Located on the Strait of Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the southernmost part of Chile, the town of Punta Arenas is a popular base for travelers exploring the wilderness of Southern Patagonia.
Punta Arenas is a unique destination, as it allows travelers to enjoy the comforts of the city while being close to nature reserves and wildlife attractions nearby.
If you are planning a trip to Patagonia, it’s worth adding a few days to your itinerary to explore Punta Arenas and the nearby attractions.
Best Time to Visit Punta Arenas
Seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, so when the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing winter, destinations south of the equator are enjoying their summer. So the best season to visit Punta Arenas and the region of Southern Patagonia is during the North American winter.
From mid-November through early March the weather in Punta Arenas is the warmest, but this is also when most travelers choose to tour the region, so accommodation and tour prices are at their peak.
Scheduling a trip in the Spring (September through mid-November) or Fall (mid-March through May) ensures that you have nice weather with fewer crowds. Although the weather can be a bit unpredictable in the shoulder season, it’s worth the risk to avoid the crowds.
Things to Do in Punta Arenas
The town of Punta Arenas offers a great number of attractions including some that can be visited on your own and a few more that required a tour.
Visit the Municipal Cemetery
It may sound like an odd recommendation, but the Municipal Cemetery has been ranked by CNN as one of the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world and is ranked as the #1 Thing to do in Punta Arenas according to TripAdvisor. The Cemetery is located in the city centre and is a great place to learn a bit of the history of this unique town.
Admire the Views from Mirador Cerro De La Cruz
This lovely viewpoint located a short walk away from the city centre offers a great panoramic view of the city and as well as the Magellan Strait.
Visit Magallanes National Reserve
Magallanes National Reserve is located just 5km (3.1miles) outside of the city centre and features many walking trails through the wilderness and offer lovely views of the city itself. The main trails within the National Reserve are Boca Toma Trail, Las Lengas Circuit, Los Ñirres Circuit and Los Coigües Circuit. Keep in mind that due to weather, the reserve is only opened between the months of October-March.
Explore Laguna Parrillar National Reserve
Laguna Parrillar National Reserve is a bit farther away – 30km (18.6miles) – but is also a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers. The reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including pumas, black carpenter, foxes, Chilean otters, beavers and a number of various birds.
There are 2 main trails in the reserve: Chorrillo Hermoso (1.5km) and El Nono (1 km), both are self-guided family-friendly trails that start in the self-guided family excursion trails that start in the recreational area.
Visit the Nao Victoria Museum
For those interested in Magellan’s ships, the Nao Victoria Museum showcases 4 replica boats to explore. The Regional Museum of Magellan offers insights into his journey and discoveries.
Rub the Foot of Ferdinand Magellan
The area includes many historical sites dedicated to the Portuguese explorer, Magellan. It is said that you will have good luck if you rub the foot of the Memorial to Ferdinand Magellan statue located in the main square of Plaza Munoz Gamero.
Best Tours in Punta Arenas
There are a few things you can explore in the city, but highlights of this region can only be experienced on a tour.
If you are short on time and want to squeeze all the Punta Arenas sights and attractions in one day, consider taking this guided city tour. You’ll visit the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz, Plaza Muñoz Gamero, visit Salesiano Maggiorino Borgatello Museum and get to know the northern part of the city and its monuments.
Isla Magdalena & Matra Island Day Tour
The highlight of our visit to Punta Arenas was a day trip to Isla Magdalena to see the Magellanic penguins. Isla Magdalena is the second-largest Magellanic penguin colony in South America that receives more than 120,000 penguins every year.
This tour is usually combined with a visit to Marta Island, which hosts a colony of more than 1000 Patagonian sea lions, as well as copious birdlife.
Tierra del Fuego Day Tour
This all-day tour starts with a scenic ferry trip through the Strait of Magellan that will take you to Tierra del Fuego, where you will visit King Penguin Park and watch King Penguins in their natural habitat. The tour also visits Cerro Sombrero village, and San Gregorio, an old farm that belonged to Jose Menendez, a pioneering farmer of the region.
Sailing Trip Around Cape Froward
Best Hotels in Punta Arenas
The town of Punta Arenas offers a number of accommodation options ranging from expensive hotels to small B&Bs and hostels. There are also a few eco-friendly options in town.
- Hotel Boutique La Yegua Loca: This lovely hotel is run by local descendants of Croatian pioneers, born and raised in Patagonia. The hotel itself was built in 1929 and has been modernized to include gardens and an on-site restaurant that uses regional products and has selections for vegans and vegetarians.
- La Casa Escondida: Located 15km (9.3miles) north of the city is the wooded lodge of La Casa Escondida. It is especially convenient if you are flying in or out of the airport as the lodge is located in between the airport and the downtown area of Punta Arenas. The family-run accommodations offers complimentary breakfast and an on-site sauna.
- Hostel Innata, a small locally-run B&B that offers cozy rooms, private bathrooms with great showers, fast wifi, and a nice dining area where warm breakfast is served daily. Nini, the owner, and Gonzalo were incredibly friendly, helpful and accommodating during our stay.
Best Restaurants in Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas is situated by the water, so there is a variety of fresh seafood available as well as regional flavours.
La Yegua Loca Restaurant: The restaurant offers hearty meals and prides itself on the use of fresh seafood and regional produce.
La Marmita: This centrally located restaurant offers delicious food and an extensive tea menu
Cafe Sarmiento: This quaint restaurant offers one of the best views of the city along with a light fare, coffee, lunch, cocktails, and desserts.
Amaranta Tea House: Set lunch menu with coffee/tea, main and dessert for a very reasonable price.
How to Get to Puntas Arenas
The fastest way to reach Punta Arenas is to take a flight from Santiago. There are 10 flights a day that go between the two cities, and the centre of Puntas Arenas is about 19km (12miles) from the airport.
If you are renting a car, Puntas Arenas is almost 3 hours from Puerto Natales via Route 9. Because of the coastline, there may be strong winds, so if you are headed to tour Punta Arenas by vehicle, it is best to be aware of the wind as you are driving. If you wish to travel by bus, the same route from Puerto Natales will be a 4-hour bus ride from Punta Arenas.
When considering what to do in Punta Arenas, take into account that it is a place that pleases a variety of tastes. For those who crave city life, there are many sites to see as you tour Punta Arenas.
If nature and wildlife are more your cup of tea, there are parks, reserves, and a variety of wildlife tours. Punta Arenas allows you to observe natural habitats and experience the culture all while enjoying the Chilean coastline.