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Punta Arenas is a city of about 120,000 that, by some definitions, is the southernmost city in the world. It lies in the Strait of Magellan in the southern part of Chilean Patagonia. The area was first settled as a penal colony, but due to its strategic location, soon became better known as a trading center. The Magallanes region of Chile is also an important sheep-raising area and has been a gold ore mining region in the past, so the city has grown into an important economic hub of Chile and the largest city and capital of the Chilean Patagonian area. Despite the drop in cargo traffic through nearby Cape Horn after the construction of the Panama Canal, Punta Arenas is still a significant place for many foreigners, as tourist cruises and scientific expeditions to Antarctica often stop at the harbor or airport here.
Punta Arenas has some beautiful historical and natural attractions, but do not miss out on the local gastronomy while you are here. Patagonia has some wonderful regional wines and a special drink, pisco sour, which is served fresh at restaurants and pubs. Also fill up on fresh seafood while here; Punta Arenas is a harbor city and relies heavily on fish for its cuisine. There are also specialties derived from European imports during colonial times, including Welsh cake, French cheeses and fondue, but there are plenty of native-inspired dishes as well to please the palate.