Known mainly for its proximity to the infamous Torres del Paine National Park, Puerto Natales is a tourist hub where you can obtain all of the equipment necessary to get ready for the legendary treks in the park. Hidden within this seemingly sleepy town one can find many surprises including amazing panoramic views, sophisticated eateries, good craft brews and accommodations ranging from cozy bungalows to luxurious hotels. The vast Patagonian landscape is embedded in this city and picture perfect scenes could be found throughout Puerto Natales.
Although the city can feel quite packed with foreign tourists during peak season (summer) it still retains a small town feel that makes it quite special. Getting a bit lost in Puerto Natales is actually a pleasure, as you will find an opportunity to talk with super friendly locals always willing to help.
Also, you will be amazed to find quaint local shops and quality handmade crafts while wandering around. Puerto Natales is definitely worth a second look and is a great place to reward yourself after successfully completing your tough treks.
Places to Stay in Puerto Natales
- El Sendero Hostal – Simple rooms available with private bathrooms and an early breakfast. The place has great open communal areas with an inviting fireplace. Best of all they provide huge lockers for bag storage free of charge that you could use while out on treks. A free ride to the bus station is also available when heading out to Torres del Paine.
- La Cumbre Hostal – Located on the main plaza, this historic home is run by the super sweet caretaker Anita who will happily share the history of the home and her family with you. You will feel like family yourself in this cozy place.
- The Singing Lamb Backpackers – This place offers both private rooms and dorms with shared baths. The hostel is clean, renovated and quite close to the main square. It is a good value for your money and one of the best options in town.
Things to Do in Puerto Natales
- Torres del Paine National Park – Whether you are doing the 5 day W trek, hiking the full O circuit or just visiting for a day, Torres del Paine is a marvel not to be missed when visiting this region. The hike will not be the only thing taking your breath away as you will have astonishing views at every turn. Make sure to visit the highlights of the trek including Glacier Grey, Base las Torres and Mirador Britanico. Read more about the trekking in Torres Del Paine National Park here.
- Sight seeing and bird watching in the harbour – With snow-capped mountains in the background and a variety of birds wading in the water, the views around the harbor are spectacular. Take a walk and visit the abandoned pier frequented by cormorants and the interesting sculptures around the area for some great photo opportunities.
- Mirador Cerro Dorotea – A 15-minute taxi just ride outside the city centre will bring you to Cerro Dorotea. Here you could hike about 1-2 hours to the top of the lookout for amazing views of the spectacular land surrounding you. The property owners onsite do charge a 5,000 CLP entrance fee but will provide you with snacks and warm tea after your hike.
- Horseback Riding – Half day and full day tours are offered by companies around town. You visit lovely Estancias that serve a lunch of typical foods from the region. Some other companies offer tours where you can even go condor spotting!
- Cueva del Milodon Natural Monument – The silhouette of the prehistoric mylodon adorn almost all of the street signs in Puerto Natales and you could even visit a huge statue of the animal near the harbour. You will ask yourself for a while what this mysterious animal is and why is it found all around town. For the answer, visit the cool caves where remains of the animal were discovered, biking is a great way to get there.
- Boat tour of Glaciers at Bernad O’Higgins National Park – Visit the Ultima Esperanza fjord and see the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers. Full day tours leaving from Puerto Natales.
Places to Eat in Puerto Natales
- Raices de Chiloe – Family owned restaurant serving typical Curanto from the region of Chiloe. This traditional meal consists of delicious shellfish and meats cooked in the ground using exceptionally hot stones. Check availability as they only cook the local dish a couple of times a week and it sells out fast. If you see a sign outside the window stating: “curanto hoy” do not hesitate to pop in.
- Cerveza Baguales – The restaurant offers an excellent selection of craft beers and even their own tasty brews made in house. The place is open late (until 2:30 am) and has a cool outdoor patio with a fire pit.
- Mesita Grande – Cozy communal table where you can share a meal with new friends. The restaurant serves up mouthwatering pizzas and pastas.
- Heladeria Artesanal Aluen – Delicious artisanal ice cream served with passion. They put a whole lot of love and hard work into their product and you can definitely taste it!
- Nandu – Wonderful café where you will find delicious food, drinks and desserts. They have good Wi-Fi and comfy couches if you need a little break or need to connect with people back home. The place is also a souvenir shop where you can pick up some quality keepsakes.
- Bus: The city is a 6-hour bus ride from El Calafate or a 3-hour bus ride from Punta Arenas. Buses run daily but can sometimes sell out fast, book early. Remember not to bring in any fresh food when crossing the border into Chile from Argentina. Check Buses Fernandez, Pacheco or Bus-Sur for times and prices.
Where to Head Next?
- Ushuaia, Argentina – Known as the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia is the gateway for those lucky enough to be heading to Antarctica. You can find fantastic scenic hikes in town and at Tierra del Fuego National Park.
- El Calafate, Argentina – Modern city with a small town feel. Great shops, bars and restaurants located on the main street. Do not miss out on visiting Perito Moreno glacier just a short bus ride from town.
- El Chalten, Argentina – Just north of El Calafate. Here you will find many natural wonders perfect for hiking, trekking and enjoying the great outdoors.
About the writer: Adriane was born in Brazil and is currently living in the States. She and her husband decided to pack up all of their things and travel all across South America for a couple of months in order to revisit their roots and explore their homeland. Their adventure has brought them from the beautiful beaches and mountains of Colombia in the north to the panoramic southern lands of Patagonia. Keep up with their journey on their blog at RoamandFind.com