Tag Archives: W_Circuit

Jenny’s Torres del Paine dream trip

Jenny’s Torres del Paine dream trip

In September, Jenny took a memorable trip to Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. Jenny does an amazing job below of telling us all about her experiences, the trip highlights and what is was like travelling with Swoop Patagonia and our partners.

Jenny’s feedback

Out of all the places I have seen in Chile during my trip (Santiago, Valparaiso, Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine), Torres del Paine was absolutely the highlight.

Torres del Paine 09-2015 Jenny Block _2

Not only was I excited about being in Patagonia, a wish that has been on my list for quite a while, but choosing an organised hike with a tour operator was a very good choice as well. You can certainly do the trip by yourself; you will meet many people, the paths are marked very well, you can probably buy books that guide you through the park and its characteristics. But having a local guide just gives you the opportunity to learn so much more about what you see, about Torres del Paine National Park, its geology, flora, fauna and history, and getting this first-hand information right away, with the chance to get answers to more detailed questions as well, is a clear advantage in my eyes.

The trip on the W trek was organised perfectly by a tour agency recommended by Swoop Patagonia. The operation manager and one of the main organisers there were always very friendly and helpful whenever there were questions arising prior to the trip or even when urgent support was needed just the night before the trip.

Torres del Paine 09-2015 Jenny Block _1

During the trip itself, even though parts of the hike were unexpectedly demanding (but still a big joy!), we always had enough time so we didn’t need to rush through the park, but enjoy the scenery whenever we wanted. The Torres del Paine National Park is a very special place, and I’m glad we were able to fully enjoy its beauty!

The trip was a big joy not least because of our very professional and pleasant guide! Whenever we had questions about things we saw he was able to give us an answer. Whenever we needed a break or wanted to spend some more time at a certain spot, he would understand and make that happen. He was very caring and always gave us the information we needed about what was going to happen the day. He had a good sense of humour on top of it all, which made the trip special as well.

Torres del Paine 09-2015 Jenny Block _3

I’m thankful Swoop Patagonia put me in contact with their local partners in Torres del Paine! I would definitely recommend Swoop to friends and family, because I think first-hand advice from people who know the region just makes planning so much easier. And Swoop is doing their job very well, as far as I can tell from my experiences.

We Know Because We Go: Harriet, Chloe & Sally’s Patagonia Trips in the Spring

We Know Because We Go: Harriet, Chloe & Sally’s Patagonia Trips in the Spring

In Spring 2016 Harriet, Chloe and Sally will be downing tools and heading to Patagonia. Regular trips like these ensure we stay close to our roots and maintain our in-depth knowledge of the region. We test out new trips, visit new parks, hike new routes and eat in new restaurants – all in the name of research, of course.

Harriet – Trekking, Mountaineering & Aysen Specialist


On a Swoop recce to Reserva Cerro Castillo in 2015

I am focusing all three weeks of my trip on the little visited Aysen region of Chile. I am planning to follow the spine of the Andes from north to south: trekking from Lago Verde to Lago Palena, visiting the Queulat National Park, sightseeing and relaxing on the Lago General Carrera. The final week of my Aysen adventure will be spent in the Patagonia Park, getting to know the various treks and day hikes there.


The Autumn colours of Aysen

I am very excited about the Patagonia Park. It’s an area that is receiving a large amount of coverage in the press at the moment, because of its link with the late Doug Tompkins, The North Face founder. I know a particular corner of Aysen fairly well, as in 2002 I spent 3 weeks in the Tamango Reserve volunteering on a biodiversity study.


Admiring Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) in Queulat in 2010

The Tamango Reserve is now to be integrated into the New Patagonia National park. I am very keen for Swoop to be able to offer some new and exciting adventures within the national park and only by getting into the area and exploring it with our local partners will I be able to truly understand what I am offering our customers.


Pedalling towards Lago General Carrera in 2010

The trek between Lago Verde and Lago Palena is reported to be one of the best in Aysen. I first discovered the trek on a friend’s blog, as the photos he took are absolutely incredible. I am entranced by the apparently enchanted forests and what looks like some great streams to swim in, but also the apparent remoteness and tranquility. I can’t wait to experience it for myself.

Chloe – Wildlife & Cruise Specialist

Prepping for the Patagonian winds on the Devonshire coast

My first ever trip to Patagonia – I’m SO excited! As Swoop’s cruise and wildlife specialist, I’m starting off with a 4 night ‘Wildlife, Glaciers and Cape Horn‘ cruise through the Chilean Fjords from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia (pronounced ‘oosh – why – ah’). I will be heading out on a number of excursions to see glaciers and wildlife including penguins, elephant seals, sea lions and dolphins.

Penguins of Isla Magdalena

My next stop will be the mountain town of El Chalten, where I’ll take a 2 day hike to Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre and go rafting, before heading to El Calafate for an ice hike on Perito Moreno Glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate

Next – the absolute highlight for me – a Humpback Whale Watching trip in Chile, where I’ll be spending three days studying the whales that congregate in the waters of the Magellan strait from my base at an eco research camp on Carlos III Island.

