Arguably, the southernmost city in the world and often missed due to its location, it’s definitely worth waiting a while in Ushuaia, Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego region and adventure hub.
Ushuaia is definitely worth travelling to as it is stunningly beautiful and well-worth the hardship of over 52 hours on 3 buses to arrive here from Buenos Aires. If you have buckets of cash and fly, then there isn’t really any hardship.
There’s a lot of explorer history here as Ushuaia is situated on the Beagle Channel and also with the Strait of Magellan in close proximity.
Maybe it’s the time of year with autumn displaying hundreds of multi-shaded orange Beech trees, or the fact that you’ve reached the end of the world (cliché) and extremely cold here, but Ushuaia is spectacular.
The city sits below the snow capped Martial Mountain Range and meets the shores of the Beagle Channel. You won’t be disappointed…this city is memorable! I think any time of year would be wonderful in Ushuaia as the scenery is so breath-taking.
This is also where you can catch Antarctica-bound vessels, which is another reason for travelling this far south in Argentina.
A tourist destination for Argentinians, especially during the winter with its plethora of available trekking and snow sports.
There’s also loads of non-snow activities to do here from boat trips in the Beagle Channel to exploring National Parks (entrance fees vary), trekking, sight-seeing lakes, and much more. You won’t be bored at all, even if it’s snowing out…just bring a load of cash, as you’ll need it!
Boat trips in the Beagle Channel
After checking out the waterfront stalls for the best boat trip to the Beagle Channel, decided on a sail boat with Tres Marias (AR$230 + AR$7 port tax; 10:00hrs or 15:00hrs departure). This is a family-run business and only takes about 6 passengers on the sail boat for a half-day trip (about 4 hours).
I’m hoping for a more memorable experience and not just a tour, and I really want to see sea lions in the wild.
Crossing the Beagle Channel in our sailing boat was so exciting today. Even though there wasn’t any breeze about and we were under motor. Who cares, it’s the Beagle Channel in the Tierra del Fuego – have to pinch myself sometimes! After all, this is where Mr Charles Darwin first reached the channel in January 1833 on his expedition.
Our first stop was Island ‘H’, which is where for thousands of years the indigenous Canoeros came for refuge and food gathering in this island’s very protected surrounds.
The island is a Natural Reserve with much history, archaeological sites, and biodiversity.
Our next wonderful stop to visit sea lions, royal Cormorants, and more seabirds in the wild is Isla Alicia. What an amazing part of the trip this is – you’ll love this!
Our group was lucky enough to have a passionate local Biologist onboard, which was provided by the tour company. Everything was explained to us in great detail and made for a wonderful experience. The day felt as if I was in a Sir David Attenborough documentary – just fantastic!
Please note, that if the wildlife seems agitated in any way due to the boat’s presence or us, the boat hangs back and doesn’t intrude on the wildlife’s space. Lucky today, it seems that these beautiful creatures didn’t even notice we were around and seemed content in their natural habitat.
End of the World train ride
The half-day “End of the World” train ride is very expensive for a traveller, a bit of a rip-off, so, didn’t partake but thought I’d provide some information. Prices go something like this:
- Tourist – AR$130 (return, cheapest fare) + AR$85 (Tierra del Fuego National Park entrance fee)
- Local – AR$50 for the train ride + AR$25 (Tierra del Fuego National Park entrance fee)
- Tourist – AR$85/day/person (Tierra del Fuego National Park entry fee only)
Shuttle buses run throughout the national park, but not sure of this cost, time table, or rules on catching buses. Check with the information office in the park. That is, if you can get one of the staff members there to help, as they’re unfriendly and not keen to speak with tourists.
At around 1,050 metres MSL, the Martial glacier is part of the gorgeous Martial Range that back-drops the city, and only a few kilometres from the city centre.
You can climb this Glacier any time of year, providing you have the proper equipment. Don’t be like us and arrive with too little clothing or incorrect footwear. But to be fair, it is April and Ushuaia is experiencing very early unexpected snow.
