Ushuaia / Argentina
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, “the end of the earth,” is just about as far South as you can go, unless you’re hopping a voyage to Antarctica. It’s a small town nestled along the water amidst jagged mountains that soar up on all sides, making hiking and boating excursions easily accessible.
After a flurry of finishing up jobs in New York, prepping our apartment for a renter, packing, good byes to family and friends, and five flights, we were ready to hit the ground running. When we arrived though we were greeted with sharp winds and cold rain. A lot of the hiking trails were still iced over and the winds were too strong for most of the boat excursions. We felt a bit restless starting our journey inside, but we were able to do some travel planning and romp around town when the rain lightened.
The town can be walked in a few hours, the main strip in 20 minutes. It’s pretty touristy, though not in a grandiose way, but if you walk up into the neighborhood, you’ll find yourself on a great house tour. Each home is a different shape, patched together with corrugated metal and whatever else can withstand the winter there. Also a great way to break in boots, if you’re kicking off a trip like we were.
We got back into the groove of backpacking, cooked meals in the hostel, sipped some $4 (and decent) wine, had our first (of many) alfajores (dulce de lecha filled cookies), walked around a ton and, when the weather finally cleared, we headed out in a little boat to check out the Beagle Channel lighthouse, puttered by some yawning seals, stopped for a brisk hike on a peaceful-looking island with gale force winds at the top, and got a wide-angle view of the little town. Some warmer weather would have been nice in Ushuaia, as we heard the hiking is incredible (especially Dientes de Navarino was recommended). It’s far, but maybe one day we will be back to reach some peaks and head to Antarctica.
At a glance…
- Do go hiking! And if you have time try one of the boat tours. On the edge of the water in the middle of town, there’s a collection of little cabins, each of which you need to pop into to see what tour they offer. We opted for El Che. Another popular tour is visiting the penguins.
- Eat at Restaurante Kalma was highly recommended to us by a foodie friend in BA.
- Sleep at Hostel Cruz del Sur, buzzing with young travelers from all over the world. Good vibe, shared kitchen, simple breakfast, friendly staff and right near the “main street.”
- Don’t visit during the winter like we did (start of November).
- Don’t think that you can get around easily, especially when roads might be icy (opt for a cheap flights out of town instead).
- Tips Two sites that we learned about later that have been super helpful with booking buses – https://www.recorrido.cl/ and http://platforma10.com/ The Aerolineas Argentina office is right near the water in town, with cheap flights to El Calafate.
- Get cultural at the museum about the indigenous Yamana, hunter-gatherer nomads. They were able to survive in the frigid Southern temps, not because of clothing (they didn’t wear any), but by building fires (note, “Tierra del Fuego), lotioning up with animal fat, and by evolving to have a higher metabolism and body temp.