A visit to the Deep South: Puerto Montt, part 1

It’s time for another virtual trip through our Amazing Earth. Unlike previous entries, I’d like to show you a place I’ve actually been. Let’s go south – as far south as I have ever been. Welcome to Puerto Montt, Chile.

The map below shows where to find it (click for a larger view), on the Pacific coast about 60% of the way down the length of Chile:

A Google Earth screenshot of South America, showing the location of Puerto Montt on the Pacific coast

Although the map shows that there is a lot of Chile still remaining to the south, Puerto Montt is the only even-slightly-large city until you get all the way down to Punta Arenas. Thus, it acts as the gateway to the beautiful wilderness of Patagonia to the south. It also acts as a gateway into Chile. In the late 1800s, while millions of European immigrants were coming to the United States, they were also coming to Chile. Puerto Montt acted as Chile’s version of Ellis Island, the entry point for the largest number of immigrants. It’s even named after an immigrant: Manuel Montt, President of Chile from 1851 to 1861, was born in Catalonia.

The city has about 200,000 people – similar to Providence, Rhode Island – and it lies about as far to the south of the equator as Providence does to the north. This zoomed-in map shows the area around Puerto Montt more clearly (click for a larger view).

A map of the area around Puerto Montt

The city lies at the end of a large bay, offering a sheltered harbor on the South Pacific. The island to the southwest is Chiloé, home of one of Chile’s most famous national parks, as well as the ancestral home of the potato.

I had the good fortune of visiting during a recent trip to the Chilean capital of Santiago, itself a lovely city that I could write about extensively. I had an extra day after my work event ended, so I looked at a number of possible destinations for a quick one-day trip. Puerto Montt had the best combination of affordable plane tickets and “that looks like a cool place,” so I went there. By the time I rented a car and sat in surprisingly elaborate traffic to get from the airport to the city, I had only three hours to visit, but it was well worth it.

Sadly, I don’t have any pictures, because my camera was out of charge and I left the charger in a different hemisphere. But once again, Google Earth comes to the rescue and shows me a view of the city similar to my own view (click for a larger version):

A satellite image of downtown Puerto Montt, with a photo looking back toward the city

This photo also marks the approximate location of my Terra Ultima Australis – the farthest south I have ever been.

Puerto Montt is a lovely city, and I highly recommend it as an unexpected tourist destination. But it has another side, because it was the home of an important and tragic episode of Chilean history. More about that on Monday.

2 thoughts on “A visit to the Deep South: Puerto Montt, part 1

Leave a Reply