one displaying regional history and the other displays the family’s original opulent furnishings.

(Open Mon-Sat 10:30 – 17:00; Sundays & Public Holidays 10:30 – 14:00;  Entrance $1,000)

2-Museo Regional Salesiano Maggiorino Borgatello, Av. Bulnes 336

This museum is considered one of the most complete on the natural and human history of Patagonia. Its four stories house collections of stuffed animals, a history of the indigenous inhabitants of the region, displays on missionary history, and exhibitions on Antarctica and its explorations.

(Open Tues – Sun 10:00 – 12:30 / 15:00 – 17:30; Closed on Mondays;  Entrance CLP$2,000)

3-National Maritime Museum, Av. Pedro Montt 981

An in-depth look into the extensive maritime history of Chile. The museum also has specific displays on the War of the Pacific (1879) and its great naval hero Arturo Pratt.

(Open daily 09:30 – 12:30 / 14:00 – 17:00;  Entrance CLP$1,000)

4-Museo de Recuerdo, Av Bulnes 01890 (best to take a taxi)

The Patagonian Institute (Instituto de la Patagonia) houses the Museo del Recuerdo, with a collection of antique farm and industrial machinery imported from Europe, a typical pioneer house and shearing shed (both reconstructed), and a wooden-wheeled trailer that served as shelter for shepherds. The library also has a display of historical maps and a series of historical and scientific publications.

(Open Mon – Fri 08:30 – 12:00 / 14:30 – 18:00; Sat 08:30 – 12:00; Closed Sundays; Entrance CLP$1,000)

5-Museo Nao Victoria, 7,5km north of town on Y565 route to Rio Seco (best to take a taxi)

An interactive museum, allowing visitors to relive the history of the great navigators and explorers of our region (Magallanes, Williams and Shackleton). Their reconstructed ships feature accurate sailing equipment, mannequins, clothing and weapons from the their age.

Austral Brewery, 508 Patagona St. 

This is the southernmost brewery in the world, where you can learn about the production process of the traditional Austral beer (the most popular beer in this part of the country) and enjoy a beer tasting session.

Shepherd’s Monument

This traditional monument is located in Bulnes Avenue, 11 blocks away from Plaza de Armas, and is one of the many iconic places of the city.

Places to Avoid

We’d recommend avoiding Zona Franca if you can; it is a very commercial shopping experience, although seemingly popular with the locals!

For more information of trips and excursions from Punta Arenas contact us at advice@swooptravel.co.uk

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Barbara & Douglas’ 5 Week Patagonian Adventure

Barbara & Douglas’ 5 Week Patagonian Adventure

Barbara and Douglas returned in February from a 5 week trip that included a 4 night Patagonian Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their trip, and their experience of booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip… Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary’

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our trip was 5 weeks altogether with 4 nights of it on the cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Overall the cruise was one of our many highlights, with the landing on Cape Horn very special and the experience at Pia Glacier quite something.

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

Yes, we visited Santiago and Valparaiso before flying south to Balmaceda where we picked up a rental 4×4. We spent a week driving south on the Carretera Austral and were able to drop the vehicle at Villa O’Higgins. This was difficult to arrange and expensive but we managed to book through a local agent and Europcar.

Another highlight was our 2 day crossing into Argentina, from Villa O’Higgins, by boat and on foot and our first sighting of Mt. Fitzroy! 5days in El Chalten was a recommendation from Luke which was excellent, great day hikes and fantastic food and drink.

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We had a brief visit to El Calafate and visited Perito Merino glacier, then on to Puerto Natales to go to Torres del Paine. We completed  the W Trek ourselves using pre booked refugios which proved to be very good and Luke had given us advice about this.

The weather was kind and the scenery was awesome. We went to Punta Arenas and the the cruise after this. Spent 2 nights in Ushuaia and 2 nights in Buenos Aires before flying home.

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

Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip. Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary and we organised the whole trip ourselves using  Luke’s knowledge and advice. He directed us to their excellent partners for both our flights and our cruise booking.

Were you well looked after by the cruise operator?

The cruise operator was excellent, not cheap but a very special part of our trip at the end of our 5 weeks. We were ready for some luxury and they hit the mark, nice cabin, great meals, excellent service and well organised excursions.

How did you find the services and excursions provided?

Services and excursions were all very well executed, swift disembarkation for all excursions with safety a high priority. Enjoyed the on board presentations by knowledgeable staff.

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

Not at all, all our pre planning paid off and we would do the exact same.

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

-For anyone planning to do the crossing from Villa O’Higgins to El Chalten: be aware that the company Heilo Sur in Villa O’Higgins does not operate this any longer and the website information is out of date. The boat across Lago O’Higgins is now run by Robinson Crusoe, the man and horse who helps with luggage was not there(!) so be prepared to walk the 22kms if you go. Robinson Crusoe sold us tickets for a bus from Desertio Lake to El Chalten which never turned up.

-Bring American dollars if you plan to visit Argentina as this is the currency they wish.

-The crime levels in Buenos Aires seem to be escalating, we heard many reports of street crime and scams to distract tourists while pickpockets were at work.

-The walking tours for tips are an excellent way to see a city, we did these in Valaparaiso and Buenos Aires

Rob’s Patagonia Cruise

Rob recently returned from a Patagonia Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia and back to Punta Arenas as part of a wider trip to South America. Here he tells us about his experiences on the cruise, and booking through Swoop…

How was your trip?

