Ushuaia Travel Guide
Introduction to Ushuaia
Located at 55 degrees south latitude, Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost major city, with 55,000 permanent residents making a living in the fishing, Antarctic supply and tourism Industries.
While it may not be the warmest place on Earth, Ushuaia more than makes up for it with stunning vistas everywhere you look, as the lovely peaks of the Martial Range rise directly behind the city, and the picturesque waters of the Beagle Channel lie before it.
If you are coming here as part of an Antarctic cruise, don’t treat this lovely place as a waypoint, as there is much to see and do here in all seasons.
Cultural Attractions in Ushuaia
While most of the top attractions in Ushuaia have to do with its outstanding natural environment, there are number of historical points of interest within this isolated city. The most outstanding of these by far is the Museo Maritimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia, which contains four museums within its premises.
Being a former prison, the most popular of these details the history of incarceration in this isolated part of Argentina, but there is also a gallery that deals with Maritime influenced art, a nautical museum that details the Maritime history of Tierra del Fuego, as well as an institution that details the Argentine history of Antarctic exploration.
While Tierra del Fuego is certainly more habitable than Antarctica, life here has never been easy for its hardy inhabitants. Despite the challenges they have faced over the years though, homesteaders have carved a livelihood out of this windswept land, as you will learn when visiting Estancia Harberton.
Located a short drive from the center of Ushuaia, this ranch will give visitors a chance to experience farm life in one of the tougher places in the world to ply this trade, as this estate is still inhabited by the descendents of the original homesteaders.
You can visit on a day trip, or you can rent a room in one of the renovated houses, but no matter how you decide to experience this place, the botanical gardens, the Yemana (the indigenous people of this region) shelters that have been maintained for generations, and flag trees that have been perpetually shaped by the wind will make your visit here well worth it.
With regards to Argentina’s modern history, no event has been as controversial as the 1982 Falklands War. While there are a number of historical attractions around the country that pay tribute to this event, the Plaza Malvinas is perhaps the most relevant of them all, as it is a square with monuments that honors the casualties on the Argentine side during this armed conflict with the United Kingdom.
During the war, Ushuaia was a major military base from which offensives were launched; as a result, many of the fallen in this conflict hailed from this city. Regardless of your feelings on this geopolitical event, show respect to the locals during your visit by not bringing up an opinion on this matter.
Natural Attractions in Ushuaia
If have followed the Pan-American Highway from north to south, Bahia Lapataia is the end of a long journey along one of the world’s most epic roads. Located 20 kilometres west of the city of Ushuaia, the gravel road finally comes to an end at one of Tierra del Fuego National Park’s most beautiful bodies of water.
Take your picture in front of the sign that certifies that you’ve gotten to the end of one of the world’s most southerly highways, then walk beyond it, following a boardwalk that will take you to a viewpoint that allows you to gaze out to sea towards the Drake Passage, beyond which lies the icy continent of Antarctica.
There is much more to do in Tierra del Fuego National Park than heading to the endpoint of the Pan-American Highway, as there are many hiking trails and opportunities for canoeing and kayaking within its boundaries. Its many lakes, mountains, and glaciers also offer many photographic opportunities for sightseers as well, so rent a car instead of going on a tour, as it will allow you to take your time exploring this very accessible and navigable National Park.
Another top attraction in Ushuaia are the many sightseeing cruises that ply the waters of the Beagle Channel, as they weave through many scenic islands and grant numerous opportunities to view wildlife.
Many sea birds, seals, sea lions, and penguins call these rocky islets home, and en route to these wildlife preserves, there are endless vistas of snow-capped mountains that spring up in nearly every direction during the duration of your cruise.
If you’re looking to do a hike but you don’t want to venture too far from town, taking a taxi cab to the trailhead that leads to the Martial Glacier will give you maximum output for minimum effort.
Admiring the view of the mountains, as well as the city and Beagle Channel below is the major highlight of this walk, as climate change has ravaged this icecap to the point that it more resembles an ice cube; presently, it is only a fragment of what it used to be even a generation ago.
Another hike that is well worth the sweat equity invested is the trek to Laguna Esmeralda. Accessible by taking a van ride to Valle de Lobos, this trek will take an hour and a half each way, but the effort expended in getting here will be instantly rewarded by the sight of powder blue water surrounded by a ring of peaks. Don’t forget to bring a lunch!
If you are here during the winter, do not miss the opportunity to go skiing or snowboarding at Cerro Castor.
Well known as the world’s southernmost major snow resort, it may not be the biggest complex in the snow sports world, but it contains enough on and off piste options to keep the dedicated skier or snowboarder busy.
On-slope food, while expensive, contains many exquisite options for those willing to shell out the money for high quality cuisine.