Punta Arenas Travel Guide
Cruise ships usually dock in Punta Arenas after its passengers have been blown away by the mountains, glaciers, inlets and islands of Chilean west coast.
In contrast, the city does not have the same spectacular scenery and is rather flat and orderly. But this does not mean it has little to offer the visitor - it has a rich and varied history thanks to its unique trading position in the southern Pacific Ocean. Plus it is a gateway to many of southern Chile's scenic wonders and wildlife havens.
Punta Arenas is one of the southernmost cities in the world, located at the toe of Chile in wild and exposed Patagonia.
As a small city, it is possible to walk on foot to almost all points of interest. Many parts of the city are run down but its former glory is evident in the grand buildings and mansions erected during a period of wealth owing to the wool trade.
Originally inhabited by local Indian tribes, Punta Arenas has been called home by a succession of European settlers over the last 150 years and this multicultural make-up is evident on the names on the headstones in the city's cemetery.
Cruise ship visitors with more time to spare will be tempted by the natural attractions nearby. These include penguin colonies and a vast forest park with hiking and mountain bike trails.
• Plaza Muñoz Gamero (central square and statue)
• Palacio Sara Braun (mansion with period furniture)
• Museo Regional Salesiano Maggiorino Borgatello (regional museum)
• Cerro de la Cruz (viewpoint)
• Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos (penguin colony)
• Reserva Forestal Magallanes (protected forest)
Magallanes 960, Punta Arenas, Chile
Tel: +56 6122 5385.
Wool and leather goods and local handicrafts are the order of the day in Punta Arenas. Don't expect high-end fashion here. But there is a Zona Franca shopping centre full of tax-free imported goods, mainly consumer electronics such as cameras and computers, and outdoor gear.
As long as you're not expecting a gourmet meal, you should be satisfied with the food here. There is plenty of choice in the city centre, including sandwich shops and restaurants serving home-cooked Chilean dishes.
Next stop after Punta Arenas is the Antarctic so expect to wrap up warm. Even in the middle of summer (January and February) temperatures rarely get above 16°C (61°F). In winter temperatures hover around freezing.