Tag Archives: Puerto Natales

Greg and Michelle’s Off The Beaten Track Adventure

Greg and Michelle’s Off The Beaten Track Adventure

Greg, along with his sister Michelle and two other friends, asked Swoop to help them explore some of the more unknown destinations in Patagonia. Their jam-packed itinerary took them to many of the well-known highlights but via routes that enabled them to truly discover Patagonia’s wild beauty. We put together a challenging, action-packed programme with some of our most trusted partners to deliver an unforgettable adventure.

Greg’s itinerary

Greg and Michelle flew from New York to Santiago in Chile. A connecting flight took them on to Punta Arenas where they had two bus transfers, first to Puerto Natales and finally arriving in Torres del Paine National Park to embark on the avid hiker circuit.

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Dramatic skies in Torres del Paine National Park

Hardly pausing for breath, they ventured out on their first hike to see the famous granite towers that give the park its name. From there they hiked on to Japones Camp – a climbers only campsite near to the towers at the far end of Valle Ascensio. A night at the camp was followed by a hike of the Oggioni Pass. This trek is one of the more challenging and technical in the region. Climbing Oggioni highlighted that even within a group of friends on a tour of Patagonia, different people appreciate different things. Greg explains:

“In Torres del Paine we found the trails in particular on the W trek a little bit crowded. We loved the Oggioni Pass and this was a highlight-especially descending from the pass. However Liz and Marc, who were also on our trek, didn’t enjoy the Oggioni and didn’t really mind the crowds on the W trek, so it is a matter of taste.”

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Crossing a river on the Oggioni trek

After the strenuous Oggioni pass crossing, the group rejoined the traditional Paine cirsuit route at Dickson camp headed across to Perros Camp and then completed the John Gardiner pass with some ice hiking (read about Swoop’s Harriet and her ice hiking experience). From there, it was down into the French Valley via Lago Grey, and the group had completed their full circuit of the Torres Del Paine National Park.

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Celebrating the beauty of wilderness

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Taking a quiet moment alongside Lago Grey

After their trek, the group had a 2 day kayak along the Serrano river planned which was unfortunately cancelled due to high winds and so they headed on, to Puerto Natales and finally into Argentina, to the town of El Calafate, to see the Perito Moreno glacier.

A bus from El Calafate to El Chalten took Greg and his friends to the highlight of their trip: the Fitzroy range to see some of Patagonia’s most dramatic mountain and glacial landscapes. Two days of self-guided hiking straight out of town took the group to see Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre. They were well fed during their time in El Chalten too; using Harriet from Swoop’s handy El Chalten restaurant guide, the group made their way around town, particularly enjoying the vegetarian options.

After their warm up, they embarked on the tough but rewarding four day Huemul Circuit.

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Greg and his sister Michelle on Paso del Viento

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Trekking past a refugio on the Huemul Circuit

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The second zip-line crossing on the Huemul Circuit

Elated as opposed to exhausted, the group ended their epic trip in El Chalten and from there a series of transfers arranged by Swoop took them back to Buenos Aires and home to the United States.

We asked Greg a few questions about his adventure and for his top tips. Here’s what he said:

How were Swoop Patagonia?

“We would absolutely recommend Swoop. We really valued Swoop’s expertise, the fact that you had been to the places we were going and could link together all the different treks with local buses. All the buses worked out really well and we were happy with how it all worked out. When our kayaking trip was cancelled due to high winds our guide went out of his way to find alternative activities for us.”

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On a day hike out of El Chalten

What would you say to others considering a similar trip?

“In our opinion, El Chalten is much better and you should forget Torres del Paine and go straight to Fitzroy! The local operators were great and it was just a much nicer environment. Make sure you do your research on the various trekking options out of El Chalten to get the most out of your time there.

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The group day hiking around El Chalten

We would recommend you take the trip to Estancia Cristina near El Chalten, (we took the hiking option which included a 3 hour boat ride with a trip to the Upsala glacier), then we were driven up to a viewpoint and hiked back for 7 miles. We really enjoyed it and saw fossils along the way. Having visited both, I would say the lesser known Upsala glacier is much more enjoyable to visit than Perito Moreno with far fewer people fighting to see it.”

