Punta Arenas is the southernmost city in Chile and is often referred to as the gateway to Antarctica and other bucket list-worthy trips. But this small and welcoming city is well worth a few days of your time. Here are local city guides’ top picks for what to do in Punta Arenas – from hiking and biking around the spectacular natural landscapes to indulging your sweet tooth with chocolate and tea.
Rent a bike and pedal along the waterfront boardwalk (known as the costanera) that runs from one end of town to the other for some seriously epic views. The costanera of Punta Arenas is relatively new, and you can enjoy some of the best Patagonian Sea views while pedaling your bike. In addition, you’ll also enjoy views of the Strait of Magellan and distant Tierra del Fuego. If you’re lucky, you might spot some seabirds, or even penguins and dolphins. Travelling by bicycle along the waterfront is a great way to get to know the city.
Punta Arenas is a small city, but they have an amazing ski center just 25 minutes from the city centre (by car) with epic ocean and panoramic city views from the top. Most of the ski centers are too far from the city, but this one makes it easy to hit the slopes. If you’re not visiting during ski season, the ski center (open all year long) also makes for a great place to do some hiking or mountain biking. If you’re hiking, you can opt to take the chairlift to the top and then head down on foot. There’s a coffee shop at the base of the hill if you need to refuel after an afternoon of skiing or hiking.
If you’re a chocolate fan, you’ll be happy to know there are not one but two chocolate shops you can visit in Punta Arenas. Norweisser Chocolate dates back to the 1970’s and they produce high quality chocolate in a traditional way under the strict supervision of the owner. Secreto de la Patagonia is a chocolate shop that opened in 2008 as a factory of handmade chocolates, and little by little increased their variety of products to jams, syrups, fruit infusions, and vinegars among many other delicacies.
This cozy tavern is located in the basement of one of the oldest palaces of Punta Arenas and is a very good place to visit and try local beers or Chilean wines. Well-located in the city and very local, this spot has a lot of history and provides the perfect backdrop for an evening drink or meal. The must-try beers to add to your sipping list include Austral Calafate, Hernando de Magallanes beer, and Baguales beer.
Part of the cultural history of Patagonia is linked to sharing. Living in this remote and wild place has made its people enjoy life and share without haste. And sharing mate (a type of local tea) with a good friend is an important part of the lives of people in Punta Arenas and in many parts of Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. If you have the opportunity to meet some locals and sit quietly with them to enjoy a mate, that will serve as a great way to see and experience local life in Patagonia. Behind a good mate, there is always a great story.