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"Incredible" is probably the best word to define the experience of travelling around Chilean Patagonia. It is an adventure which should have as its operations center the city of Punta Arenas, the capital of the Magallanes Region, founded in 1848.

From Punta Arenas, tourists can visit the main natural attractions in Patagonia: Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine, which offer such extraordinary and almost "unreal" beauty that they seem to be dreams come true by the divine inspiration of the Almighty Creator. Visiting this region in Chile is, then, much more than just another adventure; it is a journey full of enchantment, combining the spiritual and the material world.

From Punta Arenas, the following sites are worth visiting:

PUNTA ARENAS
To Getlate in the Ocean Punta Arenas Chile Travel Capital of the Magallanes Region and capital of Chilean Patagonia, is located in the Brunswick peninsula, on the shores of the Strait of Magellan. The area was first explored in the 17th century by John Byron, but it was not until 1848 that the city was founded. Several excursions leave from the city, ranging from a day fishing on the Verde river and Skyring inlet to a visit to the penguin rookery, home to the numerous Magellanic Penguins. Nonetheless, these excursions are only a few of the many activities available in the area of Punta Arenas.

During your stay in Punta Arenas, bear in mind the following sites:

- Bulnes Fort and Del Hambre Port were the first Spanish colonies on the Patagonian coastline of the Straits of Magellan. The current Bulnes Fort was rebuilt on the lines of the small fort which served as a defense post for the establishment of the old village in 1843.

The so-called Del Hambre Port is located on the banks of Buena Bay coastline, where captain Sarmiento de Gamboa founded the city of Rey Don Felipe in March 1584. The colonizing attempt was fruitless, since the inhabitants died from starvation.

Years later, the English corsair Thomas Cavendish, found the remains of the former colony and re-named it "Del Hambre Port" (Famine Port).
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    - Los Pingüinos Natural Monument Pinguino de Otway Punta Arenas Chile Travel comprises Marta and Magdalena islands, with a population of 50 thousand couples of the Magellanic species. In order to get to these sites, tourists have to cross the well-known Straits of Magellan, since the penguins are found beyond 35 kilometers (25 maritime miles) north of Punta Arenas.

    - Villa Tehuelches is the capital city of the Laguna Blanca area. Most of its 400 inhabitants devote their efforts to cattle raising. Located 100 kilometers away from Punta Arenas (by land), this town offers various attractions, such as the ecumenical church, the library-museum and the "municipal crescent". In addition, nine kilometers to the south, tourists can stop by the Las Nieves district, a remarkable site to practise sport- fishing in the waters of Penitente river.

    Going southward, at Km 113, there is an area called Laguna Blanca, which, in the past, was a cattle farm. Nearby, travelers can visit the Cueva de la Leona Canyon, a Historical Natural Monument featuring 1600 year-old cave paintings by the Aonikenk ethnic group. If you wish to delight yourself with other pictorial representations, you may go to the Morro Chico Historical Monument, located 145 kilometers south of Punta Arenas.

    During the spring and summer seasons, the community of Laguna Blanca organizes the Shearing Festival, which consists of the presentation of shepherd dogs in action, breaking-in of horses and the traditional Chilean rodeo.

    - Rio Verde is the capital of the area bearing the same name, and is located on the shores of Skyring inlet. This is a cattle farming region located 87 kilometers northeast of Punta Arenas. Fitz Roy Channel, Otway inlet and Rio Verde are among the most prominent attractions in the area. Rodeo competitions are held throughout the year.

    - Carlos III Island, The show of the humpback whales Carlos III Island, an unknown spot in the Strait of Magellan until recently, becomes a privileged observation place to watch the colossal humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) during the summer, giant acrobats coming from the Colombian coasts that cleave the ocean on their extremely lengthy pilgrimage to the Antarctic world.

    Penguins returning to Earth. Punta Arenas Chile TravelThe humpback whales are the most acrobatic ones amongst the 60 species of cetaceous existing on the planet, including dolphins. Their jumps and pirouettes are the central act on the wonderful natural spectacle they perform in the cold waters surrounding the Island, one of the places of choice for these bulky mammals due to the abundance of small fishes and crustaceous, their favourite food.

    Although they are not the only stars at Carlos III, a place of unbelievable beauty and cold currents where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet. It is possible to watch other species of marine fauna from the Island, such as the killer whales (Orcinus orca), the minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and sei (Balaenoptera borealis) whales, colonies of sea wolfs (Otaria flavescens) and sea elephants (Mirounga leonina).

    The fauna richness stretches to the birds and seabirds, with captivating species such as the Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus), the Chilean skua (Catharacta chilensis), the grey seagull (Larus scoresbii), the cormorants (Phalacrocorax sp.) and the albatrosses (Diomedea sp.), amongst other flying wonders.

    But that is not all either; the zone also stands out for its variety of fishes and marine invertebrates such as the Austral hakes, the trout, salmons, squids, spider crabs and sea urchins, just to cite a few of the life forms housed by the ocean's vastness.

    The Island's natural potential also includes resistant vegetation conformed by species such as the Antarctic Beech trees (Nothofagus antárctica), the False Beech (Nothofagus dombeyi), and the cinnamon trees (Drimis winteri), besides the characteristic turf, as the green mantle formed by small plants such as ferns, mosses and decomposing flora residues that covers most of the land surface on Carlos III Island is known.

    The amazing and notable biodiversity in the zone justified the creation of the Francisco Coloane Marine Park, the first marine area protected in Chile, on August the 5th of 2003. Carlos III Island and Rupert Isle, the Jerónimo and Barbara Canals, the Tortuous Pass and the Bays of Cordes and Fortescue, amongst other sectors, form the protected area.

    With an extension of 67000 hectares, the Park has amongst its objectives the protection and conservation of the humpback whale, which usually arrives between October and March, extending the protection to its variegated ecosystem and the creatures dwelling in its large portions of sea, and on its shorelines, beaches and imposing glaciers, where temperatures are very low and the winds are very strong.

    In order for the authorities of the Park to accomplish their aims and objectives, they restrict the number of visitors to the areas with the most concentration of whales, where only a serene observation of the animals is permitted. Such severity is relaxed in other sectors where it is allowed to practice trekking or to ride a kayak.

    The only agency operating in the Marine Park is Whale Sound, an organisation created by a group of investigators and scholars of the zone. With their vast experience and knowledge they have created a campsite orientated to reduce as much as possible its environmental impact.

    Carlos III Island is situated in the Strait of Magellan, in Chile's XII Region, at approximately 190 kilometres from Punta Arenas. The best season to visit the zone, one of the coldest in the country, is from December the 15th up to May the 15th. The trip by sea lasts 60 hours, so weigh anchor for the show of the humpback whales is about to start.




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