Punta Arenas, Chile cruises

Punta Arenas stands on the Strait of Magellan, close to the southern tip of South America. There is a real frontier town feel here amid the grand and mountainous scenery of Chilean Patagonia.

Also well remembered here is explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Indeed, a statue of him stands in Plaza Muñoz Gamero, and rubbing the toe of one of the figures around the pedestal is said to bring good luck and calm waters for your onward voyage. Within the Museo Nao Victoria you can stand before a replica of his galleon that successfully sailed around the globe.

You might want to explore the brightly painted houses and plazas that give this low-lying city the appearance of a colorful mosaic. Yet those mountainous backdrops may call more powerfully to your inner explorer.

Across the Strait of Magellan, the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego creates the tail of South America’s distinctive outline. It’s a land of jagged peaks, vast glaciers, glassy lakes and windswept tundra. Halfway across is Magdalena Island, a favorite residence of Magellanic Penguins; while Otway Bay provides another option to see these marine birds up close.

Glimpse back into days gone by, with a jaunt down the coast to Fuerte Bulnes south of Punta Arenas. Poking out into the strait on a rocky promontory, it occupies a strategic setting. It’s easy to see why this spot was ideal for the reconstructed fort, now a national monument, which still has several cannons aimed towards the waters, as well as log cabins and a chapel.

An authentic “estancia” or ranch also promises rugged landscapes, while introducing you to several elements of local life. These include the practicalities of farming the land here, the delicious Chilean barbecues and the famous Pisco Sours aperitif.