Tag Archives: self-guided

Amber and Mark’s trip to Chiloe Island and Torres del Paine

Amber and Mark’s trip to Chiloe Island and Torres del Paine

Amber and Mark give us some wonderful feedback from their trip to Chiloe Island, Torres del Paine, and Los Glaciares in March 2015, as well as some great tips for people considering a similar itinerary.

Amber and Mark’s Itinerary

After arriving in Santiago, Amber and Mark flew to Puerto Montt and onto the island of Chiloe, where they enjoyed a scenic drive through The Bay of Caulin- A fantastic spot to see local and migratory birds. Whilst in Chiloe they stayed at the homestay of La Casita del Mar and enjoyed two days of trekking and sea kayaking in the Bay of Ancud. An early morning transfer took them to Puerto Montt airport where they flew to Punta Arenas and then took a bus for the rest of the journey to Puerto Natales.

After a night at the Hotel Indigo, they embarked on a self guided W trek in Torres del Paine, staying in various cabin’s, Refugio’s and Hotels. Their self guided trek took them to some of the most impressive sights that Torres del Paine has to offer – The famous towers, Lago Noredenskjold, the French Valley and the Grey Glacier.

In the last few days of their trip they enjoyed a guided excursion to the Perito Moreno glacier  before taking some self guided day hikes to Laguna Torre, Laguna de los tres and Loma del Pliegue Tumbado from El Chalten.

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Amber & Mark’s Feedback

How was your time in Chiloe?

Swoop’s partners in Chiloe were amazing, Britt made us two delicious meals (so similar to how I cook that it was wonderfully comforting) and was a gracious host. They were appropriately attentive and kind. Our kayak day was perfect and Jack gave great tips on where to go. The dogs were amazing. 🙂

James was a great guide, he was super knowledgeable and clearly passionate about Chile. I would not have guessed that he had only recently moved to Chiloe from Santiago. In hindsight, we probably would have preferred a little less time with a guide, as it felt a little more scheduled that perhaps we would have liked.

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How did you enjoy your time in Torres del Paine? 

Laura and Carlos, Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine were great. They were super helpful when someone stole our bus tickets at Punta Arenas. I would have been helpful to have had more detailed instructions on where to get the bus as I think had we been waiting in the right place, we would have been there to get our tickets before someone else took them.

Laura was also super gracious when we missed our bus to Calafate (the time had been changed to 7am from 8am which she told us on the first day and updated on our voucher but we didn’t update it on our itinerary and we had a very late night the night before due to Grey II being cancelled). She picked us up at the bus station, dropped us at a great coffee shop, and kept our bags for the day.

We had a few complications with the Grey II boat as it was cancelled last minute and we ended up having to hike 3 hours to Grey, then 40 mins round trip to the glacier, and then 3 hours back to Paine Grande to wait 3 hours for the catamaran across Pehoe instead. It was unavoidable but frustrating as we weren’t mentally prepared for it.

The refugios were great. Food was a plenty. It was great overall!

In Puerto Natales, I would recommend staying at the same hotel before and after the W trek for ease. Both the Indigo and Altiplanico were great hotels.

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How did you enjoy your time in El Calafate and El Chalten? 

El Calafate was good. The Perito Moreno glacier was amazing. We took the 3 hour trip, but 3 felt that 2 hours would have been plenty of time.

Swoop’s partner Zoe was nice when we arrived in El Chalten and helpful in adjusting our schedule after our delay in leaving Puerto Natales.

The hotel Senderos was great. The food there was the best we had…on the whole trip! We really liked the Cervercia. We thought La Taperia was overrated. 

Here’s some more information from Swoop’s Harriet on places to eat in Chalten.

Self-guided treks in Torres del Paine

Self-guided treks in Torres del Paine


If you are an experienced walker but don’t speak Spanish or you’ve only got a few weeks and don’t want to spend ages sorting out your trip and waiting in bus stops, a self-guided trek could be the right option for you.

it’s possible to do a self-guided trek either on the Full Circuit or W Circuit in Torres del Paine, as the paths are pretty clear, giving you the freedom to set your own walking pace, take lots of breaks and photos or even speed ahead to reach the next glacier if you want.

