Patagonia Series: Things to do in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego

Things to do in Ushuaia, Patagonia, Argentina

Ushuaia City Travel Tips, Attractions & More

Right at the southwestern-most tip of the Agentine-Chilean border, just as the snow-capped Andes meets the icy currents of the Beagle Channel, lies Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

While it is, geographically, that it’s at the end of the civilized world, that doesn’t make Ushuaia something of a sleepy town left behind by the rest of the world. On the contrary, this city on the coast of Tierra del Fuego, nestled between the mountains in the north and the waters in the south, is a vibrant and thriving capital. It is a bustling port, its busy streets lined with colorful structures and its bay riddled with boats of all sizes, for adventurers, thrill-seekers, and tourists who would like to witness and experience its magnificence.

City Logistics – Getting In and Around Ushuaia

Getting into Ushuaia by boat isn’t as much an option unless you’re coming in from one of sub Antarctic islands or Antarctica because the city is mainly a departure point for scientific expeditions, extreme adventurers, and cruise ships.

Getting there by car (you can drive all the way down the Pan-American Highway or the Argentina National Route 3 to get there) or by bus (you’ll need to take one to the town of Rio Gallegos then from there take another bus for $425 a ticket to Ushuaia) are ok options, but they’re really mostly for the more adventurous travellers because land trips in this part of the world will be long and hard.

By far the best and easiest (or to many, the only) way to get into the city is by plane. The Malvinas Argentinas International Airport, which receives flights from Buenos Aires (by Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN) and Santiago in Chile (by LAN Chile) regularly, serves the city of Ushuaia, and it does the job quite efficiently.

Getting around the city and to its main tourist haunts is relatively easy. The city isn’t that big – it’s only 9 square miles long – and it doesn’t get too hot so walking and biking are great ways to get around. There are a few bike rental companies like Ushuaia Extreme Travel (they are having a rent 3 for 2 promotion right now!) and some hostels also rent out bikes to their guests for less than $20 a day.

Additionally, there are also plenty of taxis, city buses, mini buses, and transports that can take you to the attractions. Just make sure to plan your trip in advance by checking the schedule or calling in advance to book trips.

Ushuaia is a favorite winter and summer getaway from many people from all over the world so these are the busiest seasons here. You’d probably want to consider, especially if you hate crowds, visiting in autumn (usually from late March to April) when the leaves have turned from green to red or golden yellow or in the spring (usually from October until November) when everything below the mountains tops is green and the sky and the waters are painted blue. Some will argue that these are the best seasons to visit the city.

Weather and Backpack Essentials

Ushuaia climate is subpolar oceanic so while summers are nice and comfortable, winters can get super cold. Also it’s located in the Southern Hemisphere so its seasons are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. Here, the coldest month would be July, when temperatures usually drop down to low 30s (°F) and at times can drop below 0°F. If you’re looking to visit for a winter getaway (June to August), make sure to bring plenty of layers of clothing with you as well as your warmest waterproof jackets (fleece with shell jackets or insulated jackets are recommended!) and sweaters. Remember to protect your head, hands, and feet with Scarfsbeanies, gloves, thick socks, and winter footwear.

Summers (November to March), on the other hand, are usually windy and humid, although temperatures average only at high 50s (°F). But then it can at times drop below that as well. If you’re visiting around this time, just be ready for anything and take a couple of options (fleece jacket, light sweater, windbreaker) with you.

Packing tips for Ushuaia

Where to Stay in Ushuaia?

