Punta Arenas, Patagonia

Punta Arenas, Patagonia

Welcome to Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas (meaning Sandy Point) is the southernmost city on Chile's continental territory - a 4hr flight from Santiago. Sat beside the historic Straits of Magellan, a sea channel connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The city centre resembles the architecture found in northern and eastern Europe, which of course is in line with the early European settlers from the Croatia, Serbia and Scotland. The airport here is the main entry point into Chile´s stunning Patagonia, also to Antarctica, and the seaport is the embarkation point for cruises to Ushuaia in Argentina. The city is a relatively clean, modern city with an unusual history based on maritime trade, sheep ranching, coal mining and more recently petroleum extraction.

What we Offer

We can arrange itineraries that include a logistical rest night in Punta Arenas only, or to be able to enjoy some of the activities that originate from here such as seeing the penguins on Santa Magdalena Island (half day), King Rey penguins on Tierra del Fuego (long full day), whale watching as either a long full day, or a night on an island in the middle of the marine park.

Typically, you will need two nights in Punta Arenas to be able to do most of these activities and we would build Punta Arenas into your itinerary pre or post Torres del Paine.

We also offer fabulous Patagonia cruises to Ushuaia and Fly-Cruise combination to Antarctica from Punta Arenas.

How to Get to Punta Arenas

Arrivals to Punta Arenas are usually from Santiago on a flight that takes about 4hrs if direct and 4.5hrs if there has been a stop off at Puerto Montt.

The other ways to get here are by way of the Australis Cruise ship from Ushuaia in Argentina, by a 12hr bus trip from Ushuaia also or a flight from Puerto Williams (Chilean territory opposite Tierra del Fuego and the other side of the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia) or even a long ferry boat trip also from Puerto Williams.


Punta Arenas was officially founded in 1848 when the previous, earlier-established settlement, was relocated to its current position. It is the Southernmost city on the American continent. Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 Punta Arenas was a vital and major seaport for shipping coming from Europe to the western side of the Americas via the Strait of Magellan (a natural sea passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans avoiding the need to circumnavigate the longer and more arduous journey around Cape Horn), although the Clipper class ships still used the Drake Passage around Cape Horn in order to have enough space for navigational position manoeuvres.

Today, in terms of its maritime importance it is a key stop over for large cruise ships and also the departure point for maritime cruises to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia.

The city of Punta Arenas also remains an important fishing port and Chilean Naval base. Punta Arenas is also still a highly important centre for the local wool and lamb trade with the principal exporters operating from here and sending their produce all over the World.

Punta Arenas offers an ideal rest point to break the journey between Santiago and Torres del Paine and is also a place from which to visit penguin colonies in the area. More recently it has also become the base from which to go on a whale-watching experience.

Punta Arenas Activities and Places of Interest

The area around the main plaza has some historic, architectural interest as some of the buildings have a similar look and style found in some eastern European countries.

The city tour will usually include a visit to the Bulnes Fort because it is the “birth place” of Punta Arenas, although it is a quite a basic to look at. It is the location of the first settlement until the population moved to where the city is now.

Clothes to Bring

Try to bring LAYERS of breathable clothes that can be taken off or put on easily to adapt to any change in weather and as you heat up and cool down on a trek. Cotton undershirts are NOT recommended – see below.

Ideally clothes such as:
  • Over your body skin: an under vest (long sleeved if possible) made, ideally, from synthetic fibres so it dries quickly. If very cold weather (ie early spring, winter months or autumn) then thermal underwear made from synthetic fibres. The reason for synthetic fibres is because when you are walking several hours you will build up a sweat and your under garments will get wet, this then gets cold when you stop and will make you cold unless the wet material dries quickly. Cotton does not dry quickly, whereas synthetic material will dry more quickly.
  • Over your under vest: a breathable top such as a fleece.
  • Over your fleece: a waterproof windbreaker over jacket.
  • For your legs: trekking pants, resistant to rain and wind, but made from a breathable material otherwise you will sweat. Jeans are NOT good as they can get wet and not dry.
  • Over your trekking pants: waterproof shell pants to go over your trekking pants in the event of heavy rain.
  • For your feet: wool or synthetic socks. Waterproof trekking boots with ankle support and none-slip sole. If new make sure you break them in prior to using them on a trek.
  • For your hands: gloves. Close to glaciers it can be very cold.
  • For your head: a warm hat (not a jockey cap), sunglasses and sun-protection cream and a headband to keep your ears warm when not using the hat.
  • For your personal use: a back pack for food, water and clothes.
  • For your safety: a battery-operated torch for when power is out or if you are arriving to a refugio in the dark. Take with you during the trek extra water and snacks. Prepare for all weather conditions and dress for the outdoors. Do NOT go off the trail because if you have the slightest incident such as twisting an ankle, you may not be found.

