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In 1520, Magellan was encircling around the Tierra del Fuego as he discovered Punta Arenas, along the southernmost belt of Chile. This region grew to become hugely popular due to its strategic geographic location, abundant natural assets and low priced amenities. Entrepreneurs, theologians, people, and pirates all made numerous outings to Punta Arenas to uncover a number of its secrets and riches. Between 1892 and 1920, the region thrived as a commercial destination. Fortunate settlers found their wealth by means of giant sheep ranches. Droves of men and women started calling Punta Arenas their permanent home after laying their hands on the natural resources and riches here.
 
Regrettably, using the opening from the Panama Canal, Punta Arenas lost a lot of its attraction. However the city has fought back, becoming the main city from the Magallenes region in Chile. It's 100s of miles from the other large Chilean metropolitan areas, and nearly two 1000 miles from Santiago, however this increases the charm of the tiny, quaint and unique city. Other than a fascinating historical legacy and friendly locals, the city boasts of a varied wildlife. The museums and sights in Punta Arenas are fabulous, and also the services and dining facilities are first class. In short - at heart, it’s a humble town with the amenities of a rather glamorous holiday destination.
 
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruiseliners pier in the Port of Punta Arenas. Taxis can be found in the port to take you around to downtown Punta Arenas, the hub of most tourist activities and attractions. Punta Arenas is actually a walk friendly city. You can spend the entire day walking on the charming, cobbled streets of downtown Punta Arenas.
 
Puerto Caldera offers very few facilities for cruise passengers, and there's nothing within walking distance; again, the village of Puntarenas is a 20-minute cab ride from this port. Ships dock opposite a terminal building, at the far end of which are a few souvenir shops and a sitting area with restrooms. You'll be able to pick up gifts -- jewelry, wooden crafts, Costa Rican coffee -- from local vendors but no food or drinks; spring for the bottled water for sale onboard your ship if you'd like to carry something with you.
 
If your ship docks right in Puntarenas, however, you are steps away from the base of the main tourist drag -- Paseo de los Turistas, which is a wide walkway replete with shopping and dining options that runs parallel to the beach. There's also a cruise terminal across the street from the dock perimeter with restrooms and other facilities, including phone stations. The port offers complimentary shuttle service from the gangway to the main exit if you don't want to walk; it's about 250 yards.Punta Arenas is imminently walkable. Plaza Munoz Gamero is a 10- or 15-minute walk or a $5 taxi ride. To get there from the terminal, walk up the hill one block on Avenida Independencia, then turn right on 21 de Mayo and continue for three blocks. The cathedral, museums, restaurants and main shopping avenue, Avenida Bories, all spin right off the square. There's also a tourism kiosk in the plaza, offering maps and other helpful brochures.
 
Things To See and Do
To get a good feel for Punta Arenas, spend some time in the city center. The centerpiece is the tree-lined Plaza Munoz Gamero, dominated by a bronze statue of Ferdinand Magellan, or Hernando de Magallanes, as the explorer is called in Chile. Magellan's ship was blown through the strait that bears his name by a series of gales in 1520. He was the first European to disembark on the famously windy shore. There are two museums worth visiting: Palacio Sara Braun, a national landmark located just across from the plaza, and, just one-half block away, Museo Regional de Magallanes. The Braun mansion, built over a four-year period in the 1890's, is a throwback to the city's Golden Age with its pressed Italian leather walls, hand painted ceilings, French chandeliers, bronzes, and gorgeous parquet floors. The regional museum, no slouch either, was the summer home of a prosperous family at the start of the 20th century. It also has some neat displays of Punta Arenas' past and a natural history exhibit. Unfortunately, neither museum has signs or brochures in English. The cost of admission at both places: 1,000 pesos. The Braun mansion accepts dollars but not euros.
 
Here are some popular sights and attractions you may want to check out if you choose not to do a shore excursion and explore Punta Arenas on your own:

Penguins
Some travelers cruise to South America just to see the delightful penguins. One penguin reserve is Otway Bay, a remote colony of about 4,000 warm-water Magellanic penguins. The other reserve is Isla Magdalena, an island that's home to 120,000 seasonal penguins and one of the continent's largest sanctuaries. The penguins stick closely to an October-March schedule, migrating in early March.

Plaza Munoz Gamero
Plaza Munoz Gamero is in the city center and features a large, bronze statue of Ferdinand Magellan, an early explorer important to the region. Magellan was the first European explorer to disembark on the shore.
C
emeterio Municipal
History is evident in the sprawling cemetery, Cemeterio Municipal. One section is devoted entirely to the English and Braun, a Russian who married a Portuguese wool baron, lies here, as well. The impressive crypts surrounded by marigolds and pansies, and ornate mausoleums make the cemetery a site worth visiting for those who appreciate history.
 