This city at the end of the world is also one of its most in demand. In effect, while there are a lot of hotels, hostels, and B&Bs there, most of them are almost always fully booked, especially during the peak seasons. It’s important that you plan your trip ahead of time and make reservations as early as possible. With that said, here are some of your best options…
Budget hostels are common in Ushuaia and you’ll find them renting out bedspaces for as low as $20.00 per bed. The favorites in the city are Antartica Hostel, Cruz del Sur Hostel, La Casa, Freestyle Hostel, and Los Cormoranes.
If your budget permits, aside from middle-of-the-road hotels like Altos Ushuaia Hotel, Hotel Las Lengas, Hotel Albatros, and La Posada del Fin del Mundo, Airbnb has some mid-priced rooms and apartments for rent too. Prices range from $57 to $174 a night.
For a splurge, treat yourself to a luxurious stay at the Los Cauquenes Resort and Spa. The beautiful rooms in this 4.5-star hotel go from $350 to $1500 a night!

If none of these are available, you can always check out Lonely Planet’s list of accommodations. They might have a few more options for you and you’ll be able to book any availability from there.

Top Things to Do

This city is a treasure trove of activities and attractions, not just for adventure seekers but also for everybody. Whether you love outdoor sports, you love seeing breathtaking sights, or you just want to walk in the historic footsteps of the late greats like Ferdinand Magellan and Charles Darwin, there is something for you here in this city.

Here are the top things to do in Ushuaia:

  • The city’s first and foremost attraction is the world-renowned Tierra del Fuego National Park, the southernmost national park in the world. This huge area in the Argentine side of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago is famous for its dramatically beautiful scenes of nature, with everything from southern Argentina’s glaciers to forests, waterfalls, lakes, and mountain peaks. For a pre-park experience, you have the option of taking the 40-minute End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo) ride into the park for less than $40 per person. For a list of things you can see and do at the park, do check out Wikitravel’s list.

  • Another one of the city’s top attractions is Estacia Harberton, a historic family-owned 50,000-acre ranch located 40 miles east of the city. Guided tours are being offered to visitors to see the land and lodging is available at around $300 a night if you’d like to spend the night. It can be reached by bus or by car but most people get there on a boat tour so they can also explore the penguin colony of Isla Martillo and the sea-lion refuge of Isla de los Lobos.

  • The city’s red-and-white conical Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is another must-see during your Ushuaia trip. Often confused with the San Juan de Salvamento lighthouse (200 miles away), which Jules Verne made famous as the “Lighthouse at the End of the World” in his novel, this lighthouse is one of the city’s most familiar scenes. It is still in operation so it is not open to the public but Beagle Channel boat tours cruise by the island for a closer look.

  • The Beagle Channel is worth exploring. Charles Darwin did it, so should you! It is home to glaciers and many islands that host thousands of wildlife, from local birds to seals and penguins, a route for travelling orca families, and a great way to see the landscapes surrounding Ushuaia. Discover what this channel has to offer on kayaks, on a sailboat, or on a catamaran, or by going on one of the many boat tours being offered in the city. Diving expeditions are also being offered.

  • Ushuaia has several ski resorts, the most famous of which are Cerro Castor, known for having the longest ski season in South America and has 28 trails for all levels, and Glacier El Martial, a popular ski destination even in the summertime.

  • The city has three different museums that you’d want to visit while there, especially when you’re taking time off from all that exploring. Stop by Museo Marítimo, an old-prison-turned-museum that features the Yámana, Argentine, and British settlements in the area and is connected to three other museums – Museo del Presidio, Museo Antartico, and Museo de Arte Marino; Museo del Fin del Mundo, which contains maps of the “end of the world” and well as archaeological objects found in the area; and Museo Mundo Yámana.

  • Go on a muddy but easy and very scenic trek to Laguna Esmeralda, a beautiful blue-green lake nestled between the mountains. Instead of taking a bus into the national park and paying the entrance fee, you have the option to drive near the beginning of the trail and park on the side of the road.

  • Befriend some Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes in the Valley of the Wolves, a place 30 minutes away from the city that offers dog-sled rides to interesting and historic sights in the surrounding area.

  • Get on a boat and visit Mastil de General Belgrano, a memorial on Isla Redonda to one of the founding fathers of Argentina and a stop in one of the seasons of the American tv show, Amazing Race.