The glacier is completely covered in snow throughout the winter, but you can still reach the 56-square-kilometre ski centre using the chair lift.
Although, I didn’t climb to the top due to incorrect clothing and worsening weather, the view is still spectacular from anywhere along this climb. Serious climbers were still ascending the glacier whilst we descended in the afternoon, due to it starting to snow.
Hiring a car
Hired a car from Patagonia Sur (AR$200/day includes 200 kms) for three days, which proved to be an excellent decision.
A car provides freedom and is much cheaper for 2 people than taking tours everywhere, which typically, are on time restrictions. Especially as I love to take loads of photos and I can’t really do this when I’m on a tour. Let’s face it, 40-50 passengers are not going to wait for me to take my shots.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
The roads are quiet down this way so it’s not a problem driving. Although the rain set in for several days, the scenery was still exceptional.
This park spreads over 630 square kilometres and also includes a couple of lakes: Lago Fagnano and Lago Roca. It’s very quiet today with only a few souls braving the weather. Perhaps the rain is keeping everyone away…not to mention the icy cold.
Drove to Lago Fagnano nestled in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is definitely worth the trip out of Ushuaia. This beautiful lake is 98 kilometres long, of which 13.5 kilometres is in Chilean territory – stunning.
The end of our road before returning to Ushuaia was Tulhuin. A little town about an hour south of Rio Grande, which could have been straight out of a South American version of Deliverance!
I could be totally wrong here, maybe it was my first impression of the huge ford pick-up trucks loaded with dirt bikes, flannel shirts, and continual ogling at us as foreigners…we were the only Gringos in town.
The Panaderia (bakery) in Tulhuin is great and worth a stop for lunch. Bustling with the whole town rammed inside, buying the freshest home baked delicacies, you can see bakers prepare and knead the raw ingredients behind a large glass window. Before walking into the actual bakery, you pass an internal huge caged area with parrots, lorikeets, and a toucan…a mini Avery; and strange to see at a bakery.
I’ve written extensively about the excellent accommodation in Ushuaia in another post. If you need some great tips on where to stay whilst visiting this city, then please check this post out: Bus lag and flat arse! Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia by bus and ferry
Although Ushuaia offers many excellent cafes and restaurants, to save costs and because we had such a great apartment, we made use of the kitchen preparing most of our meals. Though I do have to mention our favourite daily chocolate haunt below.
Chocolates Ushuaia – Artisanal
On San Martin, you simply must sample the glorious hot chocolate made with real pure melted chocolate at this heavenly chocolate shop, which is THE best and cheapest in town. Note the number of times I’ve used chocolate in my last sentence. Honestly, don’t leave Ushuaia before visiting this shop at least once!
Try the chocolate pancake (AR$6), if you like a wafer-thin pancake gently drizzled over with chocolate, and then stuffed with pure warmed chocolate. A sensational hit when it’s icy cold and snowing outside, but anytime really – chocolate coma!
Make sure you also splurge on their delightful hand-made chocolates, so deliciously mouth-watering and reasonably-priced at AR$35 for 250 grams. Staff look after you well here and they’re so very friendly, which made us visit here almost every day – any excuse to get out of the icy cold and eat chocolate.
Although we did give Laguna Negra Chocolates a try as this shop is in the guide book and is good, but also tried every chocolate shop in Ushuaia once. And still believe, that Chocolates Ushuaia is hugely better and the price is slightly cheaper than others. One day because it was snowing and bitterly cold, we tried one new shop and then also went back to our favourite shop on the same day, for a decadent double-chocolate hit.
Without a definite plan or schedule, we make this trip up as we go along.
Although still early days yet, so far it’s been fantastic travelling in Argentina, especially staying in Ushuaia. Albeit experiencing issues with bus trips, which are soon forgotten, but you get that, and as the saying goes: what won’t kill you, will make you stronger!