Palacio Sara Braun
This resplendent 1895 mansion, a national landmark and architectural showpiece of southern Patagonia, was designed by French architect Numa Meyer at the behest of Sara Braun (the wealthy widow of wool baron José Nogueira). Materials and craftsmen were imported from Europe during the home's four years of construction. The city's central plaza and surrounding buildings soon followed, ushering in the region's golden era. The Club de la Unión, a social organization that now owns the building, opens its doors to nonmembers for tours of some of the rooms and salons, which have magnificent parquet floors, marble fireplaces, and hand-painted ceilings. Unfortunately, the staff aren't all that friendly or enthusiastic. After touring the rooms, head to the cellar tavern for a drink or snack.
 
Museo Regional de Magallanes
Housed in what was once the mansion of the powerful Braun-Menéndez family, the Regional Museum of Magallanes is an intriguing glimpse into the daily life of a wealthy provincial family in the early 1900s. Lavish Carrara marble hearths, English bath fixtures, a billiard room that was a social hub in the city's glory days, and cordovan leather walls are all kept in immaculate condition, helped by the sockettes you wear over your shoes. The museum has an excellent group of displays depicting Punta Arenas's past, from prehistoric animals to European contact to its decline with the opening of the Panama Canal. The museum is half a block north of the main square.
 
Museo Salesiano de Maggiorino Borgatello
Commonly referred to simply as "El Salesiano," this museum is operated by Italian missionaries whose order arrived in Punta Arenas in the 19th century. The Salesians, most of whom spoke no Spanish, proved to be daring explorers. Traveling throughout the region, they collected the artifacts made by indigenous tribes that are currently on display. They also relocated many of the indigenous people to nearby Dawson Island, where they died by the hundreds (from diseases like influenza and pneumonia). The museum contains an extraordinary collection of everything from skulls and native crafts to stuffed animals.
 
Isla Magdalena
Punta Arenas is the launching point for a boat trip to see the more than 120,000 Magellanic penguins at the Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos on this island. Visitors walk a single trail, marked off by rope, and penguins are everywhere—wandering across your path, sitting in burrows, skipping along just off the shore, strutting around in packs. The trip to the island, in the middle of the Estrecho de Magallanes, takes about two hours. To get here, you must take a tour boat. If you haven't booked in advance, you can stop at any of the local travel agencies and try to get on a trip at the last minute, which is often possible. You can go only from December to the end of March; the penguin population peaks in January and February. The Melinka, the ferry that crosses the strait to Porvenir, runs an afternoon service to the island every afternoon at 3 pm, returning around 8 pm (25,000 pesos). Almost all cruise ships that stop at Punta Arenas visit the colony. However you get here, bring warm clothing, even in summer; the island can be chilly, and it's definitely windy, which helps with the odor. If you like penguins, you'll have a blast. If you don't like penguins, what are you doing in Patagonia?
 
Museo Naval y Marítimo
The Naval and Maritime Museum extols Chile's high-seas prowess, particularly where Antarctica's concerned. In fact, a large chunk of ice from the great white continent is kept just below freezing point in a glass case. The exhibits are worth a visit by anyone with an interest in merchant or military ships and sailing, but the real highlight is in the screening room, where you can watch Irving Johnson's incredible film Around Cape Horn—his account of the hardship faced by crews in frigid southern waters in the early 20th century. His astounding black-and-white footage of daredevil crew members and mountainous seas is accompanied by a gruff and often hilarious voiceover, reminiscing about a perilous and adventurous way of life.Reserva Nacional Laguna ParrillarThe 47,000-acre Reserva Nacional Laguna Parrillar, west of Puerto Hambre, stretches around a shimmering lake in a valley flanked by hills. It's a great place for a picnic, if the weather cooperates. A number of well-marked paths lead to sweeping vistas over the Estrecho de Magallanes.
 
Pingüinera de Seno Otway
Magellanic penguins, which live up to 20 years in the wild, return repeatedly to their birthplace to mate with the same partner. For about 2,000 penguin couples—no singles make the trip—home is this desolate and windswept land off the Otway Sound. In late September the penguins begin to arrive from the southern coast of Brazil and the Falkland Islands. They mate and lay their eggs in early October, and brood their eggs in November. Offspring are hatched mid-November through early December. If you're lucky, you'll see downy gray chicks stick their heads out of the burrows when their parents return to feed them. Otherwise you might see scores of the adult penguins waddling to the ocean from their nesting burrows. They swim for food every eight hours and dive up to 30 meters (100 feet) deep. The penguins depart from the sound in late March.[]The road to the sanctuary begins 30 km (18 mi) north of Punta Arenas, where the main road, Ruta 9, diverges near a checkpoint booth. A gravel road then traverses another fierce and winding 30 km (18 mi), but the rough trip should reward you with the sight of hundreds of sheep, cows, and birds, including, if you're lucky, rheas and flamingos. The sanctuary is a 1-km (½-mi) walk from the parking lot. It gets chilly, so bring a windbreaker.[]The best time to appreciate the penguins is in the morning before 10 am, or the evening after 5 pm, when they are not out fishing. If you don't have a car, Comapa, like many other tour companies based in Punta Arenas, offers tours to the Pingüinera. The tours generally leave from Punta Arenas and return about 3½ hours later; most charge 20,000 pesos (sometimes including $2,000 park entrance fee).
 