Self-guided treks are a great way of saving some money by cutting out the guide, but aslo gives you the flexibility to get the most out of your budget, using that extra cash to try something different and exciting, such as kayaking your way out of the park along the Serrano River.

Serrano River – Spend 2 days kayaking in the wilderness along the Serrano River to the hanging Glaciar Serrano and celebrate with a delicious asado and boat trip back to Puerto Natales

Tyndall Glacier Adventure – A 3 day adventure paddling along the fast-moving Rio Tyndall taking in the Serrano Waterfall and kayaking to the icy walls of Tyndall glacier.

Importantly, going ‘self-guided’ rather than doing everything on your own saves your precious time by taking the hassle out of having to organise your trek as the logistics are organised for you by the operator. You can also be safe in the knowledge that there is someone based on the ground if anything goes wrong.

Is self-guided for you?

Self-guided trips include the following in the price:

–       Vouchers for your bus to and from the park and or Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales

–       Accommodation whilst in the park

–       Park entrance

–       Packed lunches per day, evening meals and breakfast

It’s pretty difficult to book buses over the internet yourself from or to Puerto Natales whilst making sure that they coordinate with the start of your trip, when your plane lands, etc, so having the operator do this for you is a real plus. The bus companies generally speak Spanish only and schedule 1 or 2 buses per day.

It’s also difficult to book the refugios in the park, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. We’ve met and spoken to lots of people that tried booking the refugios unsuccessfully and those that did manage it turned up to find that their room had been double booked.

A great advantage to going self-guided is not having to carry and cook your own food for 5 days . You start off each morning with a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, coffee, cereal and juice and the operator will make sure that your packed lunches are prepared each morning by the refugio and ready for you to set off. (Don’t forget to take the tomatoes off your sandwiches, unless you’re partial to a bit of soggy bread! – A good tip we got from a Torres del Paine guide, Chino)They will also communicate to the refugio if you’re a vegetarian.

What’s generally not included in the self-guided price:

– Any additional nights in the park

– Any alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks at the refugios (fruit juice is served with your evening meal)

– Entrance fee to the park (app. CLP $15.000.-)(Approx £20)

– Laguna Amarga / Torres refuge minivan (app. CLP $3.000.-) (Approx £4)

– Pudeto / Pehoé catamarán (CLP $11.000.- per trip. Fee to be confirmed) (Approx £15)

– Insurance

Remember, if you’re going to go on a self-led trek in Torres del Paine it’s a good idea to buy yourself a decent map. Although you’ll get a small map with your park entrance ticket, you’ll probably benefit from a proper map, even though they do have big blown up versions in the refugios. We recommend getting the water and tear resistant Torres del Paine National Park map from Stanfords costing £12.95.



One of clients said about their self-guided Full Circuit trip:

‘The highlight of our time was without a doubt our 9 day hike around the Torres del Paine national park. What a stunning place. The glaciers were fantastic and the walk was really enjoyable. We returned in a tired but deeply satisfied state! We also really enjoyed our time in Punta Arenas.

All the vouchers worked perfectly, and the transfers all ran smoothly. The only thing that I wanted to raise that was inconvenient to us was that on a couple of days on the hike, we were unable to collect our packed lunches from the campsite we stayed in. We managed to survive by buying biscuits and snacks, but this was not ideal for a 30 km hike in the day! It didn’t dampen our mood or the trip, but I just feel I should raise the point so it doesn’t happen to anyone else who might find it a bit more of an inconvenience than us!’*

*Swoop has shared the point about the packed lunches on 2 of the 9 days and the operator has confirmed they’ll manage this more tightly in the future

One of our best-selling self-guided trips is this 

For more info about self-guided trips email [email protected] and for photos of Torres del Paine visit our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/swooptravel