The end of the world. The tip of the continent. The southernmost point of Patagonia. All of these names build up the identity of our beloved Ushuaia, the capital city of the province of Tierra de Fuego (literally and ironically ‘the land of fire’) in Argentina, and one of the most magical and beautiful spots in the world.
Located next to the Chilean border and within the Bay of Ushuaia, its stunning landscapes include the shores of the Beagle Channel on the south and the Andes Mountains on the north. With these surroundings, the city of Ushuaia has lately become a major tourist hub and a definite must if you are traveling to Argentina, in the quest of breathtaking natural sights as well as of extraordinary adventures.
Best time to visit Ushuaia
Don’t panic, it’s not that cold! In general, Ushuaia is considered to have both mild winters and summers, with temperatures remaining on average between 1 and 10°C (35 to 50°F) all year long, although in the summer -December to March- they may reach 17°C (62°F). High season is mostly summertime, the best and most popular time to visit, when days are significantly longer and dusk can be as late as 11pm! In winter, although rates can be slightly cheaper, some places may even close, as days get shorter and less visitors arrive.
Ushuaia is definitely humid (very much cloudy at times) and windy throughout the year, with frequent snow and sleet, specially (but not only!) during the winter. Just for the sake of comparisons, it could be said that the climate is similar to that of Reykjavik, Iceland, avoiding the harsh weather conditions experienced by Alaska or Quebec. Wind-proof and water-proof clothes are highly recommended.
Ways to travel to the end of the world
There are not many ways to the get to Ushuaia. If you are traveling around Argentina, you can take a three-hour flight from the city of Buenos Aires -the country’s capital-, and land straight in Malvinas Argentinas International Airport, in Ushuaia (with Aerolíneas Argentinas or LATAM). You can also fly from El Calafate, another ‘must visit’ if traveling to Argentina, or from Santiago -the capital of Chile. This would be the easiest, since going by land involves crossing over the Strait of Magellan by ferry and then the Fuegian Andes, further south.
So, if you are not planning to go straight from Buenos Aires, many companies do offer bus tickets from and to several nearby cities, including Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales in Chile, and Río Grande, Río Gallegos, El Calafate, and Bariloche in Argentina. Door-to-door minivans are also available for nearer destinations, such as Tolhuin and Río Grande. Be sure to book tickets in advance, specially during the high season, since it can get really packed! If traveling by car or bus, note that in order to get to Ushuaia from the north, the only possible road (Ruta Nacional #3) to get there -even if traveling within Argentina- goes through Chile at some point. Make sure you have all the required documentation to cross the border successfully.
What to do in the southernmost city
Once in Ushuaia, it’s easy to get around on foot, as it is a small city. However, public transport and taxis, as well as car and bike rentals are also available, which come in handy when wanting to visit the surrounding sights. There is a lot to do in Ushuaia and around it, and -surely- most of the activities include being in contact with nature and its oh-so-spectacular landscapes.
Your first stop should certainly be Tierra del Fuego National Park, an overwhelming natural area with 40 km (25 miles) of hiking trails, located 8 km (5 miles) south from the city. It can be reached by highway or by taking the End of the World Train, a picturesque and historic means of transport. Trekking through the park will allow you to enjoy all kinds of sights, such as sub-Antarctic forests, quiet bays, deep valleys, glaciers, mountains and lakes. If you are a nature fan, you can even camp there and go through an amazing bird-watching experience.
A trip to Ushuaia is not complete without a tour around the Beagle Channel, where you can take a closer look at many of the neighboring islands, while at the same time taking in the marvelous views. If you are interested in seeing amazing wildlife firsthand, the Bird Island and the Sea Lion Island are a must, and so is Martillo Island, where you will be able to see a real colony of penguins! You can also visit Les Éclaireurs Island, and literally visit the iconic end-of-the-world lighthouse.
An exciting experience is hiking on the flanks of Martial Glacier, located 8 km (5 miles) north of Ushuaia. Although the walk may be tough, the white scenery will most surely make an impression on you, as you are completely surrounded by ice -a setting quite beyond beauty. The winter season here is perfect for ski lovers, although there are many other ski centers in the area, such as Cerro Castor, a resort 45 minutes away from the city.
Apart from skiing, sports fans can also enjoy ice hockey, which can be played outdoors as the temperature is perfect for water freezing into ice. Or even engage in horse riding along the coast, on the shores of the Beagle Channel. Visitors can also take mountain bike rides on the hills and forests, or even kayak tours across quiet lakes, such as Escondido and Fagnano (see tour). If you are up to a challenge, you can even scuba dive into the coldest waters ever: some adventure tourism to spice thigs up!
Don’t worry if you are not so keen on sports. You can always visit the Prison Museum, one of the most interesting attractions of the city, since it used to be a uniquely designed military jail during the first half of the 20th Century. If you are into history, other good visiting options are the History Thematic Gallery or the Yamana Museum. On the other hand, if it is nature what moves you, you can always take some time to explore the End of the World Museum, a historic site dedicated to local wildlife.
The real end of the world
The southernmost tip of the continent, gives way to a major well-known touristic attraction: Antarctica! If you want to really visit the end of the world and be touched by the awe-inspiring white landscape, then a trip to Antarctica is called for, especially since most of the tours heading there actually pass through Ushuaia. You can take an Antarctica Cruise from mid-October to mid-March (depending on ice conditions) with several agencies. It is, however, highly recommended that they are members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).
A city as diverse as Ushuaia welcomes tourists with all sorts of budgets, so it therefore offers a wide range of accommodation, from shared rooms in hostels to luxurious five-star hotels. Location also varies. Some hotels and hostels are situated downtown, at walking distance from the port, Casino Club, and some museums. Others are further into the wild, surrounded by the quiet sounds of nature, near Tierra del Fuego National Park, Martial Glacier, or the Cerro Castor resort, among other sights.
Whatever it is you are looking for, you will definitely find it as you explore the end of the world and discover the beginning of everything!