With a population of roughly 18,000, Puerto Natales is the capital of the Ultima Esperanza Province. Founded in 1911, it quickly developed into a major residential center and shipping port for the area’s products. Nestled on a gently-sloping point amid spectacular scenery, the town overlooks the Ultima Esperanza Gulf and has a nice view of the Balmaceda Mountain. It provides services for the region’s intense livestock activity. Many of its inhabitants work at the Argentinian coal mines in Rio Turbio and return home over the weekend. A growing number of tourists are using the town as a jumping-off point for visiting the spectacular Torres del Paine and Balmaceda National Parks, and the nearby fjords.
In 1892 and 1897, two geographic surveyors mapped the area and ascertained its potential for livestock farming. The first expedition was led by Capt. Eberhard, while the second, a Swedish one, was led by Otto Nordenskjöld. Eberhard discovered the Milodón Cave and was one of the first settlers in the area. A German-born immigrant in transit along the Strait of Magellan, he disembarked in Punta Arenas and decided to stay in this area. His brother continued to California, their original
destination, where he later founded the renowned Eberhard Faber pencil making company. When the area opened to settlement in 1893, the lands lying along the coast were occupied mostly by German and English
settlers who had previously come to Punta Arenas. There still remain a few interesting buildings dating from the estancia heydays. Pier Information The ship will remain at anchor. Guests will be brought ashore by ship’s tenders to the jetty located close to the center of town, which can be reached on foot.
Shopping The main shopping area is located about 11 blocks from the landing jetty.
Cuisine Two of the better restaurants in town are Tranquera and Circulo Español.
Other Sites Cerro Dorotea
A walk up this hill rewards with superb views of the whole Ultima Esperanza Sound.
Milodón Cave National Monument
About 15 miles out of Puerto Natales stands this monument near the cave, where in 1895 Capt. Eberhard found the nearly intact remains of a prehistoric animal called milodón, a type of ground sloth. The finding caused such a stir that Wellington Furlog, a scientiest at Cornell University, set out in 1907 to comb Patagonia in search of living
specimens of this species.