You've come to Fin del Mundo, at the southern end of theArgentina, in the heart of the Tierra del Fuego. It's been a long journey, but every single kilometre was worth it. Welcome to Ushuaia and its surroundings, amidst the snow-capped peaks of Patagonia, turquoise lakes, verdant woods and an incredible historical and cultural heritage hidden between one mountain path and another.
Ushuaia is located in the archipelago of the Tierra del Fuego and is truly located at the end of the world, or rather, at the last end of South America. Delimited by the Magellan Strait and the Beagle Canal, this magical paradise was discovered for the first time in 1520 by the expedition led, in fact, by Fernando Magellan on account of the crown of Spain.
Passing by aboard his boat, the Portuguese navigator looked towards the shore and noticed that there were lit fires. Initially, the earth took the name of "Land of Rivers". It was later revealed that it was the Yàmana natives who lit them with the intention of warming up. The islands of this enchanting archipelago remained under the control of the indigenous tribes until the second half of the 19th century, when pioneers began to swarm here in the throes of the gold rush and hungry for government subsidies for sheep farming – an activity that is still very popular amongst the local gauchos.
This is how Ushuaia, the capital and main centre of the local activities, was established. After a period of rural activity, in the early 1900s it became an important penal colony, while today it lives mainly on tourism and is the perfect logistics base for a cruise to Antarctica. As in most Argentine cities, you can see beautiful monuments here too. Take a trip to monument to the fallen from the Malvinas Islands (the Falklands), conflict which is located right in Parque Malvinas – opposite the Beagle Canal. There you will find a beautiful stone that bears a single word that expresses all the spirit and strength of the local population: Volveremos! (We'll be back).
The city, overlooking the Beagle Canal, is surrounded by the Olivia and Cinco Hermanos mountains, and is the ideal location to end a long journey through Argentina, stopping a few days in the peace and quiet of the unspoiled nature of a place where time has stopped. Ushuaia, with its latitude 54 46' south, is the southernmost city in the world.
Come to Ushuaia for the incredible landscapes and stay for the outdoor activities organised by the region, suitable for all types of activities: trekking, skiing, mountain climbing and much more. The city is perfect for enjoy the peace and serenity of a secluded place and, at the same time, almost completely untouched despite offering excellent accommodation. And you will also be amazed by the welcome of the locals: warm, generous and always available to help. If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, you have to taste the delicious centolla, the typical dish from the End of the World. This crustacean, which we know with name crab, is one of the local specialities and deserves a taste at some of Ushuaia's best-loved restaurants. Grilled meat is also excellent.
Let's find out together some of the best places to visit in Ushuaia and the surrounding area, in order to help you formulate a travel programme that suits your personal tastes:
- The national park: Torres del Paine
- Tierra del Fuego National Park
- Perito Moreno Glacier
- Maritimo y del Presidio Museum
- Museum of the End of the World
- Fagnano and Escondido Lakes
- Mauseo Yamana
- Train of the End of the World
- Martial Glacier
- Sail the Beagle Canal
- Isla de los Pajaros y de los Lobos
- End of the World Lighthouse
- Trekking in the Esmeralda Lagoon
The national park: Torres del Paine
The Torres del Paine National Park is one of Chile’s protected areas and borders Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina to the north. It is immense and is one of the busiest in the country, especially frequented by European tourists looking for a thrill of adventure. In 1978 it was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, and is part of the eleven protected areas of the Magellan region and the Chilean Antarctica.
The park presents a wide variety of natural environments, from the mountains (such as Cerro Paine, with its 3050 metres, the Torres del Paine and the Cuernos del Paine), valleys, rivers, lakes and incredible glaciers as far as the eye can see. Go to Torres del Paine for the unforgettable scenery and photos and stay for the extraordinary local fauna, so varied that it pleases everyone. You are in the land of cougars, guanachos and grey foxes, but also the Marà, the nandù and the condors of the Andes. Also admire Chile's flamingo and musk duck as well as South America's only bear, the spectacled bear.
So what can you do in Torres del Paine? Let's start by saying that many of the activities proposed are excursions, some more obvious than others. Let's start with the climb to Torres del Paine, spectacular peaks that jut out into the air and disappear into the clouds. Make this climb early in the morning and you will see the light of dawn hitting the rock, giving it an orange colour that will conquer your soul.
