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Nick’s 19 day trip to Chile & Argentina

Nick’s 19 day trip to Chile & Argentina

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

Nick’s Feedback

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

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

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

Nick’s Itinerary

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

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La Boca, Buenos Aires

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

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

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

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

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Sea Otter in the waters of Chiloé

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

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Chiloe Island

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

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View from Mirador Ferrier, Torres del Paine

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

‘The colours of the ice were just amazing’

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

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The road to El Chalten…

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

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Rio de las Vueltas Valley

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

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

We asked Nick a few specific questions about his trip…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pedras Blancas Glacier (Laguna de los Tres hike)

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

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

 How  were your accommodations?

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

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

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

What was the highlight of your trip?

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

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Stunning viewpoint at end of Laguna de los Tres hike

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

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Inside a crevasse – Viedma Glacier

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

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Magellanic Penguins of Chiloé

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

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

The Estancia Peuma Hue

The Estancia Peuma Hue

On Sally’s recent visit to the Argentinian Lake District, she stayed at the Estancia Peuma Hue enjoying the fine food, hiking trails, stunning scenery and utter tranquility. Read on for her review.

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Sitting on the shores of the glistening Gutierrez lake nestled between forested slopes and surrounded by jagged granite peaks, The Estancia Peuma Hue really is a place of dreams.

The main house of the estancia is just a stone’s throw from the beach which sweeps for 2 miles in front of the property. The water is icy cold so swimming is only for the bravest, but once you’ve taken the plunge it is a refreshing, invigorating satisfaction.

The 500 acres of the lodge includes the Southen end of the Cerro Catedral or Cathedral Mountain – aptly named because of its Dali like granite pinnacles. This side of the range is only accessible from the lodge and hiking trails have been marked by Evelyn, the lodge owner. You are unlikely to meet other hikers on the trails which gives you a definite sense of being ‘off the beaten track’ and makes for some excellent bird watching. Whilst out on the trails myself, I was able to get extremely close to a family of magellanic woodpeckers who continued their work totally undisturbed as I sat filming them.

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The Estancia is passionate about animals of all shapes and sizes. They have their own horses that graze in the field in front which guests can ride and a gaggle of friendly dogs that love nothing better than accompanying guests on their hikes.

It wasn’t unusual to see Austral Parakeets flying over head, ashy headed geese out on the grass feasting on the fallen apples, dark bellied cinclodes on the beach and southern lapwings and black faced ibis on the grass in front.

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On arrival guests are given an introductory briefing about the different excursion options available to them and are well and truly made to feel at home. From the moment I arrived I felt like I had entered somewhere very special and was eager to head out and explore the beauty that lay outside.

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The Trails

The trails have been separated into 4 trails of different lengths and difficulty which can be combined to create 1 full day hike or 2 half day hikes. These trails can all be done self guided as they have handily been marked by different coloured ribbons on the trees which represent the different colours on the hand drawn map which you’ll be given on arrival.

The trails all start from the western side of the property and head up into Cerro Catedral which does mean that they start with an inevitable uphill. The shortest trail, the orange trail named ‘Camino del Jabali’ is a great one to do on the day you arrive to stretch your legs and get a feel for the place and surroundings; this trail is just a short 3 kms but affords lovely views back onto the Estancia and lake shore.

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The blue trail, named ‘Jacuzzi Falls’ is the longest and steepest of the trail and takes you up high above the estancia to give great views back on the Gutierrez lake and the estancia and valley far below. The trail continues up to a wonderful view point out over the Jacuzzi Fall. This trail is only 6.2kms but due to the gradient will take 3-3.5hrs.

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The remaining 2 trails, the pink and yellow, ‘Hilltop and Mirador Claussen’ can be tagged onto the blue trail or done separately. They lead to trails south of the estancia, with an initial climb then quite flat and give great views of the southern Mascardi Lake and southern mountains.

As I was visiting during the first days of Autumn, the lenga beach forests were starting to change colours which created some incredible shades of orange and red across the mountains which combined with the volcanic snow-less peaks in the distance and gave the foreground and background vibrant, unusual colourings.

Other Activities

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Whilst staying at the lodge, guests can spend their days riding the horses, guided, in the surrounding hills and valleys. They cater for complete beginners to more advanced riders.

