Vírgenes and Dungenes Sentries

There are two permanent watchtowers at the end of the American continent: the lighthouses of Cabo Vírgenes and Punta Dúngenes. We visited both of them.

The Cabo Virgenes and Punta Dungenes lighthouses are the southernmost lighthouses in the American continent and lead the road for seafarers. Magic and mystery surround their solitude and silence. Stories and legends of light and shadow can be told from them.

We set out by car from Río Gallegos and on the road found Patagonian ranches devoted to sheep husbandry and wool production. Monte Dinero is one of them and it also has a small inn to experience daily rural work and taste delicious home-made meals.

Upon reaching the Atlantic coast, we remembered those experienced seafarers from old times who dared defy the brave Strait of Magellan. What would have become of them without the light from the lighthouses, vital to lead the way?

In times when technology did not accompany the southern sea conquerors, those safe reference points allowed them to accurately spare sailors from the sandbanks of Punta Dungenes and warned them about the Nassau rock.

  • 27 meters high

    27 meters high

  • Cabo Vírgenes

    Cabo Vírgenes

  • Punta Dúngenes

    Punta Dúngenes

  • The Chilean brother

    The Chilean brother

They are lands that have been explored ever since 1520 by men like Hernando de Magellan and from which there are endless legends: the foundation of the Old City of the Name of Jesus in the sixteenth century, the gold rush in 1870 and thousands of sea expeditions. They were failed attempts of men who tried hard and did not fear the extreme weather conditions, the lack of fresh water or food.

Just before reaching the lighthouses, we found the Cabo Vírgenes Provincial Reserve , where a Magellanic penguin colony has settled down. The excellent guided tour goes through the areas they inhabit and shows the nests where they lay eggs and wait for birth. With their black and white suit, a thick layer of fat and thick feathers to warm themselves against the cold, they slowly walk swinging rhythmically from side to side.

Finally, we reached the first of the lighthouses that seems to look down on the horizon from a high hill. Cabo Vírgenes Lighthouse is 27 meters high. Lying 70 meters above sea level, it has been working since 1904. This almost deserted place gets interrupted by a pyramid-shaped tower with two platforms and a sentry box with black and white horizontal stripes. We got to know its main characteristics thanks to the visit we paid to the information center.

We then looked for the other lighthouse, Punta Dungenes, which was set up at the end of the nineteenth century. Painted in white and red, it is the Chilean brother of insomnia nights of the previous one. It is still active and has similar light and range characteristics to the Cabo Vírgenes Lighthouse. It has an automatic weather station and has the characteristic of being set up in a tongue of unstable land by the permanent movement of sediments and strong waves and wind. It is at this place where the Atlantic waters meet the Strait of Magellan may be appreciated.

They are both navigation watchtowers very much visited, especially in summer since they are part of the tours. A way of saying goodbye before going back to Río Gallegos is to enjoy a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate in the Al Fin y al Cabo coffee place and whisper through the windows:

“A still lighthouse
would be nothing.
It guides while
it does not stop flashing.
It is not the light
that really matters;
it is the 12 seconds
of darkness.
12 seconds of darkness
to be seen from the high seas”

Jorge Drexler

Autor Mónica Pons Fotografo Dirección de Turismo de Rio Gallegos

Tour typeTour type: Contemplative, bird watching, historic.
DifficultyDifficulty: Low
DurationDuration: All day
Opening hoursOpening hours: The lighthouse can be visited any time throughout the year during the day.
How to get hereHow to get here: If you take National Route 3 and take a detour to the left on Provincial Route 1, there are 130 kms. There are no services nor gas stations on the way.


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