Torres del Paine National Park

Puerto Williams, Chile, the World's Southernmost City

 
The World's Southernmost City
A view of Puerto Williams
Photo: elmagallanico.com


   As of March 2019, the Port and Naval Base of Puerto Williams ceased to be considered a town and is now recognized as a city. This change is due to a redefinition by the INE (National Statistics Institute of Chile), which now classifies urban centers with more than 5,000 inhabitants or those with the status of regional or provincial capital as "cities." It is worth noting that Puerto Williams, with slightly fewer than 3,000 residents, is the capital of the Chilean Antarctic Province.

This means that Puerto Williams, because of the change in status and its coordinates at 54° 56' S, 67° 37' W, will officially be considered the southernmost city in the world. Ten kilometers north is the Argentine city of Ushuaia, which held that title until now. This is of tremendous importance for the Chilean city and, in general, for the Magallanes and Antarctic Region, as tourism is one of the mainstays of the regional and national economy.
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Puerto Williams, is a small industrial port and Naval Base founded in 1953, capital of the Chilean Antarctic Province, located on the north shore of Navarino Island, southern end of the South American Continent. Independent of the fact that its population is very small, a little less than 3,000 people, Puerto Williams is considered the most southerly town in the world, as its latitude is 54° 56' 00" S, south of the nearby Argentine tourist city of Ushuaia. 

Unlike the rest of the country, this part of Chile is the only one that borders Argentina on the North and given it is also a Naval Base, there is a significant presence of uniformed personnel. Apart from its singular location in the Globe, other attractions of Puerto Williams lie in its spectacular nature, made up of forests and a mountain range crossed by paths of great beauty, through which we can discover the animal and plant diversity while enjoying the richness of its landscape, dominated by the Beagle Channel, so called in commemoration of the brig that brought the naturalist Charles Darwin in the early nineteenth century. 

Another emblematic, world-renowned place within the commune is the legendary Cape Horn, one of the great icons of navigation which marks the end of the American continent. 

Puerto Williams is located in such a remote area of the World (more than 3500 km. South of Santiago, the Chilean capital) that according to a recent comparative study, its waters are the purest on the planet, according to what was said by the US scientist Guido Verbeck, of the University of North Texas.

How to get there

Puerto Williams is located on the north shore of Isla Navarino, separated from Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego by the Beagle Channel. The distance from Punta Arenas, the main regional city is of 303 nautical miles (561 km.) You can reach Williams:

By plane: There is a regular service by 
Aerovias DAP departing from Presidente Carlos Ibañez del Campo International Airport in Punta Arenas, daily in high season and three times a week in low season.

By sea: Every Wednesday, from the 
Tres Puentes Ferry Terminal
 in Punta Arenas, a ship leaves to Puerto Williams. The voyage lasts approximately 36 hours.

Puerto Williams, Google Map.


Important places in Puerto Williams and surroundings:

Martin Gusinde Anthropological Museum 

Martin Gusinde Museum
Museum and Stirling House to the left

So named in memory of the Austrian priest and scientist who lived among the Selknam and Yaganes natives, developing one of the most comprehensive ethnographic researches on the ancient peoples who inhabited Tierra del Fuego and adjacent islands between 1918 and 1924. Created in 1974, remodeled in 2007 and reopened in 2008. The world's southernmost museum also details the wildlife and natural resources of the region. Within the grounds of the museum is also the "Casa Stirling" ("Stirling House") considered the oldest house erected by European man in Tierra del Fuego Island, made in England between 1869 and 1871, declared National Historic Monument in 2003.
 

Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Local Catholic temple, dedicated to the Patron Saint of Chile, very representative building of Puerto Williams. Inside is also the "Virgen de los Loberos" (Patron Saint of Sea Lion hunters), who in ancient times ventured into the sea with their fragile boats.

Prow of the steam tugboat "Yelcho"

In Puerto Williams, at a side of the Liceo (Secondary School), you can see the prow of the "Escampavía Yelcho" (Cutter boat "Yelcho"), a ship belonging to the Chilean Navy that in 1916 carried out the heroic rescue of the Imperial Trans- Antarctic Expedition of Ernest Shackleton at Elephant Island, Chilean Antarctic Territory. See Wikipedia article here.

