At the foot of high mountains overlooking the Beagle Strait, in a fantastic location, is the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia, the Capital of Tierra del Fuego.
An abandoned ship in the port of Ushuaia, almost at sunset
I spent a week in this city whose name derives from the Yamanas, the ancient indigenous population who over 6000 years ago called this land Ushi = at the bottom and Waia = bay: Bay at the End of the World.
In this post I try to give you some information about my trip to help you better organize your visit to the Capital of Tierra del Fuego (I hope I can, let me know!).
- Brief History of Ushuaia
- Essential Information: Arriving and Departing, Weather, How to Move, Money and Credit Cards
- Where to eat and sleep: Hotels and Restaurants
- What to see in the city
- What to do: activities and excursions
A bit of history
Panorama of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel from the road to the El Martial Glacier
The history of Ushuaia is fascinating. The first Mission was established here by the missionary Thomas Bridge in 1884 and the small settlement immediately attracted gold prospectors.
Later a penal colony was established here and immigrants, Spanish settlers and shipwrecked people began to settle there. Despite this, Ushuaia remained isolated until 1935 when the first planes began to arrive.
When the prison was closed, it was replaced by a naval base and around the 70s new inhabitants began to arrive, especially from in Buenos Aires attracted by reduced prices.
Today Ushuaia is the Capital of Tierra del Fuego and although fishing continues to play a key role in its economy, it has become one of the most important tourist centers in the country: it is in fact the base from which cruises to Antarctica depart.
1 - Arrive and Leave
The location of Ushuaia, at the foot of the mountains, on the banks of the Beagle Channel
THE Malvinas Argentinas International Airport it is the main gateway to Tierra del Fuego Argentina.
Most travelers arrive or depart by plane from in Buenos Aires or from El Calafate e Punta Arenas, but there are also weekly flights operated by the company LADE from various Patagonian cities.
Going to El Calafate? Read everything you need to know about the Perito Moreno glacier!
The major companies that fly to Ushuaia are LAN and Aerolinas Argentinas.
Consider the plane for internal flights between Ushuaia and other destinations that can also be reached by bus. The price is not very different and you save many hours.
There are several companies that offer rides to and from Ushuaia from various destinations in Chile and Argentina. In high season, book early as you may not find a seat: bus tickets go away like hotcakes. Tickets are also not much cheaper than the plane, but you travel great: the buses are new and comfortable.
Between Ushuaia e El Calafate: to move between Ushuaia and El Calafate it is necessary to change buses in Rio Gallegos. Being Ushuaia located on an island there can be delays due to the waters of the channel that separates it from the mainland which can be rough.
Between Ushuaia e Punta Arenas (Chile): the journey takes about 18 hours and in high season there are daily buses connecting the two locations.
Between Ushuaia e Puerto Natales (Chile): direct journeys between these two locations are not available every day. On days when there are no direct buses, you need to take three different buses and change in Rio Grande and Punta Arenas.
2 - Climate and when to go
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, after it there is only Antarctica, in short, it is cold even during the austral summer. The best months to visit are therefore from the end of October to the end of April although even in this period the weather is really crazy.
In fact, the weather changes from one moment to the next and within the same day. For example, in a single day we caught sun, hail, rain and snow and then the sun again.
On average January is the hottest month, but it is also the busiest month and prices tend to rise.
If you don't like wind and rain you should theoretically avoid the month of April, preferring October which in general is the rainy month ever.
June, July and August it's austral winter.
3 - How to get around the city
bus station, more than a station is a square, near the petrol station, on the coastal road
The best way to get from the airport to the city center is by taxi. There are dozens of them in front of the exit waiting for tourists. A ride to the vicinity of Calle San Martin (the main street of the city) costs around 8 euros.
If you have chosen a hotel in the center it is easy to walk to practically all the interesting places in the city, the souvenir shops and restaurants.
4 - Money and Credit Cards
The official currency is the Argentine peso (ARS).
In the center of Ushuaia there are many ATMs from which to withdraw cash. Beware that there is a maximum amount that can be withdrawn at a time of 2000 ARS with a very high commission. Better to bring cash and avoid withdrawing money.
Many hotels and branches change the euro, but clearly in their favor, it is better to change them before leaving and bring some euros to change only in case of need.
Many restaurants and hotels in Ushuaia accept the credit card, check that there are stickers VISA e Mastercard on the door because otherwise you will have to pay in cash. Most agencies accept credit card payments.
Where to eat and sleep
A restaurant whose main dish is… guess which one!
Most of the hotels and restaurants are located around Ushuaia's central street, Calle San Martin.
The view over the city the first morning we woke up at the End of the World
Although the prices of the hotel a Ushuaia they can't be considered cheap, there are excellent chances to find a place to sleep without fainting.
Hostel Antarctica: a good hostel with free wifi in common areas. There is a well equipped kitchen where you can cook your own dinner and keep your things in the fridge. Good level of cleanliness of shared bathrooms and dorms. A bed in a mixed dormitory costs around 20 euros, private rooms are also available.
Unfortunately we could not find a place here because it was already booked for a long time, but it would have been our first choice anyway.
Step le Martial: a guest house located outside the city center from which it is about half an hour on foot. It is located on the way to the glacier. Clean and with a beautiful view of the city, the owner is a very kind and smiling person who every morning brings the pastries from the pastry shop to customers.
Cost around 25 euros per person. Good economic choice especially if you are 4, the total number of people hosted for each apartment.
Hotel Las Lengas: a very good business hotel within walking distance of the main Calle. A little anonymous, like all business hotels, but with a comfortable and clean restaurant with a 360 ° window overlooking the bay.
