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Located in southern Chile's Patagonia region, Punta Arenas has captured the imagination of adventurers for centuries. On the Strait of Magellan, which links the Atlantic and the Pacific, the city draws cruise ships and hikers on their way to Antarctica.
The Magallanes National Reserve, sitting 1,000 feet above sea level, features lush vegetation and cerulean water reserves on its nearly 49,000 acres. Fauna, such as black woodpeckers, royal ducks, pumas, and grey foxes, and more, populate the area.
Soak in the pioneer spirit at the Museo del Recuerdo, which showcases antique farm and industrial machinery, a traditional pioneer home and shearing shed, and a shepherds' trailer.
The Museo Naval y Marítimo revisits naval and maritime history with the remains of shipwrecks, ancient maritime equipment, as well as maps, charts, and a radio room.
Many restaurants in Punta Arenas specialize in local delicacies, such as Magellan lamb, king crab, and shellfish. Desserts include Calafate black berry or rhubarb jam-filled baked goods.
Zona Franca, the duty-free district in Punta Arenas, retails electronics, hiking and camping gear, and photography equipment. Visual artist Andrea Araneda sells Magellan-inspired crafts, woolens, and paintings at her workshop downtown.
The best time to visit Punta Arenas is during the summer months, November to December, which enjoy highs in the 50s. A windbreaker and sunscreen are recommended for the strong winds and intense sunlight.
Presidente Carlos Ibáñez International Airport (PUQ) is 12 miles from downtown Punta Arenas. There are 10 daily flights from Santiago, Chile. A taxi from the airport is CLP$6,659. The Austral bus shuttle is CLP$3,996 per person.
The drive on Route 9, between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. Drivers should expect strong winds on the road.
The four-hour bus trip from Puerto Natales is CLP$3,996. Bus service from Ushuaia takes 12 hours and costs CLP$39,955.
The upscale Hotel Dreams del Estrecho features spacious rooms and an infinity pool, as well as a spa, a casino, and an excellent restaurant. The more modest Hostel Keoken, near downtown, provides cozy bedding and homemade baked goods for breakfast.
Barrio Croata - the Croatian Neighborhood, named for the hundreds of immigrants who arrived in the 1850s, preserves much of the area's original Eastern European architecture.
Barrio Catalina - Barrio Catalina houses Zona Franca, Punta Arenas' shopping district, which draws 15,000 people a day to its tax-exempt bargains.
Centro - the Plaza Muñoz Gamero in downtown Punta Arenas houses a memorial to Ferdinand Magellan, and the Museo Nao Victoria features a replica of one of the explorer's galleons.
Punta Arenas can be traveled on foot. Buses are only needed to journey outside of the city.
Taxis in Punta Arenas start at CLP$300 with CLP$1,931.21 for each additional mile.
Rental cars in Punta Arenas start at CLP$37,957 a day.
The duty-free Zona Franca has several blocks of electronics, sporting goods, perfume, clothing, spirit, and cigarette shops. Downtown streets off the Plaza de Armas sell handmade knitwear, woodworks, and stoneware from local artisans.
Hiper Lider sells staples and baked and take-out goods. Minimarket Vieille specializes in fruits, cured meats, and wines. Punta Arenas is relatively affordable. A gallon of milk averages CLP$2,737 and a dozen eggs is CLP$2,111.
La Marmita, a casual Chilean eatery, features salads, casseroles, and seafood dishes, as well as vegetarian selections and take-out. Entrees average CLP$9,323. La Luna specializes in smoked pork chops and fried king fish. Entrees are around CLP$7,000.