We decided to visit the penguin colony at the Otway Sound, along the coast of the Brunswick Peninsula north west of Punta Arenas. First heading along the main road to Puerto Natales and just at the police check point we turned left to Seno Otway. This is a gravel road through the steppe with now and then some emu’s along the road. After 35 km’s of bumping we reached the entrance of the penguin colony.
We paid our entrance fee and walk along the walkways towards the sea and suddenly we saw our first ever real penguins walking on their own funny way to the sea. From that moment on there were Magelannes penguins everywhere in the grassland and on the beach. The last we could see from behind a sheltered viewing point and because the cold wind (almost a storm) was coming from the sea it was unbelievable COLD !!
Sometimes it looked if the penguins were afraid to jump into a little stream, but they were always so cute and nice when waddling to or from the sea to catch fish or to bring it to the burrows for their offsprings.
We were already going back to our car when we suddenly saw a young penguin, just leaving its burrow and standing in front of us next to the walkway. We could have touched him/her, but of course just made some pictures, perhaps the nicest of our holiday’.
Open from October 15 – March 30, best time to visit after mid November when the offsprings are born.
Opening hours: daily 8.00 am – 6.30 pm, best time before 10.00 am or after 4.00 pm.
Entrance fee: 5500 pesos (June 2013).
An amazing way to get to know the history of the conquer of south america!
If you are in Punta Arenas do not miss the chance to visit this Museum. It is the exact replica of the first ship ever to circumnavigate the globe, and is organized as an amazing expewrience that takes your breath oof!
You can see how the crew was dressed, the things they use to navigate, their food, their equipments and so on...
Included in the entrance fee there is a guided tour that really brings you back to that times, the location (on the shores of the Starit of Magellan)) helps the understanding of the wilder conditions of the expedition.
Not to be missed!
To reach it you can get the local bus to Rio Seco and ask to be dropped on the entrance of the museum!
We basically only did one thing in Punta Arenas and that was to visit the Magellanic penguin colony on Isla Magdalena.
There were around 70,000 to 80,000 penguins on the island when we visited (early December). According to the guide, every year, the penguins swim from Brazil around Cape Horn to the island to breed. The male penguins reach the island around middle to end of October and they start building the burrows to attract their potential mates. By around December, the first wave of baby penguins will arrive. Unfortunately, we didn't actually see an actual baby penguin. (I saw some grey in the burrows, but the penguin parents quickly blocked the view. I did see a few eggs though.)
Even though we only have 1 hour on the island to see the penguins, it was an amazing 1 hour. Before we even got off the ferry, we were greeted by a beach full of penguins. We have to follow a designated path to from the pier to the lighthouse and the penguins know that we could not go beyond the roped area. We also could not touch the penguins or get close aggressively. However, the penguins are curious, so all you need to do is stay relatively still near the roped area and sooner or later, a penguin will come and investigate you. The Magellanic penguins are quite small in size (maybe around 2 feet tall), so they are not really scary. They do seem to be afraid of people, so if you try to walk fast towards the penguin who are attempting to cross the path, they'll just turn back. I never did make it to the lighthouse, since I spent too much time getting acquainted with a penguin, but my friend told me there wasn't much there - just some displays about the island. There's not much more I can add - I'll just post some pictures.
Turismo Comapa is the main operator for this tour, though I believe some companies take people out on zodiacs. The tour (25,000 CLP) consists of the return ferry from the Tres Puentes Pier to the island. The whole trip takes about 5 hours from the pier - basically 2 hours there, 1 hour on the island, and 2 hours back. You just need to make reservations online and then either pay at the travel agency (up till 1 hour before departure) or at the pier (open 1/2 hour before departure). The office at the pier is a bit nondescript - it was a small blue hut right next to the guard house. Make sure you leave a lot of time if you plan to pay for the tour there. The ferry could hold about 300 people and for those who are catching a plane right after, there should be enough room for you to bring your luggage.
A final note: The pier is actually not within walking distance to town. You can take Collectivo #15 or Bus #2 to get to there. The collectivo should only take 15 minutes, but after spending at least 15 minutes attempting to flag down one with room for 2 people, we gave up and took the bus instead. The bus takes at least 30 minutes. The boat left the dock at 3pm (ish) and returns at around 8:30pm. There weren't any collectivos waiting at the dock, so you can take either a taxi or bus #2 back to town. (I just looked at the scheulde and they have different departure time depending on the day.)
As we were going to the airport and we missed all the taxis, we took bus #2 for 1 stop, then cross the street to Zona Franca to catch a taxi. The price is the same, I think, but we probably saved around 30 minutes of travel time.
Charley Milward was the great-uncle of Bruce Chatwin, a well known writer, who wrote a famous book about Patagonia called "In Patagonia". Milward lived in Punta Arenas at the start of the 20th century and the house where he lived is still standing in Punta Arenas. This was later home to another famous expat - Ernest Shackleton stayed here in 1916 when he was planning the rescue of his men from Elephant Island in Antarctica, having escaped from the ice and having made his way to South Georgia Island, in one of the best known Antarctic adventures.
