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Background on the City at the End of the World
Our first stop in Patagonia was the city at the End of the World. I’m of course referring to the city of Ushuaia! It earned this nickname because not only is it located at the southernmost tip of Argentina and South America but it is also the southernmost city in the world.
So that I don’t get in trouble with Chileans, I should point out that technically, Puerto Williams, a small town in Chile, is really at the End of the World. It is located south of Ushuaia. However, Ushuaia received this label because it is actually designated as a city. Whereas Puerto Williams is a small town with a population of about 3,000 people.
The city of Ushuaia is the capital of the Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) province. The name “Land of Fire’ came from European explorers. They noticed bonfires on the shores that the indigenous (Yámana) people prepared. Ushuaia is situated on a steep hill between the bay, the Beagle Channel and the picturesque Martial mountains.
Arrival to the City at the End of the World
I had already covered how I booked our Aérolineas Argentinas flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Our flight departed over two hours late. After 3.5 hours in air, our flight started to descend and I can see the majestic snow-capped mountains from my window.
As the pilot landed our flight, all the passengers aboard started clapping. The Argentinian lady sitting next to me let me know that only the most experienced pilots fly this route because Ushuaia airport (USH) is considered to have a difficult landing. This is due to the strong crosswinds in the area that can blow the plane off course as its landing. Here’s one example from several years ago demonstrating how landings can sometimes get tricky at USH!
Curious, I looked into the history of USH. I learned that this airport used to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world because it had a very short runway. Planes would fly right over the city and then they would have to do a steep left turn to land onto a very short runway. Combined with heavy winds, it can make for a very scary landing! Thankfully, a new and longer runway was built later in the ‘90s, which is much safer than the previous one.
Activities in Ushuaia and surrounding area
I had booked us for a 5-night stay in Ushuaia. I had read that the weather can get very windy and sometimes unpredictable here. Since many of the activates we planned to do were outdoors, I heeded the advice for us to spend some extra time here just in case.
In the end, we got very lucky with the weather and the temperatures ranged from 15 to 23 degrees during most of our stay. It also wasn’t that windy and it rained once just for a couple of hours. Given this, we really just needed 3 days to do the activities we were interested in. This is also because the sun doesn’t set until around 10:15PM in the summer in Ushuaia! This makes it easy to pack in several activities in a day thanks to the long daylight hours.
Without further ado, below are the activities and excursions we did while at the End of the World.
1. Took a leisurely walk along Costanera (a few times!)
Costanera is a boardwalk along the harbour front. This is where you can see many vessels in the harbour, including ones taking off to Antarctica. Besides being known as the city at the End of the World, Ushuaia is also popular because it is one of the gateways to catch an Antarctica cruise.
Walking along the waterfront and sometimes sitting on one of the benches there was great for the soul. It’s not every day that we get a front seat to the Atlantic Ocean! It was our opportunity to enjoy breathing in the salty ocean air.
2. Sailed the Beagle Channel
One of the first things we did is purchase tickets to a cruise on the Beagle Channel. The Tourist Pier is located by the harbour, where you’ll find many tour companies selling various tours.
Different Cruise Options
There were two options for the Beagle Channel cruises. The first option was a 3-hours tour to see colonies of cormorants’ birds and sea lions. This also included seeing the Lighthouse at the End of the World, otherwise known as Les Eclaireurs lighthouse. The boat also stops on one of the islands on the Beagle Channel, where you can disembark and take a walk to view all the flora on this island.
The second option is a 6-hours cruise that included everything in the first tour with the addition of visiting Hammer Island to see the penguins. However, you’ll have to view the penguins from the boat because there’s no option to disembark.
Sea Lions, Cormorants and the End of the World Lighthouse
We did the 3-hour tour since the longer one was already sold out that day. Although it would have been nice to see the penguins on Hammer Island, we had something really special to look forward to the next day so we let it be.
We really enjoyed the Beagle Channel cruise and it’s an activity you shouldn’t miss if you’re ever in Ushuaia! It was a lot of fun seeing the wildlife colonies of both the sea lions and the cormorants. I initially thought the cormorants were penguins because of their black and white colour. Then I realized I was looking at birds!
You get to also soak in the breathtaking landscapes of the mountains and glaciers as you snap photos of the native wildlife and the beautiful lighthouse.
Atlantic Connects to Pacific
The interesting thing about the Beagle Channel is it is where the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans meet. Argentina and Chile share a natural border, where there’s a group of islands shared by both countries. The eastern part belongs Argentina, while the western part belongs to Chile. By taking a cruise on the Beagle Channel, you can claim that you’ve sailed on both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean in one trip!
Tip: I recommend taking your passport if you take this cruise because you can get a Beagle Channel stamp!
3. Visited an Estancia, a Museum and Penguins!
Before leaving Canada, I learned that there’s one tour company that takes you to an island near Ushuaia to see the penguins in person. The tour company is called Piratour. They’re the only tour company that is allowed to take tourists onto the Isla Martillo (Martillo Island) to see penguins in their natural habitat. I believe it’s limited to one company because they don’t want too many tour groups going there and disturbing the penguins. Note that if you take any of the other tours you can only see penguins from the boat.
