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Ushuaia is a glorious port city found at the southern-most end of Argentina. Right below the Straight of Magellan, Ushuaia is technically not on the Pacific side or the Atlantic side of the country. It stands at 55 degrees latitude south, making Ushuaia actually closer to the South Pole than to the north border of Argentina! Ushuaia is located on the largest island in the Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago just south of the Argentinean mainland. The island's aesthetic beauty is unparalleled and demands a visit. Other than the gorgeous landscape, Ushuaia's incredible history cannot be ignored either.
Ushuaia—which is actually closer to the South Pole (2,480 mi) than to Argentina's northern border with Bolivia (2,540 mi)—is the capital and tourism base for Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire), an island at the southernmost tip of Argentina. The last mountains of the Andean Cordillera rise above the city, and snow dots the peaks with white well into summer. Founded as a penal colony, Ushuaia today feels a bit like a frontier boomtown with the heart of a rugged fishing village. The physical beauty of Tierra del Fuego is tough to match. Nature is the principal attraction here, with trekking, fishing, horseback riding, and sailing among the most rewarding activities, especially in the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park). Because of its proximity to Antarctica, Ushuaia is also the most common gateway for cruises to the southernmost continent.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Ushuaia. You are within walking distance of the city center, and taxis will be waiting for you at the port as well.
Taxis are readily available in Ushuaia, and can take you to your destination at a reasonable cost. If you would like to rent a car while in Ushuaia, contact Localiza, located at Avenida San Martin 222 (02901/430-739). Short walk along the pier to the Coastal Avenue (Maipu) and just a block from the main shopping street, San Martin.
Hanging Around
The dock itself has several shops in glass-enclosed kiosks for those last-minute purchases, but be warned, prices here are much higher than they are in the town itself. There is also a phone and Internet kiosk close to the street.
At the very end of the dock proper is a visitor's center with maps and info about the area, but unfortunately little of it is in English. In the same area, to the right of the dock's end, are several booths for tourist activities and excursions, including boat trips to Wolf Island and through the Beagle Channel, flight seeing to Antarctica, bus tours to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, and longer trips, which don't work with most cruise ship schedules.

A chaotic and contradictory urban landscape includes a handful of luxury hotels next to concrete public housing projects. The weather-worn pastel colors that dominiate Ushuaia's landscape may remind you that it was just a tiny fishing village snuggled at the end of the earth. Above the city, the last mountains of the Andrean Cordillera rise, and just south and west they vanish into the often stormy sea.
At the Museo del Fin del Mundo, you can see a large stuffed condor, as well as other native birds, indigenous artifacts, maritime instruments, and such seafaring-related objects as an impressive mermaid figurehead taken from the bowsprit of a galleon. Maipú 173 and Rivadavía. Admission charged.
Part of the original penal colony, the Museo Marítimo in the former Presidio building was built to hold political prisoners, street orphans, and a variety of other social undesirables from the north. Today it holds the Maritime Museum, which has exhibits on the town's extinct indigenous population, Tierra del Fuego's navigational past, Antarctic explorations, and life and times in an Argentine penitentiary. Gobernador Paz and Yaganes. Admission charged.
Tierra del Fuego was the last landmass to be inhabited; it was not until 9,000 BC that the ancestors of the native coastal inhabitants, the Yamana, arrived. Photographs and good signage in English help to make theMuseo Yamana an enjoyable and valuable experience. Rivadavia 56. Admission charged.
The Tren del Fin del Mundo (The End of the World Train) takes you on a 12-km (7-mi) journey to the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. The two-hour train ride follows the route on which El Presidio prisoners were taken into the forest to chop wood; but unlike them, you'll also get a good presentation of Ushuaia's history (in Spanish and English). Ruta 3, Km 3042. Admission charged.
To the left of the dock's end is a series of handicraft and artisan's huts, which open at around 11 a.m. Here, you can seek handmade items indigenous to the region.
Before crossing Maipu into the city, there's a comfortable little square with benches, colorfully dressed in flowers and shrubs ... an ideal place to get your bearings and contemplate the mountains and sea surrounding you. Also in that general area are taxi stands and enterprising locals handing out maps and shopping coupons.
Getting Around
Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Ushuaia, and are located, as noted above, at the end of the dock. Bus service is available as well, from the dock area to the big shopping mall to the left and the prison museum to the right. This is a small city with a central downtown core, so if you just want to visit the shopping and dining areas, walking is the preferred method.
Note: Beyond Maipu (the Coastal Avenue) and San Martin (the main thoroughfare with shops and cafes), the streets become steep and uneven; not suitable for mobility-impaired visitors.
Canal Beagle
Tour operators run trips along the Canal Beagle, on which you can get a startling close-up view of all kinds of sea mammals and birds on Sea Lion's Island and near Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. One good excursion in the area is to Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake) and Lago Fagnano (Fagnano Lake). The Panamerican Highway out of Ushuaia goes through deciduous beechwood forest and past beavers' dams, peat bogs, and glaciers. A rougher, more unconventional tour of the lake area goes to Monte Olivia (Mt. Olivia), the tallest mountain along the Canal Beagle, rising 4,455 feet above sea level. You also pass the Five Brothers Mountains and go through the Garibaldi Pass, which begins at the Rancho Hambre, climbs into the mountain range, and ends with a spectacular view of Lago Escondido.
Estancia Harberton. Harberton Ranch consists of 50,000 acres of coastal marshland and wooded hillsides. The property was a late-19th-century gift from the Argentine government to Reverend Thomas Bridges, and today the ranch is managed by Bridges's great-grandson, Thomas Goodall, and his wife, Natalie, a scientist and author who has cooperated with the National Geographic Society on conservation projects. Most people visit with organized tours, but you'll be welcomed if you arrive alone.
