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Introducing Puerto Natales

A formerly modest fishing port on Seno Ùltima Esperanza, Puerto Natales has blossomed into a Gore-Tex mecca. The gateway to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, this town is reaping the benefits of its business savvy: boutique beers and wine tastings are overtaking tea time, and gear shops have already replaced the yarn sellers. The town now feeds off tourism, and it's an all-you-can-eat feast with unwavering demand. While some sectors cater to international tastes, there's appeal in Natales' corrugated-tin houses strung shoulder to shoulder and cozy granny-style lodgings. Most notably, in spite of a near-constant swarm of summer visitors, the town still maintains the glacial pace of living endemic to Patagonia.

Puerto Natales sits on the shores of Seno Última Esperanza, 250km northwest of Punta Arenas via Ruta 9, and has some striking views out over the mountains. It is the capital of the province of Última Esperanza and the southern terminus of the ferry trip through the Chilean fjords.