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Punta Arenas, Chile

Punta Arenas is the regional capital of the Magallanes y Antártica Region located in Chilean Patagonia. Punta Arenas (formerly Punta Arenosa, "Sandy Point") is located on the Brunswick Peninsula and was founded in the 17th century by Englishman J. Byron who gave it the name of Sandy Point. It is the largest settlement on the Strait of Magellan and is located 1418 km from the coast of Antarctica. The history and economic growth of the city is based on maritime commerce, oil extraction, and sheep breeding.

The city has all kind of facilities, in particular, an abundance of banks, shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, hiking gear shops and a duty-free zone called "Zona Franca".

Don't trust the weather forecast, usually, you can get rain, wind, and sun all in the same day. Snow is always expected to fall in the winter.

Etymology

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Punta Arenas, Chile

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Punta Arenas is the regional capital of the Magallanes y Antártica Region located in Chilean Patagonia. Punta Arenas (formerly Punta Arenosa, "Sandy Point") is located on the Brunswick Peninsula and was founded in the 17th century by Englishman J. Byron who gave it the name of Sandy Point. It is the largest settlement on the Strait of Magellan and is located 1418 km from the coast of Antarctica. The history and economic growth of the city is based on maritime commerce, oil extraction, and sheep breeding.

The city has all kind of facilities, in particular, an abundance of banks, shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, hiking gear shops and a duty-free zone called "Zona Franca".

Don't trust the weather forecast, usually, you can get rain, wind, and sun all in the same day. Snow is always expected to fall in the winter.

Etymology

The English 18th-century explorer John Byron is sometimes credited with naming this area, calling it Sandy Point. However, it was not until 1843 that the government tried to establish a fort and settlement at Fuerte Bulnes. The name Punta Arenas was derived from the Spanish term Punta Arenosa, a literal translation of the English name "Sandy Point". The city has also been known as Magallanes. Today that term is normally used to describe the administrative region which includes the city.

Punta Arenas has been nicknamed "the city of the red roofs" for the red-painted metal roofs that characterized the city for many years. Since about 1970, the availability of other colors in protective finishes has resulted in greater variety in the characteristic metal roofs.

Geography

Located on the Brunswick Peninsula, Punta Arenas is among the largest cities in the entire Patagonian Region. It is roughly 1,418.4 km (881 miles) from the coast of Antarctica.

The Magallanes region is considered part of Chilean Patagonia. Magallanes is Spanish for Magellan and was named for Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain. While circumnavigating the earth for Spain, he passed close to the present site of Punta Arenas in 1520. Early English navigational documents referred to this site as "Sandy Point".

The city proper is located on the northeastern shore of Brunswick Peninsula. Except for the eastern shore, containing the settlements of Guairabo, Rio Amarillo and Punta San Juan, the peninsula is largely uninhabited. The municipality of Punta Arenas includes all of Brunswick Peninsula, as well as all islands west of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and north of Cockburn and Magdalena channels.

The largest of those are:

  • Santa Inés Island
  • Desolación Island
  • Dawson Island
  • Aracena Island
  • Clarence Island
  • Carlos Island
  • Wickham Island

Except Dawson Island, the islands are largely uninhabited.


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Punta Arenas, Chile: Port Information


Cruise ships anchor offshore, and passengers are transported to the Puerto del Estrecho located in the city center by the tender boats.

Get around Punta Arenas, Chile


The city is built around its main square "Plaza de Armas" where the imposing monument of Hernando de Magallanes is located. There is also a monument of a Magellan native, or Ona, that according to local legend if a tourist touches his foot it will return once again to the city. Another local legend to come back to the city is to eat Magellan Barberries (calafate), similar to blueberries.

Many of the main public buildings such as the town hall or the Union Club (Club de la Union) are found around Plaza de Armas. In general, Punta Arenas is compact and walkable, but it can get really windy. You will only need transportation for lengthier trips outside of it. For these trips, you can ask for a cab (taxi), a minivan (minibus), or a collective taxi (colectivo).

