Chile’s twelfth region,- Magallanes y Antártica Chilena-, lies from 48º South latitude down to the South Pole. Its main feature corresponds to an uneven or rather “mad” geography made up by countless fjords, archipelagoes, mountains, channels, etc. Many of the names conferred on different places are clear demonstration of how hard was for the pioneers reaching these remote lands and taking roots here. Examples abound: Gulf of Sorrows, Tortuous Pass, Last Hope Province, Shipwreck Point, Obstruction Inlet, Useless Bay, Cape Froward, Disappointment Island, Desolation Island, the pathetic Port Famine, etc.
But, in spite of this condition, the region offers an enormous touristic potential, among others the magnificent Torres del Paine and Bernardo O’Higgins National Parks, navigation through the Southern channels, islands and millenary glaciers, the historical Strait of Magellan, Cape Horn, Southern Ice Fields, Land of Fire Island, Rio Verde District (considered one of the most beautiful sites all over the world) and the growing antarctic tourism.
The one who comes from weary countries and continents will discover here true Sanctuaries of Nature enjoying one of the last virgin regions on the Earth. Important: The depletion of the Ozone Layer is a condition that occasionally affects the region during the Spring/Summer season and by no means alters the local everyday life. The obliquity of the sun’s rays over the region makes the phenomenon minor than on other areas of the world.
Arrivals and Departures To / From Magallanes Region
Opposed to its geographical isolation, Punta Arenas, -gateway to the Antarctic Continent-, has an excellent port and airport infrastructure. The region’s main air terminal is “Carlos Ibañez del Campo”, 22 Km. North of Punta Arenas, with facilities capable to receive up to 500 people simultaneously. In Puerto Natales the local airport receives charter and regular flights during the high season. The aerodromes of Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego and Puerto Williams in the Antarctic Province maintain a regular service of regional character. Punta Arenas’ two commercial ports, “Arturo Prat” and “Mardones” attend to the traffic of cargo liners as well as the arrival of cruise ships. From Puerto Natales, two passengers and cargo ferries regularly weigh anchor during the high season. These make the round-voyage to Puerto Montt in Chile’s Xth Region through spectacular views of the Southern Channels. Because of the irregular geography, travels by land to and from the Region must be carried out via Argentine territory.
A rainy, moderately cold climate prevails on the channels area while the inland es drier and cooler. The average rain in Punta Arenas is of 440 mm. per year but in Isla Evangelistas can reach more than 2,000 mm. Even in summer the weather is unstable and very often you can experience all four seasons in just one day. The winds, can easily exceed 120 Km/hr (75 Miles/hr). In the avenues hundreds of twisted tree trunks are silent victims of its fury. The temperatures in summer may rise above 18ºC or 20ºC ( 64ºF-68ºF) but in Torres del Paine Park the summer microclimate makes possible sporadic temperatures of 25ºC (77ºF) or more. Since December 15 to January 15 the light can last until midnight and a new dawn will begin at 3.00 or 3.30 A.M. Observing the sky towards the Southern horizon, it never darkens completely. The harshness of winters can significantly vary from one year to the other but in general, the main feature is the absence of winds and an average of 0ºC to 2ºC. Tourism : The natural beauties, pollution-free environment and unforgettable sites have made of tourism an activity that has registered one of the most important growths in the last years. The number of visitors that annually enter the region practically double its population.
Punta Arenas, the Southernmost City of Mainland South America
The natives that populated the region until the second half of the XIXth century were: The tall “Patagones” (Big-Footed) also called “Tehuelches”, they inhabited the pampas from Rio Negro in today’s Argentina down to the Strait of Magellan. To the West, the “Alacalufes” or “Kaweshkar”, that lived in the intrincate channels and islands. The Land of Fire was populated by the “Onas” or “Selknam” and from Beagle Channel to the Cape Horn lived the “Yaganes” or “Yamanas”. The dream and last wish of Bernardo O’ Higgins, father of the Nation, came true in 1843 when on September 21 Chile takes possession of the Strait of Magellan. That day the crew of schooner “Ancud” disembarks 60 km. South of the current Punta Arenas where is founded “Fuerte Bulnes” (Fort Bulnes), first Chilean settlement in Southern Patagonia. In 1848, searching for better survival conditions, the population moved to the place known on the old navigation charts as “Sandy Point”. The village was named Punta Arenas (Sandy Point) and after living a dark period as a penal colony and having experienced a violent mutiny, the course of town takes its definitive way.
In the second half of the XIXth century begins a strong immigration wave. Thus Croatians, Spanish, Italians, French, English, Swiss, Germans, Greeks and many others along with the “Chilotes” (immigrants from Chiloe Island in Chile’s Xth Region) lend the town certain cosmopolitan cachet that marks it until today. Nowadays, in spite of its relatively scarce population (150,000 inhabitants roughly) Punta Arenas can boast a fertile human and historic past.