If you are here for the local wildlife you need to consult an expert guide. Identifying animals, such as cougars and guanacos, is not an easy operation and requires stakeouts and a good knowledge of the habitat. Thrill-seekers will appreciate the kayaking, a magical adventure that will allow you to immerse yourself in the blue and iceberg-filled waters of Grey Lake, Rio Grey or Rio Serrano. There are a few spots suitable for this type of sport, but each of them is worth it and will pay off every effort made to do the activity. Those who prefer less roaring activities may decide to go riding with the gauchos. In fact, there are many "estancias" around here, that is, sheep farms. Gauchos are the South American equivalent of the cowboy and are often willing to take you with them in their daily activities. Admission packages usually include a sheep meat barbecue.
The waters of the lakes of Torres del Paine are also excellent for flying fishing, especially in the vicinity of the Rio Serrano. Alternatively, there is always the possibility of renting a bike and enjoying the view from the most popular routes, but definitely more relaxing!
Tierra del Fuego National Park
As we promised you, those who come to Ushuaia do so for the natural beauty. And at the Tierra del Fuego National Park there is so much to see and experience! The park is located about 12 km from the city, on the southernmost tip of the American continent. It is no coincidence, then, that this place is nicknamed "the end of the world"! Start from Ushuaia through a landscape of lagoons and rivers, reach the Beagle Canal and cross Mount Susana, then reach the old prison which is now the location of the Southern Fuegian Railway, where the "train of the end of the world" leaves from. From here, continue for Ensenada Bay, where you can remotely admire the islands of Redonda and Estorbo, as well as the Sampaio Mountains of Chile. In this national park you can enjoy hiking and climbing and taking unforgettable photographs.
The most common native animals are the guanaco, the kaiken, the cormorant, the seagull and the red fox. Among the imported animals are the European rabbit, beaver and southern trout, which weighs up to 12 kg. In particular, the history of the beaver is quite interesting: a few years ago, 25 pairs of this animal were imported from Canada with the intention of starting a fur industry. Unfortunately, the quality was not the same, and therefore the animals were released in to Lake Fagnano and in a short time, in the absence of natural predators, they multiplied dramatically, causing serious damage to the local ecosystem. Even the idea of putting a price of 5 pesos to encourage their killing by hunters was not very successful, given the poor edibility of beaver meat.
Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno is a beautiful glacier in the heart of the Los Glaciares National Park, and is perhaps one of the most famous and well-known glaciers in the world. This icy enchantment covers an area of 250 square kilometres by 5 kilometres wide and offers a truly impressive view to the tourist brave enough to reach it.
Los Glaciares was declared a reserve of the biosphere UNESCO in 1981, and since then has only become more and more popular and attracted even more tourists. Perito Moreno is part of the South Patagonia Ice Field, the world’s third largest body of frozen water. This beautiful glacier is also visible from Torres del Paine, Huemul di El Chaltén and, of course, from the wooden walk that crosses the Perito.
Those who arrive in Ushuaia must put the Perito Moreno on the to-do list. In addition to a breathtaking landscape, the glacier looks like a huge block from which, constantly, pieces break off and throw themselves into the green sea below.
If, as you should, you're planning a visit here, there are a few things you should know. First of all, Perito Moreno is not located in the city of the same name, which is located 600 kilometres further north. The glacier rises just outside El Calafate. The best way to get to the location is by taxi, asking it to wait while you take a good look at the surroundings. If you can share your trip with some other group of travellers, the experience will also be quite cheap. Buses tend to arrive late in the morning, so while it's a convenient alternative, you'd be in danger of missing out on the first light of dawn on such a special location.
For one really complete visit get ready to spend a few hours on this walk. In addition to the various wooden walkways, you can get a seat on one of the ships that sail around it, or stroll around. The area is filled with tourist facilities such as bars, bathrooms and visitor centres, so you won't have to worry too much about stops. Despite being an incredible show all year round, Perito Moreno gives its best in autumn, when the leaves change colour and the contrast with the ice is even more breathtaking.
