What to do in Natales

El Patagónico Hostel

Puerto Natales is a laid back town on the shore of Last Hope Sound, with wide streets and low-rise buildings. The permanent population is around 22,000 inhabitants.

It is peaceful and picturesque, with vistas of mountains, sea and glaciers all around. The local economy revolves around fishing, livestock farming and tourism, the latter having grown quickly in recent years.

Natales tiene todos los servicios básicos necesarios y se conecta vía marítima desde Puerto Montt atreves de la empresa Navimag una vez por semana (4 días 3 noches de navegación), desde Caleta Tortel (sur de la carretera austral) con la empresa austral broom, en un viaje de 42hs aprox. y por tierra desde Calafate (a 320 km), Rio Turbio (25km) o desde Ushuaia (900 km) en el vecino país de Argentina, desde el sur con la ciudad capital de la región, Punta Arenas (distante 260 km) y en temporada tiene vuelos directos desde Santiago todos los días dependiendo de las compañías aéreas. Esta cerca de las principales áreas protegidas de la región y por sus características y ubicación es un lugar que muchos visitantes eligen para pasar varios días descansando o preparando el itinerario para continuar el viaje hacia el norte o sur. Hay variadas actividades que se pueden realizar para todos los gustos, de medio día: como cabalgatas, salidas en mountainbike, kayak, visitas a estancias o excursiones cortas para visitar la reserva Natural Cueva del Milodon o ascender al mirador del Cerro Dorotea, a tan solo 5 km del centro de la ciudad.

Puerto Natales has all the basic services and is a transport hub with sea, land and air links. It is connected by sea to Puerto Montt with the weekly Navimag ferry (4 days 3 nights) and to Caleta Tortel on the Carretera Austral via the Austral Broom ferry (+/- 42 hours). By land there are busses connecting Puerto Natales to El Calafate (320 km), Rio Turbio (25km) and Ushuaia (900 km) in neighbouring Argentina, as well as to the regional capital, Punta Arenas (260 km). During the tourism season there are regular direct flights to Santiago. It is a gateway to the main parks and reserves in the region and many visitors choose to spend a few days in town resting or preparing before continuing their journey north or south. There are various half day excursion to suit a range of tastes: horseback riding, mountain biking, kayaking, visiting an Estancia or the Milodon Cave Nature Reserve, or hiking up to the Cerro Dorotea lookout, just 5 km outside of town. The town offers a wide variety of accommodation options in a range of categories. There is also a broad range of restaurants offering something for everyone, from the simple, with typical local dishes to the gourmet, with a fusion of international styles and regional ingredients.

Some of the most popular local attractions:

Natales on Foot: Explore the town and learn about its history by walking its streets accompanied by a local guide. +/- 2 hours, the tour is free but tips are welcome.

Cerro Dorotea Horseback Riding: An excursion of around 3 hours about 7 km outside of town, on the slopes of Cerro Doretea, a low hill. Participants are accompanied by a local baqueano (cowboy), guiding them through an indigenous forest to the summit, offering a beautiful view of the sound and the surrounding mountains. No previous experience is necessary.

Cerro Dorotea lookout: One of the most popular local walks just 5 km outside of town. This short walk crosses a private property, charging an entrance fee, before ascending the hill. It takes 1 to 1,5 hours to reach the summit, offering a panoramic view of Puerto Natales, Last Hope Sound and the surrounding mountains. It is an easy walk and can be reached by taxi, on foot or by bicycle.

Laguna Sofia: A small lake, about 24 km outside of town, in a very picturesque valley on the other side of Cerro Benítez, which rises up behind the Milodon Cave Nature Reserve. It can be reached by private car, taxi or bicycle. Once there you can take a walk along the lakefront or hike up a hill hosting condor nests on its dramatic cliffs. Very popular with the residents of Puerto Natales, it is a destination for picnics and Patagonian barbecues on sunny days. There are campsites in the area as well as a company, Pingo Salvaje, which offers half-day or full-day horseback riding excursions.

Milodon Cave: One of the nature reserves in the area, about 24 km outside of town. The reserve covers 3 caves, where milodons (giant sloths) and other fauna of the post-glacial period lived. The main cave has a replica of a milodon and interpretive signage explaining what the area was like at that time. A lookout offers a view of the sound and the surrounding mountains. You can visit the caves as part of a half day excursion (3 hours), or on your own, arriving by private car, bicycle or taxi, visiting also the other two caves and the lookout of the Silla del Diablo (Devils Seat - a rocky outcrop, about 35 meters high, between the main and secondary caves).