Puerto Natales is an isolated small town in Patagonian Chile, the kind where if you blink you might miss it while you’re driving through. It’s best known as a gateway for trekkers and adventures traveling to nearby Torres del Paine. Recently fossil rich caves near the town have brought it fame because of the giant sloth fossils found within. Puerto Natales is situated on the Ultima Esperanza Sound and is a port for the Navimag ferry.
The first European to discover the area was Juan Ladrillero, a Spanish explorer who was looking for the Strait of Magellan’s western passage amidst the maze of the Chilean fjords (1557). The famous British ship of exploration, the HMS Beagle (on which Charles Darwin was sailing), followed in the 19th century. The town has been settled in the early 20th century by European immigrants of all types (English, Scots, Italians, Spaniards), many of whom started sheep farming.
We stopped here briefly en route from Torres del Paine to Puento Arenas (247 km/153mi to the south), so our guide could look after some logistical issues and we could walk around and have a much appreciated warm cup of coffee. There are two features of the town I vividly remember. One is the biting cold wind that sucked the energy from you. The other was a number of interesting pieces of art that surprised me a little because they’re in such a small town.
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