What to see in Punta Arenas, Chile


  • A 10-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas, the Hill of the Cross viewpoint (Cerro de la Cruz) gives a panoramic view of the city.
  • Austral Brewery (Cerveceria Austral), Patagonia 508, ☎ +56 061 245727. Come learn and enjoy the traditional production process and a beer tasting session at the southernmost brewery in the world. Call ahead for tour times and availability (minimum 2 people). Lasts 60-90 minutes and tastings are generous with their pours.
  • Regional Museum, with historical artifacts and part of the Braun-Menéndez Mansion
  • Museo del Recuerdo, Avenida Bulnes 01890, ☎ +56 061 207056. 8:30 AM-11 AM, 2:30 PM-6 PM M-F. Houses an outstanding collection of old steam engines, horsecarts, cars, historic houses furnished in the 1870s and farm implements.
  • Visit the numerous lighthouses in and outside of the city, such as Faro San Isidro and Faro Punta Dungeness.
  • The Shepherds' monument is a traditional monument located on Avenida Bulnes 11 blocks away from the Plaza de Armas. It is one of the many traditional places in the city.
  • Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, Avenida Bulnes 336, ☎ +56 061 221001. 10A M-12:30 PM, 3 PM-6 PM Tu-Su. A Salesian Society museum of natural history and pre-Colombian ethnic groups. 
  • Punta Arenas Cemetery, ☎ +56 061 212777, fax: +56 061 218418, e-mail: cementeriomunicipal@puntaarenas.cl. 7:30 AM-8 PM. Famous for its magnificent mausoleums, architecture, and shaped pine trees, the municipal cemetery dates back to 1840s and is blessed with the remains of many local aristocratic families, as well as English and Croatian immigrants.
  • Museo Nao Victoria, Km 7.5 Norte (In Sector Humedal de Tres Puentes), ☎ +56 09 96400772, e-mail: info@naovictoria.cl.  9 AM-7 PM Daily. A nautically-themed museum that hosts replicas of the Nao Victoria, James Caird, Schooner Ancud and is building the first ever replica of the HMS Beagle. To arrive take the bus with destination Río Seco from the corner of Chiloé and Ignacio Carrera Pinto in town.

What to do in Punta Arenas, Chile


  • Seno Otway (penguin rookery). Located 70 km north of the city, each spring Seno Otway hosts hundreds of Magellan Penguins returning home to their birthplace in order to breed. Many travel agencies offer day trips from Punta Arenas that leave you very little time at the colony, so it's best to visit in your own car.
  • Isla Magdalena Pinguinera (penguin rookery). A five-hour trip. Two hours each way by boat and one hour on the island. Humans must stay on the path, but the penguins ignore it and will practically step on your feet as they waddle by. 

What to eat and drink in Punta Arenas, Chile


Eat

  • Kiosko Roca, Presidente Julio Roca 875, ☎ +56 061 223436. 7 AM-7 PM M-F, 8 AM-1 PM Sat. A very small place located near the Plaza de Armas. Here you can eat "choripan", grilled sausage on French bread, and "leche con plátano" a milk beverage with the addition of bananas. The food is so good that the place is full almost all day.
  • Dino's Pizza, Bories 557, ☎ +56 061 247434. 12 PM-11 PM MWF, 12 PM-12 AM ThF, 12:30 PM-10:30 PM Su. Locally famous pizza and sandwich restaurant. Try the delicious rhubarb juice or a "Barros Luco" (a beef and cheese sandwich).
  • La Chocolatta, Bories 852, ☎ +56 061 248150, e-mail: contacto@chocolatta.cl. A grandma-style café, very cozy and usually full, that serves a large variety of homemade chocolates, ice cream, tea, and coffee.
  • La Luna, O'Higgins 1017, ☎ +56 061 228555, e-mail: lalunachile@gmail.com. Special cuisine made with fresh regional products. Its specialties are seafood and lamb.
  • Puerto Viejo Seafood and Grill, ☎ +56 061 225103, e-mail: informa@puertoviejo.cl. Fresh and savory food focusing on fish and seafood, and a variety of grill dishes that includes the famous Magellan lamb.
  • El Remezón Restaurant, Calle 21 de Mayo 1469, ☎ +56 061241029, e-mail: remezon@hotmail.com. Magellian Ethnic Food in a warm environment.

