Punta Arenas is the main commercial hub in Southern Chile. It is the only city of significant size in Southern Patagonia, but definitely doesn’t stir too many of the romantic desires of travellers as do the other locations. The setting of the city is beautiful, it is draped on the borders of a calm ocean harbour which features a tall mountain background. Personally, I feel that if you have a limited amount of time to travel Patagonia, you will get higher value for your travels elsewhere. If you have a lot of time to spend in the area there is hiking outside of town, a couple of boat trips are offered and a score of museums in town will also make your visit to this town worth your while.
Things to do in Punta Arenas
- The Naval Museum: The most worthwhile museum to visit in Chile is the Museo Naval y Maritimo, which has great displays of some of the expeditions that have pasted through the area including the famous Shackleton expedition to Antarctica.
- Magellan’s Forest Reserve: The forest reserve sits about 10 minutes outside of town and is a nice introduction to the natural landscape of this area. In the park it is possible to go on hikes or mountain biking excursions. In the winter it is also possible to go cross-country skiing in the park.
- Kayaking: Kayak tours throughout the coast can be organized in town, and offer a great way to get a glimpse at this beautiful coastal landscape.
- Hiking: The most conventional hikes are day trips with in the forest reserve, however longer excursions can also be organized in town. One of the treks available takes hikers all the way to the southernmost point on the main land of the Americas.
Where to Eat in Punta Arenas
Most of the best places to eat in town are scattered along the street of Jose Menendez which has everything from quick pastry shops to sit down restaurants to pizza shops. For absolutely delicious, albeit budget busting, seafood dishes check out a restaurant on O’Higgins called La Luna (meals are about 12-15US$ and more with wine).
Where to Stay in Punta Arenas
I only have spent a total of 3 nights in Punta Arenas, but I was very happy with the hostel I stayed at. I stayed at Hostal O’Higgans which had dorms for about 12US$. The hostel was in a great location and had a great vibe. The famous Erratic Rock Hostel from Puerto Natales also has a location in Punta Arenas, which I am sure is a great place to stay as well.
Getting out of town
Punta Arenas is the hub of transportation for the South of Chilean Patagonia. You can travel by boat to Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego. You can get to Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt, Chile via bus trips to the north. A number of buses also head directly into Argentina to such destinations as Ushuaia and El Calafate.
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