Places of Interest in and around Punta Arenas, Patagonia

Places of Interest in and around Punta Arenas, Patagonia


Apart from the exiting activities that you can participate in when staying in Punta Arenas, there are also some museums that will show the historical importance of the city, both on the World stage and locally.

These we detail below.

Main places of interest

The Regional Braun-Menendez Museum


The Magallanes Historical Museum, inaugurated in February 1983, in the magnificent setting of the Braun-Menéndez Palace in Punta Arenas, brings together an important collection of objects that are testimony to the passage of man during his historical journey through the region.

Today, its magnificent palaces are two of the most representative places of the city's architecture and past.

The Family

Mauricio Braun Menéndez's palace was the residence that housed the union of the Braun family - from Russia - and the Menéndez family, wealthy Chileans, and important merchants from Patagonia. The residence was built between 1903 and 1906 under the charge of the French architect Antoine Beaulier, who also designed other important buildings in the city.

The Maggiorino Borgatello Museum


This is a museum that illustrates the history of when various indigenous people lived in the region.

The Salesian order, which landed in Punta Arenas in 1887, initiated the task of collecting evidence of the various indigenous cultures who previously lived in the area with the aim of creating a museum. It would serve as a legacy for future generations to learn about the expressions and ways of life of native peoples, their environment, and the colonization process. Therefore, the museum was created in 1893.

Faithful to a meticulous work, the various rooms in the museum reflect the cultures of the Onas, Tehuelches, Yámanas and Alacalufes, peoples as well as the suffering they endured upon the arrival of the Spanish colonizers and then the European pioneers.

In turn, the museum has areas dedicated to pioneers, including the time of the gold rush that marked the region at the end of the 19th century.

On the other hand, there is a careful collection of personal objects of Father Alberto De Agostini, a great explorer of the region, and the instruments of the first meteorological observatory in Punta Arenas.

The Nao Victoria Ship


This was the first ship to circumnavigate the world!

The Nao Victoria Museum is, effectively a dry dock, located on the outskirts of the city in the direction towards the airport. However, despite being a bit off the beaten track, the Museum is easily accessible.

This is a nautical museum with replica ships sat in dry dock (as in on the ground and not in the water), that played a significant part in the history of Punta Arenas and southern Patagonia. One ship, the Nao Victoria, is a replica of the one commanded by Hernando de Magallanes, who, in 1520, participated in the expedition that discovered the Strait that was named after him “Magallanes Strait”.

The Nao Victoria is a full-scale replica of Hernando de Magallanes' ship. A cultural tourist attraction, unique in Magallanes, that can be visited by the public and allows the experience of life board to be lived through environmental sounds, replicas of everyday objects, navigation instruments and artillery covering the period 500 years ago.

You can also visit the replica of the Schooner Ancud and the spectacular HMS Beagle, the ship that was used by Charles Darwin on his trip to Patagonia.

Fort Bulnes (Fuerte Bulnes)


Fort Bulnes an historic fort, created by the Spanish colonizers in 1843 in order to protect their settlement from any unwelcome visitors.

It is a small place with cannon mounts and some old cannons in place.

The location has undeniable advantages from a strategic, defence, point of view, but it did not allow for a full settlement of the area because the nearby land was completely unsuitable for agriculture. This reality motivated the foundation, in 1848, of Punta Arenas, 60km north, where the entire colony of the Fort was transferred.


How to get there:
  • To get to Fort Bulnes from Punta Arenas, you must drive 60km south.
  • Every day from 9.00 to 18.00 hrs.
Entrance fee:
  • Ch$12.000 per person (2021)

The Sara Braun Municipal Cemetery


Cemetery’s are not a usual “place of interest”, however, in South America they draw in visitors because of the ornate mausoleums and, often, the historical names that can be found on the tombs.

The Punta Arenas (Sara Braun Cemetery) is no exception and here there are numerous, European names that played an integral part in the development of Punta Arenas and other settlements throughout Patagonia. The cemetery silently recounts the history of the city.

