One of the largest penguin colonies in southern Chile, MONUMENTO NATURAL ISLA MAGDALENA is home to more than 120,000 Magellanic penguins. The small island, just one square kilometre in size and topped by a pretty red lighthouse, lies 35km northeast of Arenas, two hours away by boat. The penguins dig their burrows under the tufts of grass covering the 15m-high cliffs.

In October each year, the birds migrate back here and find their mate – they’re monogamous and remain faithful to one partner all their lives. The female lays two eggs in the nest and when the chicks hatch, in November, both parents nurture the young, one adult remaining with the chick, the other going fishing. In late January, the chicks shed their baby feathers and get ready for their first trips into the ocean. By the end of March the penguins have returned to sea again.

You can get very close to the birds as they half hide in the waving grass, and lounge by the sea. If they start to cock their heads from side to side, it’s a sign that you’re disturbing them. The five-hour round-trip, which includes one hour on the island, is worth it for the scenic ride alone, as you may well spot black-and-white Commerson’s dolphins and other marine mammals.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Chile features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

In pictures: exploring the otherworldly landscapes beyond Santiago

In pictures: exploring the otherworldly landscapes beyond Santiago

Santiago has transformed itself over the past decade, with a burgeoning food scene and thriving nightlife to boot. But the city's real drawcard remains its oth…

15 Sep 2017 • Nori Jemil insert_drive_file Article
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month