History of Puerto Natales / Torres del Paine

Puerto Natales is located in the Region of Magellan and Chilean Antarctica, on the shores of the Senoret Channel and Gulf Almirante Montt. Towards the northwest is the fjord known as Última Esperanza (Last Hope), name given by sailor Juan Ladrillero due to his mood when searching for his longed-for aim to find the passage that would join both oceans.

Its history has many coincidences with other cities in southern Chile. Its first denizens were nomad native groups that lived there for thousands of years as hunters and gatherers. By the sixteenth century, the European colonists started to arrive in the area in order to explore the territories, rivers and seas. Such is the case of Ladrillero, mentioned above.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, the area was visited by various scientific and military expeditions, some of them under the English flag. The news was spread that those territories were suitable to be economically exploited, which turned out to be quite interesting for the English and the German. In consequence, they began to settle down and buy land in this zone with the previous permission granted by the Chilean authorities. A merchant seaman called Herman Eberhard triggered off this process.

Ever since, European and inner migrants -especially from the island of Chiloé- began to settle down in this area until Puerto Natales was formally founded in 1911. Its name comes from Latin natalis.

The booming sheep-husbandry and cattle-raising industries already required an administrative seat for the venue, as well as more and more workforce. Years later, the construction of the railway (strategically linked to Puerto Montt’s) and the settlement of slaughter houses ended up defining the profile of Puerto Natales. By 1970, Puerto Natales had become one of the major sheep husbandry export zones in the world.

In the last few years, tourist activities such as hiking, mountain climbing and angling have also appeared among the most outstanding in Puerto Natales, which summons visitors from all over the world.