Located on the Strait of Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Punta Arenas is a city near the tip of Chile’s southernmost Patagonia region. It is the gateway to Antarctica from Chile, with many Antarctic expeditions starting from this city. Some people also use it as a gateway to Patagonia as it is easier to fly in to and hire a car from Punta Arenas than it is from Puerto Natales. If you are using Punta Arenas as a base for either Patagonia or Antarctica, then it’s worth it to spend a day in this city. This post covers things to do in Punta Arenas in one day.
Plan for One Day in Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas is a relatively small city. Half of your day (about 5 hours) will be spent on the first activity mentioned in the things to do list while the rest can be covered in the other half. You can do the first activity on this list first or you can do it in the afternoon. The order doesn’t really matter but it will take 5 hours. The rest are quick stops and need about 3-4 hours. This first activity is seasonal and is only offered October to March.
Things to Do in Punta Arenas in One Day
Isla Magdalena is a half day trip from Punta Arenas and is one of the best things you can do here. This island is home to a penguin colony. It is said that there are over 100,000 Magellanic penguins on this isle. The best part about this trip is that these penguins are in their natural habitat and you can get up, close and personal with them. The island itself is small and you will probably spend about an hour walking around looking at the penguins. There is a walking path that you must stick to.
The best way to get to Isla Magdalena is by tour. Demonades is a great company that offers this half day tour (about 5 hours). They are highly rated and their customer service is great. They reply via WhatsApp almost instantly. I had booked a tour but unfortunately, I could not do it as the tour was canceled due to bad weather. The company did a good job communicating this and also giving me options. When I told them none of the options worked my money was refunded immediately. I used this company for another tour in Puerto Natales and that was well organized too.
Click HERE for more details. They operate October to March and offer 2-3 tours a day depending on the month. The operation is limited because Magellan penguins are migratory birds and are only in the island from the beginning of October to the beginning of April.
Cerro de la Cruz
Cerro del la Cruz is a small hill in Punta Arenas. It has some of the best views of the city and beyond. Getting here is easy! You can either park in a tiny parking lot just behind the hill (when facing the city) or you can walk from town. The views from up here include the colorful buildings of the city and the water with the Strait of Magellan beyond. This lookout is also called Mirador de la Cruz.
Punta Arenas Sign
Taking a picture in front of the Punta Arenas sign is a great keepsake to remember that you visited one of the southernmost cities in the world! The “Punta Arenas” sign is located at the Costanera del Estrecho.
Costanera del Estrecho
Walk along Costanera del Estrecho, a pedestrian walkway that goes along the coast. It offers some nice views of Punta Arenas and the Strait of Magellan.
Check out the Monumento A Tripulantes Goleta Ancud. Which is a momument commomerating the schooner Ancud that was sent by Chile to claim sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan in 1843.
Like lots of cities in Chile, Punta Arenas also has some beautiful street art. The best ones are across the street from the Punta Arenas sign.
I really loved visiting the local cemetery at Punta Arenas. This cemetery was built in 1894 and is the final resting place of some of the notable local aristocratic families and immigrants from Europe. The graves are grand but the mausoleums are grander! The entire place is well kept and maintained. This cemetery is considered to be a national monument of Chile.
Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is the main town square of Punta Arenas (like all Latin cities). This little square is home to the Ferdinand Magellan memorial and is a nice little park where you can sit and relax. There was even live music the day I visited.
Ferdinand Magellan Memorial
In the center of Plaza de Armas is a bronze statue of Ferdinand Magellan, a famous Portuguese seafarer who visited Patagonia in the early 1500s. Sitting right below him with a foot hanging out is Lapu Lapu, an indigenous Patagonian. Legend has it that kissing Lapu Lapu’s foot will bring you good luck and calm seas as you pass through the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica. It is also said that if even one passenger skips kissing the foot that everyone onboard will suffer the rough waters of the Drake (I’ve seen videos…you DO NOT want this!!…just kiss the foot!)
Lord Lonsdale Shipwreck
Today, Lord Lonsdale’s shipwreck is a tribute to all sailors who cross the Strait of Magellan. However, its journey to Punta Arenas is quite strange. The ship left from Hamburg, Germany in 1909 and was bound for Mazatlán in Mexico via the Strait of Magellan. It stopped in the Falkland Islands on its way and caught fire there but it’s a mystery how it ended up in Punta Arenas as the Falklands are on the other side of the Atlantic.
Palacio Sara Braun
Palacio Sara Braun was perhaps my favorite building in Punta Arenas. It was built in 1895 and was declared a national monument in 1973. It was built for Sara Braun, a Russian woman, by French architect Numa Mayer using materials brought from Europe. Today the mansion is partly a hotel and partly the home of Club de la Unión, a gathering place for businessmen and politicians. However, you can visit the mansion and see some of the beautiful rooms and artifacts.
Walk Around the City
Punta Arenas is easy to walk around. There is easy public parking if you have a car that you can park and just walk. The city has lots of varied architecture. Some of the best buildings are in and around the Plaza de Armas area. There are also lots of cafes and places to eat in the city as well. My favorite find were lupines! One of my favorite flowers ever! I had seen the purple ones in Iceland before but hadn’t seen the rest of the colors. They just seem to grow wild everywhere!
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Penguins!! How adorable. I love all the street art in Punta Arenas.
Street art is everywhere in Chile! It’s incredible and so colorful!