Gluten Free Travel: Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile
A true gateway city to beautiful Patagonia! I must admit when we first arrived in Punta Arenas, I was less than pleased. It wasn’t overly beautiful, it didn’t offer too much, the food options seem meh, and overall it seemed like people were just passing through. While many people fly into Punta Arenas to get to other areas of the Chilean side of Patagonia, we actually purposefully came here for one reason and one reason only: penguins. Let me just say, mission accomplished. While the tour could have been run slightly better, we went on a half day penguin adventure on Faro Isla Magdalena and only stayed for two nights. Without a cute town to get lost in, what else to do but discover the GF culinary scene?
While our time here was short, here are my top recommendations for Punta Arenas.
Restaurant La Yegua Loca
Located near the Cerro de la Cruz, which came highly recommended, is Restaurant La Yeuga Loca. While our time in Punta Arenas was short, this was absolutely our best meal there. It highlights local ingredients and flavors and pays homage to local farmers through the waiter’s attire. While they usually have gluten free bread on hand to start, the night I went they had run out. Personally, I was ok with this given I wasn’t starving, but it’s great to know they try to have it!
Given that Punta Arenas is on the sea, we started with the Sea Trilogy, a dish containing three small portions of ceviche – king crab, octopus, and salmon. While it was served with little pieces of toast, I enjoyed it as is and it was absolutely delicious. For mains I had the king crab risotto – I mean, if getting fresh king crab at a decent price is an option, I’m going for it! While I added a bit of extra salt, it was tasty! My husband ate the stuffed chile which came highly recommended and he enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it had breadcrumbs so I did not try it, but it’s good to know for any non-GF travelers with you!
While we didn’t have room for desert, I have one more important mention for the menu at La Yegua Loca – the drinks. Opting to go alcohol-free, I enjoyed a juice made from lemon, strawberry pulp and mint from the garden. It was so delicious! The cocktail list also looked great, highlighting house-grown herbs, so alcohol or alcohol free, there’s no going wrong with the drinks here!
I have to give a shout out do the beauty of this place. For a town that, I must say, isn’t the most attractive, this restaurant is comfortable, cozy, has a great view, and a beautiful garden. They offer different seating areas and while we made our booking late and needed to sit on the interior part, I wouldn’t have changed it. It was decorated with old-fashioned antique items which I loved. They had large windows looking out into their garden – which they highlight throughout the menu. Bonus points: the hotel rooms also look super cute if you’re able to snag one!
Wake Up – Coffee & Brunch
After our outing to see some penguins, we stopped by Wake Up – Coffee & Brunch. Wanting something a bit familiar and cozy, I knew brunch would be perfect and this place did not disappoint. The menu features a bunch of breakfast items and lunchtime sandwiches. Given that we already had our morning coffees, we opted for chai lattes and I must say, I think it may have been one of the best I’ve had to date. Following our lattes, it was time for lunch.
The café carries gluten free bread so I had an eggs benedict on gluten free toast. With the option of choosing a type of meat, salmon, or avocado – I went with the salmon, fresh fish, remember? The egg was perfectly poached and runny, the hollandaise was creamy, and the salmon was full of flavor. While the GF bread itself was a touch crumbly, I was still overall satisfied by my dish.
Because the pastries here looked delicious, my husband went for a cookie. While I was going to pass on desert, I was then informed that one cookie was, in fact, gluten free. Now, as someone who used to own a GF cookie company, I can get a bit judgmental on GF cookies. I’m not sure if I would exactly consider what they gave me a “cookie”, but it did help my sweet tooth! It was more like a mix between a cookie and a coconut macaroon that was dipped in chocolate. This isn’t me complaining about said cookie, just getting your expectations ready!
I’d absolutely recommend Wake Up – Coffee & Brunch as a morning or lunch stop if you’re spending time in Punta Arenas!
Be Happy Café
We made a quick stop at Be Happy Café on our way out of town. It is located right around the corner from the Bus-Sur bus stop, a popular spot for any travelers moving by bus. It’s a clean and cozy café that is extremely welcoming to all. Most tables were filled with people enjoying their late mornings, a few with laptops out getting some work done. Overall, it was a great vibe to pick up a drink to-go or lounge for a while to do some trip planning.
I grabbed a café mocha and it was delicious! Dylan and cappuccino which was equally as good. While I wasn’t too hungry yet, we were informed that they didn’t have too many gluten free options. The owner noted that the only gluten free pastry they had that day was a cheesecake. She was quick to jump in and say that although it was gluten free, she wouldn’t recommend it for those with serious reactions to gluten or celiac due to potential cross contamination from a kitchen that is not dedicated GF. While even though I am celiac, I usually have items from kitchens that use gluten and would have tried it had I been hungry – it looked delicious! I do, however, appreciate the knowledge of the staff and care they took for their customers.
Supermarket – Unimarc
I didn’t go into this supermarket, but my husband did to pick up a few snacks. He did find one option for gluten free bread, but after giving it a little squeeze, he found it rock hard. Thankfully just next to it he found some rice cakes which he bought for me. When push comes to shove, a rice cake topped with some cheese and salami isn’t too bad for a bus ride!
A few extra recommendations!
Given that my time in Punta Arenas was short, I didn’t get to try as much as I normally do. This being said, here are a few additional options that I wish I could have gotten to try!
This restaurant was coming up on every single recommended list and I would have loved the chance to eat there. Family run and cozy this looks like a great spot for dinner. Offering a ton of meat dishes, there are absolutely naturally gluten free options at this restaurant.
As recommended to us by a girl on our day tour, this is a market located near the port. Unfortunately, I had my mind set on Wake Up and had been day dreaming about my brunch all morning, otherwise this is where I would have headed for lunch. With stand set up serving fresh, locally caught fish, this sounds like my kind of paradise. While our friend did note there were a few tourists walking around, she said a ton of the people eating there were locals. If you’re looking for the freshest fish for an easy lunch, check out this Mercado!
When hopping around on my google maps to find a morning café I stumbled upon Guana Coffee. It has great reviews and looks like a super cute little café. While I was in between stopping for a coffee either here or Be Happy, we ultimately settled for Be Happy due to its proximity to our bus station. If I had another morning in Punta Arenas, you’d find me happily sipping on a coffee from here!