The end of the world
Reaching our last and farthest point in the trip, Tierra del Fuego; we land in Ushuaia; the southernmost city in the world. It is also to date, the second farthest point ever considering London as the departure point. On first place at merely 300 kilometres more, is Easter Island. On second place is Ushuaia at 13380 km, and on third place that would be Bali in Indonesia, some 12500 km away. And continuing with the stunning beauty of the nature and landscapes we had while in El Calafate with Los Glaciares National Park, El Chalten and Torres del Paine; here is to enjoy another glorious national park, mountains, a glacier right at the backdrop of the city, the Beagle Channel with stunning islands between Argentina and Chile and as something more unique, the Magellanic penguins that here thrive between December and March, notably in Isla Martillo, what is called the “pinguinera”, home to thousands of families.
A great description for this place comes from the Spanish: “Fin del mundo, principio de todo”, that translates “the end of the world, the beginning of everything”. No doubt that’s a great motto, and a true reality. But no one can argue about the beautiness of this place, even the prime location of its international airport. Landing and taking of from here is commonly referred as one of the most scenic. Watch out when landing you are at the same height of the surrounding mountains just meters away from your window. And if you manage to sit at the right hand side of the place when taking off, it’s matter of few minutes in the air that you will get the views over the Cape Horn islands. So near you, the very end of the continent and so the nearest point to Antarctica.
The longer road network in the world does end here, inside the Tierra del Fuego National Park, the southernmost terminus of the Panamericana Highway merely 2 kilometres from the border with Chile, where farther beyond would be the gigantic Alberto de Agostini National Park with its innumerable glaciers most of which inaccessible. The city of Ushuaia however was built on a flat valley along the shoreline of the Beagle Channel. All of this natural features create this unique place, richly beautiful in landscapes although not the city as such in terms of sights, which is nothing special bearing few historical wooden houses. The rest is quite plain and new.
Anyway coming to this place is not for a city sightseeing at all, but for the nature instead. In some ways the resemblance of this place to Iceland is quite obvious, even in the remoteness of the location, and something very certain is that feeling of awe-impressiveness it leaves to anyone that comes to visit. Be aware that you won’t be alone though, but one in hundreds others tourists, or even on the thousands at the same time when the cruise ships are docking. As many as four big cruises can be seen on a very same day, generally 6 medium sized vessels, and most of these on a very tempting and jealous Antarctic Expedition.
In terms of food, although way more expensive than elsewhere in Argentina, no doubt is wonderful experience and great quality. Anything to do with fish and seafood you are in the right place, and what’s best than a gigantic Atlantic crab? It’s called centolla, and Ushuaia is the place. While you will see plenty of restaurants and bars everywhere, most of them serving crab, the prices do vary a lot hence it’s very important to check around, read reviews and very important, not because a place looks fancy it means is the best. For instance, I can strongly recommend El Viejo Marino, the price was half of most places around, and no, it’s not frozen, you select the one you wish from the tank. It is a very local family run business, and queues build up very quickly. Upon arrival, enter even if you see a queue outside, tell them for how many people you need a table and they will give you a number if they are already fully booked, then wait outside until your number is called.
A great place for food, coffee and cakes is Tante Sara. There are two in the city, and you can get an awesome prawn or salmon salad, very big at great price. Langostino salad, remember this. Lastly, Volver is a very recommended restaurant, in any travel guide or the mouth to mouth, and while I agree it is a nice place, i would not take it as such must go place, but certainly for a lunch or dinner is great.
For more information about Ushuaia visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Argentina’s currency is the Peso ($, ARS). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Tierra del Fuego region
- Ushuaia Although there is not much to see, it’s nice to have a walk and spend a good half day visiting its main sights.
-Presidio The former prison is now one of the main sights within the city of Ushuaia, nicely converted into a museum about the prison and other wings transformed into the Maritime Museum and Art Gallery. Located to the east of the city, walking distance from the port. Open from 09.00am through 20.00pm daily during the summer months; an hour shorted during the winter months. 1100 Pesos for adults, 750 for senior and students.
-Museum of the End of the World Southwest from el Presidio, on Avenida Maipu next to the port.
-Civic Square The heart of the city, right by the port. Home to the former cute City Hall building.
-HMS Justice West of the port along the main promenade. Launched in 1943 in the USA where she was built as a rescue tug. Transferred in 1953 for salvage operations in the Beagle Channel, suffering an engine failure in 1954, struck in 1957 and grounded ever since at this place.
-Malvinas Islands Square Continuing west along the promenade, nicely landscaped. Here you will find the famous art work of the islands map made in iron, and the letters of Ushuaia overlooking the bay.
-Camino Luis Pedro Fique Not far from the Ushuaia letters, is this nice viewing point with the city and mountains in the backdrop.
-Monument to Galicia Right by the western side of the Malvinas Square.
-Casa Beban One of the best preserved homes of the former “pobladores”, the first settlers in Ushuaia.
-Glacier Martial Physically at the backdrop of the city, hence one of the very few glaciers in the world fully accessible from the centre of a city merely 7 kilometres away on an easy trek. Although it has retreated so dramatically over the past decades, the mountain centre is opened all year round. During the winter season the sky station is open, while during the summer months, you can access the glacier walking via the sky slope or the chair lift.
- Tierra del Fuego National Park One of the major draws in the city for tourists, coupled with doing a tour along the Beagle Channel. Located at the west of the city, you can reach the main gate either by the End of the World Railway or by bus, then trek from there towards the westernmost edge, the Lapataia Lake, the very southern terminus of the Panamericana Highway, the Route 3, end of Argentina, 17800 km to Alaska. The fee to enter the area as of January 2020 is 540 Pesos per person.
