Breathtaking national parks, adventure sports and millennia-old caves welcome visitors to this town in the heart of the Patagonian wilderness.
Once a fishing village and a center for Chile’s 20th-century cattle-ranching industry, today Puerto Natales is the gateway to outdoor adventures in southern Patagonia. The town is on the east bank of the Señoret Channel and faces the snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountain range. Vacation in Puerto Natales to visit ancient caves, walk to scenic lookouts, kayak on vast lakes and tour the awe-inspiring landscapes of national parks.
The town’s colorful streets reflect a past of European immigrants and indigenous settlers from Chiloé Island. Start your visit at Plaza de Armas, the pretty central square home to an antique steam locomotive. Learn about the town’s colonial years and Patagonian tribes at the Museo Histórico Municpalidad Natales. Go to the waterfront, gaze across the channel’s icy waters toward Andean peaks and watch picturesque sunsets.
Enjoy a day hike to Mirador Cerro Dorotea, a lookout with uninterrupted views of the town, bay and surrounding glacial landscapes. Walk or bike north along the coastline and investigate the town’s meat-processing heritage at the Museo Histórico e Industrial Puerto Bories.
Just a 30-minute drive from the town is Cueva del Milodón, a series of huge caves and prehistoric relics. Discover the stories of the region’s earliest settlers and animals, such as the giant mylodon, a sloth that lived over 10,000 years ago.
Puerto Natales is a great starting point for two of Chile’s most famous national parks. Relive the travels of Charles Darwin as you sail past fjords to Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins. Catch a glimpse of the soaring Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers. Marvel at the granite peaks and icebergs of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, the setting for superb bird-watching, hiking and kayaking.
Reach Puerto Natales by flying to Punta Arenas and then renting a car or catching a public bus. Alternatively, take a fascinating multiday cruise from Puerto Montt. Stay at a cozy guesthouse, hotel or estancia, a traditional working farmstead set amid rural surroundings.