Often referred to as “the end of the world,” Ushuaia serves as a gateway to Antarctica. But whether you’re about embark on a cruise to Antarctica, or ready to explore Patagonia, it’s worth spending there at least a couple of days. There are many things to do in Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego National Park is just beautiful.
As the flight started its descent, the excitement mounted. I would soon reach Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, also nicknamed “Fin del Mundo” (“the end of the world”), and Tierra del Fuego National Park.
From my window seat on the flight from Buenos Aires, I looked in awe at the ample bay surrounded by mountains and counted the minutes before setting foot in wild Patagonia.
All of a sudden, strong gusts of winds shook the plane. The pilot announced that he would have to land from a different angle. We circled the bay, shook like a cocktail, and finally reached the strip. It was one of the scariest landings in my life, and I felt relieved when the plane eventually reached the taxi position.
I climbed down the stairs of the aircraft and walked the short distance to the airport building, the heavy wind pushing and pulling me. I would soon find out that wind is almost unremitting in Patagonia, but right then, I didn’t care. A longstanding dream was coming true. I loved all my previous trips to South-America and was looking forward to discovering the wild beauty of Patagonia. The plan was to start from the southernmost city and travel up north, stopping along the way to the Perito Moreno, Los Glaciares, Bariloche, and back to Buenos Aires.
Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel
The city was founded in 1884, originally as a missionary base, and only a few years later became a penal colony for Argentina’s most dangerous criminals. You can still see signs of Ushuaia’s past importance as a prison in a few murals in the city and its surroundings.
Ushuaia overlooks the Beagle channel, the long strait dividing Argentina and Chile, and its background scenery is dominated by the snow-capped Martial mountain range. In the recent years, the small city has become a popular tourist destination as the one of the five Antarctic gateway cities and the starting or ending point of a journey across Patagonia.
Things to do in Ushuaia
Once a sleepy village, Ushuaia has become a city of about 80,000 residents, where tourism plays an essential role in the local economy, together with fishing, oil and natural gas extraction, and sheep farming. While day is enough to stroll around the city and visit a few Museums, there are many excursion from Ushuaia making it worth staying a little longer.
Wander in the city and along the harbor
When I strolled around the harbor, the sky was dotted with clouds giving it a sense of depth that made it seem almost endless. The docked ships, with their blue and red main bodies, added a touch of bright color and made me think of the ancient explorers and dream of faraway wild lands. I wandered around the harbor in awe, listening to the howling wind and the squawking gulls, breathing the salty air.
A visit to the popular Maritime Museum and the Museum of the End of the World are a good opportunity to get a glimpse into the city’s maritime past and the history of the region.
With its jumbled houses and buildings, and the cafes and restaurants haunted by tourists, the attractiveness of Ushuaia lays in its being at the “Fin del Mundo” rather than innate prettiness. However, the surrounding scenery is beautiful, and there are many excursion from Ushuaia to choose from.
Savour the delicious seafood
Ushuaia is home to a thriving seafood industry, with fresh seafood caught daily in the surrounding waters. There, you can sample local delicacies such as king crab, cod and amazing mussels. And unless you don’t like seafood, even you only spend one day in Ushuaiua there’s one thing you must eat: centolla, as they call the southern king crab.
The king crab is expensive, like everything in Ushuaia and Patagonia, but it’s too good not to give yourself a treat. Restaurants cook it in different fashions, although I would recommend to have it prepared plain: boiled and served with a bit of raw oil and lemon. Without sauces and other additional ingredients, you’ll fully taste the delicate and tender flesh of this delicious shellfish.
Hike the stunning Tierra del Fuego National Park
If you have time for only one excursion from Ushuaia, my advice is to visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park. You’ll hike enjoying the beautiful scenery, and you with a guided tour you can also do some canoeing.
To enjoy the wild landscapes surrounding Ushuaia and beat the crowds, I decided to go hiking in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Having trekked the Andes in Peru a few years ago, I was curious to see what the southern end of the mountain range would be like.
There are several hiking trails to choose from in Tierra del Fuego National Park. I decided to walk the 8 km Coastal Path (Senda Costera) and soon found out that it’s a favorite for a good reason.
The trail connecting Ensenada Bay to Lapataya Bay offers magnificent views of the Beagle Channel and the surrounding high peaks. Small coves, lenga beech trees bent by the strong wind, vast plains created by the glacial erosion, and clouds running fast across the deep blue sky: Tierra del Fuego National Park is beautiful and a must-see in Ushuaia.
Although you can visit on you wn, there are a few day tours from Ushuaia you may want to look at:
- A full-day excursion from Ushuaia to Tierra del Fuego National Park, where you’ll have time to do some hiking and canoeing.
- Tierra del Fuego N.P. half-day guided tour with hotel pick-up and lunch.
Sail Beagle Channel and spot wildlife
The boat tour along the Beagle Channel is by far the most popular excursion from Ushuaia. While sailing on the strait that separates Argentina from Chile you’ll admire the stunning landscape and have the chance to spot fur seals, sea lions, penguins, and a wide variety of birds. You’ll also get to see Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, built in 1919, standing out on the mountains backdrop.
It’s possible to experience the Beagle Channel in several ways, including:
- A half-day Beagle Channel boat tour with a short hike.
- For the more adventurous, there’s a full-day trip paddling on a large inflatable canoe, for a unique experience. You’ll hike around Gable Island, cruise around Martillo Island to see the colonies of Gentoo and Magellanics penguins, and have a delicious lunch cooked on site.
Discover Tierra del Fuego lakes on a 4×4 adventure
I love hiking and slow travel, but it’s also true that on foot there’s only that much distance you can cover in one day. It’s possible to discover the beauty of Terra del Fuego and its pristine lakes on a 4×4 day tour.
A guide will drive you north, amid a wild and breathtaking landscape of snow-capped mountains and forests. You’ll admire the beauty of the lakes surrounding Ushuaia, and savour a delicious lunch. Get ready to snap many photos, and to discover some remote areas you can only reach with a 4×4 vehicle!
Traveling to Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego National Park: Practical Information
How to get to Ushuaia:
Traveling by plane to Ushuaia is the most common, easiest, and quickest way to reach the “Fin del Mundo”. There are regular flights from/to Buenos Aires and Calafate and only a few from/to Cordoba and Trelew.
Keep in mind that since there’s almost no competition, internal flights in Argentina are expensive. To find the best airline deals, I usually rely on Trip.com.
Best time to visit Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego
Although there are flights all year round, the best period to visit Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego is from December to March, the local Summer. Beware that the climate in Tierra del Fuego is humid, with an abundance of rain and clouds all year. Don’t expect high temperatures, even if the sun shines, and be ready for the cold and often windy days.
Where to stay in Ushuaia:
December to March are extremely busy, so I strongly recommend booking your accommodation largely in advance. Even hostels get easily fully booked (and while I was there, I saw my share of people roaming around in a desperate search for a room).
- Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa – You won’t regret being a little far from the center at this five stars hotel. The views are stunning, and Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa offers a wide array of amenities, including a modern fitness center, as well as an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.
- Los Cauquenes Resort + Spa is a wonderful 5-stars hotel with magnificent views over the Beagle Channel. The resort features a Spa, a swimming pool, and fitness facilities and organizes exclusive excursions to the most beautiful spots.
- Alto Andino Hotel is a good choice if you want to stay in town. The hotel is close to the bay and features tastefully decorated modern rooms with cable TV and a mini-bar.
- Hostería Patagonia Jarke – Excellent location, cozy alpine-style decor, and panoramic views of the Bay and the Beagle Strait.
Where to eat in Ushuaia:
There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. Here are two restaurants where I had great food.
- Kaupè: A few minutes outside of the center, on a steep road, Kaupè is expensive, but the food is excellent (especially seafood and king crab), and you’ll enjoy the view of the bay.
- La Sirena y El Capitan: A warm atmosphere welcomes guests at La Sirena y El Capitan. Great fish and seafood.
Ushuaia Guided Tours and Excursions:
Whether you’re short on time, don’t feel confident visiting by yourself a country where English is little spoken, or wish to have a special experience, you may consider taking a guided tour. Here are a few interesting options.
- Beagle Channel & Sea Wolves Island Catamaran Cruise: One of the most popular tours to enjoy wildlife.
- Emerald Lagoon Trekking: Small-group guided hiking tour, with transportation from your hotel.
- Full Day Tour of Cabo San Pablo and Estancia Pirinaica: Discover a lesser-known area of Tierra del Fuego National Park and enjoy a delicious lunch.
5 essential items to pack for Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego
- Waterproof hardshell jacket: you’ll find out soon enough that the weather in Ushuaia is unpredictable and that there are high chances of wind, rain, and cold.
- Waterproof hiking shoes: there are few things I dislike as much as having wet feet. And even if you don’t plan to hike, you’ll be glad to have a pair of sturdy, waterproof shoes.
- Waterproof lightweight poncho: in case of heavy rain, you want to protect yourself and your bag/backpack as much as possible.
- Multiple ports USB quick charger: one thing I noticed in Patagonia is that often, the number of wall sockets is limited. If you want to be able to charge multiple devices easily, you’ll need a 6-port fast charger.
- Quick dry pants: the weather in Tierra del Fuego can change in a matter of minutes, and there are chances to get wet sooner than later. It’s easier to protect the upper body, and you’ll be glad if you have trousers drying quickly.
TIP: Don’t forget travel insurance. We all want a trip to be fantastic, but although unlikely, something could go wrong. Comprehensive travel insurance will ensure your peace of mind (and save you a lot of money) in case of unexpected, unfortunate events.
Pin for later!
Note: This article contains affiliate links. The products and services suggested are carefully selected, and while the price for you doesn’t change, if you buy any of them, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you.