254km (158 miles) NW of Punta Arenas; 115km (71 miles) S of Torres del Paine
Puerto Natales is a rambling town of 19,000, spread along the sloping coast of the Señoret Canal between the Ultima Esperanza Sound and the Almirante Montt Gulf. This is the jumping-off point for trips to Torres del Paine, and many visitors to the park will find themselves spending at least a night here. The town itself is a small center with rows and rows of weather-beaten tin and wooden houses. Within the ramshackle buildings are some truly cozy and delightful inns, cafes, and bistros. Puerto Natales has a frontier-town appeal and boasts a stunning location with grand views out onto a grassy peninsula and glacier-capped peaks in the distance. From May to September, the town virtually goes into hibernation, but come October, the town's streets are crowded with international tourists decked out in parkas and hiking boots on their way to or back from the park.
Puerto Natales was founded in 1911 as a port for the export of lamb's meat and wool. Tourism has now replaced wool and coal to dominate the economy, evident by the plethora of hostels, restaurants, and tour companies found here, though it appears the period of rapid growth is leveling off.