Tag Archives: horse riding patagonia

Estancia hopping in Torres del Paine

Estancia hopping in Torres del Paine

There’s not much that beats the thrill of discovering Torres del Paine’s rugged landscapes on horseback – a method of travel that’s been used in the region for hundreds of years and is still favoured today.

In September of last year, I had the pleasure of staying at one of Chile’s biggest ranches, the Estancia Cerro Guido and one of Swoop’s customers, Barbara, recently visited another Chilean ranch for a similar getaway. Here, we both give a little insight of our experiences of life as a Patagonian gaucho (cowboy).SWOOP_3_LUKE-ERRINGTON_ALL_CERROGUIDOLANDSCAPE

Luke: “For anyone who enjoys horse riding, the Estancia Cerro Guido is one of the top spots in the region and offers a true slice of Patagonian history. You can experience life on a real working estancia (ranch), and head out with the gauchos to explore the surrounding pampas (grasslands). You can also ascend the peak of Cerro Guido from which the the estancia takes its name.

The ranch is the hub of a vast estate that reaches out some 100,000 hectares (that’s more or the less the size of a small county in the UK). It’s still a working estancia employing and housing a number of gauchos and their families. So, alongside the 100 year old house of its founders, you’ll also find more modern accommodation, a church and a school for this local community.SWOOP_3_LUKE-ERRINGTON_ALL_CERROGUIDOHORSE

If you book well in advance you can sleep in the old house, which is more museum than hotel, and will give you a wonderful sense of the lives of the people who originally owned and cultivated this land. There are some other rooms with ensuite bathrooms that are perfectly comfortable.

You’ll eat well in the dining room here (most of the food is grown / reared on the estate) but it’s the views out to the Paine Massif that I’ll always remember. This is a very special spot from which to see the sun set behind the famous towers of Torres del Paine.SWOOP_3_LUKE-ERRINGTON_ALL_CERROGUIDOSKYLINE

So, there are a number of reasons I’d recommend this particular ranch:

  • It offers the chance to see how a large-scale ranch really works in Patagonia today and so is a “must-visit” estancia for anyone horse riding in the Torres del Paine region.
  • It’s a great place for a couple or a smaller group of friends to spend a final night in Torres del Paine, after hiking in the main part of the national park.
  • Finally, it’s an authentic and convivial place in which to enjoy a private celebration; so ideal for a larger group ( 8-16 people) who want a night or two in their own place.”

Around 100km south of Estancia Cerro Guido, on the Peninsula Antonio Varas you will find another classic Patagonian ranch, Estancia Mercedes. Swoop customer Barbara visited with her daughter in January of this year.

Before their horse-riding adventure, they stayed at the Singular Hotel, a unique luxury hotel situated in a restored and renovated cold storage plant in Puerto Bories. The Estancia Mercedes then offered quite a contrast to the first part of their trip.CUS_2_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_MERCEDESYARD

Barbara:My experience on the estancia was like living in a National Geographic magazine! After three nights at the Singular Hotel, my daughter and I went to Estancia Mercedes. While everything is fancier at the Singular, Estancia Mercedes is authentic. If you want to step off the tourist route and live with a Chilean ranch family, look no further.CUS_3_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_CHILEHORSEMOUNTAIN

We were welcomed by the entire Inglesia family who have a long and rich history in Puerto Natales that they are happy to share.CUS_4_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_HORSE+RIDER

We came for horseback riding which exceeded our expectations but in the end this stay was about becoming part of the Inglesia family for a few days.CUS_3_BARBARA-DAVIS_PRIV_GROUPMERCEDESESTANCIA

I’ll admit that at night I missed how I could watch the sunset from my bed at the Singular but sunsets fade away unlike Estancia Mercedes which will be forever in our hearts. GO!”

Get in touch to book an unforgettable gaucho experience in Patagonia.

Tony’s Patagonia experience

Tony came back from spending almost a month in Patagonia traveling through some extraordinary landscape on the way, here he gives us his thoughts on his time in the region.

Tony’s Feedback

Overall the trip went perfectly. Everything happened as it was supposed to. The route work really well with hardly any travelling back over the same ground, and the amount of time in each part was just right. Although I think you could have done better with the weather it was actually a lot better than I had been expecting from the forecasts just beforehand. It was a great trip and I really wouldn’t have changed anything. Thank you so much.

Tony’s Itinerary

Tony flew into Buenos Aires Airport and headed straight to Los Glaciares National Park, where he took a mixture and guided and self guided day hikes from the mountain town of El Chalten.

He then headed to El Calafate to visit the stunning Perito Moreno glacier before getting ready to embark on the Full Circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

While trekking through the park Tony stayed in supported camping at different points on the full circuit trail, taking him through the Ascencio Valley , around Lake Paine , following the Los Perros river before hiking alongside the Grey Glacier and ending up back in the French Valley and spending a night in the Hotel Rio Serrano. After all that hiking it was time to hit the water and paddle to the serrano waterfall and to the Serrano Glacier for a BBQ lunch.