Eating Out
Chilean cuisine reflects a sublime cultural blend! Porotos granados, a popular stew which combines indigenous native fare -corn, beans, tomatoes and pumpkin- with onions and garlic adopted from the Spanish, is one delicious example! -And there are so many more! "Once," meaning eleven in Spanish and commemorating the 11:00 AM British Tea Time, is a Chilean tradition which occurs in the afternoon. Chilean people eat four times a day, and lunch is usually the largest meal. Salads and then two main dishes are served at this time. Look for great seafood including razor clams (machas), sea urchins (erizos), abalone (Locos), seaweed (cochayuyo), and caldillo de congrio (conger eel soup), fresh vegetables, and cheeses. In typical Chilean style, enjoy supper around 9:00 PM, when you will have a healthy portion of a single entree perhaps accompanied by a vintage from the Central Valley! 
Popular Restaurants in Punta Arenas: 
 
La Tasca, a popular Spanish restaurant, has a view of the Plaza Munoz Gamero from its second story location. You'll find regional specialties such as fresh king crab, conger eel, and Patagonian lamb, and other incredible dishes including salmon ceviche, grilled beef loin, and paella. Lunch including bottled water, wine and bread is about 20 USD. While this restaurant has some mid-priced entrees, you will find some expensive items -such as lobster- as well. La Tasca receives great reviews for entree portions and quality, but not everyone's happy with the prices. La Tasca is located in town, and is roughly 20 minutes away by shuttle from the cruise terminal. La Tasca is at Plaza Munoz Gamero 771 in the Sociedad Espanola building, and is open from 10:00 AM to 12:20 PM for lunch, and then from 3:00 PM to 2:00 AM. Their telephone number is (56-61) 242-807.
 
La Marmita consistently receives high reviews for food quality and ambiance! Open for lunch and supper, La Marmita specializes in Chilean dishes, seafood, and vegan cuisine. If you love seafood, the Magellanic crab and pisco sours should be on the must do list! Prices range from 21 to 50 USD. La Marmita is located at Plaza Sampaio 678 in Punta Arenas, which is about 20 minutes by shuttle from the cruise terminal. Their phone number is (56-61) 222-056, and their website is http://www.marmitamaga.cl/.
 
La Luna, located at O' Higgins #1017 in Punta Arenas, is a reasonably priced venue offering Chilean favorites that you can pair with a decent local wine. While there, you may want to try the Pisco Sours, and the Chupe de Centolla receives some excellent reviews. La Luna can be viewed as "tourist friendly," which can be a nice perk if you don't speak Chilean Spanish. Their phone number is (56-61) 228-555, and their website is http://www.laluna.cl/.
 
Restaurant Puerto Viejo boasts a nautical glass and wood décor in keeping with its name. Situated nearby the cruise terminal at O' Higgins 1166 in Punta Arenas, you'll find signature steak, seafood, and lamb dishes. Abalone salad, king crab, eel's cheeks in mustard sauce, and Chilean sea bass are highly recommended. Lunch is around 20 USD. Also at your fingertips are a selection of local wines and beers, we well as the always present pisco sours. This restaurant is open for lunch, it's certainly fine to drop by for drinks and appetizers. You can contact Restaurant Puerto Viejo at (56-61) 225-103 
 
Shopping
The port of Puntarenas was once the main port for coffee exported to England. Today, coffee continues to play an important role in this country's economy. Most visitors to Puntarenas will not want to leave without taking home the delicious flavor of Costa Rican coffee. Puntarenas offers wonderful arts-and-crafts shopping as well. Several craft stands are located ashore near the pier. The walk along the waterfront is pleasant, but be prepared to be approached by a variety of nonrecommended vendors selling local crafts and private tours.

In Sarchi, about one hour outside of San José, you will find many authentic arts and crafts including wood figures, carved walking canes, toys, leather goods, wall hangings and more. The villagers of Sarchi are famous for their hand-painted hardwood oxcarts, used since the beginning of the century to transport coffee and other products. In Sarchi, you can purchase miniature replicas and the colorful cartwheels of these carts, which visitors take home to use as decorative planters, bars or even as a living room or kitchen accent.




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