Situated on the Beagle Strait, Ushuaia is the largest city in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, and arguably the southernmost city in the world. In the past, the town has been a missionary base, penal colony and naval base for the Argentine navy. Ushuaia is now a major tourist town, complete with casinos and nice restaurants, and commonly used as a base for hiking, winter sports and cruises to Antarctica.
Ushuaia is the capital of the Argentinian part of the Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago at the southern end of South America. The city of some 56,000 inhabitants has in the last decades transformed from a sleepy village to a lively tourist center, so you will not feel quite like you are at the end of the world. The scenic landscape around the city, with good outdoor sports including one of the southernmost winter sport resorts in the world complete with a view to the sea, make Ushuaia a place worth visiting.
The city borders one of the southernmost legs of the Andes and has several urban centers. The mall is about 2km long and stretches from the freight port past the Avenida Alem (National Road 3). East of downtown there is the industrial area, and the western side is dominated by residential buildings and the airport. Most hotels and resorts, particularly at the upper end of the price scale are on the road to the Martial Glacier.
The world's southernmost city?
You might wonder if Ushuaia really is the southernmost city in the world. This depends on how "city" is defined. On the southern side of the canal is the Chilean town of Puerto Williams which, however, has just 2,000 inhabitants and is therefore often not regarded as a city, nor does it market itself as such. Still further south there's the village of Puerto Toro with fewer than 100 inhabitants, and on Antarctica there are several research stations with hundreds of "inhabitants".
Prior to the late 19th century, the land that is now called Ushuaia was inhabited entirely by Yámana people and a handful of missionaries. Due to outbreaks of typhus, pertussis and measles, by 1911, the Yámana had effectively disappeared; as of 2007, there was allegedly one pure-blooded native-speaking Yámana left.
In the late 19th century, the Argentine government established a penal colony in Ushuaia intended for repeat offenders, serious criminals and some political prisoners, following similar examples by the French and British. The prison population became forced colonists who spent most of their time chopping down the now-protected lenga trees, which they used to build the town. The prison was shut down in 1947, but it and the railway to the settlement have now become the Museo Maritimo and the Tren del Fin del Mundo respectively.
Today the town is growing fast as a result of increased tourism since the 2002 economic crash. The government has encouraged this growth by designating Tierra del Fuego a virtually tax-free zone to encourage people to settle; many of the inhabitants of today's Ushuaia come from Chaco, in the north of Argentina. The cost of living, however, is relatively high as all goods have to be transported long distances, usually by container ship.
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The city experiences 146 days of precipitation and 206 cloudy days per year, with many cloudy and foggy days. Ushuaia's average humidity is 80% with very little seasonal variation. Daylight in the city varies from 18 hours in summer (Nov–Mar) to 7 hours in winter.
Climate-wise, Ushuaia is warmer than many assume; although (arguably) the southernmost city in the world, it is no further south than Belfast is north, and temperatures rarely drop below -10°C. However, it is still cooler and more unstable than on the drier northern half of the island. In the summer, there are hardly any clear days: On most days there are sun, clouds and short rain showers, with temperatures around +15°C. The winters are somewhat clearer, with temperatures around -2°C and a lot of snow. The ski resorts have snow from May to early November. As in all of southern Argentina, strong winds add a significant wind chill factor.
If you plan to hike, you should have weatherproof clothing, and even if you are just visiting the city, you will need both a pullover and a jacket even in the summer months of January and February. In January, the city is full of domestic tourists (which means you should book your accommodation beforehand). There are fewer visitors from mid-February until the start of the ski season in June.
There are several tourist offices. Aside of the central one on the main street there are smaller ones on the airport and the port.
- Central Tourist Office, San Martín 674 (corner of Juana Fadul), ☎ +54 2901 424550 / 432001, fax: +54 2901 432000, e-mail: email@example.com.
