Puerto Williams Street map
View of Puerto Williams from the port
Nickname: The World's southernmost town
Coordinates of Puerto Williams: 54°56′S 67°37′W
Province Antártica Chilena
Founded as Puerto Luisa
Founded 21 November 1953
- Mayor: Hugo Henriques Matus
- Town 2,600
Puerto Williams in Tierra del Fuego
Puerto Williams is a Chilean port, located on Isla Navarino facing the Beagle Channel. It is the capital of Antártica Chilena Province, one of the four provinces located in the Magallanes y Antártica Chilena Region. It is also the capital of the Commune of Cabo de Hornos (formerly Navarino) and is administered by the Municipality of Cabo de Hornos which also administers the Commune of Antártica. Cabo de Hornos is the only municipality in the country which administers more than one commune.
Puerto Williams claims to be the southernmost "town" in the world, using the definition of "town" (pueblo in Spanish), established by the National Bureau of Statistics in Chile. The town was named after Captain John Williams (or Juan Guillermos), who founded Fuerte Bulnes (Fort Bulnes) on the Brunswick Peninsula in 1843. Founded by geopolitical reasons Puerto Luisa was its original name. Since foundation in 1953 the town has served primarily as a naval base. In recent years tourism has contributed to an increase in the economic activity of Puerto Williams. It has a population of nearly 2500, including both naval personnel and civilians. Access is by air or by a ferry service from Punta Arenas, 350 kilometers to the north in Chile, or by a private yacht charter from Ushuaia, Argentina. There is, however, no direct, continuous commercial link with Argentine territory. Most of the houses in Puerto Williams belong to the Chilean Navy.
Tourism to Puerto Williams and Isla Navarino is being encouraged. The community has a small airport. Most lodgings for tourists are hostels.
There are several trails for multi-day hikes and back-packing trips in the mountains south of Puerto Williams. Remains of indian campsites and fishtraps can be found along the coast east of Puerto Williams. Puerto Williams is home to the Martin Gusinde Anthropological Museum, which depicts the lives of both the Yamana or Yahgan and Selknam peoples who once inhabited Tierra del Fuego. For easy exploration of some of the subantarctic forest, the Omora Ethnobotanical Park is five kilometres down the road to the west.
The Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn) National Park may be reached by boat from Puerto Williams which serves as a useful jump-off point for exploring this and other area attractions.
The southernmost settlements in the world, excluding research bases
|Estación Naval Islas Diego Ramirez, Chile||56º30' S||?|
|Estación Meteorológica de Cabo de Hornos, Chile||55º59' S||2|
|Puerto Toro, Chile||55º05' S||50|
|Caleta Wulaia, Chile||55°02' S||?|
|Caleta Eugenia, Chile||54°56' S||?|
|Puerto Williams, Chile||54°56' S||2,400|
|Puerto Navarino, Chile||54º55' S||?|
|Ushuaia, Argentina||54º48' S||50,000|
|Tolhuin, Argentina||54º31' S||1,200|
|Grytvik, South Georgia||54º19' S||up to 18|
|Río Grande, Argentina||53º45' S||55,000|
|Porvenir, Chile||53º17' S||4,700|
|Punta Arenas, Chile||53º17' S||125,000|
Fly to Santiago, Chile, by Lan Chile. Use a Chile Air Pass to economically fly within the country.
Fly to Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan, the starting point for all southern excursions. Aerovias DAP flies daily from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams and return.
Turismo Comapa has regular 7 day luxury cruise on the 100 passenger Terra Australis from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams and Ushuaia return, prices range from US$1055 per person, double occupancy, low season (April) to US$3000 for a high season single, all meals included.
Hostal Bella Vista has singles/doubles at US$30/60. All meals are available.
Tierra del Fuego was discovered in the 1500's by the Hernando de Magallanes (Magellan) Expedition.
Magellan was a Portuguese navigator that was engaged by the Spanish crown the mission to find a route to the "East Indies" going through the west. In doing this, the Magellan expedition discovered the strait that was named after him (Magellan Strait), and at the west end of it they discovered the Pacific Ocean (named like that as it was calmed when discovered).
Tierra del Fuego is the island created by the strait as this splits South America's mainland in two. The island was so named (the fire land) as the Magellan expedition saw smoke and fire from their boats while crossing the strait. The fire and smoke was presumably made by the Selknam (or Ona) Indians.