Next up was a desert adventure in the Salar Atacama, the driest desert in the world, which is surrounded by imposing volcanoes and is home to unexpected wildlife like flamingos and other birds. While in the Salar Atacama he visited the geothermal fields that are flanked by soaring peaks, as well as visiting several towns and villages.

After the harshness of the desert it was back to Buenos Aires to  for a city tour before heading back home.

Below, Tony tells us some more about his trip…

How did you find travelling during your trip?

All BA flights were great. Comfortable, excellent staff/service, reasonably good food, great choice of films. I do think you should advise travellers to check in online beforehand as I didn’t know to do this and therefore had no choice of seat. All Internal flights were fine and on time.

My Bus journey to Salta wa s great. Thanks so much for getting me the good seats – so comfortable – could have stayed on for another 10 hours, watching the stunning scenery pass by. The buses always provided good views and a nice drive but they did feel rather slow. A top tip is to stop at the info centres that help you get orientated by taking short walks.

How did you find your hiking expeditions? 

I really enjoyed the 3 day walks – Day one in Tumbado, day 2 at Fitzroy (which was guided) and day 2 Torres del Paine.

Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares were amazing – lovely staff and the guide was excellent on my walk.

My Torres del Paine trek was most excellent despite some poor weather. We were lucky to have great views of the towers as we approached them and great views in and from the French Valley on our last day.

The trip to the Lagoons and Geyser in the Atacama were okay but I think it would be better to try and do all of this type of stuff in one day and with an English speaking group. The bus was late picking us up for the geyser trip, and then broke down en route so we almost missed the geyser activity.

What were the other excursions on your trip like?

I went on quite a few different activities while in Patagonia.

In the Atacama, we went Mountain Biking to Death Valley one afternoon and Moon Valley the next morning, which was a lot of fun and we missed all of the crowds. Horse riding was amazing and I absolutely loved it. We rode 5 hours along and up to and over Death Valley then over the cliff and down the sand dunes. I had only been on a horse for 2 hours walking on the flat before but I was really pleased to be doing something so exciting and there were some incredible views. Some people may have wanted prior warning that the path up is narrow, strewn with boulders with vertical drop down one side… but for me it was better that I didn’t know!

My time in Torres del Paine was full of highs and lows. On the Full Circuit, it was just the guide (Jose) and myself- Jose was great and really got me through the trip. The conditions in exposed areas felt somewhat hairy, so it could be worth warning travellers might have been concerned about this. Again, it was best for me that I didn’t know beforehand, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It was tranquil, traumatic, challenging, and exciting all in one!

At night,  Jose did me proud with his food preparation and we had a lovely evening even though it rained. The boat trip back to Natales was fine but weather was poor so not quite what it could have been otherwise.

My time in the city of Buenos Aires was lovely. I thought on the way through that it really would not be my sort of place, but on my way back at the end of the trip I loved walking around there. I particularly enjoyed the marina area, waterfront parks  and the Eco Park and it was all helped by the lovely weather.

4 Day Horse Riding & Camping Trip in Torres del Paine

 Marie-Lisa and her friend returned in early January from a 4 day Camping and Horse Riding trip in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip…

The trip was awesome- we had a really great time! 

How was your guide and horsemen on the trip?

Os was great- really helpful, very enthusiastic, and obviously a great rider.

All of the horsemen were very patient with us and helpful with any questions and help we needed. Alberto in particular was chatty and danced like a dream.

How would you rate the horses you had on your trip?

Amazing- they were really responsive (although each with their own personalities) and were well looked after.

How would you rate the tack?

The tack was all in good order, and was comfortable, although as it was changed most days it took a bit of getting used to.

How would you rate the accommodation during your trip?

The tents were great (although complicated to put up), and the choice of wild camping locations was great –all were really beautiful.

Having hot stoves at some of the camps was brilliant, and we really appreciated that we stayed at Gonzales’ family home.

How did you find the food on the trip?

The food was brilliant- plentiful and tasty, we were a bit spoiled to be honest! Livio was charming, funny, and a cheerful spirit on a rainy morning.

How would you rate the transport and logistics on your trip?

There were no problems at all with transport- it was comfortable, spacious and on time. The logistics ran very smoothly, and were accommodating of different arrival times.

Do you have any other comments or suggestions about the trip?

We had an amazing four days, and although it was tough going at times, it was extremely worth it. The pace of the group worked well, Gonzalo and Alberto were patient when some needed to slow down, but kept the pace of the group going. We had such a laugh and would recommend the trip to anyone. Thank you! Sorry, we can’t suggest any improvements!