The city is also known for its number of cafés, to name a few:

  • Café Pub Cyrano, Bulnes 299, ☎ +56 061 242749, e-mail: cyranocafepub@hotmail.com. Enjoy a fabulous "Twinnings" teapot or one of its varieties of coffee or chocolate drinks with local pastries. Good coffee and Wi-Fi access.
  • Santo Remedio, Bulnes 040. Local pastries, in the evening it becomes a pub and serves good "tablas" and "picoteos" (snack platters).
  • La Marmita, Plaza Sampaio 678, ☎ +56 061 222056. La Marmita has trendy decor, awesome food, and an all-around great atmosphere. An awesome place to relax with friends or family after a day of activity. A great find and a great choice for vegetarians.
  • Jekus, O'Higgins 1021, ☎ +56 061 245851. 10 AM-3 AM Daily. A restaurant/pub with good service and creatively decorated inside with beautiful wood carvings. Good selection of wines and beers. Unfortunately, the food is boring with soup from packets not quite dissolved and basic meat and potatoes entrees. 

Drink

  • 1900 Pub, Avenida Colón 617, ☎ +56 061 226500. 10 AM-2 AM Daily. A small place located in the Tierra Del Fuego Hotel in the center of the city.
  • Bull Blood, Avenida España 0480, e-mail: pubbullblood@tie.cl. Nice environment, with great drinks and food. It has a small dance hall and karaoke all night.
  • Kamikaze Club and Madero Pub, Bories 655. Japanese WWII-themed nightclub may be unusual but makes for an entertaining evening. The pub plays a mixture of Western/Latin and Reggaeton music is played into the early hours and is attended by enthusiastic locals and tourists alike. At the top is the "Madero Pub", with karaoke and live music. Cover includes a free drink but is a bit expensive.
  • Notre Dame, Croacia 1007, ☎ +56 061 228786. A nice place to have a drink with friends, this place gets busy every day after about 11 pm. Karaoke on the main floor Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Olijoe Pub, Errázuriz 970, ☎ +56 061 223728. A traditional local venue, it has a big bar made of wood from "lenga", the signature tree of the region.
  • Santino Bar e Cucina, Colon 657, ☎ +56 061 710888. 6 PM-3 AM Daily. Quality Italian food and good drinks alongside stunning decor. Live music on Saturdays.

Shopping in Punta Arenas, Chile


There’s a small open market ("feria") for touristy merchandise downtown. You can find department stores, supermarkets, and a lot of outdoors shops (like Timberland and The North Face) on Calle Bories nearby.

There is a large outlet mall on the outskirts of the city, called "Zona Franca", a duty-free zone, with supermarkets, perfume, clothing, and outdoor stores, all with very reasonable prices. Also on the outskirts of the city, the recently-opened Mall Espacio Urbano Pionero (Pioneer Urban Space Mall) offers three department stores (Falabella, Ripley and La Polar), a food court, various smaller stores, and a "Lider" supermarket.

  • Open Market. Muñoz Gamero Main Square, Downtown.
  • Zona Franca Outlet Mall. Km 3 1/2 Norte, Bulnes Av.
  • Espacio Urbano Pionero Mall. 01110, Eduardo Frei Av.

Safety in Punta Arenas, Chile


Pickpocketing and muggings are quite frequent, albeit the rate is lower than in most large South American cities. Still, caution is recommended. It's advisable not to travel in the downtown area wearing expensive-looking jewelry or watches, even during the day. Stay alert and be especially careful in all crowded areas. It is recommended to wear your backpack at the front of your body in crowded areas. If you have a laptop it can be relaxing being outside in a café doing some work but thieves may see you. For your own safety, go to an internet café if you need to be connected and leave your laptop at home. It will save you from losing it and it can save you from a violent attack from thieves.

For tourists or other "beginners" lacking experience in over-the-counter transactions with hard Chilean currency, you can reduce the chance of your wallet getting stolen by following some advice:

Separate coins and bills. Coins are frequently used when paying for public transport, newspapers or snacks, store them in a small handbag so that your bills will remain concealed.
CLP1000, CLP2000 and CLP5000 notes should be easily accessible. Notes of higher value should be stored in another, more secure place in your wallet so you don't accidentally pay 10000 pesos instead of 1000, for example. Chile's Central Bank is in the middle of replacing all notes and its size, so you can find two types of 5000, 10,000 and 20,000 notes, all of which have legal value and are to be accepted everywhere.
Do not reach for your wallet until the vendor tells you the price.

Chilean Carabineros (National Police) are very trustworthy - call 133 from any phone if you need emergency assistance. Some municipalities (such as Santiago or Las Condes) have private guards; however, they usually don't speak English. Do not try to bribe a carabinero, since it will get you into serious trouble! Unlike other South American police corps, Chilean Carabineros are very proud and honest, and bribery would be a serious offense against their creed.

