As the capital city of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica region, Punta Arenas is the gateway if you wish to explore Patagonia region. Just around 3 hours 20 minutes by plane from Santiago, the capital city in Chile, you will arrive in this town. Since it is located in the southernmost region, the climate here is affected by the Ocean Pacific and Antarctica (subpolar oceanic climate). As results, when I went there during the summer season in Chile, I could feel very fresh, cool and very windy. For someone who lived in a tropical country like Indonesia, summer in Patagonia doesn’t feel really summer, because it was still quite cold for me.
During my stay in Punta Arenas for one week, I’ve got to see and visit some places inside and few islands surround this town. When I set my feet for the first time in Punta Arenas on the summertime, this town looks very wide and feel very dry. But something special about this town, somehow in some part of this town, I could feel the ambience looks pretty much the same as in some village in Indonesia. All of the house style, small shop-houses on the street, the street vendors and its friendly people.
Usually, people who want to explore Chilean Patagonia will spend 1 – 2 days to stay in this town. Not only exploring the town but also to do some excursion to some islands surround until cruising to Antarctica! Here is some information you need to know before a visit to Punta Arenas.
THINGS TO DO
Visit the Magdalena and Marta Islands
To go to this island, you need to register yourself with the tour agency. Last time we used Solo Expediciones to visit the Los Pingüinos Natural Monument inside Magdalena Island and Marta island. Only 1 hour away from Punta Arenas, the tour agency will bring you directly by the boat to these islands full of penguins and sea lions.
I was extremely happy when my husband gave me a surprise visit to these islands. I never saw penguin in my entire life before, so that was the first time for me. Once we arrived at Magdalena island I was unbearably shocked when I saw the island full of Magellanic penguins.
I felt mesmerize by the wonderful landscape. You will see there are more than 10.000 pairs of penguins and also a bunch of seagull birds! Well, that was not me who counts the penguins. The Magellanic penguin is kind of penguins which breeding in South America, especially in Patagonia Chile, Patagonia Argentina and the Falkland Islands. But trust me, these islands are worth to visit.
Price: +/- USD $100 per person
Duration visit: 1.5 hours (both islands)
Total trip duration: 4 hours
Explore the town
Most of the times, we really like to walk around the town during the day. There are places where you have to visit; Plaza de Armas square with the Memorial of Ferdinand Magellan statue, Mirador Cerro de la Cruz to see panoramic view the landscape of Punta Arenas, Palace of Sara Braun, Museum Regional of Magallanes, Cemetery Municipal of Sara Braun, Museum of Maggiorino Borgatello.
If you need to buy souvenirs to give to your family and friends, you can visit the souvenir shop called Tienda Clerc El Rincon del Turista, nearby Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins street. They have plenty nice and quite cheap souvenirs, postcards, jewellery made by Lapis Lazuli.
Walk along the Beach of Strait Magellan
Even though in France, we are living in a town which only 2 minutes walk to the beach, we were still really like to walk along the beach in Punta Arenas too.
The nice spot to hang around the beach in Strait of Magallanes is nearby the Monument A Tripulantes Goleta Ancud until the ‘Punta Arenas’ sign, in the south.
It is a good spot if you want to hunt pictures of birds around the beach, also to enjoy the sunset with your loved ones. The strait is considered as the most important passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Culinary in the town
One of the things I love to travel to a new place is their local food. Who does not like to culinary? Punta Arenas, like any other provinces in Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica region, has one of the best seafood product. Every time I went to the restaurants or cafe, I’d like to order their seafood. Although, to eat in Punta Arenas is a little bit expensive, but 1-2 times eat in their local restaurant or cafe is worth to try! I recommend you to walk along Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins street not too far from the Plaza de Armas, there is plenty of restaurant and cafe for you to try. My favourites are Mesita Grande (specialist in pasta and pizza) and Buda Express. Even though in Buda Express most of their food is Asian, but they also have ceviche and Ensalada.
Eating in the restaurant or cafe estimated price:
CLP 3.000 – CLP 25.000 (around USD $ 3,5 – USD $ 30) per serving food.
One of the things, why I love to travel to a new place, is to try their local food. Who does not like to do culinary anyways?
