Chile’s most southern city, this former penal colony is now a cosmopolitan metropolis – the gateway to exploring the Antarctic. The city prospered in the late 19th century from the wool boom, and there are many handsome European-style mansions and public buildings from that era that reflect those new-found riches. The city’s troubled – and troubling – environmental attitude and treatment of the indigenous population has undergone a welcome reversal in recent years and new science centres are being planned to embrace the city’s relationship with the Antarctic, while the city is increasingly celebrating the culture and heritage of its original inhabitants. It’s a fascinating place to visit, before you travel into the majestic, glacier-rich wilds of Patagonia, discover the penguin and seabird colonies that thrive in this region, or cross to Tierra del Fuego.
Reasons to visit Punta Arenas include:
The warmest time is November to early March, though even in the summer the weather is extremely changeable and – especially in this season – the winds can reach very high speeds. In Autumn (March to May) the foliage is glorious. From June to August many attractions and hiking trails are closed, and the weather can be extremely cold and miserable. But whenever you visit, you can be sure of one thing; the weather in Patagonia is unpredictable. If you want to see the fluffy penguin chicks, late November – hatching time - is the time to visit. The adult penguins arrive in September and lay eggs in October. The youngsters head out to sea in March.
Whenever you go, sunblock is a must. The hole in the ozone layer above the city is shrinking, but the city’s residents are diligent about applying suncream, and it’s a wise discipline to follow.
Time: GMT -4 hours
There are direct flights from London Heathrow to Santiago, which operate 4 times a week and take 14 hours 40 minutes. The Chilean airline, LATAM, flies via Madrid.
Language: The official language is Spanish. but other local languages are also spoken. English is spoken quite widely.
Visas are not currently required for British passport holders staying for up to 90 days, who are issued with a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo-Tourist Card’ on arrival. You must retain this and present it to immigration on departure.
Generally none is compulsory but we recommend the following: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, diphtheria, meningitis, tetanus, rabies and polio. There is no malaria in Chile. A yellow fever certificate is required if you are coming from an infected area.