The rooms are equipped with all comforts, air conditioning, minibar, wifi and cable TV. The people at the reception speak perfect English and are super willing to help with anything. We got a great deal paying 60 euros per night for a double room.
A pub restaurant in Ushuaia, very good coffee, but a little expensive ...
There are many i tourist restaurants in and around the center. Most of the better (and more expensive) restaurants can be found at the end of Calle San Martin. The typical dish of Ushuaia is the centolla, or the giant crab.
There are also many parilladerie where you can eat the cordero (lamb) strictly cooked on the grill for hours on a low heat. Usually the parilladerie also offer a rich salad buffet.
For those like me who are vegetarians there is no shortage of onion and vegetable soups, omelettes and other various dishes. There are many places that also offer pasta dishes and baked cannelloni.
Many are also takeaways and places to have a quick meal such as burgers, sandwiches and empanadas and are generally quite cheap.
The Turk (San Martin 1410): an institution in the city. Famous for being the cheapest restaurant on Avenida San Martin, it offers simple but good and hearty dishes. You have to go early because, especially in high season, in the evening it is rare to be able to find a place. Excellent value for money.
Kaupe (Roca 470 y Magallanes): according to many (I have not been there) the best restaurant in town. It serves fish and giant crab dishes in a nice and comfortable setting.
The stay (San Martin 253): offers parilla all you can eat for about 30 euros per person, but also dishes if you are not a glutton. The salad buffet is rich and well presented. Good value for money, even if in Massi's opinion, the best pieces of meat are those served in the dishes while in the parilla there are the less valuable pieces.
What to see in the city
Ushuaia can easily be explored on foot in a single day, as all the attractions are located around Calle San Martin, the main street that runs parallel to the shore, one block north from the coastal road.
If the day is not the best, there are some museums worth visiting.
End of the World Museum (on the waterfront in Maipú Y Rivadavia): tells the story of the city through a small collection of carefully chosen objects that tell the story of pioneers, indigenous groups, missionaries and shipwrecks.
Maritime Museum (Yaganes Y Gob Paz): housed in the Presidio, the old prison, it exhibits models and artifacts from the times when the city was mainly seafaring; in the cells the Museo Penitenciario tells the story of the prison.
Museo Yamana (Rivadavia 56): interesting models of indigenous life.
What to do: activities and excursions
The houses of the agencies that offer navigation on the Beagle Channel ... this is the one I chose, Tolkeyen Patagonia
The activities that can be done in Ushuaia cannot be defined as economic, but since you have crossed the world to get here, you might as well make the best of luck and not think too much about spending. Back home, it took us a while to save.
1 - Navigate the Beagle Channel
Faro at the end of the world, I did not think I was in such a mythical place until I saw it with my own eyes
There are various shipping agencies that offer this activity. We went with Tolkeyen Patagonia.
All boat trips depart from the Muelle Turistico, near the 25 de Mayo square.
Our navigation began in the afternoon to return to Ushuaia at dinner time, but there are various times to choose from.
The cost is not exactly negligible, about 80 euros per person, but it is money absolutely well spent, especially to see the sea lions, the cormorants and the sweet penguins.
Read here my Beagle Channel cruise!
Some people have reported seeing whales as well, but the guide told me that it is very strange and that whales generally do not enter the canal. If you want to see cetaceans then better go to the right season in Valdes Peninsula.
The navigations change according to the route you want to take, there are various options you can choose from.
2 - Tierra del Fuego National Park
A glimpse of the Tierra del Fuego National Park
There are buses that leave from the center of Ushuaia for the Tierra del Fuego National Park every half an hour. The return ticket costs ARS 300 (about 17 euros) and the cost of entry to the National Park costs ARS 200 (about 13 euros) per person.
The park itself deserves more time, but in a full day you can already have a good taste of it.
Tren of the fin del Mundo: the southernmost steam train in the world. The train travels on the old rails laid by the prisoners and which were used to transport the wood to the city. Today, a shameless tourist experience, I wouldn't recommend it especially for the price, but if you have children it can be fun and it's a way to see the National Park without walking (train route on the official page).
3 - Martial Glacier
The road to the El Martial glacier that can be seen behind me
To get to the glacier you can take a remiso (taxi) from the city center which in about 10 minutes takes you directly to the entrance of the chairlift. When I went the chairlift was closed and we also had to walk the first part which in winter is the ski slope.
The climb to the Martial is not long, it is about 40 minutes from the arrival at the top of the chairlift. the glacier itself isn't much of a thing, but there are views of the Beagle Channel that are really worth the climb up there.
4 - Laguna Esmeralda
Even in rain and snow it is clear why the Esmeralda Lagoon bears this name, look at what color!
For me a beautiful trek. From Ushuaia buses leave from the same station as those leading to the National Park, but the frequency is less (one every hour).
It takes about two hours of leisurely walk in the woods to get to this mirror of emerald water (the name says it all). In the evening, beavers can also be seen in the woods. Many agencies organize the day with trekking, lunch and sightings (for more info see here: www.canalfun.com)
5 - Cruise to Antarctica
One of the ships bound for Antarctica ... How I wish I was up there!
Going even further south of Ushuaia is possible! Agencies that organize Antarctica cruises swarm on Avenida San Martin.
Prices are a bit of a Scrooge de Scrooge thing, but you can also find last minute offers for a week at the price of 6000 euros (counting, however, that it takes 3 days to go and 3 to return and then you spend around the ice. two days).
In addition to those listed above there are many other activities that can be done, such as for example fly by helicopter over the city, do a giro in jeep 4×4 or do kayak excursions in the National Park and its surroundings.
And instead as far as you are concerned, what experiences have you lived in Ushuaia? What did you see on your journey to the End of the World? Share it with me in the comments, I love hearing your stories!