Tip: purchase your ticket in advance because it sells out fast.
The tour started off with gathering at the Tourist Pier to register at 2PM and get our badges. You either get a green badge or a red one. We were a group of 40 people in total.
Then we boarded a bus and we made our way to Estancia Harberton. An estancia is basically a ranch. There’s many of them in Argentina. Harberton is now considered to be a National Historical Monument due to its history. It was founded by Thomas Bridges who helped in establishing Argentina’s sovereignty in this area.
Once we arrived at the estancia, our group was split in half. We were part of the red group and we got to board a small boat to make our way to Martillo Island first! The other group remained at the estancia. A boat ride is the only way to access this island. After about a 15-minute boat ride we reached the island and we can see the penguins!
Up Close and Personal with the Penguins!
Our tour guide informed us of all the ground rules before walking onto the island. She stressed that we cannot hug or touch the adorable penguins. As we stepped onto the island it felt unreal. It was an amazing feeling to be walking on an island among the Magellanic and Gentoo penguins in their natural habitat. This island had predominately Magellanic penguins.
The tour guide provided some info about these penguins, but everyone on the tour was too excited to listen intently and was busy snapping up pictures and videos. The tour guide led the way on where we can walk so that we don’t accidently step on any penguin nests or get too close to the penguins. You can’t just take off and wonder around on your own, but we did get a lot of opportunities to snap up photos for the one hour we were on the island.
The hour went by quickly though and we had to line up to board the boat as the second group arrived for their turn on the island.
Once we were back at the estancia, a different tour guide greeted us and gave us a brief history of this ranch. We then visited a beautiful garden there and then made our way to the restaurant at the top of the hill for a snack.
Next, we boarded the bus to visit the Acatushukm Museum of birds and marine mammals. We had a short-guided tour to learn about the marine and birds of this area. While these tours were interesting, admittedly I found them a bit underwhelming shortly after visiting the penguins!
We boarded our bus and were back in Ushuaia’s city centre by 9:15PM. This was truly a memorable day!
4. Explored the highlights of Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego National Park is the most southern national park in Argentina. There are several trails you can hike there. Since we didn’t have a car rental, we opted to take a tour that would cover some of the highlights of this national park, including taking the End of the World Train!
Ushuaia’s Canadian Connection
This tour included a hotel pickup. As the bus was making its way to drop us off to the train station, the tour guide told us about a furry problem. In the Tierra del Fuego area exists a non-native creature – Canadian beavers! The Argentinian government had imported beavers from Canada back in 1946 to create a fur trading industry.
In short, this industry did not take off. Consequently, the beavers in this area are destroying many of the trees there. There are no natural predators here to prey on them like in Canada where we have wolves and bears. This demonstrates how humans can really ruin things when they interfere with nature.
End of the World Train
We made our arrival to the train station, which used to be a prison embarkment. We then boarded the End of the World steam train. It is the most southernmost train in the world. This train has a very interesting history.
It was used by prisoners to transport them to prison and it was also built by them. The original train route was 25 kilometers long and connected the national park to the prison in Ushuaia city. Once you hop on the train, you receive a headset where you pick the language of your choice and listen to a recording about the train’s history. You learn that the prisoner’s played a key role in not only building the railway, but also Ushuaia city.
The train makes its way through part of the original route that prisoners used to go through. The train then made a stop where we did a short hike to see a waterfall called La Macarena Cascade. After this stop, the train made its way through a scenic route where we saw horses.
After an hour, our train ride concluded at the train station that leads into the entrance of the Tierra del Fuego National Park. This is where we met with our guide again and then we hopped onto the bus. We then stopped at Bahia Lapataia and did a short hike there and took photos of the beautiful landscape there of the water and surrounding mountains. We also stopped at a lake called Lago Roca.
Post Office at the End of the World
There’s also a post office in the park and as you can guess it’s called Post Office at the End of the World. You can purchase postcards and send them to loved ones. You can also pay to get a stamp on your passport that you visited this unique post office. Unfortunately, our tour did not make a stop here, so maybe another time!
Tip: If you like collecting stamps, be sure to visit the tourist office. They’ll happily stamp your passport. I didn’t have my passport with me, but they presented me with a certificate stating that I visited the Southernmost City in the World.
5. Experienced A City Tour
We took a one-hour city tour of Ushuaia. It’s actually a bus, but it looks like a train. The bus made a few stops along the way throughout the city. The guide told us a bit about the history of the city as we took pictures of Ushuaia’s landscape.
I should mention that there is a hop on hop off bus that takes you to multiple places like the Prison at the End of the World which was turned into a museum. There are actually multiple museums there. These include the Prison Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Antarctic Museum, the Art Museum, and the Art Gallery.
We decided not to take this bus when we learned it only comes once every two hours at each stop.
