The sunny city of Punta Arena may be the gateway to Antarctica, but it’s also a sprawling metropolis with colourful and varied culture.  

Your adventure to Antarctica doesn’t have to start on the open waters of the Southern Ocean, especially when the jumping-off point is the spirited and welcoming city of Punta Arenas. On our Antarctica cruises from Chile, get the chance to explore the city's colourful buildings and eat delicious Chilean food, spot several penguin species from your vantage point on Magdalena Island, wander around replicas of ships used in the trading industry, and most importantly, gear up for your journey to the icy edge of the world. 

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Highlights of Antarctica cruises from Chile

The colourful buildings of Punta Arenas with the ocean in the background

Explore the beautiful city of Punta Arenas

This friendly and animated city can sometimes be overlooked by avid adventurists itching to breathe in the fresh Antarctic air, but Punta Arenas promises to draw you in from the moment you catch sight of its colourful buildings and eat its delicious food. Whether you want to revel at an exuberant festival or take a stroll along the city’s waterfront, you won’t ever want to leave this South American slice of paradise. 

The calm waters of the Strait of Magellan on a cloudy but sunny day

Sail through the Strait of Magellan

Before you set your sights on waters that are a bit rougher (we’re looking at you Drake Passage), you first have to make it through the Strait of Magellan. And you’re going to be so glad you did. From sparkling blue glaciers and Seno Eyre Fjord landscapes to watching whales as they jump out of the water and magellanic penguins socializing on land, this famous body of water is an adventure in and of itself. 

A group of seals sunbathing on coloured rocks.

Spot several Antarctic animal species

There are plenty of captivating animals to watch, marvel at, and take photos of in Punta Arenas but there are even more to spot once you set sail for your final icy destination. Whether you want to scour the water’s surface for a breaching humpback whale or pick out colonies of penguins huddling together on the South Shetland Islands, sit back and enjoy the seventh continent’s impressive wildlife show.  

A small zodiac boat floating next to the large formation of a white iceberg.

Marvel at uniquely shaped icebergs

Even if you’re prepared to see the twisted form of an iceberg as it stretches out of the water, the shape’s glittering surface will still take your breath away. Whether you want to marvel at their unique silhouettes from aboard the Ocean Endeavour or get a closer look at their subtle blue colours from the edge of a zodiac, the mighty size of these icebergs will keep you transfixed for hours. 

The replica of a sailing vessel used by early Antarctic explorers.

Take a trip to the popular Nao Victoria Museum

There are heaps of museums in Punta Arenas you could easily spend hours in but the most popular, and dare we say it, the most interesting to explore is the Nao Victoria Museum. Filled with life-size replicas of sailing vessels used to traverse the wild seas by early Antarctic explorers (including those captained by Ferdinand Magellan and Charles Darwin), this museum is not only deeply informative but also offers an insight into a history most of us can’t even imagine. 

A handful of travellers standing on the deck of the Ocean Endeavour while crossing the Drake Passage.

Brace yourself during the Drake Passage crossing

Just because you’ve left the shores of Punta Arenas doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing until you reach the icy shelves of Antarctica. One massive hurdle stands in your way – crossing the Drake Passage. This legendary body of water is known as one of the roughest sea passages in the world with a swell of up to 26 feet high (yikes). Take some seasickness medication, breathe in the fresh polar air, and ride those monstrous waves to your epic Antarctic adventure.  

See Antarctica from the sky 

If you want to experience a polar adventure but aren't keen on travelling by sea, take a once-in-a-lifetime flight to the icy landscape of Antarctica. Whether you're a keen astronomer who's always dreamt of seeing the Aurora Australis or a travel enthusiast ready to check 'expedition flight' off the bucket list, embarking on a southern flight from Australia promises some pretty spectacular views. 

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Antarctica cruises from Chile FAQs

Everyone travelling on an Intrepid trip must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of carriage. 

All travellers are required to produce:  

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination

  • All children aged 5 to 17 years old must provide proof of vaccination (if eligible), proof of recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.

  • If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you may apply for an exemption. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To apply, you must provide a medical certificate from a medical professional. 

In all cases, you must be fully inoculated. This means you must receive the full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine and allow enough time for immunity to take effect. Each COVID-19 vaccine has different dosages and timeframes for inoculation, so please check the relevant medical advice associated with your vaccine.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

Getting to Punta Arenas is pretty straightforward with several options available - flying, driving, and taking public transportation. There are daily flights out of Santiago and other surrounding areas operated by local airlines such as LanChile, Ladeco, and Avant Airlines. There are also plenty of bus companies that will deliver you straight to Punta Arenas but this form of transportation will take the longest. 

The climate of Punta Arenas is similar to that of its Argentinian neighbour, Ushuaia, in that it's cold oceanic as well. This means the city experiences cold to freezing winters and extremely cool summers. It's also particularly windy throughout the year (and more so in summer) with wind speeds reaching up to 62mph (100kph). Punta Arenas can also expect snow from June to September but generally the temperatures stay around 44°F (7°C). 

The best and most popular time to visit Punta Arenas is during January when the weather is relatively dry and reasonably mild (as close as it gets to warm). However, there are plenty of other months throughout the year that offer acceptable weather so there really is no one 'best' time to visit the gateway to the Antarctic. If you want to avoid the bitter cold, try travelling from mid-November to mid-March. 

Most major mobile phone carriers will work in Punta Arenas and the city also has relatively good wifi infrastructure so connecting to the internet shouldn't be a problem, however, it will cost you. Connecting to the internet can be expensive if you haven't already figured out an international plan with your mobile phone carrier before travelling. The roaming charges can be as high as USD$2 (AUD$3) per minute, and accessing your email or sending text messages can also be quite expensive. 

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. However, we’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Learn more about Accessible Travel with Intrepid

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