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Spectacular ice formations

“In terms of places that we stayed, in Torres del Paine, we liked Refugio Grey but didn’t like the dorms at Cuernos and Dickson refugios. One thing worth remembering is that we would have preferred to have camped every night rather than having stayed in refugios and this is possible, so think about that choice before you book.

We thought the buffs that Swoop sent were essential and would not go to Patagonia without one – it is so windy! We’d also recommend you take your own snacks on the treks to liven up the food a little.”

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Michelle sporting her Swoop buff

What was the highlight of your trip?

El Chalten and the Fitzroy range were the definite highlights of the trip – we loved the Huemul Circuit.

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Fitzroy

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Greg bathing in a glacial lake

If you’re looking for a unique experience in Patagonia and would like help planning your adventure, we’d love to help; get in touch!

Swoop’s Pick of Patagonian Restaurants

Swoop’s Pick of Patagonian Restaurants

After many years working as a tour leader wining and dining clients night after night, I have eaten my way through the very best that Patagonia has to offer. Below are just a few of my recommendations.

Santiago: Providencia

1. *Top Pick* : Liguria: Traditional Chilean cuisine, excellent quality and very buzzing – take your dictionary! (3 locations, my favourite is Av. Providencia 1373 – very near Manual Montt metro)

liguria 2

2. Baco: Fantastic wine selection, good for tapas type food and great steaks. (Nueva de Lyon 113)

3. El Giratorio: 17th floor rotating restaurant – incredible views of sunset over the city and the Andes. Food is traditional and tasty but also aspires to be fine-dining. (Av 11 de Septiembre 2250, Floor 16)  

giratorio

Santiago: Bellavista

1. Como Agua Para Chocolate: Delicious fish and meat dishes, great wine selection, wonderful decor and atmosphere. Staff generally speak very good English. (Constitución 88 – street parallel to Pio Nono, main street of Bellavista)

agua con choc

Santiago: Lastarria

1. Bocanariz: Unrivalled selection of Chilean wines, this is THE place to come and experience the very best in Chilean wine – the food is delicious as well if you fancy staying for dinner. A great addition to the quirky neighbourhood. (José Victorino Lastarria 276 – next to church)

bocanariz

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Santiago–

Pucon

1. *Top Pick* : Rincon del Lago: Not in the centre so off the tourist trail, this little family-run place serves really reasonable, traditional food; nothing fancy but good wholesome grub – great after a day out on the trails. (G. Urrutia 635)

2. Trawen: Long established place on the main street but still serving up delicious local dishes, top notch pisco sours and unmissable desserts. (Av. O’Higgins 311)

Puerto Varas

1. *Top Pick* : Las Buenas Brasas: It’s popular with tourists and for a very good reason – the food is delicious, the service spot on, the pisco sours are strong and the added extras of Sopaipilla y pebre (fritters with homemade salsa) on arrival make this place a real gem. (San Pedro 543)

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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)

gran parilla del plata

2. La Brigada: Quite pricey but a real meat experience! (Estados Unidos 465)

la brigada

3. Cafe La Poesia: Atmospheric cafe in the heart of San Telmo; translating as ‘Poetry Cafe’, it is a literary institution with photos of famous Argentine authors, prose around the walls and plaques on some of the tables where famous authors have sat. Great for coffee, snacks, drinks and picadas (shared platters). One of the protected ‘Cafe Notables’ of Buenos Aires. (Chile 502 on the corner of Bolivar)

la poesia

4. Bar El Federal: Another great ‘Cafe Notable’ of San Telmo with its incredible wooden decor, pavement tables and ecelctic mix of students, backpackers, artists and old timers reading the daily news. Order a coffee/beer and watch the world go by. (Peru on the corner of Carlos Calvo)

el federal

Buenos Aires: Palermo

1. *Top Pick*: Don Julio: Excellent steak, great service and a wonderful wine list. Definitely my *Top Pick* in Palermo. (Guatemala 4691 on the corner of Gurruchaga)

