Things to Do in Punta Arenas, Chile Plus Bonus Pictures of the Strait of Magellan

Rusty Maritime equipment spotted on a walk along the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas Chile

I had a picture of the Strait of Magellan in my head when we visited Punta Arenas Chile at the tail end of a 2 week trip to Patagonia. In my mind's eye, I'm visiting in the early 1500's at the time when Magellan's expedition first circumnavigated the globe and proved that the world is round. Magellan and the strait that bears his name has captured my imagination since I was a little kid. Sometimes with all our travels, I feel like a modern day explorer. I was excited to have the chance to walk in Magellan's footsteps (in a sense) at the very southern tip of Chile. What fun things to do will you find in Punta Arenas today? Read on to find out about our experience exploring the city on the shores of the Strait of Magellan.

Walk Around Punta Arenas

Where to Stay in Punta Arenas Chile: Hotel Dreams del Estrecho Casino on the Strait of Magellan
The simplest and best thing to do in Punta Arenas is take a walk around. Magellan certainly didn't have cars and the shores he landed on would have been filled with nature and possible danger. Today, the only danger in Punta Arenas is spending too much time at the Hotel Dreams del Estrecho Casino and losing your fortune. We actually stayed at Hotel Dreams del Estrecho and our room featured amazing views of the Strait of Magellan, today a modern shipping channel.

Exploring Punta Arenas Town

Things to do in Punta Arenas: Kiss the foot of the statue of Magellan in the town center
On the Punta Arenas town square, kiss the foot of Magellan to ensure that you'll come back again. Continuing your walk beyond the center of Punta Arenas, you'll find the cemetery of Punta Arenas (also known as Cementerio Municipal Sara Braun), a garden-like setting complete with tombs featuring Art Deco and other period architecture.
Things to do in Punta Arenas: Visit Cementerio Municipal Sara Braun
Today's Diario El Pinguino is housed in the mansion where Shackleton stayed after his harrowing journey in an open boat after being shipwrecked on his Antarctic expedition. It was here that Shackleton planned and staged the heroic rescue of the rest of his men.
Punta Arenas Points of Interest: Diario El Pinguino formerly the mansion where Antarctic explorer Shackleton stayed after the shipwreck
Climb to Cerro de la Cruz where you'll find signs pointing to cities all over the world and artwork invoking the native Selk'nam people who occupied this land before the arrival of Magellan.
Signs pointing to cities around the world at Cerro de la Cruz in Punta Arenas Chile
Mosaic featuring the Selk'nam people at Cerro de la Cruz in Punta Arenas

Stroll the Strait of Magellan

Walking is definitely the thing to do in Punta Arenas. Remain on foot and take a stroll along the Strait of Magellan. It's certainly too cold to swim but I took the opportunity to dip my hand in the water to feel a personal connection to this place filled with such travel history.
Pressing a hand in the sand on the shores of the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas
A war memorial and an installation of rusty seafaring equipment were highlights of the walk.
War memorial in Punta Arenas Chile
Rusty maritime equipment on the shores of the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas Chile
Two dilapidated boardwalks along the Strait of Magellan are no longer fit for people to use but are now home to thousands of birds. You can definitely get your birdwatching fix in Punta Arenas!
Punta Arenas Points of Interest: dilapidated boardwalks covered in birds on the Strait of Magellan

Grab a Drink in Punta Arenas that is Steeped in History

Get a sneak peek at Palacio Sara Braun by visiting the Shackleton Bar at Hotel José Nogueira. Sip a Hernando de Magellanes craft beer while steeping in the historic architecture and thinking about that other explorer who so bravely rescued his men from the wreckage of their Antarctic adventure.
Palacio Sara Braun home of the Shackleton Bar at Hotel José Nogueira in Punta Arenas

