A visit to a Patagonia Ranch - Punta Arenas, Chile
Founded as a penal colony by Chile in 1848, Punta Arenas (meaning Sandy Point) grew by virtue of its location. It sits right in the middle of the Straits of Magellan (see the map) and this was the best route to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean until opening of the Panama Canal in 1920. So, Punta Arenas played host to all the sailors crossing the continent by ship. Europeans followed, searching for newly discovered gold and establishing vast swaths of sheep farms locally and throughout the surrounding region of Patagonia. As a result, today this city is a rich blend of Croatian, German, English, Italian and other European influences – all imported here with the 19th-century immigrants. As a result, you can find seven different languages and five different currencies.
Since the opening of the Panama Canal, the industry of this city of 135,000 people has shifted. Today the main exports are lamb, fishing and natural gas. Tourism is surprisingly strong here also, as this tends to be the hub city for visiting southern Patagonia. From September to March (their summer season) there is cruise ships visiting almost daily, with many ships leaving from here for Antarctic cruises.