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 Chiles Magallanes y Antártica Region. It was founded in the 17th century by Englishman J. Byron who gave it the name of Sandy Point. It has a population of around 120,000 (2002).
The city has all kind of facilities, in particular an abundance of banks, shops, supermarkets, pharmacies and hiking gear shops and a duty free zone called "Zona Franca".
Don't trust the weather forecast, usually you can get rain, wind, and sun all in the same day. If it's winter, then snow is always expected to fall.
It is on Brunswick Peninsula, 1418 km from the coast of Antarctica.
Punta Arenas can be reached by air, land, or sea. There is an international airport called "Carlos Ibañez del Campo" 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 take 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.
Punta Arenas suffered one big strike in March 2011 wich was related to the rise of gas taxes. This interfered with transportation and prevented the arrival of materials.
The city is built around its main square "Plaza de Armas" where the imposing monument of Hernando de Magallanes is located. There is also a monument of a Magellan native, or Ona, that according to local legend if a tourist touches his foot it will return once again to the city. Another local legend to come back to the city is to eat "calafate" similiar to blueberries.
Many of the main public buildings such as the town hall or the Union Club (Club de la Union are found around Plaza de Armas.
In general, Punta Arenas is compact and walkable. Although it can get really windy. You will only need transportation for lengthier trips outside of it. 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.
- The La Cruz Hill (Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint) gives a panoramic view of the city. It will take a 10-minte walk from Plaza de Armas.
- Austral Brewery. The southern brewery plant in the world where you can enjoy the traditional production process and a beer tasting session. It's located in 508 Patagonia St.
- Regional Museum, with historical artifacts and part of the Braun-Menéndez Mansion.
- Museo del Recuerdo, with an outstanding collection of old steam engines, horsecarts, cars, historic houses furnished in the 1875s style and farm implements.
- Patagonian faros.
- Sight walles on Carlos III Island.
- The Sheperd's monument is a traditional monument located in Bulnes Av. 11 blocks away from Plaza de Armas. It is one of the many traditional places of the city.
- Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, a Salesian Society museum of natural history and pre-Hispanic ethnic groups. Entry 2000 CLP.
- Punta Arenas Cemetery, dates back to 1840's, with many local aristocratic families, English and Croatian inmigrants. It's famous for its magnificent mausoleums, architectural construction and shaped pine trees.
- Nao Victoria Museum, is a brand new museum, aiming to rebuild the most important ships for the discovery and the colonazation of the territories along the Stait of Magellan, it hosts 3 replicas: Nao Victoria (magellan's ship), James Caird (Shackleton's lifeboat) and Schooner Ancud (First boat to send settlelers from Chile in hte 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.
Out of town:
- The penguin colony "Seno Otway" 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.
- There's also a bigger colony of penguins on Isla Magdalena. 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 beforehand and are sold 30-45 minutes before the takeoff. Reservation is not obligatory but most of the hostels 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 were Chile took possesion of the Magellan Strait.
- Torres del Paine National Park, near Puerto Natales.
- Seno Skyring
- 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. 1000 CLP per person, ??? CLP per car.
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.
There’s a small open market ("feria") for tourist type schlock merchandise downtown. You can find department stores, supermarkets and lots of shops (like Timberland, or The North face) in Bories Street too.
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, all with very convenient prices. 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 ruibarb juice or a "Barros Luco" (a beef and cheese sandwich).
- 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 coffe.
- 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.
- 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 faboulous "Twinnings" 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 wi-fi access.
- 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
- Jekus, O'Higgans 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 disolved yet and basic meat and potatos mains. 15000.
- 1900 Pub, Bulnes St and Colon Av. In the centre of the city, its a small place nearby the Tierra Del Fuego Hotel.
- Bull Blood, 0480, España Av. Nice environment, with great drinks and food. It has a small dance hall and karaoke all night.
- 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.
- 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.
- Olijoe Pub, 970, Errázuriz St. A traditional local venue, it has a big bar made of wood from the signature regional tree called "lenga".
- Santino Bar e Cucina, 657, Colon Av. With a stunning decor, it offers quality Italian food and good drinks. Live Music on Saturdays.
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 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, videoclubs. 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hospedaje Independencia, Av. Independencia 374. Friendly but very cramped. Kitchen is small and stove is very slow. Camping 2500 CLP.
- Tragaluz Pagagonia, Mejicana 1194 (2 blocks up from the Costanera, a 12 minute walk from the main plaza), ☎ 56-61-613938, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:00. This Design Hotel is like nothing else in the region. Every room has an original design and the spaces are full of creative details. Truly a delight for the senses. Breakfast features real coffee, real squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit, whole grain bread, and a tasty omelette. And if you want to relax after your latest Patagonian adventure, soak in the 6 person Jacuzzi inside a greenhouse in the patio. Tragaluz means skylight in Spanish, and here the creative light will brighten your stay. Instant online reservation system on the website. dbl - 100 USD. (53.16S,70.90W)
- 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.
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.