Puerto Natales is a town in Chile, the gateway to Trekking in Torres del Payne or Bernardo O'Higgins National Parks. It offers good infrastructure, especially a few trekking shops (although you'd do better to get your gear in Punta Arenas) and not-so-cheap supermarkets. Since 2009 the two larger supermarkets (Unimarc and Don Bosco) have increased their stocking of foods that are needed by trekkers/backpackers, including lightweight soups, precooked "ramen" noodles, hard cheeses, gorp components (dried fruits and nuts), Snickers bars, and drink powders. However, "freezedried" type products are not to be found.
Puerto Natales features a couple of characteristics that visitors should be aware of. One is that the population is largely descended from immigrants from Chiloé, and the "chilote" tendencies (cooking, building style) are evident. Another characteristic is that there are very strong Communist/Leftist affiliations in this town, so take this into account by being careful with your conversations involving related politics. Aside from the chilotes, you will find many surnames for British and Croatian descendants.
There are probably only a few reasons to be in this town.
- Prepare your trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
- Take the Navimag ferry ship to Puerto Montt.
- Get maps, souvenirs, supplies, or fuel on your way to somewhere else.
- Get a decent meal and coffee.
- Chat with the Mormon missionaries from Utah
- Deal with government services such as post office
- Find an internet connection
Daily buses arrive from El Calafate (Argentina) (about six hours). It's not allowed to bring fruit, vegetables or animal products from Argentina into Chile. Chilean border officials sometimes check the luggage.
It is possible to drive from Rio Gallegos, Argentina, to Puerto Natales. This takes 5 hours and the road is entirely paved.
Buses arrive and depart several times a day from Punta Arenas, Chile. The trip takes about three hours. There are several companies including Bus Fernandez  (who do not seem to reply to emails, and are often the most booked). Frustratingly it does not seem possible to pre-book tickets direct from the airport without visiting the ticket office in person. Those who can may be able to get the regular bus diverted via the airport saving them a trip to Punta Arenas centre. Most bus companies will do this,but you should ask when you purchase your ticket.
Buses and tours depart to Torres del Paine, El Calafate and El Chalten through several agencies in town, during summer book ahead.
This is a small, waterside town that is easily accessible by foot.
The Cueva de Milodon is probably around 40 km or so out to the site and the road isn't paved all the way.
The milodon is an extinct 12 foot tall giant sloth. This was its home. Of course, not all the milodons were 12 feet tall. Some of the younger milodons weren't even 11 feet tall.
There's a scenic interpretive loop trail.
4 km NW of Natales is the old freezer plant ("frigorifico") at Puerto Bories, constructed in 1913 and the reason for the existence of Puerto Natales, which served as the lodging and supply point for the frigorifico plant. It was a museum and national monument until 2010. As of December 2010 the site was a construction zone for the new hotel that is going up within the old brick walls of a part of the of plant. The frigorifico is the best preserved and largest of the freezer plants related to the sheep industry that was the basis for much of the economy of southern Patagonia until WWII.
See the harbour, do a trek in Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno, Milodon Cave, catch a boat on one of the lakes.
There are guided rentals of motorcycles (Kawasaki KLR650) for adventure tours of southern Patagonia, including Tierra del Fuego. The owner has been riding Patagonia since 1978 and takes clients to points that many tourists would miss including scenic spots; also good breaks in places with good cappuccino). Inquire via [email protected] Update: the service for 2010-2011 season will not start in January 2011 and advance planning is necessary. You must be an experienced off-pavement rider in good physical and mental condition and have a motorcycle cert on your licence. You must plan ahead and bring your own riding gear. Some client fotos [ here  and [ here ]
- Walk to the boatyard. South on Pedro Montt, about 1 km beyond the Navimag pier. Wooden fishing boats are hauled ashore for painting, repair, or sometimes just abandoned. Don't forget your camera. There is also a "Navy pier" adjacent to the Navimag pier with benches to sit and enjoy the scenery.
