Ushuaia is a city located in the extreme south of Argentina, and is known worldwide as the city of the “end of the world”. In this post you will find a review of the most outstanding facts about Ushuaia and some tips so that you can organize your next vacation in the southernmost part of the planet. In order to enjoy its main attractions, we recommend you reserve at least four days of your itinerary to Ushuaia, a unique place in the world.
Some essential information about Ushuaia.
The city of Ushuaia is located on the shores of the Beagle Channel, in Argentine Patagonia, it is the capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands. Tierra del Fuego is an island of great proportions shared between Chile, which manages the western sector, and Argentina, in charge of managing the eastern side. The border between Chile and Argentina is one of the longest in the world, the irregularity of the Andes Mountains that separates the two countries has made it very difficult to demarcate a precise boundary between the two nations. This geographical fact has caused various disputes over the territory between the two countries, but in all cases, these disputes have been resolved through dialogue. In 1984 a peace treaty was signed that resolved a long conflict regarding sovereignty over the Beagle Channel and the islands located at its mouth. On Navarino Island, located south of the Beagle Channel, under Chilean sovereignty is Puerto Williams, which due to the growth of its population (currently has approximately 2.800 inhabitants) went from being a commercial port to becoming a city and recently has began to dispute the title of “southernmost city in the world” to Ushuaia (which population is 75.000 inhabitants).
The original peoples that inhabited the island of Tierra del Fuego were divided into two main groups, on the one hand the Selk’nam and the Haush (hunter-gatherer nomads who dominated the continental area), and on the other hand, the Kawéskar and Yámanas, also known as yaganes (nomads of the sea who moved in canoes and were hunters, gatherers and fishermen dominating the insular sector). The word Ushuaia comes from the yagán language and means “ush” deep and “waia” bay, which translates as “deep bay”.
Tips for your trip to Ushuaia.
To get to Ushuaia you have daily flights from the Buenos Aires airport. The flight takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes (flying in a straight line is 2.374 km or 1.475 miles), and from the airport to the downtown area it is only 15 minutes by taxi. Taking the Buenos Aires – Ushuaia route by road is not recommended at all since the distance that separates both cities is 3.086 km (1.918 miles), which would require an average of 36 hours of travel. There are also no bus companies that cover this route directly, therefore, the transfer time between buses should be added, and also, since Ushuaia is located on the island of Tierra del Fuego, which is accessed only by boat you should add the time of crossing by ferry and the time it takes to clear customs since to get from Argentina to Ushuaia by road we will have to cross Chilean territory. Therefore, and especially if you do not have a lot of days, flying will be your only option. Unless you are on a cruise around the south of the world and Ushuaia is included, keep in mind that Ushuaia is one of the most common ports to visit on cruise trips in the southern hemisphere. In addition, Ushuaia is the gateway to Antarctica, it is the starting point for most maritime expeditions that go to visit the white continent, between the months of November and March of each year.
The climate of Ushuaia is subpolar oceanic, the weather tends to change quickly, even during the course of the same day you can experience various climatic events. Due to its insular location and its proximity to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it has a constant low intensity rain regime, strong winds and high humidity throughout the year, mainly in the summer. During the winter these precipitations are transformed into snowfalls. Keep in mind that during winter (June to September) the average temperature is -1 °C (30 °F) and can drop to -3 °C (26 °F), so it is advisable to wear warm clothes, including thermal clothing and waterproof shoes or snow gear depending on what you want to do. And in the summer (December to March) the average is about 7 °C (45 °F), and it can rise to 11 °C (52 °F) on sunny afternoons, but despite this, summer is usually cold and windy so warm clothing will still be needed.
The city of Ushuaia has a main commercial and gastronomic sector located on San Martín Street. This central area and its surroundings concentrate most of the city’s hotel offer. Despite this, we recommend staying in remote areas where you can enjoy the beautiful Fuegian landscapes, such is the case of the beautiful hotels and cabins located on the outskirts of the city, on Luis Fernando Martial street, on the way to ascent to the Martial Glacier. Also noteworthy are the hotels and cabins located at the southern end of the city with beautiful views of the Beagle Channel. As for the delicious local cuisine, focused mainly on seafood, you should not stop trying: spider crab (crustacean that is fished in the Beagle Channel, it is one of the most distinguished products of Fuegian cuisine), Patagonian sea bass (sea fish), black hake (one of the most appreciated species of the Argentine sea), Fuegian lamb and pecorino cheese.
Main tours and activities to do in Ushuaia.
The beautiful city of Ushuaia has a great tourist offer both within the city and in its surroundings. Walking around the downtown area you will find numerous museums, among which the following stand out: the Thematic Gallery of Fuegian History (an educational museum that reflects the history of the region) and the Maritime Museum and the Ushuaia Prison (a museum complex including the old prison that was opened between 1902 and 1947 for highly dangerous criminals). After visiting the commercial and gastronomic area on San Martín Street, it is worth walking along the coastal avenue and admiring the beautiful views of the bays of Ushuaia and Encerrada, the latter bay is part of a natural reserve and both are ideal for bird watching.
