Situated on Chile's southern coast, just north of Tierra del Fuego, the small city of Puenta Arenas is well off the main tourist paths in South America. The city is the capital of Chilean Patagonia as it is a gateway to Torres del Paine, and is a port for tourist ships that cruise the Patagonian fjords, the Beagle Channel (and some ships even go on to Antarctica). Puenta Arenas is a frontier town and a tax haven (to encourage migration and its growth), so it offers lots of shopping. Many Chileans travel here for the low prices.
(prepackaged sweets, La Chocolatta)
We weren't much interested in shopping for toasters or jackets, and had just a few hours to explore Puenta Arenas before taking a memorable four day cruise through the Patagonian fjordland. Our time in the city was spent walking the streets, looking around, taking a few photos and working up an appetite. Our guide, Mauro, had recommended a stop at La Chocolatta on the town's main street, Bories Street. It's one of those great, small, out-of-the-way places we like to feature on this website; the restaurant opened in 2000 and is run by the Baeriswyl family, of Swiss ancestry.
(some very tempting chunks of fudge)
La Chocolatta has a diverse menu. As its name implies, it specializes in hand-made chocolates and truffles which you can buy pre-packaged or in bulk -- pick and choose those pieces you want to take with you. It has the reputation of being the finest chocolatier in the region. I did buy a few pieces of chocolate for the road and they were excellent (although a little sweeter than most European chocolate -- presumably an adaptation to the local palates).
(a small sample of the chocolate treats available)
Besides the extensive assortment of chocolates, there are many other tasty goodies to be enjoyed here ranging from homemade pastries like strudel, cookies, churros and brownies, to coffee and sandwiches. The restaurant is well known for its hot chocolate, but we needed some caffeine so opted for cappuccino instead.
(Cappuccino, La Chocolatta)
The cafe was very busy but we found a table and were promptly served. Its staff was pleasant and their service more than adequate. My wife enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich and I had some wonderful fresh churros, all washed down with an excellent cappuccino! The wifi in the restaurant was very good (a rarity in Patagonia) and we were able to catch up with our email, TravelGumbo-related matters and such, before boarding our cruise ship.
(grilled cheese sandwich)
So if your travels ever find you in Puenta Arenas, be sure to stop at Chocolatta! It's well worth a visit!