After two connection flights at Dallas and Santiago, we arrived in Punta Arenas airport at 5pm. Our journey started at the southernmost city of Chile.
We got a Corolla from Hertz at the airport. While checking the car, I noticed the tires were not very good, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I couldn’t imagine the trouble it would bring to us.
Driving out of the airport, the view of the open blue sea confirmed that we were indeed at the end of the world. In fact, it’s not an open sea, it’s the Strait of Magellan. We made a right turn and drove along the strait. After half an hour, we arrived at Punta Arenas. Although exposed to storms, compared to even more furious Drake Passage, Strait of Magellan is still a better choice of sailing ships. Before the Panama Canal was constructed, the Strait of Magellan was an important route that connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Because of that, Punta Arenas also became a booming town in mid-19th century. Today’s Punta Arenas is a tourist hub, visitors use it as a jumping point to explore Patagonia or cruise to Antarctica. However, the flourish and roaring past is history now, what remains is a quiet and small town by the sea.
Our plan in Chilean Patagonia region was to stay in Hotel Dreams del Estrecho at Punta Arenas for one night, visit Torres del Paine National Park and come back to the same hotel for another night before we headed to Antarctica. The newly renovated hotel earned very high ratings on the travel sites. Built right next to the strait, it’s one of the tallest building in the city. The first floor is a casino that attracts many visitors. After some negotiation, we got a room with a view of the sea.
It’s the Christmas day so most of stores and museums were closed. There were not many people on the streets. The good thing was, at the latitude of 53 degrees south, in the summer time, the sun won’t set until 10pm – we had a lot of time to walk around.
Several blocks away from the hotel, we found a couple of restaurants open. We stepped into Brocolino because they had a chalk board in the window with their menu listed. The exterior was not attractive, the price was not cheap and the first thing the waitress told us was, “there is a problem, we only accept cash.” We sat down with a lot of doubts, but when the food came out, it was divine! The seafood were fresh; the fish was tasty and grilled perfectly. The best of all – there were no fancy plating but a lot of crab and fish meat. We couldn’t finish our dishes.
I got up at 5am the next morning and got some very good pictures of Strait of Magellan. After the breakfast, we checked out and were on our way to Torres del Paine National Park.