Things to do in Ushuaia, the end of the world in Argentina
Ushuaia’s nickname is ‘Fin del Mundo’, which means End of the World. Is it really the end of the world then? Officially it’s not, however for many travelers it’s the southernmost piece of land they will ever reach on their journeys. Unless you are continuing on to Cape Horn or Antarctica, that is. Ushuaia is located all the way down south in Argentinean Patagonia, at the shores of the Beagle Channel. There are some 55.000 people living down there and they have to bear with a lot of wind and cold weather. The average temperature in summer is no more than 10.3 degrees Celcius and the highest temperature ever measured hasn’t even reached 30 degrees Celcius. Officially, Ushuaia has a subpolar oceanic climate, which is similar to Reykjavik’s climate, for example, which happens to be another favorite town of mine to hang out at. Whether it’s a sunny day or a rainy day, there are plenty of things to do in Ushuaia. Here are my favorites for a sunny day!
I had the pleasure of visiting Ushuaia twice so far. The first time was in 2009 and I got lucky as I only had 48 hours and did have sunshine most of the time. The second time was in 2014 and this time I had poor luck, as it rained continuously. Not a little drip but more the cats and dogs style of rain. This made me decide to not leave town for the time there (less than 24 hours) and I enjoyed a day full of great museums, heavenly sweet cakes and silly souvenirs. I wrote a post about things to do in Ushuaia on a rainy day earlier, so make sure to check this blog out, too!
A famous sight in town is the Malvinas monument at Plaza Islas Malvinas. Talking about this with Argentineans is not recommended, unless you want to start an argument. The monument is well worth paying a vist, here you can pay some respect to those who perished during the 1982 Falklands war. It’s located right at harbor of Ushuaia, so it’s hard to miss. From here, you will also have an amazing view across the Beagle Channel, especially on a sunny day!
Although the town itself has plenty to offer for a day or two, the area surrounding Ushuaia is even more impressive. Tucked into the foothills of the Andes mountain range, it’s a perfect setting for some further exploration. I spent a day in the amazing Tierra del Fuego National Park where I did some truly cool hikes. Here I also visited the southernmost post office in the world and saw the end of what is called the Panamericana Highway. From here, you just can’t go any further, at least not by car. You can get on a tour to the park but the cheapest way to get there is by local bus from town center. Also pick up a free (copied) hiking map at the Tourist Information, you don’t need a real hiking map unless you are going to explore the backcountry as well. If you stick to the official trails, you should be fine with this one.
And then there’s the famous Beagle Channel, one of the three navigable channels around South America that connects the Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean. The channel received its name from the ship HMS Beagle, once the home to the legendary naturalist Charles Darwin. You can’t have visited Ushuaia without a tour on the Beagle Channel. Not only is it a great way to explore this part of the world but it will give you some picture perfect views of the area. You can either go on a full day tour or a half day tour. Given the little amount of time I had available there, I went for the half day tour, covering enough to get a taste of what’s to see.
First up, I sailed to a cormorant and sea lion colony. Since it was a perfect sunny day, they were just lazy and sunbathing. I came across the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse (not to be mistaken by the San Juan de Salvamento lighthouse from Jules Verne’s novel The Lighthouse at the End of the World) and stepped onto the soil of Bridges Island where I took a short interpretive walk to learn more about the vegetation of this area. On the way back, I got to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Martial Mountains that surround Ushuaia.
When you decide to stay in town, various points of interest include Museo del Fin del Mundo, Museo Maritimo (my pick) and the harbor. Also make sure to stroll back and forth on Av. Maipú for some chocolate and/or souvenir shopping.
More tips and tricks to consider when visiting Ushuaia
– You can easily reach Ushuaia by plane from various places in Argentina with Aerolineas Argentinas. Alternatively you can travel by coach, even from Punta Arenas in Chile. If you want to travel there the fancy way, make sure to embark on a luxury 4- or 5 day boattrip from Punta Arenas, operated by Cruceros Australis. I did this in 2014 and it was ultimately cool!
– There’ are plenty of places to stay however it’s recommended to book in advance. When cruise ships arrive in town, accommodation gets scarce and pricy. The first time we went to Ushuaia we stayed at Cruz del Sur Hostel which has since then moved to a location close to downtown. The second time I stayed at Campanilla Hotel which has a good price yet is quite a bit out of town. Ushuaia has a wide variety of accommodation and prices vary throughout the season.
– I booked my boat trip upon arrival for the same afternoon. There are plenty of companies willing to take you out so comparing prices and tours may prove useful. There are half day tours and full day tours. Motion sickness pills are a must if you have a weak stomach. Don’t forget to dress up warm, too, as it can be pretty chilly on board.
– The famous “Fin del Mundo” sign is right down at the harbor, you can’t miss it an it’s just a shot you should make, no matter how many tourists there are and want to get the same pictures as you. After all, you’re probably only going to be here once, right?
– Just Above town lies the Martial Glacier, tucked away in the Martial Mountains. I planned on going there last March but the weather made it impossible. From what I’ve heard, the glacier is not very impressive but the views over Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel are gorgeous. You can opt to take the chairlift up or you can take the walk instead.
– When in town, you have to try some sweetness at Tante Sara. They truly have the best cakes in town. Or maybe even in Argentina. There’s a couple of brands on the main street (Av. Maipú) so it’s hard to miss.
When I will be back in Ushuaia, there’s going to be so much more to explore, such as further hiking in Tierra del Fuego and paddling on the Beagle Channel, as well as seeing the penguins and trekking up to Glaciar Martial. Maybe even take the boat tour Isla Navarino and travel even further down south. Is it a question if I will be back? No, it’s a fact, as I’m determined to visit Antarctica one day …
What are your favorite things to do in Ushuaia?
Want to read more about Argentina and/or things to do in Ushuaia? You may also enjoy the following posts:
– Why a trip to Argentina should be on your bucketlist
– Patagonia Roadtrip: Ruta de los Siete Lagos and Parque Nacional Lanín
– Things to do in Ushuaia on a rainy day
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Thanks for sharing!