The construction of the Cemetery is part of the historical context of European migration to the Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctica at the end of the 19th century. The desire to come to this land, so far away from everywhere else was motivated by the discovery of gold in Tierra del Fuego. This was followed by the introduction of the sheep farming.

The Chilean government also enticed adventurers, by way of free land, to come here for the purposes of settlement and development of economic activities as a way for Chile to claim this as its territory.

In this place the remains of these pioneers, settlers, and merchant’s rest, leaving behind an historical record of the various nationalities of immigrants who came to the region and that make up the Magellan culture today.


Opening hours:
  • Monday to Thursday from 08:00hrs to 13:00hrs & from 14:00hrs to 18:00hrs
  • Friday from 08:00hrs to 17:00hrs
  • Saturday and Sunday from 09:00hrs to 17:00hrs
  • Free
  • Avenida Bulnes s/ número (with no number)

Note: Experience Chile can arrange the above activities as part of the rest of your itinerary that we will have arranged. However, we do not arrange these services as standalones.

How to get to Punta Arenas,
Arrivals and Transfers

Arrivals, Transfers & Transport


Punta Arenas is situated beside the Magallanes Strait, several thousand kilometres south from Santiago. It is not connected by road through Chile – one has to go via Argentina if driving.

Consequently, the only way to get to Punta Arenas is by flying from Santiago; by ship from Argentina; by road from El Calafate and Puerto Natales; by flight or ferry from Puerto Williams.

Here, below, we list the options:

Flight and Transfer

El Calafate Flights
From Santiago

Flight 4hrs (or 4.5hrs if via Puerto Montt)

Regular flights are operated by a number of airlines from Santiago, international airport.

From Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales Bus From Punta Arenas Experience Chile
Bus, private transfer or rent a car

Either way the journey will take 3hrs.

From Puerto Williams

Puerto Williams Ferry Yaghan Experience Chile

Flight with Dap airlines 40mins


Ferry Yaghan will take 32hrs, therefore overnight in reclining seats.

From Antarctica

Punta Arenas Antarctica 21 Experience Chile

Antarctica 21 (as part of an Antarctica expedition trip)

From El Calafate

Puerto Natales Bus From Punta Arenas Experience Chile
  • Bus to Puerto Natales 6hrs
  • Bus to Punta Arenas 3hrs

From Ushuaia

Punta Arenas Australis Cruise Experience Chile

Australis Cruise Ship


Bus, 12hrs

Note: Experience Chile can arrange any of the above transport options as long as we are also arranging the rest of your itinerary. We do not arrange any of the above services as standalone reservations.

Hotel Accommodation, Punta Arenas, Patagonia


Punta Arenas city is set beside the Magallanes Stretch, facing the fabled island called “Tierra del Fuego”. There are only a few hotels that offer, what we would describe as “decent” accommodation.

Out of these few hotels we have selected, even fewer whom we work with and these are as follows:

Top Level Hotels

The hotels that are the best at the destination in terms of comfort, decoration, service and the overall package we have put into the "top level" category. This does not mean that a hotel in this category is at the same level as another hotel in another destination in our "top level" category. It just means that these hotels are the "better hotels" at this destination out of all options.

All Punta Arenas Top Level Hotels

Mid Level Hotels

The hotels we have put into the "mid level" category are those hotels that do not merit being in the "top level", but are not at the lowest level either, hence "mid level". Usually, these hotels are perfectly good for a couple of nights and offer "practical" accommodation and facilities. If you are looking for only a "place to stay" and nothing more then a mid-level hotel will suffice.

All Punta Arenas Mid Level Hotels

Approved Hotels

During our inspections we ask the hotel owners if we can stay overnight at the hotel. We ask this because staying overnight is vastly different to just popping in with a quick visit. We like to know what the noise pollution is, what the breakfasts are like, how comfy the beds are, what the staff are like.

Therefore, if you see “inspected & approved” we are saying that we feel the hotel is perfectly good. If it does not have “approved” it means we have not stayed overnight or we feel it is not up to the level that our clients will require.

Approved By Experience Chile

Inspected Hotels

The reason we have a selected number of hotels that we choose to work with is because we regularly visit the hotels in Puerto Natales in order to know what they are really like. We cannot rely on the hundreds of often “suspect” reviews published in the internet. Therefore, we try to promote the better hotels that we know will make your trip more enjoyable. However, if you see that we have “inspected” a particular hotel, this does NOT mean that we recommend it necessarily. The ones we recommend are “approved”.

Inspected By Experience Chile