This is Patagonia's largest and most commercially important city. Located on the western side of the Strait of Magellan with a superb port and the only large airport in the area, it is the major hub for boat transport through the strait and research vessels on their way to or from Antarctica. For the visitor, Punta Arenas is better known as the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, 400 kilometers to the northwest. This unique town grew up on wool and international shipping before the Panama Canal opened. In the late 19th century, huge fortunes made by sheep farming left the city with distinguished mansions, some of them now museums and other monuments. Summer cruise ships from Punta Arenas travel to Antarctica, where Chile claims a sector of the icebound continent. You can also begin a scenic ferry cruise through the Chilean fjords from Puerto Natales, sailing north to Puerto Montt, in the southern mainland lake region.