Ushuaia is often referred to as "The End of the World" or "El Fin del Mundo". It is the most southern city in the Planet (and of course the southern place of our roadtrip across South America)! Ushuaia is also home of the famous Tierra del Fuego National Park and it is close to several lakes and islands. Its port is famous for being the jumping off point for Antarctica and Southern Ocean expeditions.
We spent a few days around exploring this cold and intriguing place and these were our favorite things:
- Hiking at Tierra del Fuego National Park - Probably one of the main reasons to visit Ushuaia is for this national park, the first coastal reserve of Argentina created in 1960. It's located southwestern Tierra del Fuego province (Argentina) 12 km from Ushuaia, over the borderline with Chile and it is a good example of the Patagonian forest. Peaks, valleys, rivers, forests, bays and lakes make this park a mix of landscapes that deserve to be seen. We spent one full day at the park (170$ARG/person) and after talking with a girl from the visitor center about the best trails and viewings we started to explore it. And our top choices from this visit are:
- Driving Route 3 until the end - We are actually driving through this route since we left Buenos Aires (3.079 km ago with some deviations on the way!) and it was an important mark for us to see the sign that says "Aqui finaliza la Ruta Nac. Nº3" (hear finishes the National Route 3). It's also weird to think that there's no more roads to go because it's the end of the world and we would actually need a boat to go further.
- Rio Pipo Trail and Waterfall - Part of this trail we did by car and we just walked the last part of it through the forest and the river to see the small waterfall. We enjoyed more the walk than the waterfall itself. We saw several species of birds during this small trail.
- Pampa Alta Trail - This trail was the hardest one for us (we didn't do the Cerro Guanaco trail that is the hardest of the park). It took us almost 2 hours to do all the trail (going and coming back) but the panoramic views we had at the top were awesome! From there we saw Canal Beagle and several mountains and peaks (some of them Argentinian and others Chilean). The trail was a little bit steep sometimes but we had opportunity to observe most of the park landscapes, including a beavery.
- Laguna Verde viewpoint - This was just a quick stop to admire the landscape and take some pictures with this very green lagoon. The viewpoint is almost immediately in the R3 so it's very easy to arrive by car.
- Laguna Negra Trail and viewpoint - In this trail it's possible to observe a peat bog formation ("turbera"). It is an interpretative trail so we could understand better how a bog form, types and why and when it happened at this national park. At the end of the trail it's also possible to admire the black lagoon and some birds swimming around.
- Castorera ("beavery") - This was a small trail we did (15 minutes in total) trying to see the beavers. We didn't saw them but we saw their "houses" (dams) and the way they changed the river courses and forests at the national park. It was pretty impressive to see how such a small animal could impact so much the environment (beavers were introduced by Europeans causing several environmental and ecological damages).
- Senda de la Baliza Trail - A trail with 3 km in total through another beavery and forest, but that took us to a beach in the Lapataia Bay. This trail allowed us to see the bay closer and several birds.
- Driving Paso Garibaldi - Once we left Tolhuin behind (around 100 km from Rio Grande), Route 3 offered us a spectacular scenario through mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and snow (only at the peaks). There were some viewpoints where we fortunately could stop the car and take some pictures. The worst part is that it was cloudy and rainy so the pictures were not so great... Anyway it was one of the best drivings we had in Patagonia in terms of natural beauty.
- Visiting Ushuaia Museums - Ok, Ushuaia is not São Paulo or Buenos Aires in terms of museums, but the city has a couple of museums that should not be missed, including:
- Museo Marítimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia ("Maritime and Prison Museum") - This is not just one museum but several: the prison wing, the nautical history museum, the Antarctic museum, the police museum and art galleries related with Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego. We did the guided tour (4:30pm) which was a great decision because our guide Horacio was great explaining the prison and the city History. These museums had lots of information (in Spanish and English) and we spent several hours exploring them before and after the tour (the guided tour is offered by the museum only at the prison wing and it takes around one hour). At these museums one can find information about (almost) everything including the Antarctic expeditions through time, the colonization and migration processes in Tierra del Fuego and more specifically in Ushuaia, European boat expeditions since 1520 and its impact in the indigenous people, prisoners life in Ushuaia, and much more!
- Yamana Museum - A nice little museum that shows the challenging lives of the Yamanas (Tierra del Fuego indigenous people). A good introduction to the native people, the early missionary experience in Ushuaia and their life before and after the Europeans arrival. We also did the one-hour guided tour (4:30pm) which gave us a better understanding of the Tierra del Fuego's indigenous inhabitants, their practices, their relationship with nature and their extinction.
- Taking pictures at the Ushuaia sign - This is probably the most photographed place in Ushuaia. Everyone wants to take a picture with the famous End of The World sign and we were not the exception. The sign is located at the cruise ship port and it's full of tourists including people going to and coming from boat excursions and cruises.
- Hiking at the Martial Glacier -Martial Glacier is located only a few km from Ushuaia city center and it is one of the most visited places in Ushuaia too, specially in Winter with its 56 km2 sky centre easily accessed by a chair lift. Since we visited Ushuaia in March the glacier was ideal for trekking and taking photos and that's what we did. We haven't reached the top but only the panoramic viewpoint which had a nice view of the city and the Beagle Channel.
- Walking around Ushuaia city center - Ushuaia city center has a few historical buildings and street art that deserve a quick walk. This area is also full of sports and adventure stores (the city is a tax free zone to encourage people to settle and travel here), souvenirs stores and great coffee shops and restaurants.
- Eating empanadas at Panadería La Unión - Panadería La Unión is a typical and local bakery based in Tolhuin, a small town in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. All tours and excursions stop here and it's the meeting point for tourists and local so it's pretty crowded most of the time. We tried the empanadas and they were great! We also brought some croissants for our breakfast and they were really good. The place itself has a little bit of everything, including an homage to an Argentinian doctor, a display devoted to trout, photos of the owner with Argentinian celebrities - all of this with a delicious smell of bread and cakes!
Most people that visit Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia do a lot of excursions through the Beagle Channel and Isla Martillo to watch the seal colonies, penguins, dolphins, wales and birds. The reason why we didn't do that was because we have seen all the wildlife (possible to be seen at this time of the year) when visiting Peninsula Valdés, Punta Tombo and Monte Leon National Park. In fact we were lucky enough to be alone and very close with all these animals before so the excursions didn't compensate for us.
Next stop: Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park (Chile)!