Punta Arenas has found fortune through industry, shipping and tourism; on the surface it may seem distinctly flat, but scratch a little deeper and you’ll find a substantial port city. As Patagonia’s largest metropolis, situated on the southernmost tip of Chile and stretching along the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas is also the urban gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, one of Chile’s most beautiful destinations. What’s more, sitting somewhat unassumingly on Chile’s slender toe, the city also lies in proximity to Antarctica, acting as a final port of call for cruises, explorers and Pole researchers, alike.
As a result, temperatures in Punta Arenas are distinctly cool, rarely topping 16°C in the height of summer (from January to February) and a consistent 0°C in winter. City highlights include large outlet shopping centres, a small open market, museums and charming rainbow-coloured houses, and due to its compactness, everything can be reached on foot. In the springtime, take a boat trip to islands inhabited with hundreds of Magallenic Penguins – they’re remarkably tame and will take every opportunity to show off and flirt with their guests. Visitors must stay within designated pathways, but the penguins, totally oblivious to this, will do as they please, so don’t be surprised if a burly penguin waddles straight into you.