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Punta Arenas To Puerto Natales







Charlene patiently waiting for our luggage to be unloaded from the bus after arriving into Puerto Natales.

Intro: After flying into Punta Arenas from the States the previous evening, we took the early morning bus to Puerto Natales – the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park and our 9-day “O” circuit trek.

I’m sure seasoned backpackers (or anyone that has taken many bus rides throughout their life), will laugh reading this article. What’s the big deal, right? It might not be exciting for most, but to me the bus ride from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales was something I was really looking forward to on this Patagonia trip.

Living in Los Angeles almost my entire life, I always have to drive in order to get around, and a landscape of traffic and skyscrapers isn’t interesting to say the least.

After a much-needed, good night’s sleep at Apart Hotel Quillango in Punta Arenas, Charlene and I made sure we had packed everything we needed for the Torres del Paine circuit trek we were about to embark on, ate breakfast ($7) in our apartment kitchen, and walked over to the Buses Fernandez station.

Before we checked out of the hostel, we asked the front desk if we could leave our two large pieces of luggage there and pick them up when we come back to Punta Arenas. We brought them solely for the purpose of storing our backpacks and trekking poles in a safe and secure place. The last thing we wanted was for our backpacks to tear or our trekking poles to break through while going from one plane to the next.

The Buses Fernandez ticketing desk at their station in Punta Arenas.

Our departure to Puerto Natales was scheduled at 8AM, so we headed over to the bus station at 7:30AM. Thankfully the walk over from Apart Hotel Quillango was only about five minutes, giving us ample time to get our round-trip tickets at the front desk and hang out in the main lobby for a bit.

Before arriving at the station, I was curious as to how busy the first ride of the day to Puerto Natales would be, and if that had any correlation with how busy Torres del Paine National Park might be over the coming week and a half while we were trekking. Although we were going to a very popular tourist destination during the height of the busy summer season in Chile, I was still hoping the trails and campsites wouldn’t be too crowded.

Passengers waiting in the Buses Fernandez terminal for the 8AM bus to Puerto Natales.

About a dozen or so people were already inside the Buses Fernandez bus station when we arrived, but only a few of them had big backpacks with them, leaving me optimistic that not too many were doing the circuit trek. At 7:45AM the bus rolled in and we all got on board.

Looking back at the bus system, I must say I was very impressed with how organized and accountable everything was. We ended up taking six bus rides during our entire Patagonia trip and every single one departed and arrived on time. Someone was by the luggage loading area to take our bags, and he even made sure we were going to the right destination (Puerto Natales) and had our tickets already.

The funny thing about riding in that bus, and where Charlene and I ended up sitting, was that the last time I rode in a bus that big was in early 2012, when my high school friend Mark and I went to Machu Picchu from Cusco. I remember how we managed to get the front row seat, and how that made the viewing and photo-taking experience during the whole ride much more enjoyable than if we had been sitting further back.

Looking through the front windscreen of our bus to Puerto Natales.

So while I waited in the luggage line with our bags, I asked Charlene to jump onboard the bus and grab the two front seats. Sure enough, when I boarded the bus she was sitting right at the front. Sweet…right? Well, turns out we actually had assigned seating on our tickets. But to our luck, we ended up getting those seats anyway. Coincidence? Some luck? Maybe!

Maybe it was because we had just started our trip, or that it was a beautiful, sunny morning. Or perhaps because we were now just twenty four hours away from arriving at Torres del Paine National Park – a place I’ve only known about for a few years, but have been frantically reading up on the past month. But I was extra excited, awake, and (dare I say) giddy.

Driving through a residential area of Punta Arenas as our bus departed for Puerto Natales.

So much so that I couldn’t help but look out the window and start taking a bunch of photos within seconds of the bus leaving the station (right on time at 8AM, with a scheduled arrival time of 11AM at Puerto Natales). I’m sure the driver and everyone else around me were wondering what on earth I was capturing. But hey, my adrenaline level was already at a high level! At least I put my 5DM3 DSLR in silent shutter mode and turned off the beeping sound :).

