Antarctic passengers taking advantage of a time-saving fly/cruise trip, like our 11-day Antarctic Express: Crossing the Circle expedition, have the opportunity to visit Punta Arenas, Chile, as the point of embarkation and disembarkation. On either side of your Antarctic cruise, you might choose to spend a few extra days in this vibrant metropolis, home to just over 123,000 people, on the Strait of Magellan.
While you visit this spot as a jumping off point to Antarctica, see if you can make time to enjoy a few of the top things to do in Punta Arenas on your layover:
1. Memorial to Ferdinand Magellan
Visit the memorial of one of the most famous explorers. The memorial to 16th century Portuguese adventurer Magellan is located in the city's Central Park. Legend says that if you kiss or touch the toes of the statue, you'll experience good luck and return to Punta Arenas in the future.
2. Lord Lonsdale Shipwreck
Located in the Strait of Magellan, the Lord Lonsdale shipwreck is said to be a treasure trove of history. Originally built in 1899, it had to be sunk to stop an on-board fire during its voyage from Hamburg to Mazatlan. Visitors can view the remains of this impressive ship.
Photo Credit: Whalesound Turismo
3. Whalesound Turismo
A favorite part of many Quark expeditions is catching a glimpse of a breaching whale in the icy waters we travel. In Punta Arenas, you can make an entire experience of whale watching. Whalesound Turismo offers a variety of whale watching tours in the fantastic Strait of Magellan. You not only get a chance to view whale families, condors, dolphins, and other wildlife, but the tours include ecodomes with wood burners, for an authentic experience.
Magdalena Island is home to some 120,000 Magellanic Penguins
4. Isla Magdalena y Marta
One of the most popular spots in the region is Isla Magdalena y Mara. Here, you can experience small island fun while boating among birds, lizards, and sea lions. It's also a great place to see penguins, primarily between November and February.
5. Museo Nao Victoria
History buffs and those seeking to learn more about polar exploration will appreciate a visit to Museo Nao Victoria. It's a particularly interesting stop if you're interested in genuine replica ships. The museum has been open approximately seven years and started out reliant on donations. Those who have toured Antarctica will notice the replica of the James Caird, a lifeboat of the Endurance, and its connection to Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Photo credit: Tiffany Merritt
6. Cementario Municipal
Travelers to Central and South America might be surprised to find that cemeteries in these regions can be colorful, ornate and incredibly beautiful. Cementario Municipal, which dates back to 1894, is a particularly stunning example of the Chilean people's respect for their lost loved ones and a celebration of their lives. Here, you'll find elaborate tombs and mausoleums of members of the most prominent families in the region, including Menendez-Behety and Braun Hamburger.
Palacio Sara Braun. Photo Credit.
7. Palacio Sara Braun
Built in the late 1800s, Palacio Sara Braun is one of the most popular architectural sites in Punta Arenas. Sara Braun Hamburger and her husband, Jose Nogueira, were part of Punta Arenas' most notable and successful families. Designed by French architect Numa Mayer, their palace is said to be similar to the homes in late 19th century Paris. Today, the palace includes a hotel, clubhouse, and restaurant for entertaining visitors.
Photo credit: Kayak Agua Fresca
8. Kayak Agua Fresca
Spend an afternoon in Punta Arenas experiencing an authentic sea kayaking adventure. Viewing the stunning backdrop of this city and its dramatic surrounding geography from the surface of the water gives a whole new perspective. Kayak Aqua Fresca provides everything you need for a kayaking excursion among the dolphins and the breathtaking scenery of Punta Arenas.
9. Club Andino Centro de Ski
You might not think of winter activities when you imagine Chile, but you can experience skiing and other cold weather activities during your visit. Club Andino Centro de Ski offers a ski lift up the mountain for a magnificent view of the Straits of Magellan. You can also hike down paths through the woods and grab a bite to eat at the cozy restaurant on site.
Photo credit: Michaël CATANZARITI
10. Otway Sound and Penguin Reserve
The Otway Sound and Penguin Reserve provides penguin lovers an opportunity to view penguins in the wild. The tour includes information on Chile's history and people plus a glimpse of Magellanic penguins in their natural habitat. March is a great time see females feeding and nurturing their young.
Contact one of our experienced Polar Travel Advisers to learn more about pre- and post-Punta Arenas trip options to enhance your polar expedition experience.