- Criollo Expeditions, Huerto 157 B, Calle No 1 (On the way to Torres del Paine, take a right on Felix Valenzuela (just past hotel Remota). To the top of the T, to the left), ☎ +56 (9) 85284225 +56 (9) 68118463, . M-Su 7AM-7PM. Daily horse rides and fishing trips. Kids and families welcome, no experience necessary. Fun, friendly and responsible!
The city museum: Museo Histórico Municipal, on Bulnes 285. Foreigners pay twice as much for entry as Chilean residents, similar to entry to Torres del Paine national park (welcome to Chile). Hours vary by season but usually 0830 to 1230 and 230 to 600 in the afternoon on weekdays.
- Miriam Parra handicraft, Manuel Bulnes. Great handicrafts excellent quality situated on one of the main roads in Natales. Everything from sheep skin to wooden craft.
- Taller del Arbol, Eberhard 36, ☎ (56)61 411461, . Very nice custom made jewelry, made in the workshop while you watch. Even if you're not buying, they're happy to talk.
- El Toque Campero, Eberhard 148 (3 Blocks down on the right hand side, from the main square (with the church) OR right next to Hotel Glaciares), ☎ +56 (9) 410 452. M-Su, 8AM to 9PM. cool artesan crafts, you can find mate, bombillas and other gaucho things, wool sweaters and nice hats. great quality things
- Etnia Souvenirs & Wool, Baquedano 351-B (between Bulnes and Esmeralda), . Handicraft, souvenirs, wool store, sheep's and alpaca wool, handmade knittings,funny and colorful designs, best prices in town, English spoken.
Afrigonia restaurant. Food is not typical of the local region, because the owners are a Zambian and Chilean couple who have some thing different offer apart from the other typical food of the region. small but nice and cosy!
- Baguales Brewery + Restaurant - Only brewery in Puerto Natales. Fantastic beer with great food. Something of a "sports bar" atmosphere. Award winning beers brewed on premises. While there is no smoking inside the restaurant & bar, an enclosed outdoor 'smoking patio' with fire pit is provided. Great place to celebrate a successful Trek in the park with a good mixture of locals, guides and tourists. Located on Plaza de Armas.
- Andres, Ladrilleros 381, Tel:412380. Great meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. 70's diner decor and very good prices. Andres himself is very kind and sometimed tend to "spoil" customers with free pisco sours as starters and a complementry ice cream for desert. A few block from the plaza but worth the walk
- El living - Cafe with wholesome food, great cakes, lunches and coffee. Recommended for vegeterians and has a book exchange. Plaza
- El Azador - Parilla serving traditional Chilean lamb. Plaza
- La Guanaca - Magallanes, 167. Pizza, crepes, desserts. Brand-new this season (2012) and already taking the lead among the higher-class pizza shops. Attractive interior, sophisticated atmosphere (and background music not too loud) combined with responsive service quickly made this Natales' new in-place. Entirely non-smoking. Wifi. Good wine list. Excellent real-coffee drinks. Two outstanding features: crepes done right, and a genuine brick pizza oven producing what may be the best crust in all of southern Patagonia.
- KAU Patagonia Lodge Located on the coast-waterfront road (Pedro Montt 161) the lodge is one of the few places you can get a decent breakfast early in the morning. Excellent coffee drinks and fruit juices. Good light meals and pastries (the croissants are from a French bakery in Puerto Natales). Pleasant and unobtrusive music. Natural light and great views down the fjord. Wifi.
- Picá de Carlitos - Typical chilean fare at reasonable "picada" prices. Free Wifi. If you try talking with Carlos himself you will not understand a word. However, you will not be surprised to learn he was once a prizefighter. Has both smoking and nonsmoking sides. Esmeralda 581
- Mesita Grande - Good pizzas and salads. Owner is Swiss. Microbrew Baguales beer is served. Get there early. Plaza, SW corner. Recently added wifi.
