Things to consider
- If you have the time, consider spending a couple nights here after your adventures in Torres del Paine to get a different (and often missed) perspective of the area. You could even spoil yourself in a luxury hotel right outside of town.
- If you’re an ice cream fan, you need to check out Aluén. They serve handmade ice cream and often have unique, local flavours, it’s definitely worth it, even when it’s cold and windy out!
Things to do
A few hours
- La Costanera: If the weather’s not too bad, a walk along the boardwalk will give you some incredible views overlooking the water. If you continue your stroll north out of town, you’ll find a gravel stretch of road on which you can meander. Locals tend to run or bike here, and there’s plenty of places to stop to take in the view of the expansive sky - if you can plan your walk around sunset, you’re bound to get breathtaking sights. You just need to prepare for those coastal gusts of wind - many a jacket and scarf has been lost here!
- The Singular: A historical hotel located right on the water about a 10-minute taxi ride out of town, the Singular offers a great insight into Puerto Natales’ past. This luxury hotel was once a cold storage warehouse, and now houses a museum full of machinery from the industrial revolution. Finish your explorations here with a Calafate sour at their elegant and cosy bar.
- Baguales or Basecamp: Baguales is Puerto Natales’ first microbrewery - a gathering spot for locals and travellers alike. Feast on a hearty meal in a social atmosphere; it’s easy to strike up a conversation here with fellow travellers over a pint. Basecamp is a backpacker’s mecca - come here for a solid meal of pizza and beer and hear about some incredible adventures from fellow travellers.
- Galpón Cultural Center: This revamped 1920s building now houses a gallery and a small café, and occasionally hosts film festivals or other cultural events. Stop in for a quick look at the current local art being displayed, and browse the small gift store for luxurious local items.
- Museo Histórico: For a small fee, you can browse this small museum that features interesting local history about the indigenous populations and the early settlers in the region. Information is both in Spanish and English.
Beware that ATMs around Puerto Natales often run out of cash! Be prepared to try a few, and maybe get cash out beforehand in another city.
- Estancia Puerto Consuelo: Originally settled in 1893, Estancia Puerto Consuelo was founded by Hermann Eberhard - the discoverer of the famous Milodón (ancient giant ground sloth) skin in the caves nearby. Explore the historical estancia and enjoy a nice walk there. (You may be able to request a guided hike if you contact them in advance.) Afterwards, enjoy some tea and sweet treats in their lodge with an expansive view of the fjord. For more information, here's their website
- Milodón Cave: This historic site is around 25 km outside of town - you can either go by taxi or find a local tour operator who will arrange your half-day of travel for a fee. While the three caves or the surrounding landscape are hard to compare to Torres del Paine, the history is interesting - the main cave is the site where Hermann Eberhard found a piece of skin from the ancient Milodon - a giant ground sloth that lived after the last Ice Age. The other cave possesses some of the earliest human evidence in the region, dating to around 11,000 years ago.
- Estancia La Peninsula: Begin your day with a boat ride across the fjord to Antonio Varas peninsula, where you’ll be welcomed into the estancia with warm drinks and snacks. Spend the morning partaking in one of four activities: horseback ride alongside a gaucho through a diverse landscape, ride in an off-road vehicle up Cerro Ballena to a 360º view of the surrounding mountain ranges, enjoy a guided walk along the coast, wetlands and forest and spot native birds along the way, or take some time to rest in the cosy estancia! You’ll meet back at the estancia for a traditional Patagonian barbecue, then learn about the (very cute) hard-working sheepdogs and the sheep-shearing process.
- Cerro Dorotea: Only a 10-minute taxi ride from Puerto Natales, this is a great spot for a half- or full-day hike. You'll start your hike behind Estancia Dorotea - you will be asked to pay a small fee to enter their property, and you even may be invited in afterwards for tea and biscuits. After hiking up around 700m, you'll reach a gorgeous lookout where you can see the town and the surrounding mountains. You can hike along the ridge there, which is more or less level at that point. (If the weather is nice, consider bringing a picnic up there. There are only cattle trails at the top, so you can pick your adventure!)
- Laguna Sofia: About a 45-minute ride from Puerto Natales, plenty of locals come to Laguna Sofia to swim in the cold waters (super, glacial cold) on a nice day and then enjoy the surrounding area to hike or sport climb. There’s an estancia nearby called Pingo Salvaje, where you can do a half- or full-day ride in the surrounding landscape.
Unimarc Grocery Store: As the only major grocery store in town, the lines here can become ridiculously long. If you embark here on a food shopping mission, be sure to bring your own bag since Puerto Natales has banned the use of plastic bags (You can either purchase a tote, or they’ll give you cardboard boxes for your things if you forget a bag).
Natascha Yogachandra Patagonia Specialist
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Puerto Natales is situated on the the Last Hope Sound and was originally a small fishing port. As the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, it has turned its hand to tourism and has plenty of camping & trekking shops to purchase any last minute essentials before your adventures in the park.