Your guide to visiting Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego. Make your vacation to the city at the End of the World unforgettable with these top tips, general information, weather and transport guide, and overview of tours and things to do in Ushuaia.
Ushuaia is the capital of the province Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost part of Patagonia, Argentina, and is generally regarded as the southernmost city in the world (a title that is disputed by the smaller Puerto Williams). It is situated on the frontier with Chile, within a large bay on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and stretches from the shores of the Beagle Channel to the south and to Martial Mountain range in the North.
It is often referred to as El fin del Mundo (the End of the World) which can easily conjure up an image of desolate wastelands, however nothing could be further from the truth! Ushuaia is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and is bursting with colour and life.
The city of Ushuaia acquired its name from two aboriginal Yaghan words: USHU meaning "at the back" and WUAIA meaning "bay, cove or port". The land surrounding the city of Ushuaia was discovered and named by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan (formerly Magalhães), in 1520 who decided to call the province Tierra del Fuego (the Land of Fire). The name Tierra del Fuego was given due to the numerous fires lit by the native Yaghan people (also known as Yamane) that could be seen from a far, smouldering on the horizon.
The Beagle Channel was named after the British ship HMS Beagle during its first hydrographical survey of the coasts of the southern part of South America that lasted from 1826 to 1830. On the second voyage of the Beagle, captain Fitzroy took Charles Darwin as a gentleman's companion allowing Darwin to start his historical naturalist observations on evolution. It is documented that when they reached Beagle Channel, Darwin noted that there were "many glaciers beryl blue most beautiful contrasted with snow".
When you travel to Ushuaia you will be blown away by its spectacular landscape! Surprisingly Ushuaia has only fairly recently become one of Argentina's top travel destinations. In its time, Ushuaia was once a missionary base, then a penal colony and finally a naval base for the Argentinean Navy. However, due to Tierra del Fuego's spectacular national parks, native wildlife and bio-diversity, as well as its position as an exclusive gateway for cruises to Antartica, Ushuaia has now become one of the must-see places for anyone travelling to Argentina.
Currently, the small city of Ushuaia has a population of 58,000 inhabitants but figures have rapidly increased in recent years as a result of Argentina’s growing tourism industry since the 2001 economic crash. The government encouraged this growth by declaring the province of Tierra del Fuego a virtually tax-free zone, as an incentive for Argentineans to settle there (many of the inhabitants of today's Ushuaia come from Chaco, in the north of Argentina). As a result, Ushuaia has developed a successful infrastructure for both residents and tourists, including a fully functional hospital, Ushuaia international airport, educational institutions and a well-organised public transport system. The cost of living however, is relatively high, as all goods have to be transported long distances, usually by container ship.
Photo source: Liam Quinn
The colourful city of Ushuaia offers a huge selection of tourist attractions for travellers looking to learn more about the neighbouring Antarctica. The Museo del Fin del Mundo dedicates itself to the birds and nature of Tierra del Fuego and the Museo Marítimo y Presidio de Ushuaia houses a collection on Tierra del Fuego’s history. The latter is well worth a visit on your trip to Ushuaia, as it was once a military prison intended for repeat offenders and serious criminals who were forced to spend much of their time building the original settlement of Ushuaia, including the railway running to the Tierra del Fuego National park, now Ushuaia’s main tourist attraction, the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo).
Tierra del Fuego:
Tierra del Fuego is in fact, an archipelago (a group of islands), separated from mainland South America by Magellan’s Strait and is divided between Argentina (the east) and Chile (the west).
Lying close to the Chilean border, stretching 60km along the Beagle Channel in Argentina and just 8km south of Ushuaia is the incredible Tierra del Fuego National Park. The National Park of Tierra del Fuego is full of dramatic scenery of sub-Antarctic forests, crystal clear lakes, tranquil bays, deep valleys, rugged mountains and unique wildlife. All of these factors contribute to making it one of Argentina’s most spectacular tourist destinations and the ideal place to marvel at the perfectly balanced coexistence of humans and the natural environment.
There's a huge variety of excursions in Tierra del Fuego. Those who want an outdoor adventure can book Ushuaia hiking and canoeing tours, explore the diverse ecosystem and Glacier Martial, or take a kayaking excursion on the still waters of Lake Escondido and Fagnano, or even race across dirt tracks on a 4x4 off-road tour. The lakes are also perfect for a moment of peace and serenity or the starting point of a spectacular boat tour around Ushuaia cruising up through the Beagle Channel allowing you to admire the Antarctic wildlife, unique to "the end of the world". In the Beagle Channel lie naturally diverse islands such as, Isla de los Lobos and Isla de los Pájaros, home to magellanic penguins, sea lions, eagles and black necked swans amongst many more fascinating creatures. Alternatively, experience Ushuaia from the skies with an aerial tour, giving you the best view of Tierra del Fuego's spectacular scenery. For all its diversity and beauty, you will discover that a visit to Ushuaia is a once in a lifetime experience!
Photo source: Victor
Due to the fact that Ushuaia is an island located in the most southern part of Patagonia, it is both expensive and fairly difficult to reach by bus. This is beacuse the only road to Ushuaia goes from Chile, since it is necessary to cross the Straight of Magellan to get to Tierra del Fuego Province. If you take this option, be prepared for the border crossing and ensure you have your passport with you.
The most common method of transportation is by plane with either a direct 3.5 hour flight or with a brief connection in El Calafate. The following airlines all fly to Ushuaia: Aerolineas Argentina, LAN, TAM, and KLM. The Chilean airline Aerovías DAP also offers charter flights to Ushuaia.
To get to your hotel in Ushuaia from the airport, we offer a transfer service for your convenience.
Although Ushuaia is known as the southernmost city in the world, it is actually no more south than Belfast (Ireland) is north. But it has a sub-polar oceanic climate that is comparable to cities such as Reykjavik in Iceland and Unalaska in Alaska. On average the city experiences 200 days of light rain or snow a year, with many cloudy and foggy days and despite receiving only 530mm average annual precipitation, Ushuaia has a very humid climate.
Summer in Ushuaia:
The months from November to March are cool with rain and some wind. There are also the occasional days of snow. Average temperatures range from highs of 16°C to lows of 12°C while, a record high reached 29°C.
Winter in Ushuaia:
The months between June and August can be very cold with common snow falls and a very strong winds coming up from the Antarctic. Wind-proof/water-proof clothing and multiple layers are necessary for this time of year. The average temperature ranges from highs of -1°C to lows of -3°C while a record low reached -6°C.
Peak season officially begins in August and ends in April during the lead up to Easter. During this period, tourists from all over the world travel to Ushuaia to take in the spectacular surroundings.
Ushuaia is a small city and it is easy to get around on foot. The city also has public transport and taxis, as well as car and bike rentals, useful for when you want to explore the surrounding areas and Ushuaia's many natural attractions.
In 2009, Ushuaia was the first location in Latin America to host a homosexual marriage. At the time the Civil Code of Argentina did not allow marriage between people of the same sex so the Governor issued a special decree allowing the couple to wed in Ushuaia city (however the marriage was later annulled when the decree was reversed by Tierra del Fuego's judiciary, since same-sex marriage as yet had not been legalised). The approval of a gender-neutral bill by the Argentinean National Congress was made in 2010 legalising gay marriage in Argentina.
For more ideas on what to do in Ushuaia, explore our catalogue of Ushuaia tours and start planning your dream vacation at the End of the World!
Photo source: Ramón