Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, also known as the “end of the world” to locals and tourist alike who love to take pictures with the end of the world sign. It is the gateway to Tierra del Fuego National Park and Antarctica. Those traveling to Antarctica utilize Ushuaia as the last stop before the icy continent.
Ushuaia is home to magnificent scenery, a former prison, a National Park, and a few glaciers. This former penal colony is now a boasting ski resort and adventure town where you spend your days hiking, skiing, on tours, on boats, and eating baked crab and steak.
Packed Perfectly’s Patagonia journey started in Buenos Aires then we flew on Aerolíneas Argentinas airlines to Ushuaia. We rented a car from Avis which was a bit tricky as they only have manual rentals in South America, so if you can not drive a stick, do as we did and take a quick crash course (no pun intended ). We dropped the car off in El Calafate – which again requires a lot of communication back and forth with whom you decide to rent with. You need the correct paperwork to cross borders between Argentina and Chile, as Patagonia is so vast it takes over two countries. The logistics of getting anywhere in Patagonia can be difficult. Driving 9 hour days, boarding crossings, ferries, manual cars, booking tours far in advance, but the main problem you will encounter is always wanting to see and do everything you can with the time you have. Such is the lesson of life. If you want our expertise and guides book with Packed Perfectly’s travel concierge services and we will customize your trip based on your personality to maximize the time you have.
We arrived on New Year’s Eve to celebrate ringing in the new year by wearing Penguin onesies in a place where penguins are cherished. We received standing ovations everywhere we went -down the street, into a local store, at a bar. The locals loved us! The locals are very friendly in Argentina from our experience and invited us to New Year’s parties in their homes which just like everything in Argentina starts late and ends up going to the wee early morning hours. Luckily for us in the summertime its daylight until past 10pm.
The Yaghan, also called Yámana natives are one of the indigenous tribes in this region, who are regarded as the southernmost peoples in the world. They have been there for more than 10,000 years. Their traditional territory includes the islands south of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, extending their presence into Cape Horn. The Yaghan were traditionally nomad hunter-gatherers. They traveled by canoes between islands to collect food: the men hunted sea lions, while the women dove to collect shellfish. From the pictures I have seen of them, their body temperatures must have adapted to the weather, as they would roam around naked, and it is summer and I am freezing in my onesie!
Due to ecotourism put in place to protect animals and their natural habitats, there is only one group that is allowed to take people to Isla Martillo, the penguin colony island. Arrange a tour far in advance with Pira Tours, and walk amongst the colonies of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins that live here on Isla Martillo. You will also run into an Emperor penguin or two.
This is also where I got Engaged! My fiance said we were doing a practice run for a Packed Perfectly video. Little did I know what he had up his penguin onesie sleeve.
If you book with Pira tours you will be driven to the oldest estancia (ranch) in this region. It was founded by an English missionary generations ago and the 50,000-acre farm is still run by his descendants today. Visitors can take guided tours of the land, also you can spend the night here for around $300. We suggest having a meal in the tea room over the Beagle Channel. I had the best lemon cake I have ever had in my life here. It takes around 40 miles to get here by car from Ushuaia then you jump on a small motor boat to Isla Martillo or to Isla de los Lobos to see the sea lions.
Sail to the end of the world on a boat tour that’ll take you to the most iconic sites and scenery of the Beagle Channel. This tour you don’t have to book far in advance. Walk to the waterfront where there are many huts set up for different tours. This is actually where you go to meet your tour guides. Alternatively, you can get your concierges at most hotels to book for you.
The Tierra del Fuego National Park is renowned for its dramatic scenery, waterfalls, lakes, snow-capped mountains, and glaciers, and of course also for being the southernmost national park in the world.
If you want to go on a legendary hike to the blue-green glacial lake of Laguna Esmeralda it is a 4 hour relatively easy round trip by foot. It is preferable to hike the trail in summer but even still it can be a muddy trail to get there. You don’t need a guide as the trails are well marked – just be prepared for the mud and peat bogs. You can even bring a tent and camp out here or a bottle of wine and relax.
With over 26 trails Cerro Castor is perfect for all ski levels. It has modern lifts, good infrastructure, ski and snowboard instructors, and it’s only 16 miles (26 kilometers) away from Ushuaia.
You’re in Patagonia, Argentina’s heartland for craft beers. Even if beer isn’t your thing, you can appreciate that the beer here is blessed by the crisp glacier water.
If you want to say you’ve officially been to the end of the world, then head here for the coveted photo with the sign that says you’ve reached the end of the Pan-American Highway. This bay and the fjords around here were carved by glaciers long ago, and now it’s possible to hike along the water’s edge and spot otters, dolphins, and the grass-covered mounds of mussel shells and bones left here by the Yámana people.
Ushuaia is one of the most expensive cities in Argentina, as it is the farthest to get to. Here it’s all about the king crab, sea bass, and mussels. As you are in Argentina be prepared to also see steak houses everywhere serving a variety of cuts of meat.
After Ushuaia, the next stop on our Patagonia trek is to the 8th wonder of the world, Torres del Paine!