Dientes de Navarino Trekking Circuit  

Dientes de Navarino Mountains, trekking
Image: Lakutaia.com
Patagonia & Cape Horn
Tour of about 5 days. This circuit passes through places of great natural beauty and absolute tranquility, lakes and forests, different from what happens on other tours where the trails are traversed by countless people daily. It's not for nothing that this is called the southernmost trekking circuit in the World. Although not extremely difficult, the tour is recommended for people with good physical condition. The departure is from Puerto Williams bound for Cerro La Bandera to continue a journey through peaks over 1,100 meters high, amid a landscape dominated by frozen lakes, thick forests, bogs and snowy peaks, looking to the North you get impressive views of the Beagle Channel and southwards of Navarino Island to Cape Horn.

Windhond Lake Circuit

The Lago Windhond tourist circuit is located to the south of Navarino Island and is a less popular alternative to the famous Dientes de Navarino Circuit. The route to Lago Windhond starts south from Puerto Williams and offers a well-signed and maintained path through the woods, small valleys, and lagoons. 

The circuit can be combined with the Dientes de Navarino Circuit, and the entire trek is estimated to take around seven days. The area is known for its scenic beauty, including views of glaciers, and opportunities to spot dolphins, sea lions, and whales during the ferry trip from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams. In addition, Windhond Lake is one of the places where you can go sport fishing, with the added bonus of doing it in one of the most remote places on the planet. To do this route, just like with the Dientes de Navarino tourist circuit, you must register at Carabineros de Chile (the militarized police institution). 

"Omora" Ethnobotanical Park

Parque Etnobotanico "Omora" is a 1000 hectare private protected area, located 4 km west of Puerto Williams, on Navarino Island. Its name means hummingbird in Yaghan language, the native people of the area. 

The Park is home to the southernmost sub-Antarctic temperate forest on the planet, with a great diversity of plants, lichens, mosses and animals. In addition, scientific research, environmental education and biocultural conservation activities are carried out, which combine ethics and philosophy with ecology. 

Omora Park has a visitor center, a laboratory, a guest house, interpretive trails where nature can be observed with special magnifying glasses. Parque Omora is an ideal place to learn about and appreciate the natural and cultural heritage of the extreme south of Chile.  

But "Omora" is not an ordinary park. Here, since the year 2000 with the collaboration of the New York Botanical Garden, scientists work to understand and preserve the exuberant diversity of mosses, lichens and liverworts (a type of bryophytes) present in the area. Cape Horn and surroundings represent 0.01% of the planet's surface, but are home to 7% of the diversity of all bryophytes, which are small green plants, ancient organisms of great scientific importance.
  

"Micalvi" Yacht Club 

Club de Yates "Micalvi" (Micalvi Yacht  Club)
Image: Hostal Forjadores del Cabo de Hornos
The "Micalvi" was a vessel built in Europe in 1925, bought and used as a cargo ship by the Chilean Navy since 1928. After a hectic life, the ship was stranded in 1961 and used as a mooring point of what is today the Micalvi Yacht Club. Small ships, from all over the World dock here before starting their challenge around Cape Horn and/or the Antarctic Continent, using the natural terrace overlooking the Beagle Channel and the mountainous surroundings of Navarino Island.

"Club de Yates Micalvi" is a unique and welcoming place, with an authentic marine atmosphere left by the hundreds of sailors who have been there, leaving their memories and experiences hanging on the walls either as flags, photos, posters and gifts, all full of dates, dedications and signatures. Currently, many marine services are offered such as to provide of water and electricity, showers, Wifi, diesel fuel, a permanent boatswain at the club, garbage collection apart from other land-based activities including hiking and horseback riding.

Cape Horn International Center

Address: 310 O'Higgins St., Puerto Williams. High level research center on sub-Antarctic ecosystems, education and climate change for biocultural conservation and a sustainable future.

Among its main features is its structure of three interconnected pavilions. One is a scientific complex, with laboratories and facilities to house researchers. The second is an academic center, with classrooms for students of the Universidad de Magallanes. Finally, the third pavilion is for visitors and tourists, with a museum exhibit and facilities such as a library, cafeteria, auditorium and viewpoint.


Angling around Puerto Williams

In Navarino Island there are several lakes and rivers suitable for fishing, all these places have the plus of being located in one of the most remote and pristine regions of the planet, there are tours available either by land or helicopter. The main destinations are Lago Navarino and Lago Windhond. The fishing season runs from October to April.

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