Punta Arenas is the largest and most commercially important city in Patagonian Chile. Located on the Strait of Magellan, it has long been a stop for European adventurers and traders and, as a result, is a true melting pot of cultures. In addition to being a port of call for South American cruises, this city of 100,000 is a departure point for expeditions to Antarctica.
How to Get to Punta Arenas
Cruise ships dock at either Arturo Prat or Mardones/Bahia Catalina Pier. If you arrive at Arturo Prat, the center of town is an easy 10- to 15-minute walk from the port or a short taxi ride. Coming from Bahia Catalina, a taxi is your best option and should cost $10-$15.
One Day in Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas is easily walkable and you can see many of the main sights in a few hours – either on your own or with a guide. Your starting point should be the central plaza, Plaza Munoz Gamero, where you can pick up a map from the tourism kiosk. If the weather is good, you may also find locals selling their crafts in the plaza. Browse the stands and snap a few pictures of the statue of explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Then, pay a visit to two museums near the plaza: the 19th-century Palacio Sara Braun and the Museo Regional de Magellanes, which features interesting displays about the history of Punta Arenas.
Next, check out the municipal cemetery, located about nine blocks north of Plaza Munoz Gamero. Crypts and mausoleums belonging to English, Portuguese, Spanish, Croatian and other colonial settlers reflect the vast cultural diversity of the city. From there, make your way to the Nao Victoria Museum, a new interactive museum that includes a full-size replica of the ship that Ferdinand Magellan used to circumnavigate the globe.
Finally, spend some time wandering around the streets surrounding the main plaza, including Avenida Bories, the city’s main shopping street. Pick up an alpaca sweater, lapis lazuli (gemstones) or some wooden handicrafts before heading back to the port.
If you’re interested in visiting penguins, a half-day excursion will take you to Otway Sound, about an hour from Punta Arenas, while a slightly longer trip might head to Isla Magdalena in the middle of the Strait of Magellan. If you are looking for a more active adventure, you can book a guided kayak tour into the Strait.
The official language is Spanish and very little English is spoken. The local currency is the Chilean peso, but US dollars, and even Euros, are widely accepted at tourist-oriented establishments. Credit cards are also commonly accepted and several ATM's are located around the city’s main plaza. The cruise terminal has restrooms and an internet café, but not much else.