The Fitz Roy Estancia is about 90 minutes from Punta Arenas. The scenary is a mixture of flat Pampas and distant mountains until you come within 40 minutes of the ranch. Then you move into a more Scottish terrain (especially Skye) and you may see Condors and hunting birds coming from nearby crags.
at one point your coach/car will be ferried across the inlet. Then it's only 10 minutes to the estancia.
It is run by a family. They will provide you with a barb-b-q lunch with plenty of pisco sour and also carmera, a red wine which is something between a merlot and a cabernet sauvignon.
There is an opportunity for you to ride horses, watch sheep shearing, visit the unusual family chapel and also to wander around the strange collections! See my entry 'Museum of Life'.
It was a fun day's visit ---I'd go again if I were offered the chance. However, if you are going to Montevideo and you only want one Estancia visit then choose the Le Roy Estancia there!
One of the main points of Punta Arenas and where a lot of activity takes place is the town square, indentified by the statue of Hernando de Magellanes in the center. This place attract a lot of vendors selling their wares. You can buy quite a lot of trinkets here. It's also a place to just sit back and relax and watch the kids skateboarding and the people buying. It's pretty much where a lot of people go. There's also a tourist information kiosk in the south side of the park.
The regional Salesianer Museum has a lot of interesting collections, mainly of early fossiles, rare animals like a calf with 2 heads etc., it smells like in a pharmacy there and you get the feeling to be in an old school. You will learn about the native indian population living in that area at the time when the white men began tom take over their land and killing them one by one like animals.
You will learn about the early days of exploring the Antarctic, it started for the whaling-business and ended with expeditions to the south pole.
Inside this museum : NO PHOTOGRAPHY at all !!!
They had lived in pure luxury all of their lifes and even after their death the members of the rich families of Patagonia have got luxury tombs for the eternity and so the small cemetery of Punta Arenas is full of such luxury tombs, mostly situated at the entrance-gate of the cemetery.
Dont miss to take a look at the graves of the ordinary people as well, some of them were made in colonial style.
These photographs are about the luxury home of the Braun-Menendez-family with a lot of rooms decorated like it was "en vogue" at the beginning of the 20th century : great paintings, sculptures and other works of art, tapestries, chandeliers and furniture, precious carpets, porcelain and vases.
Photography is no problem inside of this palace, you only are not allowed to use a tripod or a flash.
The photographs of this tip are showing the most interesting exhibits that you will find in the Museo Regional de Magallanes about the history of Patagonia beginning with fossiles, that were found in that area, with a boat, that was made out of a trunk of a single tree, weapons of the early european settlers etc. Nowadys the culture of the native inhabitants of Patagonia are to be seen only in the museums, because almost all of them were killed like animals by the early settlers.
Museo Regional de Magallanes is another one of the former palacios of the Braun-Menendez-dynasty and it was given as a donation to the city of Punta Arenas in 1983 and it was made into a museum :
a small part of the museum is about the early days of Patagonia, the native inhabitants, fossils, weapons etc. , but the main part is the unique furniture, tapestries, works of art etc. of a luxury home of one of the richest families at the end of the world.
On my pictures you will see the outside of this Palacio, that was built in 1903. On my last photograph : the lift for wheel-chairs in the back of the park.
Take a look upstairs inside the Museum Sara Braun as well. There is a large billiard-room and the former sleeping-rooms of Sara Braun.
On my main photograph : the beautiful entrance-hall of the museum Sara Braun. See that round balcony on top of the ceiling, a funny idea of the architect in order to get some extra light into the entrancehall.
Museo Naval y Maritimo is in a side-street, when you walk from the Plaza towards the ocean and it has a lot of interesting exhibits about whale-hunting and navigation in Antarctica and the rest of this "end of the world". You will see some torpedos, and a lot of small-scale ships-models. All of the explanations are done in spanish only, but at the entrance the nice lady will ask you for your mothertongue and you will get an extra-sheet of paper with explanations in your own language.
Museo Naval y Maritimo is open:
Tuesday till Sunday: 9.30am till 05.00pm
This is the cathedral of Punta Arenas, situated directely at Plaza Muñoz Gamero, the main square of Punta Arenas. Take a look inside this lovely church as well, the doors are open all day and photography is no problem there at all. Click on my extra - pictures in order to enlarge them and see some of the fine details of the interior of that church.
Palacio Jose Montes is another one of the many former Palacios of people who became rich in that end of the world. Nowadays this lovely building is used by the local community and you can get inside in order to take a look at the entrance-hall.
Dont forget to take a look around the house as well, in the back of the garden there is a small collection of nice bonsai-trees , you can just walk there and take a look.