Most tours reach the estancia by boat, offering a rare opportunity to explore the Isla Martillo penguin colony and a sea lion refuge on Isla de los Lobos (Island of the Wolves) along the way.
Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
This pristine park, 21 km (33 mi) west of Ushuaia, offers a chance to wander through peat bogs; stumble upon hidden lakes; trek through native canelo, lenga, and wild cherry forests; and experience the wonders of Tierra del Fuego's rich flora and fauna. Visits to the park, which is tucked up against the Chilean border, are commonly arranged through tour companies. Another way to get to the park is to take the Tren del Fin del Mundo. A nice excursion in the park is by boat from lovely Ensenada Bay to Isla Redonda, a wildlife refuge where you can follow a footpath to the western side and see a wonderful view of the Canal Beagle. While on Isla Redonda, you can send a postcard and get your passport stamped at the world's southernmost post office.
Things to See
Adventure Tours. Several companies offer a wide variety of adventurous treks through the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego and around the Canal Beagle. Most of these tours are day-long affairs and include bus or 4-wheel-drive transportation and lunch.
Bird-watching. All kinds of birds can be spotted in Patagonia, especially at high altitudes. Condors spread their massive wings and coast along the Andes at altitudes of 10,000 to 16,000 feet. Other common Patagonians include black eagles, peregrine falcons, snowy sheathbills, cormorants, and upland geese.
Fishing. The rivers of Tierra del Fuego are home to trophy-size freshwater trout—including browns, rainbows, and brooks. Both fly- and spin-casting are possible. The fishing season runs November through March.
Flight-Seeing. The gorgeous scenery and island topography is readily appreciated on a Cessna tour of the area. A half-hour flight with a local pilot takes you over Ushuaia and the Canal Beagle, with views of area glaciers and snow-capped islands south to Cape Horn.
Mountain Biking. A mountain bike is an excellent mode of transport in Ushuaia. Good mountain bikes can be rented at D.T.T. Ushuaia (Av. San Martín 1258). You can also take a guided biking trip through the national park.
Skiing. Ushuaia is the cross-country skiing center of South America. At Hostería Tierra Mayor, Hostería Los Cotorras, and Haruwen, you can ride in dogsleds, rent skis, go cross-country skiing, get lessons, and eat; contact the Ushuaia tourist office for more information. For downhill skiers, Cerro Castor, the area's newest downhill ski area, is 26 km (16 mi) northeast of Ushuaia on R3, and has 15 trails and four high-speed ski lifts.
Wildlife Viewing. From the mountain aeries of the Andean east to the desolate Atlantic shoreline to the west, Patagonia provides a great chance to see animals in their natural habitats. Among the local species are foxes, opossum, hares, lizards, armadillos, and guanacos (relatives of the camel). The guanaco's main non-human predator, the puma, travels the length of Patagonia as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Don't expect to spot one along the road, though—this solitary and secretive cat is rarely seen by humans.
Don't Miss
Ushuaia Prison Museum: (Yagenes and San Martin Streets, walkable from the dock) Not only does the prison museum allow you to see the actual cells of the prisoners who were housed here through 1947, a couple of them have been left intact with the last of the miscreants' belongings still visible. The Pabillon 4, another area within the prison, is designated a Marine Museum and offers a history of Ushuaia's settlement from the time of its discovery.
Tierra del Fuego National Park: This park straddles the border between Chile and Argentina, and is a wonderful example of eco-cooperation between nations. Glaciers, pristine lakes, incredible viewpoints, streams, rivers and mountains can be found here, within two hours of Ushuaia itself. Ships offer the park within their excursions, or you can hire a taxi in town for the journey if you want to do it individually.
Hammer Island Penguin Rookery: If your journey isn't one that includes the penguin rookery at Punta Tombo, this is your best chance to see the magnificent Magellenic Penguins up close and personal. And, rather than driving over dusty and bumpy roads for a couple of hours, this trip includes sailing on small vessels or catamarans through Lapataia Bay, past Sea Wolves Island, Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse and archipelago, Bird Island and several other Beagle Channel landmarks. Most ships offer it as a shore excursion, or you can purchase the trip from the tourist kiosks at the end of the dock.
Dining Out
La Estancia is located at Avenida San Martín 1222 (02901/430-739) and is a lovely little restaurant in the middle of town that is a fabulous place for all kinds of meats. The lamb and steaks are fabulous, and the portions are unlimited. Café Ideal is another establishment that has become a hot place to spend an evening. Ushuaia does not have an overly active nightlife, but this outfit features delicious food and entertainment, making it a fun place to visit. The trout, all caught locally, is fresh, and prepared marvelously. During the summer, Café Ideal really livens up when local bands come to perform live music. Café Ideal is located at Avenida San Martín 393 (02901/437-860).
For typical regional chocolates and other sugars and sweets, head forLaguna Negra (Av. San Martín 513). Mascaras Aborigenes Fueguinas(Piedrabuena 25) has masks made from local lenga—copies of aboriginal masks used for the hain ceremony, in which adolescents were initiated into sexual life. Patacón (Av. San Martín 705) carries an array of antique Patagonian furnishings and paintings, wood carvings, and picture frames.Poncho (Maipú and Laserre) sells some interesting local artisan goods and other knickknacks from the area. Tierra de Humos (Av. San Martín 861) has a wide variety of locally produced leather and ceramic handicrafts, wool sweaters and rugs, postcards, T-shirts, and Patagonian jams. Ushuaia (Av. San Martín 785) sells chocolates and sweets.

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