PUERTO WILLIAMS nestles in a small bay on the north shore of Isla Navarino, 82km due east and slightly south of Ushuaia along the Beagle Channel. Although Ushuaia loudly proclaims its “end of the world” status, it suffers from geographical envy when it comes to tiny Puerto Williams, home to just over two thousand people. Originally founded as a military outpost, it’s officially the capital of Chilean Antarctica. The compact, windblown settlement has a somewhat desolate quality to it even in the height of the brief summer, but the people are exceptionally warm and welcoming and you get a real sense of a close-knit community, brought together by isolation from the rest of Chile. Most businesses are concentrated in the Centro Comercial, by the Plaza O’Higgins.
The seafront Avenida Costanera, leads you past a rusted hulk of a half-sunken barge loaded with centolla traps towards the indigenous community of Villa Ukika. From the bright-red x-shaped pier that juts into the channel’s cold blue waters, you get a wonderful view of the town against a backdrop of the forest-covered jagged peaks of Los Dientes beyond.