An Unexpected Ushuaia
Escorted Groups travel specialist Alex recounts her story of her trip to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia.
As the southernmost city in the world, it’s fair to say that Ushuaia is remote and an unusual destination to visit. Intrigued to understand more why travellers ventured to the famed adventure hub, my last trip to Argentina was to completely change my perception of the port city.
The southbound flight from Buenos Aires set the scene for what awaited us, as the snow-capped Andes peaked over the clouds offset against a stunning red and orange dawn backdrop. The essence of any trip to the south of the continent is flexibility, as the weather can often be variable due to changing weather fronts. I would say that three nights is sufficient time to explore Ushuaia and enjoy the activities on offer, but worth bearing in mind that you may have to juggle your plans around in accordance with the weather.
There is much more to Ushuaia than bookending a trip to Antarctica or the fjords. Our days were crammed with different activities, such as an afternoon visit to the town centre, where you can enjoy a generous choice of cafés, bars and restaurants. Alternatively, I would highly recommend a visit to the Maritime Museum, which is housed in a 19th century former jail. Here you can wander through the corridors entering the cells of prisoners who helped build the first permanent settlements in the city, and learn about the Antarctic explorations.
Tierra del Fuego National Park is one of the gems of the region and worthwhile setting at least half a day aside to visit. There are beautiful trails to explore or for the more adventurous, take to the water and canoe past the icy lagoons. For a fully immersive experience to get there, travel back in time and ride the End of the World Train past the soaring Andes and the Pipo Valley and gain insight into the criminal history of the Tierra del Fuego.
For those not on a cruise, a short navigation on the Beagle Channel is a must for anyone visiting Ushuaia. Split down an invisible line that separates Argentina’s island chain of Tierra del Fuego to the north Chilean islands, the channel provides breathtaking views on a clear day and the opportunity to see penguins, sea lion colonies, seals and imperial cormorants (November through to March). If you have time to explore more of the region, there is no shortage of options and things to do.
Fortunate for us time was on our side, and we spent two full days heading north in a 4x4 towards the Garibaldi Pass where we were rewarded with incredible views over Lago Escondido and Lago Fagano. Venturing off-the-beaten track to Cape San Pablo through a private estancia we received a warm welcome from our hosts. As the only visitors there it was fascinating to learn first-hand how people survive the harsh winters in such a remote area. After some local insight into their culture, we stepped outside and took a refreshing walk up the beach, ending up with a picnic overlooking an impressive shipwreck.
Day two was spent travelling to the isolated fishing village, Puerto Piratas, where we were going to learn how the local fishermen caught the local king crab delicacy. We approached by skirting the Beagle Channel in our 4x4, and were taken aback as we were unexpectedly greeted upon arrival by a humpback whale. After an interesting insight into local fishing traditions and techniques, we finished off a memorable day by sharing a delicious meal in a local family run restaurant. What better way to round off with some local cuisine, a chilled glass of white wine and some live tango music.
Despite being windswept, Ushuaia blew me away and I don’t mean because of the Patagonian wind. Home to magnificent scenery, natural beauty and incredible wildlife the port city has many reasons for visiting and comes highly recommended.
Don’t Miss - A delicious meal made with locally-sourced Patagonian ingredients and paired with fantastic argentine wines at Kalma restaurant. If you’re lucky you’ll meet the chef for the ultimate personal touch.
Top Tip - For something special, treat yourself to a helicopter ride over Ushuaia. The views are terrific giving you a full panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, Ushuaia Bay and the remote emerald lake, Laguna Esmeralda. If the weather is good upon arrival in Ushuaia, I would recommend doing the helicopter ride as early as possible.
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