2. La Cabrera: Popular with tourists and locals alike, this restaurant, located on 2 different corners of the same street, serves up enormous steaks that are strictly encouraged to share accompanied with a delicious selection of side dishes. Excellent service, great atmosphere and as they don’t take reservations they offer you champagne while you wait for your table. (José Antonio Cabrera 5099 on the corner of Thames)

la cabrera

3. El Preferido de Palermo: Another ‘Cafe Notable’; this is a great place to stop for a drink just to have a look inside. The food is traditional and offers some real Argentine treats. (Jorge Luis Borges 2108 on the corner of Guatemala)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Buenos Aires–

Bariloche

1. *Top Pick* :  Alto el Fuego:  Excellent quality meat, unusual wines and good value. (20 de Febrero 451)

2. Holly Restobar: A good option is you’re looking for something other than steak; the ribs are excellent. Also has fabulous views out across the lake. (Avenida Juan M. de Rosas 435)

–Here are some more ideas on Places to Stay in Bariloche–

El Calafate

1. *Top Pick* :  La Tablita: A visit to El Calafate isn’t complete without trying the slow cooked Patagonian lamb and after many years of trying out many places this has come top time after time. A word of warning: order 1 between 2 (even though it isn’t a dish for 2, the portion is enormous!) ; also, don’t miss the Calafate ice-cream. (Rosales 28 – cross over the bridge past the petrol station and it is down on your left hand side)

la tablita

2. La Zaina: Set in a restored old building with an eclectic mix of memorabilia, this place serves a great selection of Patagonian meats (great pasta as well), warm home-made bread and an interesting wine selection. Service can sometimes be slow but then, what’s the hurry?! ( Gdor. Gregores 1057 – on the corner of Tomas Espora)

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Calafate–

El Chalten

1. *Top Pick* : La Tapera: Delicious hearty stews, cosy, warm atmosphere and great views of Fitz Roy from upstairs. (Antonio Rojo & Riquelme – next to the Walk Patagonia office)

2. CerveceriaThe Micro Brewery! A visit to El Chalten isn’t complete without a visit to the micro-brewery. They brew 2 different beers, 1 pale (rubia) and 1 dark (negro) and serve with bowls of popcorn (they also serve bottled beers and wine). Great atmosphere, cosy, with a garden to laze in sun after a hard days walking. Open late into the evening. (Av. San Martin 564)

3. La Vineria – “The best wine bar in South Patagonia” – this quote taken from their website is quite a claim but almost definitely true. It has an incredible selection of Argentine wines (and artisanal beers), great picadas (shared platters) of meats, cheeses and tapas Argentine style. Sebastian the owner is extremely knowledgeable. (Lago Del Desierto Ave, 265 – next to the Chalten travel office)

vineria

–Here are some more ideas for Places to Stay in El Chalten–

4. La Wafeleria: – A well-deserved stop after a long hike or great place to settle in for the day if the weather closes in. (Av. San Martin 640)

One of Swoop’s other Patagonia specialists, Harriet, has also reviewed the restaurants in El Chalten. For an even more detailed insight into what delicacies the town has on offer, read Harriet’s post “Places to eat in El Chalten”

Ushuaia

1. *Top Pick* :  La Casa de los Mariscos: – It’s an easy place to walk past without noticing, it looks quite shabby from the outside, there is no king crab tank in the window and the doorway is very small. But once inside it is buzzing, cosy and wafts delicious aromas. Try the Centolla Fugeian (king crab in chilli sauce), Centolla Provincal (king crab in parsley and white wine sauce) or Centolla Natural (king crab salad). (San Martin, 232 – corner with Deloqui)

2. El Almacen de Ramos General: No stay in Ushuaia is complete without a stop at this wonderful little gem! It’s a bit of everything from museum to cafe to restaurant to bar. With an eclectic mix of memorabilia, chocolate coated meringue penguins, Cape Horn beer and homemade pasta. (Av. Maipu 749)

–Here are some more ideas for Things to do and Places to Stay in Ushuaia–

Other restaurants outside of Patagonia that Sally just can’t help recommending!

