Puerto Natales is a small waterside town of 22.000 inhabitants aprox. that is easily accessible by foot. It’s also the gateway to Trekking in Torres del Paine or Bernardo O’Higgins National Parks. It offers good infrastructure, especially a few trekking shops and tourism facilities.
It is located at the opening of Última Esperanza Sound (Last Hope Sound) and was originally inhabited by the Kawésqar or Alacaluf people and the Aoniken or Tehuelche people. The first European to discover the area where the city is located was Juan Ladrillero, a Spanish explorer who was looking for the Strait of Magellan’s western passage in 1557. It was his “last hope” to find the Strait after exploring the maze of channels between the waters of the Pacific and the mainland. It was not until three centuries later, in 1830, that another major expedition sailed through the fjords and channels of Última Esperanza: the British expedition of the sloop HMS Beagle.
The city was later settled by European immigrants, primarily Germans, British, including English, Welsh and Scots, Croats, Greeks, Italians and Spaniards. It was then settled by Chilean people, with a substantial number coming from the island of Chiloé, all attracted by the sheep breeding industry. Nowadays, one of its most important industries is tourism although the cattle and aquaculture industries are also significant.