After a month in the heat and humidity of Brazil, we welcomed the cold air in Ushuaia, Argentina. Finally taking advantage of the cold weather gear we had schlepped around for the first 5 weeks of the trip, we set out for 3 days to explore “El Fin Del Mundo,” the southernmost city in the world.
- We first hopped on a boat tour around the Beagle Channel, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (and provides freight companies with a safe shipping alternative to Cape Horn at the tip of South America, which is infamous for its dangerous winds and tides). As we cruised around for 5 hours, we stopped by a colony of cormorants (a penguin-looking bird that flys rather than swims), sea lions (the adorable pups alternated between fighting and sleeping and the gigantic alfa male occasionally lifted his head to let out a vicious grunt) and, finally, penguins (the Magellanic and Gentoo penguins – and even one colorful King Penguin – huddled, waddled and swam on and around the island).
- On our second day, the clouds that had shrouded our boat cruise gave way to some torrential rain. After seriously contemplating hibernating for the day, we donned our rain jackets and warm clothes (except Alie’s fleece hat which was quickly lost to the wind on the Beagle Channel) and headed out to Tierra Del Fuego, the nearby National Park that straddles Argentina and Chile. At first, we appeared to be the only tourists willing to venture to the Park, with our bus completely empty. But eventually we were joined by the only other two travelers crazy enough to hike in the rainy weather, a twenty-three year old couple from Latvia, and for the next three hours we interrogated our new friends as we trekked alongside a lake and through a dense Patagonian forest. Along the way, we stopped at the southernmost post office in the world (and, given our love of postcards, sent several to the states) and also stopped for an hour at a Park lodge to heat up and (to Alie’s delight) enjoy a glass of hot chocolate before the final hour stretch of the trail. Though the moss-covered forest was straight out of an enchanted fairytale, the views failed to impress as dark clouds covered what should have been a backdrop of jagged snow-capped mountains. Still, we came away from Tierra Del Fuego learning a lot about Latvia (population: 2 million) and the country’s history, culture and politics.
- Before heading north, we took one final hike up to the Martial Glacier. With a clear, blue sky above us, we were the first to arrive in the morning at the trail head and proceeded to enjoy a quiet, relaxing uphill hike to the glacier. We finally enjoyed beautiful views of the city, the channel, and the surrounding mountains before heading back to the airport.
Though “The End of the World” was certainly beautiful, we felt like Ushuaia was touristy, charging a lot for a boat ride and a National Park. We enjoyed relaxing in the coziness of our B&B, taking in the beautiful landscape of Patagonia (cloudy skies permitting) and trekking over a different, rugged landscape but we felt that a visit to the city was best left as a pit stop before or after a cruise or trip to Antartica (which we are definitely adding to our wanderlust list).
Things To Do:
- The boat ride through the Beagle Channel is the main highlight in Ushuaia, but it is expensive and touristy. We would suggest seeking out a company that offers a smaller boat with a more personalized experience (we saw one company that offers a walking tour on penguin island giving you a closer view, but don’t disrupt the poor penguins!). Regardless of the type of tour you choose, we have to admit that the sea lions and penguins are unbelievably cute and fun.
- There are several hiking options in Ushuaia, both in and out of the National Park. We took the coastal trail in Tierra Del Fuego which (we imagine) offers great views on a nice day. The Martial Glacier is a short hike near town that offers great views for free (take a cab from town to the base of the hike but walk downhill back into town). There are tons of other trails if you have more time or want to camp.
- There are opportunities to visit an estancia or go horseback riding. Both could be fun and different experiences.
- The only true tourist-site in town is the former prison-turned-museum. We were told by a few fellow travelers that it isn’t worthwhile.
Accommodations: Accommodations in Ushuaia are expensive relative to the rest of Argentina, so be prepared. We enjoyed staying in a cozy B&B.
Days Stayed / Recommended: 2-3 days is enough time to maximize your experience in Ushuaia, but again we don’t recommend a visit to Ushuaia as a destination of its own but rather as a pit-stop.
Local Food: Ushuaia is famous for its King Crab and lamb. Sounds delicious but we were busy hibernating at our B&B. We did enjoy hot chocolate at the countless chocolate and sweet shops around town.