We flew in to Punta Arenas from Puerto Montt with Sky Airlines (quick 2 hour journey with amazing views of the snow covered peaks of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine – try to sit in a window seat on the left hand side of the plane). We took a little mini bus for the 20km trip into the centre of Punta Arenas ($3,000CP per person) and quickly found some lodgings at Barefoot Backpackers on a quiet street…saying that I think all streets are quiet in Punta Arenas, it’s the definition of a tumbleweed town apart from the main street. There’s a pretty good Unimarc supermarket (Address: Salvador Allende 349) for picking up supplies and lots of outdoorsy stores – The North Face currently have 30% off!! We had a relaxed cuppa at Amaranta just next to the Bussur bus terminal. They have good wifi and if it’s empty it’s because of their ludicrous prices – $5 for a cup of tea. Would you be well? We also had some lemon pie at Café Tostado (Address: Hernando de Magallenes 922) and some ok coffee and lovely tea from the cutest looking place in town, Patiperro (Address: intersection of Lautaro Navarro and Pdte. Julio A. Roca) to take on a little wander to the waterside down by the casino. We ended up staying in Punta Arenas for 3 nights but unfortunately that’s only because I caught a little bug so was bedridden for one of those days. Aw.
Isla Magdalena – PENGUIN TIME!!
We booked a tour to Isla Magdalena to see an island full of penguins with Comapa Travel for $30,000CP per person. Demand is exceeding supply at the moment so we had to book 2 days before. On Saturday we rocked up to the Terminal Tres Puentes ($2,700CP taxi ride from Punta Arenas’ centre) at 2.30pm. Our boat/ferry, Melinka, finally left at 4pm for the hour and a half journey to the island. It’s a pretty boring ferry trip so bring a book and some food/be prepared to nap. Luckily I have some magazines on my trusty Zinio app.
All I can say is woah! Approaching the island you see thousands of black and white Magellanic Penguins (and plenty birds too) and plenty of penguins swimming alongside the ferry to get to dry land. It’s so awesome! We spent an hour on the island just click clicking away. You have to stay on the designated path but the penguins aren’t obliged to do so (!) so they cross in front of you all the time. We saw a few furry baby penguins next to their burrows. There’s a lighthouse up the top of the island with a couple of posters on penguins the birds of the area. It’s honestly the windiest place I’ve ever been – we’re talking 2 tops, 2 fleeces, a windbreaker jacket, 2 pairs of socks, hiking boots and a woolly hat – and I was still cold! My one mistake was the yoga pants though, those babies ain’t made for seafaring.
Just a word of warning – once you start closing in on the ferry terminal back in Punta Arenas you’ll want to make your way outside (we saw penguins swimming alongside us and John saw a whale) as once the ramp goes down it’s like an episode of The Amazing Race; every man for himself to try to get a taxi! There were only 5 taxis and a few minibuses for the entire ferry so you’ll definitely want to get off ASAP so you’re not waiting around in the icy weather.
Definitely worth a day trip from Punta Arenas 😊
Next stop: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile