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Arriving to the end of the world | Ushuaia, Argentina

Arriving to the end of the world | Ushuaia, Argentina

Last Updated on March 3, 2021

Alone on the top deck of the boat, I was the only one still willing to withstand the freezing winds, but there was just something magical about breathing in fresh air while bouncing through the magnificent Beagle Channel to let the accomplishment of arriving here actually sink in. 35 days. That’s how long it took Dani and I to make our way through Chile’s Lake District and pass back and forth through Argentine and Chilean Patagonia to arrive in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

visit ushuaia

We crossed the Andes four times, stood on giant glaciers, saw penguins, guanacos, emus, ñandus, crossed the Straight of Magellan and hitchhiked across Tierra del Fuego.

Sure we could have flown here from anywhere, joining the thousands of cruisers and other international tourists at the airport, but arriving to the 60,000 inhabitant city could never have felt as good as it did to go the long way down.

After a few minutes in solitude watching thousands of birds glide by under the imposingly low gray clouds, I joined the other 20 passengers, including Dani, down below inside the warm cabin to learn about the adventurers who had come and ‘conquered’ various spots along the coast over the centuries. Sure, we were being served tea and cookies on board and were never going to be seafaring journey women, but it still felt mystical to be connected even in this way to the globetrotting explorers of the past with only 1,000 kilometers of water separating us from Antarctica. In fact, we were closer there than Buenos Aires, 3,000 km to the north.

visit UshuaiaUshuaia was also of particular interest as the spot where the first same-sex marriage in all of Latin America took place on 29 December 2009, which paved the way for nationwide legalization in Argentina just six months later.

The proximity to Antarctica makes Ushuaia the jumping off point for Antarctic cruises, but while there are possible last minute deals, these trips still cost $5,000 and up (and up, and up) per person. Plus, arriving on The Ice involves sailing through the infamous Drake Passage, some of the roughest seas in the world (watch a video here) in order to spend a week in some of the coldest weather on Earth. Ushuaia was already freezing cold for the two of us summer chasers, and while several stores have warm clothes to rent out to the cruisers, we were almost ready to rent a few things ourselves and it was 6 C / 42F during our stay.

visit ushuaiaAfter the fast-paced trip southward to get here, we opted to relax for a few days rather than add a 5th and freezing cold continent to the list. There is plenty to entertain everyone for a few days. Ushuaia is a popular ski destination for South Americans during the winter months, hiking to Martial Glacier in Tierra Del Fuego National Park is also popular, but pictures we saw made it seem as though it paled in comparison to our trips to Perito Moreno Glacier or Glaciar Grande. The park is just 12km west of Ushuaia, however, and supposed to have great hiking trails with beautiful bay and mountain views. Our blogging buddy Alexandra was much more active then were on her visit to Ushuaia and wrote about her hikes in the Tierra Del Fuego National Park and to Laguna Esmeralda.

Ushuaia with mountains tierra del fuego argentinaWe decided that we wanted to see more of the wildlife that is indigenous to this part of the world, like penguins, seals, orcas and local birds, which is how we ended up on the boat to tour the Beagle Channel.

Choosing the tours seemed fairly arbitrary, as a number of huts right outside the port offer a variety of tours at similar prices. Shop around a bit as some include trips to see penguins, others take passengers out to the even more isolated H Island. Some tours have catamarans, others motorboats. We went with Patagonia Adventures (ARS300/~US$56 for a 4-hour trip incl. coffee and snacks).

The scenery here was intense and rough, empty islands previously populated by indigenous populations who rubbed sea lion and whale blubber on their skin year round to stay warm. The boat stopped at various points to admire sea lion colonies and hundreds of cormorants, and a scenic hike across a deserted island reminded us of northern Scotland.

Ushuaia WildlifeMake no mistake, however, there is no mistaking where you are, and the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse is not only the southernmost lighthouse in the world, but also the point where the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean meet, which made us realize once again just how far south we were!

