Punta Arenas: It’s only a short twenty minute drive from the airport of the Region de Magallanes to Punta Arenas centre when you rent a car at the airport. Labeled as one of the most southern cities in the world, it is a gateway to either the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago and the Strait of Magellan or to Torres del Paine and Patagonia.
There is not too much to see but you can take a walk around the historic Plaza Muñoz Gamero with its old mansions or go down to the waterfront. From Muelle Loreto, the old pier which is usually full of hundreds of cormorants, you really get an end-of-the-world-feeling. Around Plaza de Armas there are most shops, banks and a big Unimarc supermarket.
A really good restaurant is La Marmita, it’s touristy but also bright, cozy, very friendly and cooks delicious, local Chilean dishes. At Hotel Ilaia you’ll have welcoming staff, bright rooms and a good night sleep.
By car it takes about three hours from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales and it’s a very scenic drive through the wild, rough Pampa of Patagonia. Watch out for wildlife crossing your way like foxes, flamingos, guanacos and emus that share this beautiful area with thousands of sheep .
Puerto Natales: The small town is a young and friendly gateway to the national park and Magellan region. Hotels and hostels are plenty, like the interestingly designed Hotel Altiplanico just outside town, or the design hostels Factoria and Kau Lodge.
There are also many good food options like Aldea restaurant for great local dishes and wine, Mesita Grande a bright pizzeria, ice cream at Helados Hechos en Casa, empanadas from Angelica’s Gourmet Cafe or Bar Baguales. When the sun is out it’s very nice to explore the town by foot. You find most interesting shops and eateries around Plaza de Armas, on Arturo Prat, Manuel Bulnes and Hermann Eberhard street.
A great day trip and opportunity to visit the national park Bernardo O’Higgins with the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers is a day cruise with Turismo21deMayo. Apart from the stunning glaciers you’ll see many birds, sea lions and remote fjords.
Read more about adventures in Torres del Paine National Park and the amazing hiking route, the W-Trek. Or see the post about the northern part of Patagonia, the lake region and Chiloé here.
There is also a city guide for Santiago de Chile. Or find more tips for the southern desert and Andes region of San Pedro de Atacama and the El Tatio Geysers.