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Patagonia: Ushuaia

Les Eclaireurs lighthouse, Ushuaia

Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, which is an island that marks the southernmost tip of South America before Antarctica. For this reason, it is often referred to as “El fin del mundo” (the end of the world). In truth, I’ve heard there’s dispute over which country (Chile or Argentina) actually lays claim to being at the end of the world given that different parts of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago belong to each one, but that’s for them to decide. All that matters here is: it’s really far south. It’s also technically a part of Patagonia since the Patagonia region makes up the entire southern tip of South America.

Ushuaia itself is delightfully picturesque—it’s built upon the edge of a wide bay and goes up the hillside where the base of the snow-capped Martial mountains begin. When you’re walking along the bay, you have a full view of the mountains circling around you on one side and a clear bay full of varying varieties of boats on the other. Here, the most popular things to do are to tour the surrounding waters and islands, view wildlife (penguins, sea lions, birds, etc), outdoor pursuits, and of course, gorge on seafood (King crab being particularly popular). Naturally, we did all of the above.

Sea lions in the Beagle channel

We booked a day trip that sailed us through the bay and the Beagle channel, stopping at tiny islands along the way to view cormorants and sea lions. A highlight was a stop on Martillo Island, which is home to colonies of Gentoo and Magellanic penguins (and one King penguin that arrived and decided to stay). While on the island, we wandered around the areas where the colonies were nesting, admiring them as they rested in the sun or body surfed in the water. One particularly industrious Gentoo caught our eye because he was busily stealing pieces from other penguins’ nests in order to build his own. As the other members of his colony were relaxing on their nests, he would waddle around, check out what they had (“Hey, you using that? No?”), then snatch something from under them and quickly waddle back to his nest to add it to his growing stash of materials. We were told this is an activity unique to this particular genus of penguins and it was fun to watch it unfold.

Gentoo penguins on Martillo island

Aside from viewing animal life, we also visited one of the oldest Estancias in Tierra del Fuego (which is like a homestead or ranch) and went hiking in the exquisite Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is a gorgeous park full of trails, both coastal and mountain scenery, and lots of wildlife. This part of the world may be the “end” in some ways, but it is truly the beginning in others.

Like my visit to the Chilean side of Patagonia last year, this trip to the Argentinian side felt “just right” and exactly what I needed after a long digital nomad trip. It was also cold enough to prepare me for the climate that awaits me back home, which may have otherwise felt like a shocking adjustment. Right now, as our Patagonian adventure concludes and we prepare to return to Buenos Aires before flying home in a few days, I feel wonderfully satisfied.

Ensanada bay in Tierra del Fuego National Park

About colleen f

Colleen is a globe trotting, sight seeing, day tripping, frequent flying traveler with a penchant for voluntourism.


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