Overall I had a great time and the overall enjoyment was greater than I had anticipated before departing.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip for me was always going to be the landing on Cape Horn, and this was one of the prime reasons for undertaking the trip in the first place. The glaciers, the penguins and the wind and the waves were all part of a fully supportive cast and all played their part in making the whole thing so good.

Did you visit anywhere else in Patagonia?

I didn’t visit anywhere else in Patagonia other than the Cruise, but continued on to visit other areas of South America.

How well did Swoop and our partners do in planning and arranging your trip?

The holiday was planned well and if there were glitches they were not major and were probably because I hadn’t read the itinerary properly.

Is there anything you wish had happened differently?

The cruise itself was excellent in most respects.

I do feel that more care could have been taken by the ship in ensuring that there were at least 3 English speakers out of the six people on each meal table. On the return leg we had five -a Chilean doctor and his wife who could speak Spanish English and some Italian and who was happy to translate in order to be inclusive, and the lovely smiley mother and grandmother of the waiter, who could speak no English. At the mealtimes when the doctor was not present or engaged in doctoring there was a lot of pointing and smiling but not much else! I don’t remember being asked which if any other languages I could speak or understand.

How were the other sections of your trip in South America, organised by our partners?

All of the trips and events around the cruise were good particularly the tour of Santiago. The guide was informative and knowledgeable and obviously loved her job and her city.

I was surprised by the day adventure up into the hills on the turn around day in Ushuaia as I don’t recall that being mentioned. It was enjoyable but came as a bit of a surprise to get a phone call saying that the guide and land rover were outside! I still can’t see it mentioned on the itinerary.

I suppose the one slight problem for me was the transfer from the cruise ship to a rendezvous in a café c 0.5 kms away. My bag was 18 kgs and had no wheels and I struggled somewhat even over that distance (I had earlier in the trip hurt my leg a little bit). I think that someone older than I would have struggled more particularly if it had been raining and /or very windy even over such a short distance. Many travellers were being met with taxis, perhaps to get to the airport, but I think a meet and greet at the ship would be a nice idea.

Apart from these few relatively minor things the trip was thoroughly enjoyable and was helped by the large amount of support out there -it wasn’t just getting you to the airport, it included check in, emigration, customs etc and really took the pressure off.

‘I would have no hesitation in recommending the whole experience to others. Despite the little grumbles it was really a wonderful holiday…Thanks a lot for making it so enjoyable!’

Amanda & Patrick’s Multi-Activity Trip in Torres del Paine

Amanda & Patrick’s Multi-Activity Trip in Torres del Paine

Amanda and her brother Patrick returned home to New York in early January from a 10 day Multi Activity Trip spent hiking and kayaking in Torres del Paine National Park. Here Amanda tells us about her trip and her experience booking through Swoop and our partners, and shares some fantastic photographs…

‘Patrick and I can’t thank you all enough for helping organise a trip of a lifetime! Our friends and family back home can’t get over our photos and are quite jealous 😉 We’ll make sure to refer them to you if they decide to travel down to Patagonia in the future.’ 

amanda corbett and patrick

What was the highlight of your trip?

I think the day our guide Nico took us on a 3 hour day hike in the morning to an “off the beaten path” view of Grey Glacier and then that afternoon/evening we went ice hiking on that same glacier. I also loved Laguna Azul and how hiking around that part of the park was so quiet and peaceful.

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

We flew right into Punta Arenas and spent a night in Puerto Natales on either end of our trip but we only had time for our expedition in Torres del Paine.

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

A+! It was so overwhelming at the start of our trip planning to know where in Patagonia we should go, then what guide company we should work with, etc.

After our conversation in August, you listened closely to what we wanted from our trip (a physically challenging trip without crowds with a mix of backpacking and kayaking) and the operator you put us in contact with did exactly that. So thank you for steering us towards Torres del Paine (a fantastic part of Patagonia in which to backpack and kayak), and toward this particular operator.

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How was the operator, and how were their guides on the trip?

Another A+! They made us feel very welcome in Puerto Natales when we arrived and set us up in a wonderful hostel in town. We felt very well taken care of and they did a great job coming up with a Plan B itinerary at the last moment when there was an unexpected weather forecast (tons of snow!).

Our guide, Nico, was fabulous and we couldn’t have asked for a more knowledgeable, flexible and personable guide!

When my brother got sick on the first two days of the trip, Nico, helped create a “Plan C” on the fly that accommodated my brother and still kept in line with what type of trip we wanted. We couldn’t have been happier.

amanda corbett patrick

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

I think the only aspect of the trip that I would have changed would to have been more involved in the food planning. I am used to planning backpacking trips for myself in the States and love food planning and while I so appreciated the operator taking care of this part, I ended up missing a few of my “backpacking staples” and would have enjoyed being a part of that pre-trip planning.

It was a nice luxury to have Nico prepare all of our meals though – I am not used to that having never taken a guided trip before!

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

If you’re looking for fantastic backpacking conditions – go to Torres del Paine. No bugs, perfect temperature, no bears or other worrisome animals, and you don’t even have to treat your water!

Having backpacked a lot, I was amazed at the perfect conditions for hiking and camping in the park. I just loved it. Leaving from Puerto Natales is also wonderful – it’s a really fun, welcoming town in which to stay on either side of your trip with backpackers from all over the world!

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