Chilean Patagonia’s second city, PUERTO NATALES, 250km north of Punta Arenas, is the gateway to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, and a useful base for visiting the nearby Cueva del Milodón, the glaciers of the Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins, and, across the border in Argentina, the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Natales is also a good transport hub, home to the terminal of the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt in the Lake District, and linked to Punta Arenas, Torres del Paine and Argentina by regular bus services.
Enjoying a stunning location at the edge of the pampa, Puerto Natales sits on the lovely Seno Ultima Esperanza (“Last Hope Sound”), fringed by tall peaks, with the powerful wind stirring up waves on the turquoise channel where the remnants of a wooden pier bedecked with cormorants stretch into the distance. The channel’s name comes from the 1557 explorer, Juan Ladrilleros, who came upon it when he was at the end of his tether while searching for the western entrance to the Magellan Strait. He found the strait, but almost all his crew died in the attempt.