Punta Arenas, Chile: Penguins, Panties, & A New Year [Days 67 – 71]

Day 67 | Thursday, December 29, 2016

We arrived in Punta Arenas around 11:30pm last night. Our hotel is a brief 5 minute walk from the bus terminal but it was a bit eventful as drivers don’t yield to pedestrians in Punta Arenas as they do in Santiago, Valparaíso, or Puerto Natales. 

Given that we only have a couple of days before another holiday descends upon us we figure we had better get out to the grocery store and scope out the restaurants in the immediate area. A bit of a bummer as that cold we were exposed to entering Puerto Natales has hit Steve and I feel myself starting the battle.

Punta Arenas is the largest city south of 46th parallel south yet in so many ways it is a small town in comparison to cities like Lima and Santiago. A siesta is strictly observed here, to the point that you will be shopping in a store and they will simply start shutting down and tell you to leave. I guess they figure they are shooting fish in a barrel because where else are you going to buy goods. There really isn’t anywhere else to go. It is definitely commerce and not tourist focused. There doesn’t seem to be any great amount of history or beautiful architecture here either but we did find a sufficient grocery store and there are plenty of restaurants within a short walk of our hotel. If fact we capped the night with a meal we both enjoyed at Fusiones Gastro-Bar, grilled salmon and asparagus for me and a hamburger and fries for Steve.

Day 68 | Friday, December 30, 2016

The goal for today is to nail down a tour to go see some penguins. We figure we will start with tour company next door to our hotel, Payne Rent a Car & Tourism

Check, we just booked a full day tour for tomorrow (Saturday, December 31) to go see some King Penguins.

As we wandered the street yesterday and today we have noticed lots of street vendors selling various items for celebrating the New Year: confetti canons, champagne glasses, calendars, and most curiously bright yellow underwear.

As we kicked back and relaxed the rest of the day I just had to google the significance of the yellow underwear.

Come to find out Chile has several traditions for ensuring a Happy New Year. Here are some of them:

  1. Eat a spoonful of lentils at midnight to ensure prosperity for the upcoming year.

  2. Eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the year. If the grape is sweet that month will be good, if the grape is sour the month will be bad.

  3. Want a new travel adventure in the new year? Pack your suitcase and take a walk around the block.

  4. Want more money in the new year? Put some paper currency in your right shoe or hold it in your hand at midnight. Coins are placed next to your door to attract good finances.

  5. Place a gold ring in your bubbly for a prosperous new year.

  6. Ribbon-wrapped sprigs of wheat are distributed to bring abundance.

  7. The yellow underwear? First, they should be received as a gift. Second, wear them inside-out and turn them right-side-out after midnight. The result, either love will come into your life in the new year or you will get engaged in the new year.

Fun and a bit kooky traditions for the New Year!

Day 69 | Saturday, December 31, 2016

What better way to spend the day leading up to New Year’s Eve than getting to see a colony of King Penguins. 

A van ride, a ferry ride to Tierra del Fuego, a quick stop in Porvenir to learn about the indigenous people and visit the museum, a break for lunch, and finally we are heading to the main attraction, the Parque Pingüino Rey.

Along the way we also spotted countless guanacos (cousin to the llama), wild criollo horses, pink Chilean flamingos, lesser rhea (looks like a small ostriche), a grey fox, and a black and white commerson’s dolphin.

After a full day traversing the Strait of Magellan, a portion of the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, and finally arriving back in Punta Arenas it is time to ring in the new year. 

Day 70 | Sunday, January 1, 2017

We are heading out of the room not because we think we will find any signs of life outside the hotel but because it is better than sitting and staring at the walls of the hotel.

Sure enough only a couple of restaurants we have encountered have been open and all other businesses are closed today. Again it is the double whammy Sunday and New Year’s Day. 

Finally reaching 20,000 steps for the day we decided to call it quits and head back towards the hotel. 

A bit of a late siesta and then we were back out hoping that the town was coming back to life as we look for a place to eat dinner.

Fortunately our favorite Punta Arenas restaurant, Fusiones Gastro-Bar, is open and we snagged a table for two before they got busy.

Day 71 | Monday, January 2, 2017

This morning we are climbing back on a bus to Puerto Natales to board a plane back to Santiago concluding our time in the Chilean Patagonia region.

Although a nice break from the heat and stink of Santiago I can’t wait until we board a plane for Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 14, 2017.

Fortunately, an uneventful day of travel landing us back in Santiago.


  1. How awesome and what an exciting trip to go see el pinguinos. Peru has the same fun and kooky new years traditions. Did you do eat a lot of grapes?

    • Summer Martindale

      No, we didn’t eat any grapes. I have to admit that I was in a bit of a bah humbug mood by the time we got to celebrating the new year as Steve had very generously shared his cold with me and I was starting to feel it hit me full force.

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