Punta Arenas is located in Extreme South of Chile. Its history and economic growth is based on maritime commerce, oil extraction, and sheep breeding.
Punta Arenas (literally in Spanish: "Sands Point" although real English speakers might know this as "Sandy Point") is the largest settlement on the Strait of Magellan and the capital of Chile's Magallanes y Antártica Region. Founded on December 18th 1848, after the failed attempt to establish a settlement in Fuerte Bulnes (Fort Bulnes), founded by John Williams, due to the lack of natural resources and local weather. It has a population of around 130,000 (2012).
The city has all kind of facilities, in particular an abundance of banks, shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, hiking gear shops, a mall and a duty free zone called "Zona Franca".
Don't trust the weather forecast, you can get a hail storm in plain summer. Usually you can get rain, wind, and sun all within the same day. If it's winter, then snow is always expected to fall. However watch for your skin, even if its cloudy, since this geographical area is usually under the hole of ozone layer.
It is on Brunswick Peninsula, 1418 km from the coast of Antarctica.
Punta Arenas can be reached by air, land, or sea. The "Carlos Ibañez del Campo" international airport is on the outskirts of the city with numerous connections to Puerto Montt and Santiago. Planes are met by taxis and transfer buses making it easy to transfer to downtown Punta Arenas in no more than a 15 minute ride.
Cruise ships visit it often, especially in summer time (December to March).
Buses run daily from Puerto Natales as well as Rio Gallegos, Argentina.
There are frequent buses from Ushuaia, Argentina, that will bring you to the city in about 11 hours. The trip has interesting scenery and is far less costly than flying; the flight from Ushuaia (Argentina) to Punta Arenas is overpriced mainly because of its international flight designation.
The city, like all Spanish influenced settlements, is built around its main square "Plaza de Armas" where the imposing monument of Fernando de Magallanes is located looking towards the strait. At the base of the monument there is a figure of a Patagonian aborigine, specifically an Ona (or Selk'nam), that according to local legend if you kiss its toe you will return once again to the city. Another local legend to come back to the city is to eat "calafate", a fruit similar to blueberries.
Many of the city main public buildings such as the town hall (Alcaldía) or the Union Club (Club de la Unión) are found around Plaza de Armas, and were the houses and palaces of the local founders.
In general, Punta Arenas is compact and walk-able. Although it can get really windy. Sometimes during the most windy days of the year (September - October) they set a rope line tied to the city lampposts for people to hang on.
You will only need transportation for lengthier trips outside the city. For these trips, you can ask for a cab (taxi) or a minivan (minibus). Most trips will not be more expensive than US$50.
- Port area. In the eastern part of the city, right next to the city centre. It is not a touristic place per se, but its surrounded by cyber cafe, souvenir stores and travel agencies.
- La Cruz Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cerro de la Cruz) gives a panoramic view of the city and the strait, it is specially beautiful at night. Its a 10 minute walk from Plaza de Armas and is one of the most iconic places in the city.
- Austral Brewery. The southernmost brewery in the world, where you can enjoy the traditional production process and a beer tasting session. It's located at 508 Patagona St. Because of its quality and prices (being local) Austral is the most popular beer this part of the country.
- Braun-Menéndez Museum, commonly known as Regional Museum of Magallanes. Is located one block north from Plaza de Armas. It is meant to represent the lifestyle of the founders and most wealthy men of the historical period. The house was donated to the city by Braun-Menéndez descendants (now all living in Argentina), and the first half of it is preserved the exact same way their owners left it. The second half holds a permanent archaeological exhibition regarding the region history, from its prehistory, passing through all the discovery expeditions and finally the city founding and first years. The museum is usually holding itinerant art exhibits in its basement or cultural activities in its central hall, such as book presentations or documentary premieres. Their web page:Magellan Museum's Webpage
- Museo del Recuerdo (Museum of the Memories), hosted by the Instituto de la Patagonia (Patagonian Institute), a research facility of the Magallanes University, holds an outstanding collection of old steam engines, cars, horse carts, historic houses furnished in the 17th century style and farm implements. It is meant to portray the life style and labor of the first chilotes (people from Chiloe Island) and european pioneers that venture into the region looking for fortune.
- Carlos III Island. A nice place for whale sight.
- The Shepherd's monument is a traditional monument located in Bulnes Av. 11 blocks away from Plaza de Armas. It is one of the many iconic places of the city.
- Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, a Salesian Society museum of natural history and pre-Hispanic ethnic groups.
- Punta Arenas Cemetery. Dates back to 1840's, with many local aristocratic families and European immigrants, particularly English and Croatians. It is internationally famous for its magnificent mausoleums, european architecture and shaped cypress trees. Sara Braun, the woman who donated the terrain, asked in her last will to be the last person who ever passed through the main door, and so the door remains sealed until today. Every person who wishes to visit the cemetery must access through a lateral entrance.
- Nao Victoria Museum. Is a brand new museum, aiming to rebuild the most important ships in the discovery and the colonization of the territories along the Strait of Magellan. It hosts 3 replicas: Nao Victoria (Magellan's ship), James Caird (Shackleton's lifeboat) and Schooner Ancud (Goleta Ancud), first boat to send settlers from Chiloe to the Strait of Magellan. Recently the museum announced the building of the 4th ship, the HMS Beagle. You can visit the construction site and even help out if you wish to:Nao Victoria Museum's Webpage
Out of town:
- The "Seno Otway" penguin colony north of Punta Arenas is a place where each spring hundreds of Magellanic Penguins come home to their birth place to breed. Many travel agencies offer day trips from Punta Arenas that leave you very little time at the colony, so it's best if you have your own car. NOTE: (1) There are fees to cross private land to enter the penguin area, and for entering the controlled area itself, and those in combination may come to more than US$10. (2) The penguins are not at this location all of the time, so you must check before making the visit. The private property owner is now said to close access at the end of March. During part of the season, most of the penguins may be in the water and not visible, until returning to land late in the afternoon. Check first with reliable local sources (most sources are not very reliable, however). To get to the colony, take 9 north out of Punta Arenas, head west on Y530 around the 22km. After 20km take a right at the sign for the colony. As of 1/7/15 costs were $1500 CLP per person to cross the private land and $6500 CLP per person to enter the colony.
- Isla Magdalena. Holds an even bigger colony of penguins. This island is reachable by ferries and company "Austral Trans Broom" sells tickets at the port (which is 10-15 minutes to city center by car). Tickets can be reserved the same day and are sold 30-45 minutes before departure. Reservation is not obligatory but most hotels can do a reservation for you. The total tour takes 5 hours: 2 hours there, 1 hour on the island and 2 hours back. There's No additional fee for to enter the island, just the ferry ticket.
- Rey Jorge Island Natural Sea Park (whale observation).
- Fuerte Bulnes, a historical reconstruction of the site where Chile took possession of the Magellan Strait.
- Torres del Paine National Park, near Puerto Natales.
- Puerto del Hambre, an early Spanish colony which failed and under the name of Port Famine became a Royal Navy base. It was here that Captain Pringle Stokes, the captain of HMS Beagle, shot himself in his cabin due to severe depression and temporary command was given to Lieutenant W.G. Skyring. Stokes' fatal depression was attributed to the boring nature of the local geography.
- Fauna Patagónica "Estancia Lolita," a beautiful place for watching different species of native animals and birds.
- Visit Pali Aike National Park.
Ski, Torres del Paine trekking, visit Porvenir (by ferry) or Puerto Natales (by bus).
- Isla Magdalena Pinguinera (penguin rookery). A five hour trip. Two hours each way by boat and one hour on the island. Humans must stay on the path, but the penguins ignore it and will practically step on your feet as they waddle by. October - April. edit
- Amazing Tours: a company that specializes in ecotourism. They have a wide range of things to do, tailored to both novice tourist and more experienced hikers. Most of their tours take you to places nobody else goes, and for what they offer they are quite cheap. They will help you with planning and logistics (get you to the airport and back, help with the reservations) and will also plan with you a custom tour to other places outside of Patagonia such as the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine, El Calafate and El Chalten.
There’s a small open market ("feria") for tourist type merchandise downtown. You can find department stores, supermarkets and many shops (like Timberland and The North face) in Bories Street.
There is a large outlet mall in the outskirts of the city, called "Zona Franca", a duty free zone, with hypermarkets, perfume, clothing and outdoor stores. Recently opened, also in the outskirts of the city, Mall Espacio Urbano Pionero (Pioneer Urban Space Mall) offers 3 department stores (Falabella, Ripley and La Polar), food court, shopping stores and "Lider" hypermarket.
