Punta Arenas is the gateway to Southern Chile and the Patagonia. Before you head out to trek in the Chilean Patagonia, spend 2 days in Punta Arenas. Get ready with some duty free shopping for trekking gear and see some penguins along the way. Here’s how to spend a couple of days in Punta Arenas: see penguins, explore the town, and shop before trekking in Patagonia.
Arrival in Punta Arenas
Our flight via Sky Airlines to Punta Arenas was quite surprising: slightly hilly terrain, with spots of lake and grassy lands. It was nothing like the snowy mountains we expected at one of the southern-most points in the world.
Seno Otway Pinguinera (Penguin Colony)
It was a surprisingly sunny day as we arrived and we headed with a bus transfer to town. To take advantage of the day we immediately headed with all our gear to hop on a tour to the Seno Otway pinguinera to see Magellanic penguins from up close.
The ride through private ranches was bumpy but scenic with lots of farm animals on the way.
Once we got there the park area was amazing. There were lots of penguins in the grassy terrain, some of them just a meter or two away from us waddling onto land and into their burrows with the baby penguins. Several other penguins were near the water.
We made our way through the walkways and were truly enamored by these cute animals. From there it was back to town to find a place to stay, some dinner, and bed.
Visiting Seno Otway from Punta Arenas
In the Seno Otway Pinguinera you can see penguins in their natural habitat. Tours leave every day around 14:00. A “tour” with Buses Fernandez is 7000 CLP at booking + 1000 CLP paid as toll on the way.
Entrance to the park is 5000 CLP. It is not recommended to go there independently because extreme wind conditions make driving quite perilous.
Michael with Ferdinand Magellan: in Punta Arenas plaza, overlooking the Strait of Magellan
Exploring Punta Arenas
The next day we had time to explore town a bit. The grid made it easy to get around and the cleanliness and serene vibe made for a really nice time.
The town of Punta Arenas is pretty nice and worth walking around the main plaza and a couple of local museums. Additionally there are various tours that can be organized from here by bus or boat. Prepare for extreme wind (all year round).
Shopping in Punta Arenas
Then we had one more area to get to know: Punta Arenas’ Zona Franca for some cheapo shopping (tax free) in big, warehouse-like, no-name stores.
The Zona Franca in Punta Arenas, is a duty free zone and has mostly lots of stuff made in China. If you are continuing on to trek, there is a good gear store Balfer, that is significantly cheaper than other options in the south of Chile.
We managed to get the rest of our hiking gear (made in China) and food provisions (made in who-knows) for really, really good prices!
Accommodations in Punta Arenas
Joshiken Hostal– It was pretty nice and very close to the bus station for Puerto Natales and the penguin tour.
Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
Then we were off to Puerto Natales on the bus where our afternoon was busy with last minute logistics planning: getting to the park, buses to Argentina (!), and so on.