Chile Spectacular Scenery

Punta Arenas: Hiking in The Magallanes National Reserve

By on May 6, 2016

We had been on Holland America’s Zaandam for a week and we had enjoyed all the creature comforts of cruising. We had gorged at the buffet, we had made the most of every happy hour, we had had some cringe-worthy encounters with many retired couples from the United States and we had been ripped off from the ‘Shore Excursions’ desk.

IMG_1064It was time for adventure. It was time to do our own shore excursioning. It was time to break the cruise chains and get out and explore.

We anchored down in Punta Arenas. Known as the door to Patagonia. Punta Arenas is the capital of Magallanes province. Set at the bottom of the Americas, it is downright stingy with good weather – the sun shines through sidelong rain – which we experienced firsthand.

Punta Arenas provides easy connections to Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine and Argentina and good travelers’ services make Punta Arenas a convenient base. A growing volume of cruise-ship passengers and trekkers has effectively replaced yesteryear’s explorers, sealers and sailors.

IMG_1091We were up early. Really early. The gorgeous sunrise photos are evidence. We were determined to make it to The Magdalena Penguin Reserve where  Magellan penguins live and nest. We were yet to see any penguins on our South American adventure so far so it was safe to say that we were keen to get there.

We disembarked as soon as the gangway was attached and went off in hot pursuit of a local tourist office. We walked inside to encounter the grumpiest women south of the equator… Which was surprising considering the ridiculous kindness everyone in Chile had shown us up until this point.

“What do you want?”

“We would like to go see the penguins!”

“Have you booked the tour?”

“No…”

“Then you can’t.”

And that was that.

We politely asked why – the tours were full (fair enough). We politely asked if there was anything else we could do whilst visiting the city. Nope. Nada.

IMG_1086Talk about the most unfriendly tourism worker I have ever encountered…

It was barely dusk on a Sunday morning and we were back on the grey streets feeling juts as grey as the weather. Nothing was open and we were feeling pretty defeated.

But then it happened – we walked into a hotel to use the wifi and desperately asked the receptionist for inspiration. He told us the small tourist office next door would be opening soon and could help us.

Barely half an hour later we were in the office – that had only been opened especially for us. Taadaa! A super nice man appeared and began calling every travel company he could think of. Whilst my Mum desperately tried to keep up with his Spanish advice to us. But the mean later was right – there was absolutely NADA. Apparently two cruise ships in port means every single tour was full.

We asked desperately if there was anywhere we could go – even just for a nice walk. How about The Magallanes National Reserve?

IMG_1056A Reserve – that could work.

And boy did it work (or at least make us work).

We hopped in a cab and gave the driver the name of the reserve. He had never heard of it in his life. Never ever. Not encouraging.

He called someone else to get directions (once again – not encouraging), and we began our drive. It started off normal enough, we headed out of town, we passed the hotels, restaurants, cafes…. And then we headed off road. We were passing what looked like the slums of Punta Arenas and soon enough we were at a crime scene.

A couple of police were standing beside a car with obvious bullet hole through the windscreen – so we did the most logical thing and kept driving stopped to ask for directions.

Mum and I exchanged a concerned look.

IMG_1067We continued and soon enough we saw a sign ‘Magallanes National Reserve’. We had made it. It was real.

We walked in and found some friendly staff. We paid our park fee were handed a map and we were on our way – free to explore.

And so we did. We went downhill and we went uphill, and we went uphill and we went uphill… It turned out adventuring involves a lot of exercise – I had almost forgotten after a week on a cruise ship…

It was truly spectacular – the trees were so green I questioned whether we were perhaps walking straight through a Dr. Seuss story and the giant birds we encountered made me believe it. The views were spectacular and everyone else was local.

Basically – it was far too much fun.

We ended our day with some handimarket shopping back in town and my mother even smuggled a bottle of vodka back on board at the end of the day…

After a week of life on a ‘floating retirement home’ we had finally revived our youth. And all it had taken was a day out in nature (and a few shots of our smuggled vodka, of course).

I have included some details about the park from the park’s website below…

Magallanes National Reserve Basic Information

Location: Bunswick Peninsula, 5 kms west of Punta Arenas from the 53º 06’ 20” to 53º 13’ 00’’ South latitude and from 71º 01’ 50’’ West longitude to the Grande River.

IMG_1053How to get there: Through a gravel road which is the continuation of the Salvador Allende Avenue, heading west from Punta Arenas. When reaching Lynch estuary, the road splits in two, one going to the Andino area and the other one to Las Minas. Both roads can be used all year but in winter you must use snow chains. During winter, the road to Las Minas can only be used until the ranger station. There is no public transportation, so the only way to get there is in a private or rental vehicle.

When to go: January-April. September-December

Activities: There are over 60 kms of trails, such as the stretch of the Chilean Path known as the Bocatoma Límite Sur. There is also a trail for people with reduced mobility and a flora trail. 

Climate: There are three different types of climate defined for the amount of precipitation and their temperatures.

  • The North and northeast areas have a precipitation index ranging from 400 and 600 mms per year, without a dry season, with rains concentrated in autumn and a thermal amplitude of 10°C.
  • IMG_1058The South west area has an annual precipitation index of 600 mms, distributed evenly during the year and with a thermal amplitude of 5°C.
  • The higher area has an even greater precipitation index ranging between 650 and 2000 mms distributed evenly during the year and a thermal amplitude of -2°C and 15°C.
  • The lower area has an average temperature of 11,7°C in summer, with peaks of 22°C.

Services: There are camping and picknickin sites with sheds, toilets and showers. There are no accommodation services, though you can stay in Punta Arenas, which is only 8 kms away from the entrance.

Rates:

High Season:

  • Chileans and foreigners: $1.500 CLP.
  • Children (12 years or less): Free of charge
  • Family camp site (6 people) x day: $5.000 CLP

Low Season:

  • Chileans and foreigners: $1.500 CLP.
  • Children (12 years or less): Free of charge
  • Family camp site (6 people) x day: Closed

IMG_1092Infrastructure and Services in Magallanes National Reserve

Administration office: It is located in Las Minas sector, on the entrance to the reserve. The reserve is managed by Ricardo Cid Paredes (ricardo.cid@conaf.cl), who works with a team of five park permanent rangers and two seasonals from November to March.

For administrative purposes, the reserve is divided in five areas: Las Minas, Bocatoma, Andino, Río Grande and Leñadura.

Opening hours: 

  • High Season (November to March): 8:30 to 20:00
  • Low Season: 8:30 to 16:00.

For more information please contact the Corporación Nacional Forestal (Punta Arenas: Av. Bulnes 0309. Phone number (56-61) 23 85 81).

Attractions in Magallanes National Reserve

IMG_1095What to do:

There are over 60 kms of trails, such as the stretch of the Chilean Path known as the Bocatoma Límite Sur. There is also a trail for people with reduced mobility and a flora trail. 

There are camping and picknickin sites with sheds, toilets and showers. There are no accommodation services, though you can stay in Punta Arenas, which is only 8 kms away from the entrance.

Recommendations

  • Help us protect the reserve’s natural resources and make your trip more pleasant following these recommendations:
  • Some areas are located at a high altitude. Bring warm clothes.
  • Solar radiation is high, so do not forget to wear sunscreen lotion and drink lots of water.
  • Respect the flora and fauna. Do not take any specimens with you.
  • Respect the signs and the rules given when entering the reserve.

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About Me

Kat Knapp

Hello! I am a 22-year old Australian currently training to be a pilot and studying journalism and sociology I have visited 69 countries across all 7 continents and love to explore. Here is where I share my adventures.

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