Breaching humpback Whale off Carlos III Island

On the final leg of the trip I’ll be venturing to the famous Torres del Paine National Park to hike the W Trek, and try out some of the park’s hotels, eco yurt camps and luxury lodges.

The famous Towers or ‘Torres’ of Paine

Sally – Lake District & Bespoke Trip Specialist

Sally Lago Nordenskjold (1)

The flights are booked but unlike Chloe, there is really only a loose plan as to how I’ll be spending my 21 nights! One thing that is for sure though is that I am just as excited.

I absolutely love Chile and having spent so much time there over the years it always feels like going home. On this trip I will have the opportunity to visit the new Tantauco Park in the southern part of Chiloe Island. It’s a private park of 118,000 hectares with a new network of hiking refugios, virgin forests, exquisite bird life and wonderful flora.


The Bay of Ancud, Chiloe Island

I am utterly obsessed with Chiloe Island. It is charming, quaint, relaxing, captivating, intoxicating – time simply slows down. Whenever I visit, I am always filled with the sensation that I simply just don’t want to leave. As I was on the ferry leaving the island after my last visit I wrote a few words in my diary…

There is something about Chiloe that grabs me every time I visit, it sounds silly but something reaches deep down inside and touches my soul. It fills me with a feeling of deep satisfaction for having been here, experiencing the tranquility, calmness and simplicity to life. Thank you Chiloe.

I simply can’t wait to discover this new part of the island.

For the second part of my trip I am hoping to white water raft down the mighty Futaleufu river, then cross into Argentina to either hike, kayak or mountain bike (or all 3!), using the small town of San Martin de Los Andes as my base.


If we’ve inspired you with our passion for Patagonia and you’re interested in any of the trips or activities on which we’re embarking, then we’d love to hear from you to help you plan your incredible adventure. In the meantime, you might like to take a look at our Itinerary Selector to help you decide what sort of trip might suit you best.


Ted and Rick visit Torres Del Paine

Ted and Rick visit Torres Del Paine

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

TedBrna1Ted’s feedback

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

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

Rick’s feedback

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

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

Ted & Rick’s itinerary

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

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


Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

Thanks again for all your help!


Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

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

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


What did Swoop do well? 

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

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

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


What could we have done differently? 

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

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

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


Did you enjoy your itinerary? 

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

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How were your guides? 

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

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What was the highlight of your trip? 

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


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

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

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

5. IMG_1736AAV4

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

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


Matthew’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

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

What did Swoop do well? 

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

What could we have done differently? 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

3. No need to bring your own food.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Bring sunscreen.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

The French Valley Glacier and the Towers.

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

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

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

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

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

The service I received from both partners was great.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Per’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

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

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

How were Swoop Patagonia? 

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

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

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

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

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

What was the highlight of your trip?

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

Jill’s Trekking Holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Jill’s Trekking Holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Jill returned in February 2015 from a trip to Patagonia that included treks in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘My time in Patagonia was amazing, I loved it!’IMG_0057

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

You guys did an awesome job of organising everything and I’d definitely recommend you. Of the six of us that hiked the 7 day W Trek together, five booked through Swoop. You guys were always quick to reply to any questions I had and gave me your honest opinions on what might be a good fit for me.

What did you think of the eco friendly camp you stayed at in Torres del Paine?

I had my doubts about the camp but I’m so glad I stayed there. The domes are wonderful! People we met out on the trail were typically envious of us when they heard where we were staying.


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

They were fine but, I did find them to be a little disorganised at times. The biggest issue was that it would take them a long time to reply to emails. This was understandable for the partner in Chalten as I know that the internet is poor there, but not so much for the other partner who was based in Santiago. This wasn’t a huge issue, more of an annoyance, especially as my trip approached and things became more time sensitive.


Los Glaciares

I think that the Los Glaciers partner would benefit from some sort of online payment service. Cash is such a premium down there and it’s not the best feeling having to travel around with wads of cash. I also felt that this part of the trip was quite expensive for what I got. My tour guide for the Big Ice tour did not explain things well… It was neat to be out on the glacier but I thought they could have done a better job for the money I paid. I still loved being out on the Glacier and wouldn’t have been able to do that any other way. The guide we had at Estancia Cristina was good however, the day was really long but the hike took us through a really beautiful area. Swoop’s Los Glaciares partners suggested taking a transfer from El Chalten to do the Fitz Roy hike from a different starting point and set up the transfer for me which was really good advice.


Torres del Paine

At the eco friendly camp all the staff and guides were outstanding. I learned so much and was so comfortable the entire time I was there. And the food was unreal! I wouldn’t have changed a thing about that part of my trip (except maybe the weather for the French Valley portion of the Trek).

Patagonia was definitely the highlight of my trip, but I also spent time in Santiago, Valparaiso, Buenos Aires and Mendoza. No complaints, but nothing compared to being in the south!

‘Thanks again for everything, it was an amazing trip.’


Duane’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Duane’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the memories.


Is there anything you would change about your trip?

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

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

What was the highlight of your trip?

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


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

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