This mountainous island at the very southern tip of South America is divided in half between Chile and Argentina. Tourists flock to the Argentine side because of easy access. The southern Chilean part of the island is visited by the discerning few, mainly hikers, naturalists and the curious.
Even more isolated is Puerto Williams, the world's most southern town, located on tiny Isla Navarino. Only the choppy waters of the narrow Beagle Channel separate it from Argentine Tierra del Fuego where high glaciated peaks provide a magnificent snowy backdrop.
DAP Airline's 19 and 50 seaters fly in regularly from Punta Arenas. Our little plane bounced around, dodging the massive cloud banks that gather over the rocky peaks and snow fields of the Darwin Cordillera (2500 metres). Winding into the mountains are narrow fiords with icebergs shed by glaciers into the sea. The famous Garibaldi and D'Agostini Glaciers are there; both are visited by luxury cruise ships that explore the fiords.
You may also stay in Puerto Williams at the Hotel Lakutaia, a large first class tourist hotel occuping a secluded spot in the countryside overlooking an inlet halfway between town and airport.
Its huge lounge-cum-dining area is surrounded by picture windows giving an unrestricted view of the Fuegian mountains with glaciated tops and ever-changing weather patterns. In an afternoon you can watch a snow storm, rain, swirling mist followed by sunshine with a repeat performance!
Nearby a family of cauquénes (upland geese) strut around the grassy slope leading down to the inlet and jetty. The foothills are beech-clad but the forest soon gives way to rounded tussocky tops with rocky outcrops, near enough to suggest an easy hike on a fine day.
Cerro Bandera (590 metres) is closest, accessible from the valley of the Rio Ukika. Patches of snow lie on the summit ridge which gives access to the daunting Cordon de los Dientes (string of teeth) an 8km long serrated ridge of icy peaks that attract mountaineers from afar. Fit backpackers come here to do "The Dientes Circuit" a tough 5-day hike around the mountainous centre of Isla Navarino with campsites beside unspoilt lakes and streams.
We explore stony beaches on the way to the Centolla Factory which processes large crabs. Old gun emplacements point menacingly across the Beagle Channel, where last century (1830) Charles Darwin and Captain Fitz Roy, in the sailing ship "The Beagle" were the first white men to navigate these waters. Little streams tumble down from the mountains and disappear into beech forest swamps inhabited by beavers and muskrats that came originally from Canada.
The town was founded as a radio station in 1953 and later developed as a naval base. Old style bungalows for the navy families are of wood with corrugated iron roofs painted bright red or blue. A smoking chimney pipe signifies a wood burning stove and cosy kitchen inside whereas outside each has a pile of firewood, a flagpole and dog kennel. Huge steel ship containers are set nearby, a reminder of the itinerant naval lifestyle. Many modern, two-storey apartment blocks heated by natural gas have been built, so an organization of the base is in progress.
Travellers naturally gravitate to the yacht club which is the social centre for yachties, tourists and Chilean naval personnel living closeby. This unique club is the last stop for yachties hell-bent in sailing to Cape Horn and Antarctica. Club de Yates Micalvi occupies the top decks of a sunken 850 ton freighter which lies in a sheltered inlet connected to land by a bridge. Multimillion dollar cruising yachts tie-up alongside, refuel, reprovision with sheep carcasses hanging from the rigging.
Visitors are welcome. The cosy lounge bar has a crackling wood fire and light meals are served. We met yachties from USA, Norway, Brazil, etc who had sailed south through the Chilean fiords, or from the Atlantic, heading for Antarctica.
You can explore the Beagle Channel in style aboard the 100 passenger cruise ship Terra Australis which does the round trip from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams via Ushuaia within a week, visiting the glacier-fed fiords of the Mt Darwin Cordillera on the way. The schooner "Victory", based in Puerto Williams, takes 8 passengers on Beagle Channel cruises.
Puerto Williams, Chilean naval base, population 1800, is unique and untouched by the razzmatazz of unbridled tourism but this may soon change. A landing for big car-ferries is being built on the foreshore. Easier access for supplies and tourists will be welcome by all. This will mark the beginning of a new era for Puerto Williams.
More links on Puerto Williams at the Ends of the Earth:
Tierra Del Fuego Fauna & Flora
Yagan & Ona Indians of Tierra Del Fuego