Maritimo y del Presidio Museum
As explained, Ushuaia was an Argentine penal colony for decades. The prisoners were for the first time transported from Isla de los Estados to here in 1906 to build the national prison, which was completed in 1920. The depressing-looking cells could house up to 380 inmates, but they reached an overcrowding of 800 people in 1947, when the prison finally closed its doors.
Among the most famous prisoners who have served their sentences in Ushuaia are the author Ricardo Rojas and the anarchist Simon Radowitzky. The Maritime Museum of the city is located in this building, which in 1997 was declared a Historic Monument by the National Congress. Run by a non-profit civil association, the Martime Museum has no government funding to rely on, which means that entrance tickets and donations are the only money that keeps the property going.
The Museum includes a series of departments dedicated to the history of the prison and the territory, providing the tourist with a general smattering on everything there is to know about this somewhat magical place.
Visitors to Pavilion IV arrive at the Ushuaia Prison Museum, a structure entirely dedicated to the first prison in the Tierra del Fuego, initially formed to be a colonial detention area. The installation includes information about the life of inmates, their work, punishments and prison closures, with some insights into the sad history of some of the most famous prisoners the area has hosted. The second floor houses a permanent installation on the provincial police and an exhibition dedicated to the national prison system.
Here's everything you've ever wanted to know about Antarctic fauna, flora, gold prospectors, early settlers and scientific expeditions. The Maritime Museum includes a series of ship models and shows an insight into the history of the Tierra del Fuego, especially from the point of view of the conquerors.
Fin del Mundo Museum
The Fin del Mundo Museum is divided into two different buildings: Casa Banco Naciòn (Maipù 173) and the Antigua Casa de Gobierno (Masipù 465). The property offers permanent and temporary exhibitions and preserves a vast historical archive of the city's events. Its vast heritage has been entirely donated by private collections and institutional collaborations made possible by multiple research programmes.
Admission is free only for residents in The Tierra del Fuego province, but tourists should visit to immerse themselves in the local culture and see the story of a piece of land as fascinating as that of the "end of the world" – a name that always manages to make one shiver.
Fagnano and Escondido Lakes
On your visit to Ushuaia, you can't miss a visit to the Fagnano and Escondido Lakes, located in the heart of the Tierra del Fuego.
“Escondido" means hidden: this lake stands at the foot of the Garibaldi Pass and requires a 60-kilometre journey from the city to be reached, crossing the northern part of Ushuaia where all the winter sports facilities are built.
The lake of Fagnano is located 100 kilometres from the city, continuing on National Road No.3, skirting Rio Olivia and various sawmills. Fagnano is one of the largest lakes in the world and occupies a tectonic depression that separates the South American and Scotia plates. To see both lakes you need a guided excursion or to rent a good vehicle: the visit takes all day, but it's worth it thanks to the amazing views you can enjoy on the shores of these wonderful lakes located at the end of the world.
Let's start from the origins: The Tierra del Fuego was the last area of the earth to have been inhabited, and this happened no later than 9,000 BC. They were the ancestors of the Yamana, the local population at the end of the world.
The Yamana Museum provides an accurate account of the life and history of this group of natives, who were decimated in the late 19th century mainly by disease brought by Europeans. Although the same Charles Darwin wrote that the people of this land were "wild and miserable", the museum will make you open your eyes to the fact that the Yamana were a resource-filled and adaptable population, capable of surviving a hostile climate like that of the Tierra del Fuego.
Some ancient English photographs depict the statuesque figures of the Yamana, their facial paintings and the use of seal fat to keep warm. The Yamana had also devised a method to bring fire with them wherever they went.
Train at the End of the World
Get on board the Train of the End of the World and immerse yourself in a unique journey of history and culture in Ushuaia. This train allows you to explore the Tierra del Fuego National Park on an impressive historical tour through the Argentine coastal park.
It is the same path that the inmates who founded the prison between 1910 and 1947 followed. When you arrive at the station at the end of the world you can feel the pinch in the cold air: those who board the famous train enjoy a trip that is really one of a kind.
The first stop is La Macarena, where you make a 15-minute stop to take pictures and take a few short walks. The train whistle will tell you when it's time to get on board again. Then proceed through the Tierra del Fuego National Park, passing through the Tree Cemetery, the Pipo River and finally the south station. From here you can stop to continue your journey in the National Park, even for more than a day – in fact, there are hotels available.
A few kilometres from the centre of Ushuaia, the Martial Glacier, one of the most beautiful natural attractions in the Tierra del Fuego not only for its breathtaking spectacle, but also because it can be visited at any time of the year.
1050 metres above sea level, the Martial Glacier owes his name to the explorer who discovered it, Luis Fernando Martial, head of the French scientific expedition that arrived here in 1883. To reach the location, tourists today have to walk along a road that carries the same name and is kept clean even in winter to allow the passage of vehicles. In the summer, Martial becomes the ideal location for hiking and trekking suitable for all types of legs and stamina. The area also has a chairlift that leads directly to the peaks, where there are ski resorts.
Sailing the Beagle Canal
If you are here for nature, as is very likely, you must go sailing on the Beagle Canal. By catamaran or sailboat it doesn't matter: not only are you in the southernmost city in the world, but you are crossing the Beagle, a canal that offers breathtaking scenery and simply incredible wildlife.
Get ready to admire seals, sea lions, penguins, cormorants, whales and so many other creatures that will take your breath away. If you are lucky enough to find a sunny day, with a nice wind, you will also be able to admire the beauties of the islands of Los Pajaros y de los Lobos. Departing from Ushuaia, there are plenty of tours that cross the Beagle Canal and allow you to come into contact with the unspoiled nature of the end of the world.
How to resist? Those who cruise on the Beagle Canal can also admire the remains of the ship Mount Cervantes, which sank in these waters around the 1930s. The excursion also arrives at Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse and the Bridges Islands Archipelago. The tour usually lasts for two hours and is usually done in English.
Isla de los Pajaros y de los Lobos
End of the World Lighthouse
They call it the End of the World Lighthouse and it's in Ushuaia. Also known as the San Juan de Salvamento Lighthouse, it is the oldest in Argentine territory and the first in history to be built in the southern waters. Despite being built in 1884, it was in 1905 that this huge lighthouse gained its well-deserved fame, being mentioned in the famous novel of the same name by Jules Verne.
At the time, the lighthouse of San Juan decreed the end of the mapped territory and the beginning of the "unknown land" of Antarctica. This spectacular architectural monument is located about 250 kilometres from the capital city of the Tierra del Fuego province, in a bay which is U.S. property. The lighthouse has an unusual octagonal structure and is equipped with 7 oil lamps.
After many years of honourable service, the structure deteriorated to the point that in 1997, in honour of Jules Verne, the structure was completely rebuilt and, to date, regularly performs its task in navigating the waters of the territory.
The lighthouse is visible along the coasts during tours leading to the Isla de los Lobos, but be beware of glacial winds!
Trekking in the Esmeralda Lagoon
Those who love nature will love trekking and climbing at the Esmeralda Lagoon, one of the go-to destinations for all sports fans embarking on a trip to the Tierra del Fuego.
Although it is so famous, it does not require special skills: it is a short route with a very moderate elevation. What you will remember forever is the landscape. Esmeralda Lagoon is a beautiful glacial lake about 20 kilometres from Ushuaia, surrounded by the Albino Glacier and the peaks of Las Torres and Cordòn Toribio.
It starts at Valle de Los Lobos, which is located on Ruta 3, where you can see a large parking lot and a large blue sign indicating access to the path. To get to the lagoon you just need to follow the directions. The initial section consists mainly of fragrant, slightly spooky woodland, and it will take about 45 minutes to get to the lake. In addition to the sighting of beaver dams, if you are quiet enough while moving, you will also be able to admire some magnificent fox specimens living in this stretch of the Tierra del Fuego. Despite being a very muddy route, it is worth it: Laguna Esmeralda is a lovely place that will stay forever in your heart and photo albums.
Discover Ushuaia with Costa Cruises
Take advantage of a Costa Cruise to discover the fascinating Ushuaia, in the heart of the Tierra del Fuego. The Perito Moreno Glacier and some of the most beautiful natural spectacles, such as Torres del Paine National Park, await you.