Fuerte Bulnes - Bulnes Fort
Near Punta Arenas - Chile
Since the Portuguese sailor Hernando de Magallanes discovered the Magellan strait in 1520, many famous pirates, buccaneers and Corsairs have sailed through its waters. Among them were Drake, Cavendish, Merick, Dampier, Noort, Anson, Sharp, Davis and Strong.
Under the Government of President Manuel Bulnes it was decided that they should take possession of the Magellan Strait. They organised an expedition that set sail from Chiloé to the strait on the ship Goleta Ancud on May 22nd, 1843. On September 21st, 1843 the Goleta Ancud under orders of Captain Juan Williams took possession of the Magellan Strait and its surrounding lands in the name of the Republic of Chile. On board there were 23 crew including two women.
Fuerte Bulnes (Fort Bulnes) was built by felling native trees with axes under the guidance of the Prussian Bernardo Phillipi. On October 30th 1843, the fort was officially inaugurated with the name Fuerte Bulnes in honour of the President of the time.
In November 1843, Bulnes Fort received its first visits by the native Tehuelches people of the region. A pact of friendship was established through the Christian marriage of the Cacique Centurion (Indian Chief) and his the baptism of four of his children. These four children were named, Manuel Bulnes, Camilo Henriquez, Paula Jaraquemada and Javiera Carrera.
The first road connecting Bulnes Fort and Puente Carrera was built along the coastline amongst the native forest and bush. The Franciscan Father Fray Domingo Passolini, the colony's chaplain, was in charge of the works.
How to get to Fuerte Bulnes
The fort is 52kms south of Punta Arenas. If you are in your own transport, follow the main road going south. Just before the entrance you will come across a roundabout with a statue/monument to the "center of Chile" (If you include The Chilean Antartica and its South Pole). From here you will see a building which is the entrance to the Fuerte Bulnes park. Here you pay but still have to travel a couple of kilometers before getting to the visitor center. There are many tours that go there every day (usually packed) though we hired a car for the day so we could visit at our own pace and with having to be in a crowd.
What to see
After paying your entrance fee at the main gate, you will go along a path that leads to the two wooden towers in the first picture below. Next comes the brand new visitor center (which wasn't there the first time we visited in 2008. We revisited in 2017). This center contains a lot of (multimedia) information about the history of the region, not just the fort. It is well worth your time to explore it. From there you will need to drive through another small forest until you get to the main fort (there are toilets just before you enter should you need them). There are many interesting buildings in the fort itself and even a number of cannons. From the fort you can continue along a path going south that will lead you to a lookout near the edge of the water (nice views). From here you can continue along a path to the right that will take you back to the fort. For more details about opening hours and prices, see their website: www.delestrecho.cl
Some photos of the Fort so you know what to expect:
Brochure from Fuerte Bulnes
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