As we headed on out and away from the main area of Punta Arenas, one of the workers (not the driver for obvious reasons) came by and checked our tickets. We soon were approaching the Punta Arenas Airport, and I was curious if we were going to stop there and pick up (or drop off) any passengers. I read online that if you’re planning on going directly from the airport to Puerto Natales, then it’s better to just wait there, versus going to the bus station in Punta Arenas and then driving back up (north) past the airport again.

The turn off to Puerto Natales from the main Punta Arenas airport road.

Sure enough, we stopped by the Punta Arenas Airport where Charlene and I landed the previous afternoon. But on this particular morning we didn’t pick up any passengers (or drop anyone off), and I don’t know if there’s even a super early flight to Punta Arenas from other parts of Chile. Ah well!

We continued our drive to Puerto Natales, passing by many miles (or rather kilometers) of wide open fields, rolling hills, and the eastern coast of Chile. I mentioned to Charlene that the main two-lane road running north-south was so well constructed and maintained that even I could drive us around Chile! Not to mention driving was on the right hand side, the same as in the states.

Charlene checking out a map of Puerto Natales during our bus ride from Punta Arenas.

Maybe if we ever go back to Chile and wanted to make more frequent stops and visit other towns, we would consider renting a car. However, this bus ride was super smooth, relaxing, and comfortable. So much so that by the second hour, I was slowly drifting away (that became a theme on every bus ride we took).

There was ample legroom and we were able to recline the seat a good thirty degrees or so, and there were also curtains over the window so you could give yourself some shade. And if you couldn’t hold your bladder during the entire 3-hour ride to Puerto Natales, there was a lavatory at the back (although this is not the case for all buses in Patagonia). For reasons that I’d rather not get into, you might want to bring your own toilet paper if you really need to go.

Random tidbits: we passed cows, sheeps, rivers, and even a weighing station! The clouds were out in full force, but not so much that the warm sun and deep blue sky were blocked. In the distant northwest, we were able to see some snow-capped mountains! Were they part of Patagonia?

Our bus from Punta Arenas driving down the hill into Puerto Natales – the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park.

As punctual as the departure time from Punta Arenas was, so too was the arrival into Puerto Natales. Right when my GPS watch hit 11AM, we pulled into the bus station. Unlike in Punta Arenas where Buses Fernandez had its own lot, the station in Puerto Natales is shared by all bus companies. After stepping out of the bus, we got our luggage and made our way inside the building. One of the things we had to take care of before heading over to our hostel was to buy an open return bus ticket for Torres del Paine.

Arriving into the bus station of Puerto Natales where we would spend the night, before heading out to Torres del Paine National Park.

I tried to purchase them online before we left for Patagonia through one of the many bus companies, but I didn’t have any luck. I read that due to the large demand (and thus supply), we would be able to buy those tickets at the bus station itself in Puerto Natales. Sure enough, we went right up to one of the counters (we decided on Buses Gomez since I recognized their name from my online research), and booked our ride to and from Torres del Pain. Pretty straightforward I must say!

There’s only two scheduled times that buses leave from Puerto Natales station to Torres del Paine: 7:30AM and 2:30PM. We planned on taking the morning bus the following morning, giving us ample time to trek to our first campsite.

There are many bus companies selling tickets to Torres del Paine at the Puerto Natales bus station, with departures at 7:30AM and 2:30PM.

With our backpacks on and our small rollercase luggage in one hand, Charlene and I were all set to walk over to our hostel “We Are Patagonia B&B”. Hopefully we would be able to check in early and leave our bags there, feast on a delicious lunch, run a few errands (like purchasing more food for the trek), attend the 3PM Torres del Paine overview meeting at Erratic Rock, and maybe even explore the small town of Puerto Natales. It may not seem like a big deal, but I was feeling content that our trip was off to a smooth start!


  • Consider purchasing your bus tickets ahead of time, especially during peak tourism season.
  • If you want your luggage to be unloaded first, consider waiting a bit before dropping off your luggage.
  • Bring a snack with you onto the bus for the 3 hour journey.
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