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Getting There

By Plane -- There is a tiny airport in Puerto Natales that operated sporadically in 2007 and 2008; but most flights were cancelled due to wind. Although there's always a possibility they'll give it another go, do not plan on being able to fly into Puerto Natales. The closest airports are in El Calafate, Argentina (4-5 hr.) and Punta Arenas (3-4 hr.).

By Bus -- Puerto Natales is the hub for bus service to Torres del Paine National Park and El Calafate, Argentina. For information about bus service to and from Torres del Paine, see the section "Parque Nacional Torres del Paine". There are frequent daily trips between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. In Puerto Natales, each bus company leaves from its own office.

To and from Punta Arenas -- Buses Fernández, at Ramirez and Esmeralda streets (tel. 61/411111), has seven daily trips; Bus Sur, Baquedano 668 (tel. 61/411859), has two daily trips; Buses Pacheco, Baquedano 500 (tel. 61/414513), has four daily trips (and the most comfortable buses); and Transfer Austral, Baquedano 414 (tel. 61/412616), has two daily trips. The trip takes about 3 hours and the cost is about $6 to $8 (£4-£5.30) one-way. Reserve early during the busy season, as tickets sell out fast. Round-trip fares to Punta Arenas are a little cheaper. There is no central bus terminal in Puerto Natales; each bus company has a different office, although most are along Baquedano Street.

To El Calafate, Argentina -- Options include Buses Zaahj, Arturo Prat 236 (tel. 61/412260; www.turismozaahj.co.cl), departing at 8am Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and Cootra, Baquedano 456 (tel. 61/412785), which leaves at 7:30am daily. The cost is $30 (£20) one-way. The trip takes 4 to 5 hours, depending on the traffic at the border crossing.

By Car -- Rte. 9 is a paved road that heads north from Punta Arenas. The drive is 254km (158 miles) and takes about 3 hours. If you're heading in from El Calafate, Argentina, you have your choice of two international borders: Cerro Castillo (otherwise known as Control Fronterizo Río Don Guillermo) or Río Turbio (otherwise known as Controles Fronterizos Dorotea y Laurita Casas Viejas). Both are the same in terms of road quality, but Río Turbio is busier, with Chileans heading to Argentina for cheaper goods and most of the bus traffic. Both are open 24 hours from September to May, and daily from 8am to 11pm the rest of the year. Gas is much cheaper in Argentina, so fill up there.

By Boat -- Navimag runs a popular 3-night ferry trip between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt, cruising through the southern fjords of Chile. This journey passes through breathtaking (though repetitive) scenery, and it makes for an interesting way to leave from or head to Chile's Lake District. Navimag leaves Puerto Montt every Friday afternoon. Rates for private berth start at $610 (£407). Its offices in Puerto Natales are at Pedro Montt 308 (tel. 61/411642; www.navimag.com).

Getting Around

Puerto Natales is built on a grid pattern, and you'll spend most of your time within a 5-block radius, from the coast up to the main plaza, Plaza de Armas, along which runs Calle Eberhard, the street where you'll find the post office and the town's yellow cathedral. Calle Eberhard dead-ends a block away at Blanco Encalada; this street, Avenida Manuel Bulnes (1 block to the right), and Baquedano (1 block up from Blanco Encalada) are the principal streets, with most of the supermarkets, banks, and tourism-oriented businesses. Along the shore of Puerto Natales runs Pedro Montt, also called the Costanera, which is an excellent place for a stroll.

All taxis charge a flat rate of $2 (£1.30) for trips within the town limits. They can be hailed off the street, or else found around the main plaza. Car rentals in Puerto Natales are offered by International Rental Car (tel. 61/228323; www.international-rac.com), and Amazing Patagonia, Baquedano 558 (tel. 61/414949; www.amazingpatagonia.com), among others. You don't need a car to get around the town, but a rental car can come in handy for longer-distance trips, including those into Torres del Paine National Park.

Visitor Information

Sernatur operates a well-stocked office on the Costanera at Pedro Montt and Philippi (tel. 61/412125; www.sernatur.cl); it's open October through March Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 1pm and 3 to 6pm. April through September, it's open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 1pm and 3 to 6pm; it's closed on holidays. Better yet is the Municipal Tourism office, tucked in a corner of the historical museum at Bulnes 285 (tel. 61/414808), with a wealth of information on lodgings, restaurants, and day trips; the staff here is far more helpful than at Sernatur. It's open Monday to Friday from 9am to 12:30pm and 2:30 to 6pm, and Saturdays from 3 to 6pm. Conaf has its park headquarters at O'Higgins 584 (tel. 61/411438; www.conaf.cl), but you'll get better park information from a tour operator.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.