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Puerto San Julián

Travelers often overlook Puerto San Julián in their mad dash down Ruta Nacional 3. But this city is worthy of a stay, to explore its rich natural and human history. Set on a small, boot-shaped peninsula on a bay that Charles Darwin “beautiful and spacious,” its downtown exhibits an English-influenced architecture, thanks to immigrants from the Malvinas. The main boulevard, Avenida San Martín, ends at a life-size replica of Magellan’s ship, the Nao Victoria. The south side of the peninsula has a fascinating geologic accident. At low tide, a waterfall is exposed, leaving behind lagoons frequented by flamingos, black-necked swans and other waterfowl.

Puerto San Julián’s motto is Orígen del Mito Patagónico, Origen of the Patagonian Myth. In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan anchored here for four months during his exploration for a western route to the Spice Islands. This marked many firsts for Patagonia: the first, mutiny and executions, Christian baptisms and inter-ethnic conflict. Ship logger Antonio Pigafetta called the local Aónikenk “Patagones,” for their large-looking feet covered with guanaco fur moccasins—and thus the land Patagonia.

San Julián must have must be something in its air. On June 15, 1578, Sir Francis Drake discovered Magellan’s gallows yet standing. During the two-month overwintering, his crew mutinied as well, and one crewmember beheaded for treason. Things were a bit calmer for Robert Fitz Roy, captain of HMS The Beagle, in his two visits here, though in his 1828 expedition one officer died. The Beagle’s second mission, which included naturalist Charles Darwin (who was fascinated with the fossils), spent January 1834 in Bahía San Julián.

Humans have lived in the region for over 13,000 years. In caves on Estancia La María, Aónikenk ancestors left pinturas rupestres, considered Santa Cruz Province’s second most important archaeological site. The ruins of the failed Spanish colony Floridablanca (1780-1784) are on private land 10 kilometers (6 mi) from town (off Ruta 25 5 km / 3 mi towards Gobernador Gregores).

Puerto San Julián became a sizeable port, exporting regional sheep estancias’ products. During the 1920-22 worker strikes, it was one of the hotspots. A monument honors Albino Argüelles, Secretary General of this Sociedad Obrera branch, who was captured and killed “while trying to escape” (Ameghino and Vieyes). When the soldiers showed up at the bordello in town after the massacres, five prostitutes refused to attend to them, stating “We don’t lay murderers.” This act of defiance is known as the Rebelión de la Catalanas.

The natural history of Puerto San Julián is just as breathtaking. In the bay are two large islands, Isla de los Pájaros and Isla de los Pingüinos, both with significant bird populations. As its name suggests, Isla de los Pingüinos is a major breeding ground for Magellanic Penguins. Commerson's Dolphins are frequently seen in the bay. North on the coast is the Circuito Costero, which goes to a series of beaches known for its resident sea lions, fossils and fishing. Anglers can look forward to spending a meditative afternoon trying to hook sea bass, sevengill shark and other local species. On the other side of Bahía San Julián is Reserva Provincial Peninsula San Julian.

(Altitude: 1 m / 3 ft, Population: 6152, Phone Code: 02962)


Other places nearby Puerto San Julián : Playa Union , Río Gallegos, Piedra Buena , Caleta Olivia , Puerto Madryn, Gaiman, Sarmiento, Las Grutas, Trelew and El Cóndor .

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

27 Sep 2010

Things to do in Puerto San Julián

Nao Victoria

135801Down on the seafront, an old sailing ship has washed ashore—or so it seems. This is a life-size replica of the Nao Victoria, the only ship of Magellan’s daring journey around the world that ...
Puerto San Julián , Argentina

Museo Rosa Novak

135802In one of the town’s oldest houses down near the sea is Museo Rosa Novak. This small regional museum focuses on archaeological digs being done near San Julián. One gallery describes the pinturas ...
Puerto San Julián , Argentina

Circuito Costero

135806Along the coast of San Julián is the Circuito Costero, which visits a variety of natural and historical sites dappled with the constant presence of birds (22 km / 14 mi one way). A small lighthouse ...
Puerto San Julián , Argentina

Vía Crucis

Atop Cerro Montecristo, a sudden rise on the flat plains around Puerto San Julián, is Vía Lucis, or Path of Light. This creation of artist Luis Quiroz is of the 14 Stations of the Cross, made of ...
Puerto San Julián , Argentina

Boat Tours of the Bay

The two large islands in Bahía San Julián may be visited on boat tour. Isla de los Pájaros (a.k.a. Banca Justicia) is a nesting ground for Cormorán Imperial (Imperial Shag, Phalacrocorax ...
Other Activity
Puerto San Julián , Argentina

Estancia La María

Through Estancia La María courses a volcanic rock ravine that is the stage for what archaeologists consider to be the second most important ancient site in Santa Cruz Province. In 12 sectors of the ...
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Puerto San Julián , Argentina

Reserva Provincial Península San Julián

Just on the other side of the bay is Reserva Provincial Península San Julián. A 30-kilometer (18 mi) road loops around the coast of this 10,400-hectare reserve. This is where the Patagonian plains ...
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Puerto San Julián , Argentina
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