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Take a look at this Punta Arenas practical information guide and you will surely discover some unsuspected facts about the city that will aid with travel while enhance your enjoyment of the trip.


Punta Arenas (or Sandy Point, translated from Spanish) is home to a population of 154 000 residents, which makes it the third largest city in the Patagonian Region of Chile. You may be expecting to see mainly Latin Americans here, but you’ll be surprised to find that nearly half of the local population descends from the Croatian ethnic group. There are also many descendants of the major European colonist nations (Spain, Germany, England and Italy to name a few).


Like in the rest of the country, Spanish is the most used language here. However, compared to standard Spanish, Chilean Spanish differs in vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. Of course, this difference is influenced by formerly used Native American languages like Quechua and Mapudungun. Chilean Spanish is also spoken very fast, which makes it harder to understand even by native Spanish speakers. Along with it, English, Croatian and German are widely spoken in Punta Arenas.


After numerous failing attempts to form a city in the area, the Chilean government sent a final colonizing expedition, leaded by John Williams (a British sailor). The expedition, consisting of just 21 people) was successful and a town was officially formed on 21 September 1843. For a long time, Punta Arenas was the place where the government sent newly-arrived immigrants and Chilean soldiers with problematic behavior. The city harbor was of significant importance, as it was used as a refueling station by ships transferring from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

City Name Etymology

As mentioned above, Punta Arenas comes from the Spanish Punta Arenosa, which translated to English means Sandy Point. However, the city was also known as Magallanes between 1927 and 1938, named after the great Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who has sailed through this area.


The official currency used here is Chilean peso. It is subdivided into 100 centavos. One dollar equals approximately to 532 Chilean Pesos. Frequently, the locals refer to the different banknotes not by their value, but by the name of the person printed on them. So don’t be surprised if you hear – “you owe me one Gabriela”, which means that you owe a person 5000 Pesos.


The local currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP)

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