There is one major airport serving the city:
- Ushuaia – Malvinas Argentinas International Airport (IATA: USH) (4 km/2.5 mi south of the center of Ushuaia). Flying is the most practical way to reach Ushuaia. There are daily flights to Ushuaia on Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN flights from Buenos Aires and from Santiago de Chile, stopping over in Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas. Downtown is a 10 minute taxi ride from the airport.
Buses from all destinations except Puerto Natales stop at Rio Gallegos. It can be cheaper to just buy a ticket to Rio Gallegos and purchase an onward ticket from there. The ride from Rio Gallegos costs $425 and involves crossing into Chile and taking a ferry across the Magellan Strait. There are three daily departures and the journey is advertised as taking around 12 hours, but it is often much longer in practice.
Argentine National Route 3 connects Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, ending at the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Tierra del Fuego is an island, and the route requires crossing into Chile and taking a ferry to cross the Magellan Strait. There are two ferries connecting Tierra del Fuego to the South American mainland: a short crossing at Punta Delgada at the northernmost point of the island and a longer crossing from Punta Arenas in Chile to Porvenir on the island's west coast.
A number of cruise ships stop at Ushuaia, either as an attraction or as the destination.
- Cruceros Australis, ☎ , toll-free: , . (U.S.)4-night cruise from Punta Arenas. Excursions in Ainsworth Bay and Tuckers islets to view sea lions, penguins and other wildlife. Travels through the Beagle and Murray channels, stopping at the Pía Glacier and Wulaia Bay. Also stops at Cape Horn National Park, the last piece of land before Antarctica. 7-night Punta Arenas–Ushuaia–Punta Arenas cruises (including a day tour of Ushuaia) also available. 4-night cruise from US$2,148.
There are city buses within Ushuaia, but they reach few of the tourist attractions. They are good to get to Playa Larga, for example, or from one part of the center to another, along the east/west axis. The bus lines are nowadays labeled with letters, though numbers were previously used and the old numbers may still be visible at some bus stops. The bus fare is $2.20 as of 2010, and tickets are bought from the driver.
Tours/transport to the main tourist attractions can be booked through the Tourist Office (on San Martin) or through many of the hostels. Regular minibuses leave for the National Park, Glaciar Martial, the trailhead of Laguna Esmeralda or other places from a parking lot at the corner of Maipu and Fadul.
Taxis are another option, costing, for example, $60 to get from the city centre to either the airport or Glaciar Martial. There are plenty of taxis and remises, the fares being somewhat higher than in Buenos Aires.
There are also several car and bicycle rental companies. Be aware that in Ushuaia, all vehicles on hillside streets automatically have the right-of-way. In most places there are signs, but even if there isn't, this rule still applies. This is intended to prevent accidents due to ice and snow on the steep mountain roads.
There aren't really any architectural sights in Ushuaia. The city is modern, but the architecture is Scandinavian and positively different from other cities in southern Argentina.
- Casa de Gobierno, San Martín. The local government building is a strange mixture of functionalism with Alpine elements and is hard to miss.
- Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse (9 km southeast of Ushuaia). Reached by a short boat tour from Ushuaia, it is known locally as the Lighthouse at the End of the World, though the lighthouse made famous by Jules Verne in the novel of the same name is the San Juan de Salvamento lighthouse further east on Isla de los Estados.
- Plaza Malvinas, Maipú (on the seafront). Monument to the Falkland Islands War of 1982. These islands are called the Islas Malvinas in Argentina.
- Mastil de General Belgrano (accessible by boat from Playa Larga). A remote area west of the city of Ushuaia on Isla Redonda, paying tribute to one of the founders of Argentina, and to the navy cruiser named after him which was sunk by the UK in the Falklands War. It was a stop on one of the televised Amazing Race contests, and features a one-person post office for sending letters from the end of the world. ~$100.
- Museo Marítimo, Yagones and Gobernador Paz. Located in an old prison, this is four museums in one. The maritime museum itself displays a collection of the history of Tierra del Fuego. One wing has been converted to an art gallery named Museo de Arte Marino featuring the work of local artists. There is also an Antarctic museum and a of course museum of the prison itself. adults $120, students $70, family ticket $250.
