Punta Arenas is a city by the sea. Raked by strong winds from off the Strait of Magellan, it’s a place where any one of several main drags takes you directly down to the water. This means that cruise ships and ocean liners are always visible, mirage-like, on the horizon, as a reminder of the city’s maritime origins.
Those origins date back to the mid-1800s, when the town was founded as a naval fort and penal colony. Following a boom in sheep-raising, it grew into a major commercial destination, with many residents making their fortunes in mining, fishing, and oil. Today, the city’s old-time opulence is reflected in both its bustling waterfront and the lavish stone mansions that grace the plaza de armas.
The waterfront is also the main attraction for visitors. From it, cruise ships depart several times a day for Ushuaia, Antarctica, and other points south—expeditions into the wild territory of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. There are also ferries to see nearby colonies of Magellanic penguins, as well as land transportation to Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park.
Punta Arenas is the gateway to Chilean Patagonia. Visitors who arrive at its windswept docks will find themselves on the threshold of a wild world of adventure.
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