- Open Market. Muñoz Gamero Main Square, Downtown.
- Commerce. Bories St, Downtown.
- Zona Franca Outlet Mall. Km 3 1/2 Norte, Bulnes Av.
- Espacio Urbano Pionero Mall. 01110, Eduardo Frei Av.
- Dino's Pizza. 557, Bories St. Locally famous pizza and sandwich restaurant. Try the delicious rhubarb juice or a "Barros Luco" (a beef and cheese sandwich). Update: popular with undiscriminating locals but not considered very good by North American standards. Alternatives not far away include pizza on corner of Bories and Mejicano, just across from Los Sabores (second floor) which is a better place than any of the pizza eateries).
- Kiosko Roca. Presidente Julio Roca Blvd. cnr Lautaro Navarro Street. A very small place near the Main Square. Here you can eat "choripanes", a small sandwich filled with chorizo paste and home-made mayonnaise and "leche con plátano" a milk beverage with the addition of bananas. The food is so good that the place is full almost all day.
- "La Chocolatta" 852 Bories St. A grandma-style café, very cozy and usually full, serves a big variety of homemade chocolates, ice-creams, tea, and coffee.
- La luna (The moon). 1017, O'Higgins St. Special CuIsPartOfe made with fresh regional products. Its specialties are seafood and lamb.
- Puerto Viejo Seafood and Grill. 1166, O'Higgins St. . Fresh and savory food focusing on fish and seafood, and a variety of grill dishes that includes the famous Magellian lamb.
- Hotel Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn Hotel) Bar/Lounge & Restaurant: 1039, Muñoz Gamero Square (Main Square St.). In the bar, try the famous Chilean wine, while you enjoy the warmth of a fireplace. In the restaurant, you will find the best local products prepared with the greatest delicacy. Or, if you prefer, you can enjoy international cuIsPartOfe of the highest level, prepared with variations each day to create a superb and ample menu designed to satisfy the most demanding palate.
- El Remezón Restaurant. 1469, 21 de mayo St. Magellian Ethnic Food in a warm environment. Note that this is very close to the municipal fish market which features a number of quite good seafood eateries on the second floor -- quite crowded and popular during lunch. Try the fried merluza.
- The city is also known for the number of Cafés that you can find, for example:
- Cyrano Café. Bulnes St. with Maipú St. Enjoy a fabulous "Twinings" teapot or one of its varieties of coffee or chocolate drinks with some local pastries. In spite of the bad spelling of this review, this place actually has good coffee and WiFi access. Update: the Cyrano has been gone for a long time now, no doubt killed off by bad spelling in the reviews.
- Santo Remedio. 040, Bulnes St. Local Pastries. It becomes a pub in the evening, with good "tablas" and "picoteos".
- La Marmita, Plaza Sampaio 678, ☎ +56 61 222 056, . La Marmita has trendy decor, awesome food, and an all around great atmosphere. An awesome place to relax with friends or family after a day of activity. Great find in a city like PA. Great choice for veggies edit
- Jekus, O'Higgins 1021, Punta Arenas, Chile, ☎ +56 61 245851. A restaurant/pub with good service and creatively decorated inside with beautiful wood carvings. They also have a good selection of wines and beers. Unfortunately the food is boring with soup from packets not quite dissolved yet and basic meat and potatoes mains. Ch$15,000 (US$7). edit
- Cafe Montt, Pedro Montt 976, Punta Arenas, Chile, ☎ +56 612220381 +56 974503768. Cafe with free WiFi, cakes, coffees and traditional mate. Espressos / coffees from 1000 to 2000 pesos. Nice Tiramisu for 2500 pesos. edit
- 1900 Pub, Bulnes St and Colon Av. In the centre of the city, its a small place nearby the Tierra Del Fuego Hotel. edit
- Bull Blood, 0480, España Av. Nice environment, with great drinks and food. It has a small dance hall and karaoke all night. edit
- Kamikaze Club and Madero Pub, 655, Bories St. Japanese WWII-themed nightclub may be unusual but makes for an entertaining evening. Mixture of Western / Latin and Reggaton music, played into the early hours and attended by enthusiastic locals and tourists alike. . On top of it, you can find the "Madero Pub", with karaoke and live music. Entry includes free drink but a bit pricey at 6,000 pesos at the weekend. edit
- Notre Dame, Croacia 1007. A nice place to have a drink with friends, this place gets busy every day after about 12pm. Karaoke on the main floor Friday and Saturday nights. edit
- Olijoe Pub, 970, Errázuriz St. A traditional local venue, it has a big bar made of wood from the signature regional tree called "lenga". edit
- Santino Bar e Cucina, 657, Colon Av. With a stunning decor, it offers quality Italian food and good drinks. Live Music on Saturdays. edit
Punta Arenas has all types of lodging, from inexpensive backpackers with shared everything, international chain hotels and unique boutique and design hotels. Beds fill up around Christmas, New Year's and early January, so book early during the high season .
