Welcome to the southern city of Punta Arenas!
Punta Arenas (literally in Spanish: "Sands Point" although real English speakers might know this as "Sandy Point") is the southernmost continental city in the world, and is considered the historic capital of Patagonia, as it is situated on the banks of the Strait of Magellan. It is this strategic location that eventually allowed for the colonization of these lands, transforming Punta Arenas into the chief port of the Patagonia region, and one of the most important ports in the world, up until the construction of the Panama Canal. It has a population of around 131,000.
The city was founded on December 18th, 1848 primarily as a penal colony; co-inhabited by condemned prisoners, soldiers and civilians. Subsequently, during the early years of Punta Arenas there was some bloodshed and disorder, pointedly: the revolt of Change (1851) and the Revolt of the Artillery (1877). The latter revolt was an important movement that effectuated the end of the penal colony, which coincided with economic growth in the region.
In the early years of the city, the economu was based on the selling and trading of precious skins. This much sought after merchandise, was traded with the native Tehuelches, as well as the ships that passed through the Strait, forming a type of commerce that remained unchanged, until the arrival of European immigrants in the XIX century.
I was during this period that farming began, and eventually developed into the base of commercial activity. Thanks to this, some residents began to amass large fortunes. Becasuse of the boom in the cattle farming, or white gold, the Strait of Magellan grew to be the key waterway between the Pacific and Atlantic, and thus Punta Arenas transformed into the most important city in the Southern American region.
The economic boom ended abruptly due the construction of the Panama Canal and the beginning of World War I, which affected farming as much as it affected the passing of ships through the Strait. Later, the discovery of pretoleum would finally restore some of the economic strenght.
Today the economy is based on various industries, though the most important are: agriculture, commercial fishing, hydrocarbon mining and tourism
-Universidad de Magallanes
- Port area.
- La Cruz Hill (Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint) gives a panoramic view of the city. It is a 10 minute walk from Plaza de Armas.
- Austral Brewery. The southernmost brewery in the world, where you can enjoy the traditional production process and a beer tasting session. It's located at 508 Patagonia St.
- Regional Museum, with historical artifacts and part of the Braun-Menéndez Mansion.
- Museo del Recuerdo, with an outstanding collection of old steam engines, horsecarts, cars, historic houses furnished in the 1875s style and farm implements.
- Patagonian faros.
- Sight walles on Carlos III Island.
- The Sheperd's monument is a traditional monument located in Bulnes Av. 11 blocks away from Plaza de Armas. It is one of the many traditional places of the city.
- Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, a Salesian Society museum of natural history and pre-Hispanic ethnic groups.
- Punta Arenas Cemetery, dates back to 1840's, with many local aristocratic families, English and Croatian inmigrants. It's famous for its magnificent mausoleums, architectural construction and shaped pine trees.
- Nao Victoria Museum, is a brand new museum, aiming to rebuild the most important ships for the discovery and the colonazation of the territories along the Stait of Magellan. It hosts 3 replicas: Nao Victoria (Magellan's ship), James Caird (Shackleton's lifeboat) and Schooner Ancud (first boat to send settlers from Chile to the Strait of Magellan). Recently the museum announced the building of the 4th ship, the HMS Beagle. You can visit the construction site and even help out if you wish to.
Out of town:
- The "Seno Otway"penguin colony north of Punta Arenas is a place where each spring hundreds of Magellanic Penguins come home to their birth place to breed. Many travel agencies offer day trips from Punta Arenas that leave you very little time at the colony, so it's best if you have your own car.
- There's also a bigger colony of penguins on Isla Magdalena. This island is reachable by ferries and company "Austral Trans Broom" sells tickets at the port (which is 10-15 minutes to city center by car). Tickets can be reserved the same day and are sold 30-45 minutes before departure. Reservation is not obligatory but most hotels can do a reservation for you. The total tour takes 5 hours: 2 hours there, 1 hour on the island and 2 hours back. There's No additional fee for to enter the island, just the ferry ticket.
- Rey Jorge Island Natural Sea Park (whale observation).
- Fuerte Bulnes, a historical reconstruction of the site where Chile took possesion of the Magellan Strait.
- Torres del Paine National Park, near Puerto Natales.
- Seno Skyring
- Puerto del Hambre, an early Spanish colony which failed and under the name of Port Famine became a Royal Navy base. It was here that Captain Pringle Stokes, the captain of HMS Beagle, shot himself in his cabin due to severe depression and temporary command was given to Lieutenant W.G. Skyring. Stokes' fatal depression was attributed to the boring nature of the local geography.
- Fauna Patagónica "Estancia Lolita," a beautiful place for watching different species of native animals and birds.
- Visit Pali Aike National Park.
Ski, Torres del Paine Trekking, visit Porvenir (by ferry) or Puerto Natales (by bus).
There’s a small open market ("feria") for tourist type merchandise downtown. You can find department stores, supermarkets and many shops (like Timberland and The North face) in Bories Street.
There is a large outlet mall in the outskirts of the city, called "Zona Franca", a duty free zone, with hypermarkets, perfume, clothing and outdoor stores. Recently opened, also in the outskirts of the city, Mall Espacio Urbano Pionero (Pioneer Urban Space Mall) offers 3 department stores (Falabella, Ripley and La Polar), food court, shopping stores and "Lider" hypermarket.
- Open Market.Muñoz Gamero Main Square, Downtown.
- Bories St, Downtown.
- Zona Franca Outlet Mall.Km 3 1/2 Norte, Bulnes Av.
- Espacio Urbano Pionero Mall.01110, Eduardo Frei Av.
- 'Antarctica'. Believe it or not, from Punta Arenas is possible to enjoy the natural wonders of Antarctica. The fastest way to get there is by plane, where visitors will cross the Drake Passage to get to King George island, where most part of the scientific camps based in Antarctica are concentrated, including the Chilean village "Villa Las Estrellas". During the tour, visitors can see astonishing landscapes of the white continent, watch some of its fauna living in the area and learn about the life of those who live in this territory, working on behalf of science and research development.
- Tierra del Fuego. You can also take a ferry to Porvenir, in Tierra del Fuego. There is usually one leaving in the mornings and another one leaving Porvenir in the afternoons. Make sure the schedules before going to the port which is located NE of the downtown.