Punta Arenas, Chile: Notebook and Stock Image Gallery
I only spent 23 hours in Punta Arenas, enough time to realize that the southernmost larger city in Chile –thus by default one of the southernmost on the planet— is not an easy one to define.
Located along a western edge of the Magellan Strait, it’s a sprawling home to about 130,000 in an area so far flung that it was founded as a penal colony in the late 1840s. A gold rush and later a sheep farming boom attracted waves of immigrants and settlers by the thousands, all of whom left an imprint that remains to this day a unique blend of both the rugged and the refined.
The area around its central Plaza des Armas, where a statue of Magellan dominates the attracted shaded space, is dotted with handsome buildings and mansions mostly dating back to the early part of the last century. It’s a European feel, allowing you to easily forget how isolated this corner of the world truly is.
Just a 20 minute stroll in any direction from the square towards the fringes –areas of cities that I most enjoy exploring—reveals a mix of older modest homes, block apartment buildings and more recent developments set among neat streets, small parks and empty lots strewn with windblown litter. About a 20-minute walk to the north you’ll find one of the most beautiful cemeteries on the planet.
There are plenty of places to take a nice walk along the strait; especially attractive is an abandoned wharf that attracts cormorants and other sea birds by the hundreds.
Due to the strong, sometimes ferocious winds, clouds move quickly in southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, so be prepared for all kinds of weather. In less than 24 hours I experienced rain and sunshine –twice—and lots of wind.
Getting around: The city is very walkable, even well beyond the historically central area. When you’re ready for a ride, consider collectivos if you know exactly where you’re going. Fares are just 400p, less than $1 (Feb 2013) for almost door-to-door service. Drivers have and stick to certain routes and continually run those circuits, picking up and dropping off as they go. More often than not, heavy metal will provide the soundtrack.
Getting there: I arrived by bus northbound from Ushuaia, Argentina [See my post on that trip here; a post on the Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales bus route is here]. There is daily bus service southbound to/from Ushuaia and northbound to/from Puerto Natales. In peak times, book or purchase tickets in advance as seats will sell out.
Sleeping? I found a place via Couchsurfing (thanks Alejandra!) so can’t make a recommendation. Looking? Feel free to use my Booking.com affiliate link.
Eating? For a city near the end of the world, There are plenty of options. A few that I tried and can suggest:
– Sotito’s Restaurant (Bernardo O’Higgins 1138) for some good local seafood. Krill Ceviche was delicious. Expect a crowd.
– Santino (Colon 657) for drinks, where I had my first and to date most delightful Calafate Sour.
– Café Montt (Pedro Montt 976) for an afternoon break, just a few blocks from the waterfront. Good coffee, extremely friendly and laid back, and a very engaging clientele.
A note about Piran Café gallery images and subject matter: When exploring new areas, my primary aim is to capture a place as it actually is. There are lots of sources for images of a city’s main tourist attractions, its perfect sunset views and well-manicured parks and streets. I like making those kinds of photos too, but my efforts are mostly focused to capturing something that is slightly more representative, or more real, within the sometimes very limited time I have.