- Patagonia Dulce, Barros Arana 233, ☎ +56 (61) 415 285, . Some of the best coffee and pastry in Natales, if not the region. Free wifi. Pleasant background music. Friendly and very professional, the sort of place you might expect to find in Switzerland. Its cakes, tarts, cookies, brownies and handmade chocolates are very delicious and delicate. Prices commensurate with the better quality.
- Ultima Esperanza, Eberhard 354 (across from Afrigonicus). Good, moderately-priced seafood. Popular with families, and one of the first places to open on Sunday afternoon.
- El Toque Campero, Eberhard 148 (from the Church in the main plaza, go toward the ocean about three blocks, on the right hand side. OR right next to Hotel Glaciares), ☎ +56 (61) 410 452. M-Su 8AM-9PM. cool artesan crafts. great place to buy mate and gaucho things, wool jersy's or handmade crafts. they are really nice, and have good quality things
- Creperia, Manuel Bulnes 358. Crepes with salty or sweet ingredients of more than 20 types to choose from. Nicely done in the kitchen where you can see the whole process very clearly in the dining area. Red wines like Merlot are even cheaper than fruit juices. From $2860.
The water quality in Natales is not particularly good, though it is considered safe and healthy by the government. It has a high concentration of dissolved mineral content. The Natales municipal water is pumped from wells and the raw water is rather silty, with high tannin and other organic content. The water does not come "from the glaciers" which in any event are more than 40 km away and dump their icemelt into the brackish waters of the fjord.
There are plenty of hostels and residentials around the town. There are also many Hospedajes. The (mostely) women of the hospedajes wait for the bus to come and try to talk tourists into their home. They have really good deals!
- Backpacker's El Refugio O'Higgins 484 +5661414881 A great, cozy hostel with low prices, comfy beds and a safe, warm atmosphere.
- Casa Cecilia, Tomás Rogers 64, (061-411797). This hostel also rents out trekking equipment.
- Erratic Rock Bill, the owner, is from Oregon, and gained Chilean citizenship under an amnesty program. He understands European and North American expectations in moderately priced lodging, and he's a bit of a hoot as well. He's a good citizen, getting involved in supporting local schools and such. The new "Erratic Rock II" hostel is at 732 Benjamin Zamora between Miraflores and Yungay streets, three blocks from Erratic Rock 1, 4 blocks from buses Fernandez, 3 blocks from Bus Sur, and an 8 minute walk from the main plaza. Erratic Rock II has 10 rooms - all doubles with private bathrooms. Central heating is nice. Internet and cable TV with 50 channels. Excellent English language support for local travel needs. Call or fax from outside Chile (56-61) 414317
- Hostal Lili Patagonicos, Prat 479, phone (56-61) 414063. Friendly, central location, rents out trekking gear, organizes buses and tours. International crowd. Free internet (wlan), free breakfast (and it is a excellent breakfast). Kitchen use. Laundry.
- Los Inmigrantes, Carrera Pinto 480, Tel:413482. Good value, breakfast, equipment rental and luggage store.
- Lodging Evelyn, Chorrillos 779, phone +56-61-413583, eMail: lodgingevelyn(at)gmail.com. Good value, free breakfast, organizes busses, laundry service.
- The Singing Lamb, Arauco 779 (four blocks on Calle Ramirez from bus Fernandez,or one block after the Miraflores Plaza from Bus Sur.), ☎ 56-61-410958, . Two dorms with seven single beds,and feather duvets,in each,a well equiped kitchen and swapping library.Cleanest hostal in town! Owner,operator,Susan,speaks English,Spanish,German and some French. Breakfast includes fresh homemade bread, real coffee and homemade jam.
- Hostal Shakana, Miraflores 798. Great little hostel. The owner, Shakana, speaks great English, has an awesome attitude and is very energetic. He worked for 15 years leading treks and cooking in refugios in Paine, so he can be an excellent source of information. Will make you feel at home from the moment you arrive. $8000 per person for twin room, $7000 per person dorm. Includes breakfast of cereal, omelettes, etc. Breakfast is a definite improvement over typical Chilean hostel breakfast. Great place to try if all of the more popular hostels are full.