Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia serves as the main access point to Torres del Paine National Park. If camping in Torres del Paine, travelers frequently spend at least a night in Puerto Natales to prepare and/or recover. Torres del Paine deserves its own blog post (it’s so, so, so beautiful but can be so, so, so complicated to plan), so I’ll use this post to talk about the other things I did around Puerto Natales.
Puerto Natales is small and mostly flat, so it was easily walkable. The edge of the city center faced the Ultima Esperanza Sound, and mountains were visible in the distance.
I stayed at a wonderful hostel called Camino de Santiago, and the owner Jose Mari was fantastic in pointing out places of interest and suggesting things to do. He booked a glacier cruise for me, which cost 90,000 CLP (about $146).
After Jose Mari prepared breakfast at 6:00 AM (the man does not sleep), he called me a taxi to the cruise dock. The cruise left the dock at around 6:55 and glided through the Ultima Esperanza Sound. We soon got a closer look at the mountains I had seen from the city center.
It took about three hours for us to reach Serrano Glacier, our first stop in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park. After an easy 15-minute walk, we saw the glacier. It had started drizzling during the walk to the glacier, but luckily, we still had a clear view.
Our next stop was the Balmaceda Glacier, which was about a 15-minute cruise from Serrano.
The Ultima Esperanza Sound was stunning. Even with an overcast sky and bouts of rain, we could appreciate the waterfalls and mountains.
During the cruise, we were offered drink service, which included a choice of whiskey or a pisco sour. The pisco sour was enough to knock me out for the rest of the trip to an estancia, our lunch stop.
When we arrived at the estancia, we were given another round of pisco sours. As we drank, we watched an estancia worker cut up cordero (lamb).
The cordero was smoky and rich, a good match for the Chilean red wine that was served for lunch. Sufficiently fed and liquored, I passed out again for the 50-minute ride back to Puerto Natales.
When I reached Chilean Patagonia, many locals and travelers recommended santolla (king crab). I love crab, but I couldn’t drop $50 on crab legs. As an alternative, I ordered crab pie at Cangrejo Rojo, an adorable restaurant a couple of blocks from my hostel. At 15,840 CLP (about $25) for the pie and tea, it wasn’t a cheap meal, but I loved it. The pie was so cute (look at the swirls!). The crust was crispy, and the inside was filled with tender crab meat.