Mendoza

*Top Pick* : Ocho Cepas: Set in a beautifully restored old colonial house, the restaurant is split between the different rooms of the house, with its very own wine cellar. The steak is great, the menu interesting and the atmosphere intimate. (Peru 1192 – on the corner of Espejo)

Puerto Iguazu

1. *Top Pick* :  El Quicho del Tio Querido: If you aren’t enticed in by the delicious smell of cooking meat from it’s enormous open air grill then you will be by the fascinating live music (played after about 9:30pm); the steaks are incredible, the service great and the atmosphere relaxing. (Av. Pres. Juan Domingo Perón 159)

eltiquoerdo

2. Aqva: A little on the pricey side but serving up local river fish in delicious sauces – a definite top pick if you’re a bit meated out (Av. Cordoba on the corner of Carlos Thays)

aqva

Any feedback and new recommendations are welcomed, and why not take a look at our Before You Go Page for more travel tips and recommendations for your trip to Patagonia.

Valparaiso

Bote Salvavida – for their lunchtime fish dishes.

Cafe Turri – for wonderful views.

Amor Porteño – for the best ice-cream in town!

Hotel Brighton – for the best view, and a good pisco sour…but we wouldn’t advise eating!

There are also some wonderful places to eat and drink on Almirante Montt Street; from cafes to fine dining, good places to grab a beer and great views.

Enjoy!

Eric & Nancy’s Patagonian Dream

Eric & Nancy’s Patagonian Dream

“I had for many decades dreamt of travelling to Patagonia. Our five days hiking in Torres del Paine are five days that we will never forget. Thank you so much for your help in organizing this trip. It would have been most difficult for us to do on our own.”

Eric and Nancy had always wanted to visit Patagonia and Swoop helped them to arrange a classic hiking trip in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Eric gives us feedback from their unforgettable five day hike in the park and time spent in Puerto Natales:

How did you find the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park?

Your partners and guides did an excellent job. Our guide was informed, an excellent communicator, read our group well and challenged us accordingly. He is a skilled guide who we would happily use again.

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How was your accommodation?

All of our connections worked out perfectly. The accommodations in the park were good, perhaps excepting the 2nd refugio, but we acknowledge that they were overwhelmed by adverse weather conditions on that night. Our hostels in Puerto Natales worked out well.

How was your experience of using Swoop Patagonia?

After floundering somewhat in our attempt to access travel information for hiking in Patagonia, we found your website indirectly through a blog. The information on that site was immediately helpful. Your prompt response to our questions and your questioning of our intentions and abilities were most helpful.

Swoop can help you book the Patagonia trip of a lifetime. Do get in touch to find out how.

Luke’s Review of the Remota, Puerto Natales

Luke’s Review of the Remota, Puerto Natales

The Remota was the first of a handful of top-end hotels on the outskirts of Puerto Natales. We should use the word ‘luxury’ carefully out here. This isn’t a silver-and-gold style of luxury; it’s more about unique, memorable and comfortable rooms with spectacular views, attentive service and amazing excursions.
photo (2) The hotel is designed to resemble a cattle corale, and remind us of southern Patagonia’s sheep farming history. The bar, restaurant and numerous sitting areas all look out across the Last Hope Sound, at the time of my visit we had beautifully clear skies all the way out to the Balmaceda glacier and the peaks of Torres del Paine. In fact, yesterday evening I enjoyed one of the best Patagonian sunsets I’ve ever experienced from their roof.
photo (6) The team here were eager to remind me that guests spend 80% of their time outside the hotel and we spent most of our time talking about their excursions. There’s an ongoing discussion amongst those in the know about the merits of a hotel that isn’t actually inside Torres del Paine National Park. Which customers are going to want to stay in place that’s 2-3 hours from the main hiking trails of the ‘W’!
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My view is that properties like Remota (and nearby Singular and Altiplanico) are not an alternative to hiking in and staying in Torres del Paine, but they are a wonderful, indeed important, complement. That the ‘W Trek’ offers the region’s most iconic, photogenic and dramatic landscapes is without question; however the trails get busier each year and offer people little in the way of experiencing Patagonia’s remoteness and isolation, and understanding it’s natural, historical and cultural context.
I think this is where Remota comes in: after you’ve hiked the ‘W’, use Remota as a base to go horse-riding with a real local gaucho, fly-fish for trout on a remote river, explore a vast cave and archaeological site with an expert local guide, hike to a Patagonian peak that few tourists have ever set foot on.
Horse Riding excursionBook 3-4 nights here if you want: to experience the hidden landscapes and cultural context of southern Patagonia, from a stylish and comfortable base.