When I was there, I love to eat Empanadas too! Maybe I ate almost every single day. I love Empanadas pollo (chicken) and queso (cheese). It is basically a small or medium puff pastry with bread dough, sometimes you can find either with beef, fish, egg, chicken or cheese. It is originally found in traditional Spanish cuisine and also in several Latin American countries, including Chile. Actually in Indonesia, Empanadas similarly look like ‘Panada’ or ‘Pastel’. The price varied, it depends where you will buy, but it was around CLP 1.500 – CLP 3.000 (USD $ 1,8 – USD $ 3,5).
Coffee soirée won’t hurt you
Me and my husband are the biggest fans of everything with coffee. So we have some recommendations for you, where to take coffee around Punta Arenas. Patagonia Blend is one of my favourite coffee brand in Chile. Even though, most of their coffee origin from Colombia, but they roasted it in Chile. One of my favourites is their cappuccino vanilla blend. You can buy their coffee product in their store in Boliviana 629. Besides, there is also a classic coffee shop just near the Plaza de Armas square, namely Sir Drake cafe. They frappuccino was very nice to enjoy during summer.
But if you want another experience of having coffee while admiring the beauty of the Strait of Magallanes, please stop by Imago LibroArte Cafe just beside the Monument A Tripulantes Goleta Ancud. Even better, while waiting for the sunset.
For the chocolate lover…
You have to try to go to La Chocolatta. It is just the same street as if you go to Plaza de Armas. I love their cafe decoration! When I went there on December, they decorated it with a bunch of Christmas decoration. They do not only have chocolate, of course, they also sell coffee, cappuccino and tea. Oh, not to forget, main dish, sweet cake and savoury snacks.
Estimated price: CLP 1.900 – 9000 (USD $ 2,25 – 10)
Cruise ship to Antarctica
For those people who wants to explore more in the south of the world, you can also have an adventure by sailing with the cruise ship to Antarctica. Of course, it is even more expensive and you need to spare at least around 1-2 weeks. You can depart from Punta Arenas and choose which kind of cruise ship you want to take (also depends on your budget too). Last time we did not make it the cruise ship to Antarctica, because it was very expensive for us. But we hope one day we can go back and try this tour by the cruise ship to Antarctica. I actually very passionate about nature when it comes to glacier, iceberg and snow!
Estimated price: USD $11.000 – 35.000 (it depends on which type of cruise ship and its service of course)
HOW TO MOVE AROUND
Taxi or Collectivo Taxi
One of the best ways to move around in Punta Arenas is either by collectivo taxi or taxi, for the traveller. Collectivo taxi is where the driver can take 3 up to 4 people on the street and they have to pay the driver by sharing-cost. Per person, it is around CLP 500 or 50 cents USD. The driver will decide where you have to stop if you want to go to a certain place, they will stop just nearby the place you want to go. But it is very good and the cheapest way than if you take the normal taxi. Unfortunately, because it is a famous way for local people and traveller to use this kind of transportation, it will be a little bit difficult to find the one. Moreover, if you travel more than 2 people, I recommend just take the taxi normal. This collectivo taxi will operate at least until 22.00 – 23.00.
They also have a bus which stops in some famous places to go in the town. We did not try it last time, as most of the times, we’d like to walk or use collectivo taxi, instead. But if you wish to go to the outside towns, like Puerto Natales, Rio Verde, etc. There are several buses inter-cities, like Fernández, Bus-Sur and many more. They will bring you either to other towns in Chile or Patagonia part of Argentina.
Estimated price Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales:
Bus Fernández : CLP 7.400 (USD $ 8,7)
Bus-Sur : CLP 7.500 (USD $ 9)
Boat or Ferry
If you wish to go to Tierra del Fuego, take the ferry boat is the answer. You even can bring your rental car to go across the sea by ferry too! Last time we went to Porvenir town in Tierra del Fuego province by ferry-boat via Tres Puentes ferry terminal. Their ferry is very big, clean and was quite good. Usually, they leave at 09.00 in the morning, but make sure to check their online schedule. Crossing time approximately around 140 minutes.
Estimated price: CLP 6.000 – CLP 7.500 (USD $ 7 – 9) per person
Price for car: CLP 43.500 (USD $ 52)
WHERE TO STAY?
I would like to recommend you to choose a place to stay in the central, where close to the shopping commercial, bus station and restaurants, to minimize the local transportation expenses. There are several hostels in the town, which has a good recommendation for a traveller to stay, like; Hostal al Fin del Mundo, Samarce House, Hotel Mercurio, etc. Actually there is plenty of backpacker hostel with different range of price.
Estimated price: USD $ 22 – 50 per person/per bed