Beagle Channel and Les EclaireursIf you are looking for some activities in warmer surroundings, there are a number of interesting museums in town for at or under US$10, including the Prison Museum (Presidio) which housed some of the worst criminals of Argentina until its closing in 1947), the Yámana Museum, where you can learn about the indigenous Yámana people to first inhabit Tierra del Fuego or the Museo del fin del mundo, or ‘end of the world museum’, which educates about the history, wildlife and settlement of the area.

Tips for your visit to Ushuaia:

1. Book accommodation in advance No matter if it is high or low season, hotels are astronomically expensive ($200 for a basic double room), meaning relatively economical guesthouses and hostels are always booked. We walked around for over an hour before deciding to pay through the nose for a hostel we would never recommend to anyone.

2. Cruisers – don’t book Ushuaia tours with your cruise operators For any South American cruisers stopping in Ushuaia – your cruise will dock in the center of town and tours can be booked right on the shore for a fraction of what you will pay by booking on the ship. Cruisers on our Beagle Channel tour paid more than double than what we did, and could have just booked it that morning like we did.

3. Where to eat Since it is a popular tourist destination, there are plenty of places to eat on the main tourist drag, Avenida San Martin, and the side streets around there. We had decent pizza at BarDPizzas (Av San Martin 753) and loved El Almacen de Ramos General (Maipu 749), an over 100-year old traditional, old-fashioned grocery store-turned-restaurant with delicious pastries and good wi-fi. Café Xpresso (Av San Martin and Lasterre) was another great place to work at, with lots of plugs and free wi-fi.

visit Ushuaia

4. Bring US Dollars when you visit Ushuaia, and find a place with a Blue Dollar exchange rate – This will save you a lot of money, since Ushuaia is generally not cheap due to its isolated location.

5. Dress warmer than we did – Even in the Argentine summer (December – March), temperatures rarely rise above 12°C/54°F.

 

Inflation and the Blue Dollar: How much does it really cost to travel in Argentina? - GlobetrotterGirls

Sunday 4th of April 2021

[…] Touring the Beagle Channel in Ushuaia was ARS300 per person, visiting Perito Moreno Glacier was ARS310 per person (transportation, boat ride and National Park entrance fee), Nahuel Huapi National Park was ARS50 and our guided tour of the Quebrada De Las Conchas was ARS100 per person. We splurged on an empanada cooking class in Buenos Aires (US$55) and went on a graffiti tour there ($25), but most of the things you shouldn’t miss in Buenos Aires are actually free. […]

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Tuesday 30th of March 2021

[…] Uruguay. After months of chilly (followed by downright freezing) travel through Patagonia down to the end of the world, digging our toes in the sand would have been sweet therapy. Instead we had already booked four […]

Sima

Monday 2nd of November 2015

Thank you for your blog- planning our trip to Patagonia - have bout 7 to 10 days which I know is not long- our goal is to see the highlights - from the photos, there is no doubt that this area is amazing and beautiful but I feel that some of the scenes may start to look similar- if you had to pick 4-5 highlights (considering long distances and our lack of time), what would cities and or destinations would you recommend in Patagonia beyond the lake district? Thank you so much

Dani

Tuesday 10th of November 2015

Hi Sima, definitely don't miss El Chalten, El Calafate (both are very close together.. about 3 hrs apart) and Torres Del Paine. If I added another one it'd be Bariloche in Argentina. But it was a pain to get down to the other three places from there (well unless you a enjoy a 27-hour bus ride through the pampa). You can easily spend three days hiking in El Chalten, and see Torres del Paine in a day like we did, or hike there for several days. El Calafate with Perito Moreno Glacier can also be done in a day (do the glacier hike, I regret not having done it!)

Martin

Friday 6th of February 2015

Nothing compares 2 U...shuaia! Nice you manage to get down here. Have you heard the music from Ushuaia? check Vodevil www.vodevil.com.ar fueguian rock since1995.

Martin

Friday 6th of February 2015

Nothing compares 2 U...shuaia! Nice you manage to get down here. Have you heard the music from Ushuaia? check Vodevil www.vodevil.com.ar fueguian rock from 1995.