- Museo del Fin del Mundo, Maipú 173. Highlights include the largest exhibited collection of birds from Tierra del Fuego, the figurehead of the Duchess of Albany (a sunken vessel), and a library dedicated to the history and nature of Tierra del Fuego. Admission $20.
- Museo Mundo Yámana, Rivadavia 56 (near the Museo del Fin del Mundo). Privately-run museum with several dioramas of traditional Yámana life, origins and migrations, as well as displays of the period of early contact with Europeans. $35.
The area around Ushuaia is excellent for hiking and there are several marked paths. The most popular one leads up to the Glaciar Martial, a 1300m high snow covered peak with a small glacier and a spectacular view of the city and the surroundings. If you are going up the mountain you need sturdy and waterproof shoes - the path is steep and often slippery. You can pick up a map in the tourist office which is sufficient for shorter and popular hikes.
For serious hiking you should invest in the "Ushuaia Trekking Map," which can be purchased for around $45 at many stores downtown. You can head to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, 12km west of Ushuaia, or hike the valleys around Estancia Haberton (where many paths aren't marked).
- Laguna Esmeralda (about 15km northeast). It's a short but muddy hike from the highway through peat bogs to get there, but the stunning lake is worth it. The colour of the water changes with the time of day.
- Hike the Glaciar Martial. Provided that you wear comfortable shoes and have the patience, a hike up the Glaciar Martial will provide a very beautiful view of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel. There is also a single ski slope open during the winter months, and ski rentals are available from the site.
- Mountain biking. The downhill trails are not to be underestimated: Bring your stamina. Club Andino sells mountain biking guidebooks with rough maps and trail descriptions. Mountain bikes can be rented at the Alamo car rental at Belgrano 96.
- Ushuaia Golf Club. Located west of town just before the entrance to the National Park, this is probably the southernmost golf course in the world.
- Tren del Fin del Mundo (west of town just before the entrance to the National Park). The "train to the end of the world" is a pleasant 45-minute train ride into the park on a narrow gauge railway rebuilt on part of the roadbed of the old logging train. The train line originally operated from 1909 to 1952, transporting timber and other material in the penal colony, and reopened in 1994 as a tourist train. You won't get very good views of the park itself but train enthusiasts in particular will enjoy the ride. Starting from $175.
- Beagle Channel. Catamaran trips will take you around the Beagle Channel and give you nice views of the mountains, cormorants, penguins, orcas, seals and sea lions.
- Kayak the Beagle Channel. Kayaks with a guide can be hired near the Aeroparque on the promontory jutting out from Ushuaia.
- Motonave Barracuda Sail. Ship trips will take you around the Beagle channel and give you nice views of the mountains, cormorants, sea lions and penguins.
- Ushuaia Divers located in the AFASIN Yacht Club, ☎ . (Carlos Giuggia)US$150 + AR$40 for 2 dives.
In the winter, the area turns into a large ski resort. In Ushuaia itself there are two pistes on Glacial Martial, both with sea view.
- Cerro Castor (20km to the northwest). If you want more, this centre for winter sports offers alpine and cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Nearby in Las Cotorras you can also ride snowcats or husky sleighs.
The main shopping district of Ushuaia is near the waterfront, mostly on San Martín. There is a smaller center west of the city, north of the airport, where the locals mainly shop.
Prices in Ushuaia are higher than central Argentina, but there is no sales tax (IVA). Furthermore, due to low tariffs on imports in Tierra del Fuego, imported goods (electronics) are a comparative bargain. There is a duty free store on San Martín that sells perfume, alcohol and cigarettes, but keep an eye on the prices as some items may be cheaper elsewhere.
While Antarctic travelers should arrive with proper gear already in their possession, quality winter gear including boots, coats, and other necessities — as well as souvenirs — can be purchased from a variety of shops.