Explore Ushuaia

Ushuaia is probably only as big as a big city’s neighborhood so a neighborhood guide isn’t necessary. However, there is this short but very informative article on Welcome Argentina about touring the main streets of Ushuaia. It will give you a general perception of how the city is like before you even get there so you’ll know what sights and scenes to expect inside the city limits.

Ushuaia City Map

Shopping Trips

shopping nyc

Itching to shop? You’re in luck! Ushuaia has a few great shopping areas that sell everything from souvenirs to sporting goods.

The city’s main avenue, Avenida San Martin, should be your first stop for your shopping needs – this street is lined with charming shops that sell handcrafts, clothing, wines, and fine chocolates. Make your way along this avenue to the Ushuaia Shopping center; there you’ll see more stuff like jewelry, local products and leather goods.
When you’ve had your fill downtown or if you don’t find what you’re looking for, head east for that shopping mall by the bay, Paseo del Fuego Shopping Center. You just might find what you’re looking for here.

At the end of your trip, maybe just before you hop on your ride to the airport, take time to stop by Atlantico Sur Duty Free Shop, the biggest duty free shop in the city. They have a fantastic selection of gourmet food, clothing, jewelry, perfumes, and tobacco that you can buy for your loved ones waiting at home!

Foodies – Where to Eat and Drink in Ushuaia

The city isn’t actually known for its gastronomic scene but it does have its share of amazing restaurants. And usually, the delectable food in this city is only but a part of the meals since many of the best restaurants also offer gorgeous views of the land and seascapes to match, enhancing everyone’s lunch or dinner experience. The best of these are La Mesita de Almanza, Kalma Resto, Altos Restó, Kaupé, and Kuar.
As for drinks, coffee drinkers and beer lovers will undoubtedly enjoy Bar Tante Sara for it’s great coffee and cappuccino, and El Almacén de Ramos Generales for the locally-brewed beer they serve there.

 Lovers Spots

The city of Ushuaia is no Paris or Buenos Aires but that doesn’t make it any less romantic. Its gorgeous sights, especially around the National Park area can make for a great romantic getaway, especially to the more outdoorsy-type couples. Why not spend a day exploring the forests and waters of the Tierra del Fuego National Park or sailing around the Beagle Channel then cap it all off with a lovely romantic dinner in one of the city’s restaurants with a view?

Nightlife and Special Events

Ushuaia may be at the end of the world but that doesn’t mean the party stops here. The city is also teeming with late night spots, from energetic nighttime haunts that only get more animated as the nights progress to laid-back pubs where you can chat with friends over wine and beer. If you still have energy left in you after a day of adventure, make sure to stop by at one of these places – Dublin Bar, Galway Bar, Bodegon Fuegino, Nautico, and Macario 1910.

Ushuaia hosts the Ushuaia International Festival, during which classical musicians from all over the world gather in the city for two weeks every year in the fall. For this year’s schedule, check out their website.

Best Day Trips Outside the City

Take the opportunity to venture out of Argentina and into the neighboring Chile. Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world, in Isla Navarino is only a boat-and-minibus trip away from Ushuaia, while Punta Arenas, situated next to one of the most historic trade routes in the world is only a bus ride away. Both are easily accessible and just as beautiful.

If you’re feeling braver and more adventurous, then you should definitely take a trip to the Falkland Islands, especially if you’re around from October and March, to discover its beautiful wildlife; or further down to the Sub Antarctic Island and the Antarctic since the city is an important access point to these islands for cruises and scientific expeditions.

So what are you waiting for? Head out to this city at the southernmost point of the world, here where snow-capped peaks and glaciers meet deciduous greens, where rushing icy rivers convene into an even icier bay, which in turn pours out into a freezing ocean. Your next great adventure is waiting for you.

If you have any tips or suggestions for making the most of Ushuaia, we’d love to hear from you!