The city cemetery, walkable from the center, is fascinating for the design and, sometimes, the extravagance of its memorials set among the cypress trees. There are a couple of museums and some fine eating places to try the local delicacy, congrio, a kind of eel (better than it sounds) best enjoyed either in soup (caldillo de congrio) or fried (congrio fritto). Nice people, just enough of whom speak English.
Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. Come visit.
And if the visit is short?
It's not the end of the world.
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For previous stories on Torres del Paine, rounding the Horn and flightseeing to Antarctica, go to:
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IF YOU GO
American and LAN Airlines (Chilean) both offer two-stop service (Miami, Santiago) to Punta Arenas out of O'Hare; a recent check found fares at $1,573 and $1,697 (subject to change).
Aside from excursions to see the penguins (tour options abound) or the longer trip to Torres del Paine, this is a walking town. Just about anything of tourist interest is within a few blocks of the central square, Plaza de Armas; the most remote attraction is the picturesque cemetery, and that's just a comfortable eight-block walk from the center.
The better hotels are all within two blocks of the Plaza de Armas. Two are right there: the handsomely refurbished Cabo de Hornos (doubles from $200, subject to change;http://www.hoteles-australis.com ) and the small, elegant Hotel Jose Nogueira (from $190; http://www.hotelnogueira.com ). A block and a half away, the Hotel Isla Rey Jorge (from $146; http://www.islarey jorge.com) has the feel of a cozy English hunting lodge; two blocks the other way from the square, the doubles at the Hotel Finis Terrae (from $176; http://www.hotelfinisterrae.com ) are a little tight, but everything is clean and congenial. There also are hostels galore. (Rates are seasonal, with high season mid-October to mid-April; all rates listed are high-season.)