- Beagle Channel cruise and Fuego National Park tour: $19,500 pesos/person (about $68US)
- National Park entrance fee: $5,500 pesos/person (must be paid in cash) (about $7US)
- End of the World Train tickets: $9,750 pesos/person (about $28US)
- Tour to see penguins, estancia with Piratour: $180US/person
- City tour bus: $3,500 pesos/person ($10US)
We purchased both the Beagle Channel cruise and National Park tour from Rumbo Sur, so we received a 15% discount for this combo. The penguin tour was very pricey, but worth it.
What to Eat in Ushuaia, Argentina
Being next to the Atlantic Ocean, it’s only natural that Ushuaia is known for its seafood. Particularly for the South Atlantic King Crab. You won’t see many seafood pictures in my posts since I’m not a fan! I did munch on some calamary though!
Below are some of the places that we dined at and enjoyed.
For a fancy dinner, try Maria Lola Resto. It’s very heavy on the seafood dishes if you like that. We had the calamari to start and steak for the main course. The best dish was the finale, the cheesecake dessert with Calafate berries. It was the most delightful dessert I had on my trip in Argentina!
For semi-casual but good quality food, I recommend Augusto. Apologies, I forgot to take food pics of everything we ate there!
For coffee/snack, I suggest stopping by Ramos Generales El Almacén. We went here for lunch once and I didn’t like my pasta, but the beef empanada was alright. On our second visit we just passed by for quick tea and pastry. I love the antique décor of this place and it’s what made me go back another time.
In Patagonia, the hotels from the major brands can be counted on one hand. In Ushuaia specifically, the only brand is Wyndham Hotel and Resorts. I could have transferred my Citi ThankYou points to Wyndham and booked a points stay, but I didn’t have the heart do it. I have an insignificant stash of ThankYou points and I prefer to transfer them to one of the airline programs.
Given this circumstance, I booked our stay at an independent hotel. It’s called the Albatros Hotel. This hotel was without a doubt the worst part of my trip in Ushuaia. When I walked into our room, I was devasted by how basic it was. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. While I knew I didn’t book luxurious accommodations, I expected better. This hotel is categorized as four stars, but it felt more basic than a Holiday Inn.
The mattress was very uncomfortable, each bed only had one pillow, the room didn’t have any air conditioning so it was a sauna, no tissue box, no trash can in the room, the view from our window was a loud industrial building, the ceiling had a crack and the toilet paper was so thin! We ended up going to a supermarket the next day to purchase toilet paper and tissue paper.
The only thing this hotel had going for it was its location. It’s right in the city centre surrounded by restaurants and shops. It’s also just two blocks from the Ocean and the Tourist Pier. I will give housekeeping staff credit because I found they really did a thorough cleaning, so that part was at least comforting.
I loved Mohammad’s Confessions Corner and he graciously let me use it for my post. I booked the Albatros Hotel via Hotels.ca. In November they had a promotion that if you book through the Hotel.ca app, you would earn double the stamps. Since I had a 5-night stay, I earned 10 stamps, which gave me a free hotel night that I could use in the future at a hotel bookable via their website.
I thought I was getting a good deal, until I looked up the rate while in Ushuaia and found it was almost half the price. I had booked a non-refundable rate since that was the only option via the app. When I arrived in Argentina, I learned that when you pay on a foreign credit card, you don’t pay the 21% tax. I missed out on this saving! I also didn’t get the benefit of blue dollar rate by paying by credit since I booked on Hotels.ca, which was in Canadian currency, rather than pesos. Also, receiving close to blue dollar rate via credit card didn’t go into effect until December 2022. Lesson: don’t book non-refundable hotel stays because you never know!
Many of the tourists that arrive in Ushuaia come here to catch their Antarctica cruise. I hope this post has convinced you to spend a few days at the city at the End of the World. It is a worthy destination and was one of the top highlights of my trip to Patagonia and Argentina!
This blog was very insightful and made me feel as if I was there myself! Thank you for providing the details of your trip. It gives the reader with a lot of information and tips when planning their next vacation. Keep it up, looking forward to your next post Dalia! 😊
Thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂
When I stayed in El Calafate for five nights, booked online in US, back in 2016, I remember paying 21% occupancy tax as the rate was unusually steep. They must keep the occupancy tax because the area lives on tourism. Like Vegas.
I can’t speak to how it was in 2016, but during my recent travel there in January this year I didn’t pay the 21% tax for hotels that I was charged in pesos upon checkout and paid using foreign credit card. My hotel invoice shows a credit for the tax. It’s only hotels I had prepaid via a Canadian hotel booking site that I paid the 21% tax.
Love this !!! Can’t wait to visit Patagonia someday
It’s definitely worth a visit!
Thank you for sharing for very well articulated information. We had our cruise to ANTARCTICA, and spent some very nice time in Argentina, Uruguay, down every spot you mentioned, down in Antarctica, Chile and back home total 25 days. One of the best once in a lifetime experience 🙏
Thank you for your kind words 😊
Sounds like you had an amazing trip! Hope I make it to Antarctica one day!