- Hostal Maria Isabel, cnr Errazuriz and Senoret, Tel +56 61 228926, +56 61 228553, dorms only (doubles in Arauco 1066), central location, kitchen access, free internet, lots of warm water. A friendly, well-heated place.
- Hospedaje Costanera, cnr Quillota and Rómulo Correa 1221, Tel +56 61 240175, email hospedajecostanera(at)hotmail.com, English spoken, breakfast included, kitchen access, free internet, lots of warm water, 10 min walk from bus station, laundry service. A very friendly, well-heated place. Single: 14.000, Double: CLP 18.000 (10 Jan 2013).
- Hostal Patagonico, (next to Club Hipico), ☎ (56)(61) 218322, . a familiar place for lodging. It has 5 rooms with private bathrooms. It is very quiet place. Its is placed near to Hypermarket, restaurant, Zona Franca, hospitals, video clubs. All buses and taxis are very near. The manager is very friendly with the tourist and he helps and answers questions about Punta Arenas, city. single 20.000 CLP, double 30.000 CLP, twin 30.000 CLP, triple 35.000 CLP, 4-bed 40.000 CLP, additional bed 5.000 CLP, breakfast included. edit
- Hotel Patagonia Pionera, Arauco 786 (cnr Arauco and Colon), ☎ +56 61 222045, . checkin: 1PM; checkout: 12 midday. In a quiet and safe residential area of Punta Arenas in a privileged zone as much for its nearness to downtown as for the exclusive panoramic view of the city and also the Strait of Magellian from one of the main hill of town called Cerro de la Cruz. A Boutique Hotel offering comfort and privacy in an authentic and magnificent European style house, the result of the pioneer era of early 20th century. single-US$100, dbl-US$120, triple-US$130, suite-US$140. edit
- Hostal De La Patagonia, O'Higgins 730, ☎ +56 61 249970 ([email protected]). Quiet, clean, comfortable mid-range place. Walking distance of Straits of Magellan and handy to Buses Pacheco terminal. Free internet and abundant hot water. edit
- Hostal Patagonia House, Av. Independencia 416, ☎ +56 61 242618 ([email protected]). Quiet, clean, seven minutes from the main square. Free internet, kitchen. Dorm 7000 CLP. edit
- Hospedaje Independencia, Av. Independencia 374. Friendly but very cramped. Kitchen is small and stove is very slow. Free WiFi. Breakfast included in room prices. Camping 5000 CLP, d 10000 CLP. edit
- Hostal Bed and Breakfast, O'Higgins 693. Very clean and well run. Very well decorated with interesting old photos of indigenous Indian tribes. Rooms are very spacious with large windows and plenty of sunlight. Plush down comforters on the bed, although the beds themselves could use an update. C$30,000 for double with shared bath. edit
- Residencial Charitas (Residencial Charitas), Avenida España # 1492 (Avenida España con Boliviana), ☎ +56612245075. A friendly and clean hospedaje ten minutes walk from the centre. Has doubles, singles, triples and quads. Hot showers, breakfast and TVs in the rooms. You get to experience living with a friendly, and helpful Chilean couple. $15000 w/o bathroom $28000 with baño. edit
- Samarce House, Waldo Seguel 377 (3 cuadras de la plaza), ☎ +56(9)50836024 ([email protected]), . Single, doubles and dorms, WiFi, buffet breakfast in a family environment. Samuel and his wife Marcela will take great care of you. It's possible to cook in their kitchen. edit
Punta Arenas is the launching point for various expeditions to (relatively) nearby Antarctica.
You can also take a ferry to Porvenir. There is usually one leaving in the mornings and another one leaving Porvenir in the afternoons. Make sure the schedules before going to the port which is located NE of the downtown.