Choose from 5 Fun Things to Do in Puerto Natales
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In 1896, German explorer Eberhard Hermann entered a cave and found strange remains inside, the fur and bones of the extinct Mylodon sloth. Named after the giant ground sloth found within, Milodon Cave (Cueva del Milodon) is the largest of several caves within Cueva del Milodon National Monument. But the sloth wasn’t the only inhabitant of the caves. Remains of other extinct species, including a saber-toothed cat and a dwarf horse, as well as evidence of human habitation from as early as 6,000 BC have been found within the caves.
As visitors enter the monument, they’re greeted by a full-size replica of the mylodon sloth, standing 13 feet (4 meters) tall. The mylodon was said to resemble a giant bear, though the mammal was in fact a very large herbivore that went extinct over 10,000 years ago. A viewing point atop the cathedral-sized cave affords visitors views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and the Eberhard fjord.
The easiest way to reach Milodon Cave is by taxi from Puerto Natales. Most offer a set rate to the national monument.
Address: Ruta y-290 kilómetro 8, Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile, Chile
Hours: High season (Apr-Oct) 8am-7pm, and Low season (May-Sep) 8:30am-6pm
Admission: 4,000 pesos (high season); 2,000 pesos (low season)
From $ 64
In the early 20th century, Swedish explorer Otto Nordenskjold discovered a blue alpine lake that would later be named after him. Located within Torres del Paine National Park, the lake is famous for its beautifully colored waters, as well as its outfall, the Salto Grande waterfall.
While the national park is famous for its multi-day hiking circuits, visitors can make a shorter, easier day hike to Mirador Nordenskjold, an overlook offering stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The trail passes through fields of wildflowers in the spring, and it also brings hikers up close to the Salto Grande waterfall.
Find the trailhead to Mirador Nordenskjold near the catamaran marina in Pudeto.
Address: Puerto Natales, Magallanes, Chile, Chile
From $ 86
Not nearly as foreboding as it sounds, the Channel of Las Hope (Ultima Esperanza) is in fact a calm inlet stretching from Eberhard Fjord to Monte Balmaceda. In 1557, Spanish explorer Juan Ladrillero gave the channel its ominous name when he believed navigating it was his last opportunity to reach the Strait of Magellan, though he was met with a dead end.
Boat expeditions up the channel offer stellar views of Balmaceda Mountain and the Serrano Glacier — accessible via a short hike — where visitors walk on the surface of the glacier, visit ice caves or kayak amid ice bergs on Serrano Glacier Lake. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot cormorants, sea lions, dolphins and a variety of shore birds nesting along the banks of the channel.
Boat trips through the Channel of Last Hope depart from the Puerto Natales dock in the mornings.
Address: Puerto Natales, Southern Patagonia, Chile, Chile
From $ 230
Located in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Chile’s Grey Glacier flows south into Grey Lake, though warmer temperatures in recent summers have seen the glacier retreat somewhat. A boat trip to see the Grey Glacier up close is one of the most spectacular excursions on offer inside Torres del Paine National Park. Seeing this ancient ice up close brings out its spectrum of colors and unusual shapes, and the sounds of the ice breaking apart are unlike anything else on earth.
Another way to experience Grey Glacier is to take the strenuous day hike from Paine Grande which leads to a lookout point where huge icebergs can be seen floating on the surface of Grey Lake in front of the glacier. The Grey Glacier is one of a few within the national park that visitors can trek across the surface of. Unlike the other glaciers in the park, this glacier has an island of land dividing it in two.
Don’t forget your sunscreen. Even on cloudy days UV rays can reflect off the ice surface and cause sunburn.
Address: Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile, Chile
From $ 64
The epic massifs at Torres del Paine National Park (Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) in Chile draw visitors to an area of unspoiled beauty, where green fields and chill glittering lakes spread out beneath the naked granite spires of the Cordillera del Paine.
Rock climbers and ice hikers come to Torres Del Paine National Park for adventure, while others enjoy the networks of trails that wind past herds of guanaco and through this Patagonia wilderness, occupying 1,100 square miles (1,800 square kilometers) of open space. The easiest and safest way to access the wilderness—home to Grey Glacier, Milodon Cave, and Lake Pehoe—is on a guided tour, which quickly takes travelers to the park’s most spectacular viewpoints, even if arriving from places further afield such as Puerto Natales. Guided tours are especially valuable for those coming from Argentina, as traveling with a guide takes the stress out of border crossing. Tours emphasize a range of outdoor activities, including sightseeing, hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Make reservations for the lodges and dormitories (called refugios) inside the park well in advance, as they fill up quickly; this applies to campsites, as well.
- The wind can greatly increase the chill, so dress in warm layers.
- Many tours offer next-day pickup for those who want to spend a night camping in the park.
- Wear appropriate clothes and shoes for walking on rocky, uneven surfaces.
How to Get There
Torres Del Paine National Park is located about five hours north of the town of Punta Arenas, the closest major city. Most visitors arrive at the Carlos Ibáñez Airport, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of town, with direct flights from most major Chilean cities. There are also ferries, geared to tourists, that make the trip. By bus, it's about three hours on a gravel road from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales, the closest major town to the park, set 70 miles (112 kilometers) away, with a range of hotels and other services. While Punta Arenas is worth exploring, you can catch a bus right from the airport to Puerto Natales. Buses run from there to, and throughout, the park.
When to Get There
The park reaches peak popularity from October to March; book everything well in advance if you plan to visit during this window. January is the warmest month, July is the coldest, and May is the wettest.
Guanacos are as much a part of the Patagonian landscape as mountains and lakes. These small, wild animals are the ancestors of modern llamas.
Address: Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region, Chile
From $ 64