Most travelers breeze through Punta Arenas en route to Torres del Paine National Park, or just spend one night pre- or post-Antarctica cruise. SA Expeditions explored the region during our 2023 Company Retreat, and below are four recommendations for making the most of your time at The End of the World.
Parque Estrecho is just 33 miles south of Punta Arenas and covers an impressive 130 hectares of forest surrounded by more than three miles of shore. This park holds the key to the natural and human history of the Strait of Magellan. The key points of interest include the Visitor Center, Fort (or Fuerte) Bulnes, Del Estrecho viewpoint, Port Famine, and the Coastal Trail. Walking along the trail, you’ll skirt the mythical Strait of Magellan, where you can appreciate a large number of seabirds, such as oystercatchers, wild geese, various species of ducks, cormorants, and on a lucky day, dolphins and sea lions.
The half-day Punta Arenas city tour is a great option for those arriving to the city on the earlier side and want to stretch their legs in the afternoon. On this tour, you’ll have the chance to visit Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint, enjoy the colorful sights of the city, visit the Nao Victoria Museum, and get to know the northern sector of the city and its monuments, including “The Sheepherder.”
At the center of the city, you’ll find the Muñoz Gamero Main Square, which has been the heart of Punta Arenas since the end of the 19th century. A small market and street musicians all add to the atmosphere of the Main Square, and here you’ll find the most impressive neoclassical buildings in the city along with the Hernando de Magallanes monument. There is a legend that if you rub the toe of the statue, one day you will return to the city!
If you’re looking for a lovely spot for dinner after your tour, be sure to check out La Yegua Loca boutique hotel, a convivial spot with views over the city and delicious local plates.
Cabo Froward is an excellent full day excursion for travelers more engaged in nature. This tour includes a boat navigation and trekking. You’ll depart Punta Arenas early in the morning and drive about 40 minutes to the embarkation point Bahia Voces, located 40 miles to the south. From here, you’ll take a zodiac boat navigation for around 90 minutes along the Strait of Magellan and disembark on the Southernmost point of America’s mainland, Cabo Froward. At this point, you can trek for an hour and a half to reach the Cross of the Seas, located on the summit of the Cape. This viewpoint boasts a stunning vista of the iconic interoceanic passage and the Islands that surround it. You also have the option to stay on the boat for another hour, or kayak to try and spot humpback whales.
The best part about this tour is that you can enjoy it all year long! One of the benefits of visiting during the winter (June, July, August) is that there is less wind, and you have higher chances of seeing dolphins. (Note: This tour requires a minimum of four people.)
The Magdalena Island Penguin Tour is a popular excursion well worth adding an extra night in Punta Arenas. In the morning, you’ll depart from your hotel and drive to the port about 30 minutes away. From here, you’ll sail on a fast comfortable catamaran for 90 minutes to Isla Magdalena Island where you’ll get to know the amazing colony of Magellanic penguins and the lighthouse that bears the name of the island, right in the Strait of Magellan. You’ll often find black-browed albatrosses, skuas, terns, cormorants, and Dominican gulls in the surrounding skies.
After walking for one hour, the return to Punta Arenas begins, where you will have the opportunity with luck to spot southern dolphins, Commerson's dolphin, and sei whales. Since this is only a half-day tour, you may be able to catch an evening flight back to Santiago or perhaps to Puerto Montt.
Regardless of what excursion you choose, you’ll want to dress for success. In Punta Arenas, this means all waterproof everything. As the founder of outdoor brand Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, once said: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” We hope you take the opportunity to dive deep and explore this memorable part of the world during your next South America Expedition.
Feeling inspired? Punta Arenas is the perfect supplement to your Fly to Antarctica expedition on the Ocean Nova or Magellan Explorer! Or if you’re hoping experience the highlights of Torres del Paine, you’ll surely enjoy a one-night stay at Cabo de Hornos as you explore the beautiful city of Punta Arenas. Chat with a Destination Expert about ways to make the most out of your trip to the southern tip.