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South America

Punta Arenas Cruise Port Guide

Credit: Martin St-Amant
Credit: Martin St-Amant

Perched atop rolling hills, Punta Arenas cruise port offers visitors views of the Strait of Magellan and is the gateway to Chilean Patagonia.

Many years ago, Punta Arenas was a major port, docking multiple ships from the north as well as other places all across the globe.

This South American cruise destination doesn’t see as many visitors as it used to during the days before the Panama Canal. But its rich natural resources, including a maze of fjords, rivers, steppes, and mountains, keeps the destination on the minds of travelers.

In most cases, cruise passengers are taken by ferry into the main town. Tourists then get to the town center via tenders. The entire ride lasts about 10 to 15 minutes.

Once off the vehicle, tourists will find the town center busy and confusing. However, there is a large and easily recognizable yellow terminal (normally, passengers are left here) that offers the same amenities as a large plaza. There are restaurants, souvenir stands, coffee shops, and an internet café. Additionally, there is a handicrafts shop close by.

Port Attractions and Shore Excursions

The City Center. Yes, the city center has much to offer visitors. Visitors will find two museums, Palacio Sara Braun (museum and national landmark) as well as Museo Regional de Magallanes. There is also the Plaza Munoz Gamero—a plaza featuring a bronze statue of Ferdinand Magellan. 

Cementerio Municipal: Strangely enough, the Cementerio Municipal is one of Punta Arenas’ top attractions. It’s a rather fascinating cemetery with magnificent and finely sculpted graves.

For the history buffs, there is the Braun mansion, built in the 1890s and offering an antique and classic French look and feel.

City tours are common shore excursions. They usually range in price from $50 to $100 depending on the length and amenities.

Fort Bulnes is a reconstruction of the area’s first settlement. A tour costs about $85 including transportation.

Transportation / Getting Around

The town center of Punta Arenas is relatively small and rather compact. This means that walking around is generally a good idea. The major attractions in the town center including cathedral, museums and restaurants are located just off the town square and are all walkable.

To get to the popular Plaza Munoz Gamero from the terminal, simply walk to Avenida Independencia in the town center and ask for directions.

Otherwise, take a taxi at the terminal. Additionally, there is also a tourism kiosk in the plaza offering useful information including maps, profile brochures, flyers, etc.

Dining

La Tasca: With an extensive menu, La Tasca offers a wide selection of culinary choices. A Spanish restaurant, as its name suggests, La Tasca overlooks Plaza Munoz Gamero and offers standard Spanish specialties such as salmon ceviche, Patagonian lamb and centolla.

Puerto Viejo: An urban oasis in a quaint town, Puerto Viejo is an all glass and wood nautically designed restaurant. This restaurant specializes in seafood and offers salad, eel, crab, lobster, etc. Specialties include Chilean sea bass and corvine.

Served by a number of cruise liners including Holland America and Oceania, Punta Arenas is a quaint destination that offers a number of attractive features all in one place. A great location for the history buffs and those who like adventure, Puntas Arenas is a cruise destination for the cruise lover.

Cruise Weather

The location of Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile makes it a cold weather port year round, including the summer.

January is the warmest month with an average daytime temperature of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees Celsius, according to Chile’s national meteorology service. December and February have slightly lower temperatures. They are the best months to visit.

Rainfall is low to almost non-existent with an average of one to two inches per month.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 17, 2020

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