Ushuaia, commonly marketed as El Fin del Mundo (End of the World), used to be the Southernmost city in the world. It actually isn’t any more after Puerto Williams in Chile has taken over. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that there are many exciting things to do in Ushuaia.
This quaint little city is certainly one place that has somehow grown on me. I cannot really put the finger on it, but I look forward to visiting again as it gives me a different impression each time I have returned.
Things to do in Ushuaia
There is a good selection of activities to do in Ushuaia, both in the city and the surrounding nature. Here are some of the popular things to do in Ushuaia, even I have yet to try most of them.
If you don’t already know, Ushuaia is the gateway to Antarctica! (And yes, you can visit Antarctica). Here you can find cruises and ships sailing to the mysterious and majestic ice world. My advice for Antarctica has always been that if you ever plan to go in your lifetime, go now! This is because prices for Antarctica trips have been increasing over the years, and I can only imagine it will only get more popular.
Are you worried about the cost? There is no doubt it is expensive compared to many other travel activities, but it is worth every penny. There are ways to get it at a lower price than what the rich people pay. Here are my tips to planning and booking an Antarctica and South Georgia expedition.
This is hands down the highlight. If you are heading to Antarctica, there might be a few paid activities you want to skip in this list since you are likely to experience something similar in your Antarctica adventure.
See penguins at Isla Martillo
Visiting a penguin colony is one of the main goals for many visitors to Patagonia. In Ushuaia, the place to do this is Martillo island. The island is home to a colony of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins. These penguins are used to human visitors, and you can walk amongst them. This is a typical tour activity, so you can find agencies offering this boat trip in Ushuaia. If you are going to Antarctica, you will already be seeing penguins, so you might not want to take another tour for this.
Commonly combined with the Isla Martillo tour is a visit to Estancia Harberton. Founded in 1886, this ranch is the oldest in the region and is still functioning today. The ranch is family-owned and stretches across 50,000 acres. There is a restaurant with a great view of the Beagle Chanel where you can try some traditional food and a teahouse for homemade pastries. Apart from a day visit, the ranch also has accommodation options if you wish to stay the night.
Estancia Harberton is 64 km (40miles) outside of Ushuaia and you can get there by bus or car. However, most people choose to go with the boat, combining a tour to Isla Martillo or Isla de Los Lobos to watch the sea lions.
You can get to this magnificent turquoise lake via a 2-hour trek from Ushuaia. This makes for a great half-day activity to indulge in some of the city’s surrounding nature. The trail to the lake has clear markings, and the trek is not challenging. You can certainly do it yourself. Bring along some food and drinks to enjoy by the lake.
Glacier Martial is another nice hike that you can take close to Ushuaia. The Glacier stands at 1,050 meters above sea level and is an important freshwater source for Ushuaia. The trek is of moderate difficulty as there are some steep parts. It is approximately a 3 hours round trip hike starting from the start of the trail. You can get to the trailhead via taxi, or a 40 minutes walk from Ushuaia.
This trek brings you through river streams and the forest to the Glacier. During the hike, you can get good views of the city and the Beagle channel. There is also a tea house at the trailhead where you can grab something before or after the hike.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
Since you are in the Tierra del Fuego region, you should definitely not miss the Tierra del Fuego national park. The national park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. There are many hiking trails for both single day or multi-day treks. Some of the routes are an easy trek yet still incredibly scenic. This makes it great for both adventurous travelers and families just looking for a fun day out.
If water sport is your thing, you can also kayak around the lakes.
There is an entrance fee to the national park, which you will need to pay at the visitor’s center. You can get there via taxi or with one of the remis (shuttles) from the station at Avenida Maipu and Juana Genoveva Fadul Sur (It is just a car park with many shuttle vans and a small wooden cabin for tickets.). A more luxurious way of getting there will be via the Tren del Fin del Mundo.
Tren del fin de mundo
If you are into trains, then the Tren del fin del Mundo or “Train at the End of the World” is an appealing option to get to the Tierra del Fuego national park. This southernmost stream train was initially used to transport timber to Ushuaia prison but has now been converted into a tourist attraction. There are different cabins of varying classes and prices for your selection.
The train comes with a bilingual guide as well, so you will be able to take in beautiful views of the landscape with some historical knowledge along the way. There are only a few departures per day, so you should check the schedule on the website.
The End of the World Train Station is located about 8km outside of Ushuaia. You can get there by taxi or one of the remis at the station in Ushuaia. From the train station, it is an hour train ride to the national park or 1h 45minutes for a round trip. The entrance ticket to the National park is not included in the train ticket price.
There are discount prices available for argentine retirees and disabled.
Boat Trip through the Beagle Chanel (end-of-world lighthouse)
Sailing the Beagle Channel is one of the most popular activities in Ushuaia. It is a great way to see some wildlife and enjoy the Patagonian landscape. There are many boat tours available with different vessels for your picking. Most boat tours will take you to the prominent sights around Ushuaia. This will include Isla de Lobos and Isla de Pajaros, where you can observe sea lions and birds in the natural habitat. You will also see the southernmost lighthouse, Faro Les Eclaireurs, with its signature red and light stripes.
There are also longer cruise trips that go around Cape Horn and Glacier Alley if you are looking to sail further. An Antarctica cruise will already bring you through the Beagle Chanel, though not necessarily to the specific attraction points.