-End of the World Railway A nice way to reach the main gates to the National Park, whether if planning to get inside the park or not. Although a very short journey of merely 7 kilometres, it is the southernmost railway in the world, built by the inmates of the Presidio prison in order to provide with timber to build the city.
-The End of the World Post Office As the name says, this is the real deal. Located a short walk south from the Tierra del Fuego National Park Train Station overlooking the Beagle Channel. Not everyone can say they’ve posted a card from here, with a special stamp. it costs as of January 2020 310 Pesos per stamp.
-Lapataia Bay Continuing west well inside the National Park, 10 kilometres walk from the Tierra del Fuego National Park Train Station, or few minutes by car. Passing through various viewpoints, rivers, waterfalls and overall nature, this is the complete terminus of Route 3 and so, the Panamericana Highway; offering stunning views to the Beagle Channel, the islands and the mountains, merely a bunch of kilometres from Chile.
- Beagle Channel The most known landmark in the region, it is also the southernmost safe navigation cross between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Named after the British ship HMS Beagle, which sailed with the naturalist Charles Darwin aboard in 1833, it is the natural border between Argentina and Chile. Farther south lies the Cape Horn Islands, entirely on Chile’s sovereignty.
-Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse In service since 1920 guarding the sea entrance to Ushuaia, is a very popular tourist attraction where boats will pass by and stop in order to give the chance for pictures. Erroneously known, yet accepted as the Lighthouse of the End of the World. For the real one depicted in Jules Verne’s “The Lighthouse at the End of the World”, one need to get to Isla de los Estados, 230 km east of Ushuaia.
-Isla de los Lobos y los Pajaros Visited as part of a tour along the Beagle Channel. Where you will get to watch seals, sea lions, and birds.
-Estancia Harberton Also included on most tours along the Beagle Channel. Located some 40 kilometres east of the city along the Beagle Channel, or 85 kilometres by road. Established in 1885 by missionary pioneer Thomas Bridges, it does include now some museums about the local people from the region, botanical gardens and cemetery.
-Isla Martillo The highlight of a tour along the Channel, especially during the summer months (December through March) because of the Magellan penguin colony that here settles. Thousands of them! Be quick to get your tour as the one you are able to walk in the island for an hour with penguins sells out very quickly. Then the only option left is to visit the island from the boat where it approaches the beach but you cannot get out.
While anyone can get on public transport easily to the viewing point of the Perito Moreno Glacier; there is no doubt and you should not hesitate in getting a tour to visit as many glaciers as possible. Coming this far and remote already and not doing this, then sorry to say, that’s nonsense and silly, bearing in mind you will not be able to see any of the other great glaciers any other way around.
There are many tour operators out there, and countless more websites to do such searches and bookings. For instance, two of the most trustful and recommended we generally use are Viator (member of TripAdvisor) and GetYourGuide. We do easily find some of the best prices out there with them, cheaper than booking directly with the final company, plus you can get cashback should you have account on some of the reward websites that pays its members a percentage of money earned when purchasing goods and services via its affiliate links. In my experience, TopCashback is the best. Remember, anyone can join and it’s completely for free!
Now coming to the point, the best suitable tour option for us was the “full day sightseeing on the Maria Turquesa cruise”, link here. This is by far the most complete and longest tour option provided where you will get to see not just one but 3 different glaciers among the beauty landscape surrounding the navigation.
Malvinas Argentinas International Airport is the main gateway into the city and region, and for most travellers, the actual only way in. This part of the world that remote and that far from any other main city is also cut from the rest of Argentina with Chile in between taking the most of the south region. Long distance buses crisscross Argentina, and will likely terminate as far south as Rio Gallegos from where you will need to change into another bus, involving the border crossing and a boat ride across the narrowest point of the Strait of Magellan, and still, long hours to reach Ushuaia.
It is 3 hours flight between this point and Buenos Aires, and around 6.5 to Salta in the far north of the country, however the later is not a direct flight. From the airport to the city centre the best option is to get a taxi to your final destination. After all, distances here are not large, and the cost, although higher than any other city in Argentina, is still very affordable. Then considering if you are staying at any of the hotels higher up in the slopes of the Martial mountain range, it does not make any sense to find a public transport to the city centre to then take a taxi.
Within the city you can walk anywhere between the sights, and you can also walk to the Glacier Martial on an easy trek. A bit farther west is the station of the End of the World Railway for what you can get on a bus, or much quicker a taxi from your hotel. Then whether you take the train or not, accessing the National Park is easy also by bus, then free to roam and trek around to the nice spots.
Ushuaia does not come cheap when talking about accommodation. Especially considering the rather small choice and how quickly these get fully booked, hence rising even further the cost of what is left available elsewhere. In the other hand, you have great properties from top of the range mountain resorts to the more modest “cabanas”, bed & breakfast and apartments. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.
We stayed at Las Hayas Resort, on Luis Fernando Martial Road 1650, the very same road that links the city centre with the Glacier Martial farther behind the hotel itself. The location was great offering nice views over the city and the Beagle Channel, and Chile’s landscapes at the backdrop. one of the largest properties within Ushuaia, having every facility such as everything needed for the winter sky season, spa, jacuzzi, heated swimming pool, gardens and even a forest right behind. The staff was very friendly and welcoming, a very spacious, quiet and super comfortable room and great breakfast. We could not have asked for more. Totally recommended.