Drive from Punta Arenas to Fort Bulnes

It's helpful to have a car when visiting Southern Chile to check out Punta Arenas points of interest just beyond the city limits. Fort Bulnes (Fuerte Bulnes in Spanish) is the site of the original city settlement of Punta Arenas. Situated within Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes (entry fee was 14000 Chilean pesos at the time of writing; about $23 USD), you can see replicas of the drafty wooden buildings erected by the first permanent settlers to the region in 1843. Due to the harsh conditions on this peninsula, the original colonists gave up and moved to what is now Punta Arenas.  
Things to do near Punta Arenas: Visit Fort Bulnes
Punta Arenas Points of Interest: Fort Bulnes. The original colonial setlement
The fragile man-made structures were fascinating but Fort Bulnes also features beautiful flora and fauna. Small birds have built nests on the site and busily fly to and fro to feed their families.
Little bird with food in its mouth at Fort Bulnes near Punta Arenas Chile
There are a couple different short trails on the property leading to spectcular viewpoints.
Views of the Strait of Magellan from Fort Bulnes near Punta Arenas
Fort Bulnes viewing platform over the Strait of Magellan near Punta Arenas Chile
You can even get down close to the water of the Strait of Magellan and imagine what it must have been like to sail through these dangerous waters at the end of the world.
White cap wave on the Strait of Magellan at Fort Bulnes near Punta Arenas Chile
The Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes also has a modern visitor center with toilets and a cafe. The small museum on site was also fascinating and focused on the history of seafaring exploration and colonization of this area.
Things to do in Punta Arenas: The Visitors Center at Parque del Estrecho de Magellanes

Visit Museo Nao Victoria And Release Your Inner Explorer

When driving into Punta Arenas on the main road (Route 9), don't be surprised when you see a series of tall ships on the Strait of Magellan. This road side attraction was one of my favorite things to do in Punta Arenas. At Museo Nao Victoria, you'll find replicas of Nao Victoria one of Magellan's ships plus Darwin's Beagle (this one is still in the process of being fitted out), and Ancud, the lifeboat that Shackleton used to navigate the open ocean for over 500 miles to seek rescue for his shipwrecked men.
Punta Arenas Things to Do: Visit Museo Nao Victoria and see Magellan, Darwin, and Shackleton replicas ships
Walking on deck you realize just how small these ships actually are compared to the vastness of the oceans over which they traveled. Imagine what it would be like to call one of these vessels home for 3 years while at sea. The navigators during the age of exploration certainly had guts! I'm not sure how I would have coped with these conditions.

Places to Eat in Punta Arenas

We found some fun places to eat on our visit to Punta Arenas. Here are our recommendations for restaurants to try down here at the end of the world in Southern Chile.

Los Ganaderos

Places to eat in Punta Arenas: meal at Los Ganaderos
Los Ganaderos is situated just across the street from Hotel Dreams del Estrecho and is a traditional South American parrilla. Focus on delicious red meats washed down with a bottle of a big Chilean red. We opted for a bottle of Carménère, a grape varietal that was once thought lost to the world due to philoxera outbreaks in France but was rediscovered in Chile masquerading as Merlot.

 La Marmita

Places to eat in Punta Arenas: collage of pictures of meal at La Marmita
Definitely make a reservation if you head to La Marmita. Known for amazing pisco sours and beautiful cuisine, La Marmita locks the door if there are no tables available. Call ahead for a reservation and then wave in through the window and they will come and let you in. La Marmita was fully booked when we visited Punta Arenas so we were grateful we'd made a reservation in advance. We saw several groups of people who were turned away.

 La Luna

Places to eat in Punta Arenas: collage of the meal and decor at La Luna
La Luna is a less fussy option for dinner in the center of Punta Arenas. I'd describe their cuisine as Chilean comfort food. Some of their chicken and meat dishes were served with little potato balls that tasted kind of like tater tots. So good! As always, wash it all down with a bottle of Chilean red wine.

 Lomito's

Places to eat in Punta Arenas: a completo (hot dog) and a beer
If you're looking for a cheap and cheerful meal, head over to Lomito's for a completo (hot dog with all the trimmings) and a beer. 

Look for Strait of Magellan Souvenirs

Another fun thing to do in Punta Arenas is look for Strait of Magellan souvenirs. This was actually surprisingly hard. We walked into nearly every gift shop in town but there was nothing related to the Strait of Magellan! In the end, we were excited to find little touristy espresso cups with a map of Punta Arenas and the Strait of Magellan painted on them in exactly one tourist shop. I definitely smell a business opportunity here, unless I'm the only one fascinated by the Strait of Magellan.

Punta Arenas Map

You can use this handy interactive Punta Arenas Map for more details on how to find the various points of interest outlined in this post.

For more on things to do in Patagonia in Southern Chile, check out: 

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Things to Do in Punta Arenas, Chile Plus Bonus Pictures of the Strait of Magellan

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Sidewalk Safari: Things to Do in Punta Arenas, Chile Plus Bonus Pictures of the Strait of Magellan
Things to Do in Punta Arenas, Chile Plus Bonus Pictures of the Strait of Magellan
Find out about fun things to do in Punta Arenas including day trip options. See pictures of the Strait of Magellan from our visit.
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