Puerto Natales is a city located in a very particular scenario, since it is surrounded by mountain cords, glaciers and sea. Its architecture is the product of the process of colonization developed by the people from Chiloe, with colourful houses that were adapted to the harsh weather conditions from the area, having galvanized iron instead of wood as the main material, to endure the wind. Apart from that, there are new constructions made from wood in hotels, shops and coffee shops.
Arturo Prat Main square, recently refurbished, it is located in the city centre of Puerto Natales, and holds the post office, provincial government, city hall and the most important church. With trees pruned in different shapes and a centennial locomotive that used to be the “train of the meat.” From here starts the business area inthe city, with nice restaurants, souvenir shops and handicrafts, cyber-cafes and those typical small town shops in which you can find anything.
The promenade is a good place to stroll if the weather allows it to, and you can see from far the Great Paine mount, part from the Paine Massif, mounts Tenerife, Mocho, Benitez and Ballena. It is possible to observe several marine bird species, such as cormorans, seagulls, and flamingos. Going south, there is the artisan fishermen pier were you can find fishing boats and fishermen doing tasks.
Also, there is a small handicraft town called Ether Aike, which in Aonikenk language means “place of mountains.” There, city artisans gather and sell handmade knittings, craftworks and souvenirs.
There are two museums open to the public in Puerto Natales, and it may be interesting to visit any and know more about this city.
The Municipal Historical Museum was built in Bulnes street. There, interesting objects related to the culture from the area are kept, such as traces from Frigorifico Bories (the biggest cold storage plant in Patagonia), Captain Eberhard and the Stockbreeding Society from Tierra del Fuego. The museum was created by Carabineros de Chile in the beginning of the 1990’s and it has five different rooms distributed thematically: World and Primitive environment; Samples of the Original environment and primitive human life exhibition; Colonization; Rural life and Urban Activities.
Industrial – Historical Museum Bories, which once was the biggest storage plant in Patagonia if it is true that is 5 km north from Puerto Natales, is a national monument that deserves the rewarding long walk (or car) towards its facilities, built from bricks in the old post-Victorian style from England, that indicates the importance of stockbreeding in bygone days.
ACTIVITIES IN PUERTO NATALES
It is known that most people that visit the area do the long walks on Torres del Paine National Park, in the surroundings of Puerto Natales there can be quite good options to do this activity.
Milodon Cave Long walk
This cave was formed by the erosion from the mud waves that invaded the basin from Puerto Natales because of the progressive backward movement from the glaciers during the last expansion from the quaternary glacier. It is in this place where in 1896 traces of fur and bones from the Milodon (Mylodon Darwinii), an extinct species from the ending of the Pleistocene, were discovered.
The biggest cave has 30mt long, 80 mt wide and 200 mt deep. There is an a path where the visitors can walk towards a viewpoint with a panoramic view of the area.
Apart from that, you can visit the “Silla del Diablo”, name that comes from the folk imaginations since it is a gigantic rock that seems an armchair, and it was said to be the Milodon’s seat, after that, the legend changed the version into the “devil’s.”
Dorotea Hill Long walk.
Dorotea hill has a height of 800 mts and the excursion lasts about one hour and a half.
At the top of the hill there is an amazing view from Puerto Natales, Ultima Esperanza fiord, Montt gulf, Dumestre area and most part of the Patagonian steppe from Argentina. Once you descend, it can be organized a stop in a family house where you can have the typical countryside “once” (afternoon snack) with hot coffee or tea, along with the typical “sopaipillas” (fried dough) with butter and jam.
Cerro Benitez Long Walk
You go up through the forest of ñirres (Nothofagus antarctica) y lengas (nothofagus pumilio) where condors appear so close that you can hear the sound of their wings. Then, walking towards the top, you can see several lagoons, until you gain access to some caves with cave paintings.
Bernardo O’Higgins Park
This sailing is done in the cutter 21 de Mayo; you navigate via Ultima Esperanza sound bordering dense forest of Nothofagus. The first glacier that you can see is Balmaceda, that has gone back down so much that is does not touch the sea anymore, actually it is hung in a narrow pass, so it is denominated as hanging glacier. Then, you keep advancing towards Bernardo O’Higgins national park, the most extense park in Chile and Southamerica. You have to descend from the ship to do a walk of around 45 minutes towards Serrano glacier. The navegation continues to Estancia Perales, where you have lunch and then you go back to Puerto Natales.
To people that search for a different experience apart from walking the Patagonia, kayaking is a very good option, besides, you can observe the marine birds and extraordinary landscapes.
Eberhard Fiord is a quiet canal in the internal part of Ultima Esperanza sound. It is sailed through this fiord and the you go through Puerto Bories where the biggest cold storage plant existed. The trip includes lunch in any beach from the area. The navegation takes 4 to 5 hours approximately.
This trips takes 2 days. First, you have to sail in the 21 de mayo cutter to Puerto Toro, there you camp and have lunch. After that, you are given some safety instructions and you start kayaking through Balmaceda glacier, with incredible views to watefalls and crags in a period of about 3 hours. On the second day, you row on the Serrano Lake to Serrano glacier. There are some cases in which this lake has a third part of its surface full of ice floes that become detached from the glacier wall. In general, ice floes get stuck in the mouth of the lagoon, where is a small river has its source. In the lake you have the entire liberty to cross the lagoon side to side, get close to the ice floes to touch them with your hand and get lost among the labyrinths formed with the ice. You return in 21 de mayo cutter stopping in Estancia Perales for a patagonian lamb barbeque.