There are kayaks which can be taken out on the lake and they even have a boat which can take the less adventurous out for a spin. These are all included in the price of your stay. Additionally guests can pay to take a day out fly fishing with an expert guide or perhaps take a hike up high over the ridge of the Cathedral Mountain.

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Gourmet Food

I was taken aback by the quality, variety and finesse of the meals I was served; even the pic-nic lunch was 5*! I was served delicious fish, juicy steaks, hearty soups, local craft beer, full bodied wine and the best breakfast of my whole 3 week trip. For the food alone I would return time and time again.

The owners are very involved with the day to day running of the Estancia and in the evening when the guests gather for a drink they personally come to chat with the guests, a really lovely touch. If you are looking to relax after a challenging hike in the south or perhaps looking for somewhere to enjoy a variety of activities from a luxury, cosy base then the Estancia Peuma Hue should not be missed.

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As I drove away, back onto the main road to Bariloche airport, I was saddened that I had to leave but full of gratitude to have been fortunate enough to have experienced such a truly unique, spellbinding place.

 

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.

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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!

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!

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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!

Ann & Karl’s 15 days in Argentina

Ann & Karl’s 15 days in Argentina

Ann and Karl returned in April 2015 from a 15 day trip to Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

Ann & Karl’s feedback

‘We just wanted to say a big thank you for this memorable holiday. Thanks for your expertise of the area – we had an amazing time with virtually no hiccups with any of the pre-arranged tours or transfers. We had a great dose of adventure, photographed picturesque scenery, and met very nice local people. We now have 3 days in BA before flying home but couldn’t wait to express our gratitude.’

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Ann & Karl’s Itinerary

Ann & Karl began their trip with a 3 night stay at Estancia Huechahue, a quintessential Patagonian ranch in the foothills of the Andes, where they took part in a variety of activities including horse riding and fly fishing.

Estancia Huechahue was excellent, an absolute highlight of the trip. It was quite different to what we imagined – a very rugged experience, but we would absolutely rush back again. The staff were very knowledgeable and the food was great. We were lucky enough to meet many of the owner (Jane) ‘s friends, and very much enjoyed making new friends and speaking to the local people.

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They then travelled down to Bariloche in the Argentine Lake District, for 2 days of kayaking and river rafting.

The kayaking/ rafting was great. It was our first time kayaking, and luckily we did not find it too challenging so were able to soak up all of the scenery in this beautiful location.

Next, they travelled on to El Calafate for an ice hike on the Perito Moreno glacier, which was ‘rather tiring, but great fun, with great guides who were very knowledgeable’.

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Their next two days were spent taking day hikes from El Chalten, which were ‘very enjoyable, and we were very lucky to have had great weather during our stay. We are not big hikers and we feel that 1.5 days is the ideal time to stay in this town.’

Ann & Karl’s last stop was Buenos Aires, where they made their own arrangements. They highly recommended visiting this open air live music show: La Bomba de Tiempo.

The trip superseded our expectations, we were really impressed and definitely needed your help! We would highly recommend Swoop to friends and family. Thanks, Karl & Ann.

 

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

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

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

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

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How were Swoop Patagonia? 

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

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

Both were fabulous.

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

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

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What was the highlight of your trip?

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

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

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

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

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Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What would you have changed about your trip? 

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

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

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What was the highlight of your trip?

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

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

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

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

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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.’

 

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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Mariana’s trip to Los Glaciares National Park

Mariana’s trip to Los Glaciares National Park

Mariana returned in February from a trip to Los Glaciares National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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

Swoop were great, we certainly would appreciate using your services again.

How was your experience with Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares?

These partners were an excellent suggestion from Swoop. Zoe was very nice and professional, and our guide Mauro was an excellent person and professional. We loved the experience!!

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What did you think of your itinerary?

The trekking in Los Glaciares was excellent; guide 100% and also the stricture of Pedra Del Fraile and Poincenot camping were better than expected. So everything very good, especially taking into account that we stayed in Refugio accommodation!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight for us was Pedras Blancas. A difficult trail but worth the effort for the magic landscape!

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also visit Lago Del Desierto, and stayed at Aguas Arriba Lodge for 3 days, which was suberb lodge.

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