Martial Glacier: A tour of Ushuaia would not be complete without a visit to the Martial Glacier, located just 7 km (4.3 miles) from downtown. You can drive to the Martial Glacier Mountain Center at 385 m (1.263 ft) where you will find a refuge with alpine ski slopes and a cafeteria. In front of the refuge there is a charming tea house where you can enjoy a delicious cup of hot chocolate and local pastries. Starting from this mountain center, mainly in summer, there are various options for trekking and hiking enthusiasts. One of these trails ascends to a viewpoint with spectacular views of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel. For those who wish to reach the millennial glacier, they must continue ascending until they reach the end of the trail located at 825 m (2.707 ft).
Beagle Channel: This channel connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and also it marks the natural boundary between Argentina and Chile. Departing from the port of Ushuaia, in comfortable catamarans, you can embark on a pleasant navigation to see small islets where there are many specimens of sea lions and sea birds such as petrels, gulls, imperial cormorants, geese and oystercatchers among others. The boat will reach the islet where the mythical Les Éclaireurs lighthouse is located, popularly known as the lighthouse at the end of the world (although the true lighthouse at the end of the world is not this, but the San Juan de Salvamento lighthouse, located several kilometers to the east on the De los Estados Island). Between the months of October and April, there is the possibility of reaching Martillo Island, where you can see a large colony of penguins, the vast majority belonging to the Magellan species and to a lesser extent to the Papuan species.
Tierra del Fuego National Park: This Argentine national park protects an impressive landscape formed by lakes, valleys, extensive peatlands and the Patagonian forest. Just 8 km (5 miles) west from the center of Ushuaia, is the head station of the End of the World Train, named for being the southernmost railway in the world. The original route of this train was more extensive, since it started from the same Ushuaia prison (now converted into a museum) to take the prisoners to the forest from where they obtained the necessary wood to supply the city. In the 1990s this branch was reactivated for tourist purposes, rescuing the last 7 km (4.3 miles) of the original route. The train stops at an intermediate station called “La Macarena” to enjoy a beautiful panoramic view, and after a few minutes the journey continues to the final station where the vehicle tour continues through beautiful lakes and forests. The culminating point will be in front of the sign that announces the end of Route N ° 3 and a walk to appreciate Lapataia Bay, the only Argentine fjord in the Beagle Channel. As for the fauna of the park, you could spot guanacos, Fuegian red foxes, carancas, albatrosses, macaes and giant woodpeckers, among others; and with regard to the vegetation of the Patagonian forest, you will see lengas, canelos, sour cherries and Magellan coihues.
Winter Centers: If you have the opportunity to visit Ushuaia in winter (June to September) you will have the joy of seeing the snowy city, a beautiful white blanket will cover both the downtown area and the nearby hills. Apart from the aforementioned Martial Glacier Mountain Center, just 20 km (12 miles) from Ushuaia you can find the nature reserve called Tierra Mayor Valley. This reserve comprises part of the basins of the Olivia and Lasifashaj rivers and their respective valleys called Carbajal and Tierra Mayor. In the valleys made up of peat bogs, there are amazing winter centers where you can enjoy different sports and activities such as Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides pulled by Husky dogs, snowmobile rides and snowshoe walks. In case you prefer to practise alpine skiing we recommend Cerro Castor, which is located on the southern slope of Krund Hill; Cerro Castor is the southernmost ski center in the world.
Lakes and Lagoons: Ushuaia is located at the foot of the last continental stretches of the Andes Mountains, with altitudes below 1.500 meters above sea level (4,921 feet). Among the valleys that form these hills you will find a large number of beautiful lakes and lagoons of glacial origin surrounded by the imposing Patagonian forest and crystalline waters of different shades. Among the most visited lakes in Ushuaia are: Lake Escondido (in a deep valley nestled between mountains and surrounded by lush Nothofagus forests), Lake Fagnano (known by the original people as Kami which means “elongated” has 93% of its surface in Argentine territory and the rest in the Chilean), the Esmeralda lagoon (which is accessed by a pedestrian path of about 4.7 km or 3 miles which crosses nothofagus pumilio and peat forests), Ojo del Albino lagoon (continuing the trek from Esmeralda lagoon, you must continue ascending until reaching 900 m or 2.953 feet, there you will have a spectacular view of both the lagoon and the Ojo del Albino Glacier that feeds it), Laguna de los Témpanos (the visit to this lagoon it is part of a 14-kilometer or 8.7-mile trek to the Vinciguerra glacier which feeds it, the name of this lagoon is due to the detachment of ice masses from the glacier that embellish it).
When you decide to visit Argentina, be sure to include a stay in the southernmost land in the world. You will fall in love with its legends, gastronomy, culture, biodiversity and dreamlike landscapes. The end of the world is a magical place that you will always want to return to.