Regarding driving conditions: Chilean drivers tend to be not as erratic and volatile as those in neighboring countries.

Avoid taking photographs of navy ships and buildings or other military buildings, ask first. If caught they have the right to arrest you and expect to get all your photos examined and erased; however, imprisonment is rare as officials understand you might not have noticed the warning because you don't know Spanish.

In case you insist on taking the pictures expect some questions about why you photographed. Chile lives in peace with its neighbors Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru, but the country is always preparing for an attack, which some Chileans think might happen since it's a small and narrow country compared to its bigger neighbor Argentina, for example.

Some cities like Punta Arenas are naval cities, so be extra careful when taking photographs. Some marines may speak little English, so point at the object you want to take a photo and say "si?" ("yes?"). If they reply with a "no", then it's better to just leave.

Emergency Numbers:
131 Ambulance
132 Firefighters
133 Carabineros (Police)

Stay healthy

In case of emergency, call 131.
In case of an accident you can also call Chilean firemen - Bomberos - dialing 132 - they tend to be the fastest ones to respond.
You can always call the police -carabineros - at 133 in case of an accident or if your life is at risk for any reason. Don't expect to have an operator who is fluent in English. 

Rabies, as well as most major diseases, have been eradicated from Chile.

Tap water is safe to drink, although bottled water is ubiquitous.

Chile suffers relatively frequent earthquakes. If you are caught in one, keep your calm, stay away from objects that may fall down, don't run, and unless the building you are at is literally falling down don't try to escape. All buildings in Chile made after 1960 must comply with strict building regulations and should withstand even the strongest of earthquakes, so during an earthquake you should protect yourself from anything that may fall down from ceilings or walls. If you have been on a very strong earthquake, expect to feel aftershocks for a few days after that. Chileans tend not to care about minor earthquakes and will at most make a comment such as "tembló?" and continue with their lives.

Language spoken in Punta Arenas, Chile


Spanish is the official language in the country and is spoken everywhere. Chileans use a distinct dialect called Castellano de Chile with a variety of differences in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and slang usage. Spanish-speaking foreigners won't have problems understanding it and will only think it sounds funny, but non-native speakers often struggle to understand it, even with years of practice. If you ask people to speak "neutral Spanish" they can do it for you; people only speak this dialect in informal situations and it doesn't translate to a formal difference in grammar (like with Argentine Spanish).

Here are two of the most common Chilean expressions:
  • Huevón (pronounced usually as weh-OHN) could be translated into different words according to its context. Originally a swear word meaning "jerk", it can be used also as "friend" or "dude".
  • Cachar (pronounced ka-CHAR) comes from the verb "to catch" and means "understand". Also, is commonly used in a weird conjugated form as cachai' at the end of the sentences, similarly to "y'know".
English is widely understood. Since English is now mandatory in schools, younger people are far more likely to speak English than older people, the latter (over 40 years old) being unlikely to speak any English unless they are tourist industry workers or in the far south where the British heritage remains stronger. (Chile currently has the largest population of British descendants in Latin America - even larger than that in neighboring Argentina. Over 700,000 Chileans may have English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh origins, amounting to more than 4% of Chile's population.)

Various indigenous languages are spoken in Chile like Mapudungun (in Araucanía and Bíobío regions), Quechua (in Atacama and Tarapacá regions) and Rapa Nui (in Easter Island), but only between indigenous people, which are less than 5% of the population. Even a lot of people identifying with one of these groups are not able to speak their native language and speak Spanish instead.

Some people understand some French (every high school student had 5 years of French in school until the Pinochet dictatorship eliminated this requirement), Italian and Portuguese (because of its resemblance with Spanish) and also there are some German speakers, especially in the south of the country, where a lot of German migrants arrived in the second half of the 19th century.

LOCAL TIME

3:59 am
June 17, 2019
America/Punta_Arenas

CURRENT WEATHER

5.78 °C / 42.404 °F
overcast clouds
Mon

5.85 °C/43 °F
overcast clouds
Tue

6.62 °C/44 °F
light rain
Wed

0.28 °C/33 °F
light snow
Thu

-0.11 °C/32 °F
broken clouds

LOCAL CURRENCY

CLP

1 USD = 0 CLP
1 EUR = 0 CLP
1 GBP = 0 CLP
1 AUD = 0 CLP
1 CAD = 0 CLP

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