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About Puerto Natales
Far to the south on the hooked end of Chile is the port town turned outdoor capital Puerto Natales. Here you can hop between tin-roofed cottages and designer gear outlets, stopping off for a craft beer en route. While most visitors are heading straight for the majestic Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, you could always spend a few days wandering round the local sights at Patagonia pace (which means slow and easy).
Puerto Natales hostels are in keeping with the pioneer character of downtown. Stay in a preserved historical house with a bar, a traditional corrugated-tin lodge or a timber-clad hostel complete with three resident dogs. You can also find a Puerto Natales hostel with beds made from recycled palettes and social areas built from sustainable materials. Free breakfast is standard and most hostels have a communal kitchen in addition to living space or an outdoor terrace. Free Wi-Fi is handy for planning your trip to the national park.
At the centre of Puerto Natales is the landscaped Plaza de Armas Arturo Prat (main square). Avenue Pedro Montt is a seafront walkway that's popular with locals out for a stroll in the evenings. At the south end is the boatyard where you can see the wooden boats being repaired and painted. A 15-minute drive north of the town centre is Puerto Bories. What was once a residential complex for wool processing workers is now home to a historic hotel restaurant and cafés free of crowds.
A popular sight in Puerto Natales is the huge sculpted fingers at Monumento de la Mano (Monument of the Hand), a 10-minute walk from town. Another nearby attraction is Cueva del Milodón, a cave where the skin and bones of an extinct giant sloth were discovered. Dive deeper into Chilean culture in the lesser-known Sierra Baguales mountain range. Here you can visit a working ranch and go horse riding. If you're heading into Torres del Paine National Park, the ice wall of Glacier Grey is particularly breathtaking.
Arriving in Puerto Natales on the 4-day Navimag ferry is a popular option for travellers. There's also a twice-weekly flight to Teniente Julio Gallardo Airport (a 15-minute drive north of town) from Santiago, the capital of Chile, during high season. The bus terminal, Rodoviario, is a 20-minute walk out of town and daily buses leave here for Torres del Paine National Park. If you're staying a few days you could hire a bike, although the centre is very walkable.