Visit the maritime museum and jail
For something light to do within the city, the maritime museum is an intriguing place to visit. The building used to be the Ushuaia prison in the early days. That said, a portion of the original jail is left intact, which you can visit. In addition, the museum visit also includes sections on Marine Art and Antarctica. There is a wealth of nautical and historical knowledge about the region in this collection of museums. That makes it quite a bang-for-buck attraction.
Wintertime: Siberian Huskies
Winter is quite harsh in Ushuaia as the temperature can fall below zero, but it also brings along an amazing snowscape. There are some great activities to do during wintertime as well.
One of the most exciting places to visit in Ushuaia during the winter will be Valle de Lobos or The Valley of Wolves. The valley is about 18km outside Ushuaia city. This is where you can find adorable yet strong Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes.
Here you can explore the Lenga forest and incredible landscape via an exciting sleigh ride, specially powered by these tough dogs. The experience is designed for people of all ages and can be a great family activity.
Skiing is the perfect winter sport, and Ushuaia certainly offers that. There are a few ski resorts in the area, with the most famous being Cerro Castor. First opened in 1999, the popular resort has grown from 3 chairlifts and 15 tracks to now a whooping 28 trails catering to different skill levels. Cerro Castor is located 16 miles (26km) outside of Ushuaia and has several gastronomy options. It is a great place to visit and soak in the view even if you are not skiing.
Places to eat in Ushuaia
Being part of Patagonia, Ushuaia is not a cheap location compared to the rest of Argentina. This is also quite a touristic city because of the immense landscape. There are a couple of restaurants I enjoyed here.
Marcopolo Freelife: You can find this café nestled within the Hotel Cap Polonio. It is known to have the fastest wifi around. There are also good tables with power sockets, so you will find many travelers here uploading their photos, planning their next destination, etc. The food and drinks here are pretty decent as well.
El Viejo Marino: Although many things are expensive here, seafood can be a real steal. At El Viego Marino, you can find fresh and delicious king crab. You can have them fresh or choose from a selection of delicious dishes. There are other seafood dishes on the menu too. Unsurprisingly, this restaurant is extremely popular. I recommend you get to the restaurant slightly before the opening hour to avoid the queue.
Gelido: If you are looking for something more affordable, Gelido is a fast food place with great burgers. To be honest, most people probably just see it as a fast-food joint, but the burgers are tasty there, and it’s a great meal without breaking the bank.
Paso Garibaldi: This is another popular restaurant where you can get seafood and other Argentine dishes. Prices are on the higher end, but the food is excellent, and the restaurant has a cozy vibe. Go early to get seats as it can sometimes be filled.
Where to stay in Ushuaia
Being a tourist town, Ushuaia isn’t exactly the cheapest destination. Most tour groups will stay in one of the hotels in the city. There are also many friendly hostels available for backpackers.
Hostel prices ain’t that low in this area, especially during peak season. If you are a group, consider renting an apartment. It might be more worthwhile. There are a bunch on B&B, guesthouses and apartments catering to different preferences.
You can also find options on Airbnb here! These are great choices to check out if you want something better than hostels but cheaper than hotels.
Staying in the city center gives you quick access to the amenities, however if you want to be closer to nature, you can also find options in the outskirts.
How to get into and out of Ushuaia
Cruises are one way to get into Ushuaia, making cruise passengers one of the city’s main visitor groups. For travelers already in the Patagonia region, the typical tourist destination preceding or after Ushuaia is Punta Arenas in Chile. You can find buses running between these two cities periodically, and frequency is lower during off-peak seasons.
Arguably the most popular way of getting into Ushuaia is by flight from Buenos Aires. There are frequent flights from the Argentina capital to the southernmost Argentine city. The Malvinas Argentinas International Airport is about 4km from the city center. The easiest way to get to the city center is via a quick 10 minutes cab ride.
If you are exchanging nature for the city life of Buenos Aires, remember to check out our Buenos Aires Travel Guide for tips and tricks to navigating the capital.
Trips from Ushuaia
I have already mentioned Antarctica, which comes as a high personal recommendation. Some of the activities above also warrant a good day trip outside the city. Now here is another location that deserves a special mention – Puerto Williams.
Puerto Williams is now the actual southernmost city in the world after evolving from a settlement into a city status.
How to get to Puerto Williams
You can get Puerto Williams via one of the boats at the docks. There are many boat company booths there where you can get a ticket (1-way or 2-way). They do not need to be on the same day if you want to stay for longer. A two-way ticket costs around US$120.
Puerto Williams is a tranquil and charming town located in Chile. Not many tourists visit this place yet, but it is becoming popular as a quick stop for cruises. Infrastructure is still pretty basic, but I expect this to change in the next few years. This is still an undiscovered gem that has lots to offer.
Our primary purpose for arriving in Puerto Williams is to hike the Dientes del Navarino (what we term as the southernmost trek in the world). It is a multi-day hike in a pristine natural landscape. This is a great and challenging hike, and you won’t find many hikers here yet. Here is my experience and tips to tackling the Dientes del Navarino.
If you want to experience Puerto Williams and its surrounding nature before it becomes crowded with hoards of tourists, I encourage you to visit as soon as you can! I will put up more information on this, join the email list to receive updates whenever I put up new posts.