Most Ushuaia restaurants are centrally-located, clustered around San Martín and Maipú. The western part of the city offers affordable rotiserías (pre-made/fast food) with standard Argentine dishes such as pizza and empanadas.
Seafood and meat dishes are very typical, as fruit and vegetables have to be transported from thousands of kilometers away and, as such, are rarely tasty and rather expensive. Be sure to try the centolla (king crab).
- Barcleit 1912, Juana Fadul 148, ☎ . Small restaurant with a variety of local dishes and a few unconventional options. Try the pizza alemana with mustard and sausage.
- Tante Sara, San Martín 701, ☎ . A popular two-floor café. Coffee, sandwiches and hot fast food, along with beer, wine and other spirits.
- El Turco, San Martín 1410, ☎ . Argentine (not Turkish) cuisine. One of the most affordable restaurants in the city.
- Chez Manu, Luis Fernando Martial 2135, ☎ . Local cuisine. Patagonia lamb, seafood and fish. Ask for a seat along the large windows for great views of Ushuaia.
- Chiko, Antartida Argentina 182, ☎ . Seafood.
- La Rueda, San Martín 193 (corner of Rivadavia), ☎ . Typical Argentine parrilla (barbecue). All-you-can-eat meat with a self-serve veggie and side bar.
- Marcopolo Cafe Restaurant, San Martín 746, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Local cuisine.
- Maria Lola, Deloqui 1048, ☎ . Local cuisine, seafood.
- Tante Nina, Godoy 15, ☎ . Local cuisine.
- Tía Elvira, Maipú 349, ☎ . Local cuisine.
- Volver, Maipú 37, ☎ . Known for its king crab.
- Kaupé, Roca 470, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Expensive compared to other restaurants in Ushuaia, but the view is spectacular and the food is absolutely, positively guaranteed not to disappoint. Also known for its king crab.
- Temaukel, Cno. Glaciar Martial Km. 3.5, ☎ .
There is not much of a nightlife in Ushuaia; most bars and pubs close early.
- Bar Ideal, San Martín 393, ☎ . Open until midnight. Irish pub.
- Bodegon Fuegino, San Martín 859, ☎ . Locally-sourced, artisanal, home-cooked food. Tapas-style picadas recommended as sampling menu. Good wine selection.
- Dublin Bar, 9 de Julio 168. Popular with tourists.
- Küar, Perito Moreno 2232, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A couple of kilometers outside town, right above the rocks by the sea, breathtaking bay views and good live music scene, sophisticated and good but not outstanding and somewhat pricey dining. If you don't mind the occasional dropping by of a bunch of gringos, be sure to book a table by the window in the restaurant area or to take a seat by the big wooden steps in the bar area.
- Macario 1910, San Martín 1485, ☎ . Local pub food and beers.
- Nautico, Maipú 1210, ☎ . Open until 6AM on the weekends. Ushuaia's only real nightclub/disco.
- Cafe Bar Banana, San Martín 273.
- Ushuaia Che, San Martín 452.
- Fusión, Perito Moreno 1530.
- Kaitek, Antartida Argentina 280. Club focusing on electronic music.
Hotels in Ushuaia are often fully booked, especially during peak tourist season, so it is advisable to arrive in Ushuaia with reservations. On the other hand, hostels (albergues) are numerous, so even in midsummer you should have no problem finding a bed.
- Albergue Antarctica Hostel, Antártida Argentina 270, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. One of the best hostels in town. Just opened recently. Free internet access and breakfast are included. Shared kitchen. Dorm bed $70, double $250.
- Albergue Aonikenk, 25 de Mayo 576, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 10AM. Free internet access and breakfast are included. Great view of the bay from the dining room/kitchen/living room. Double $220/$290, triple $260/$340 (shared/private bathroom).
- Albergue Cruz del Sur, Deloqui 242, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Hostel. Dorm bed $78.
- Albergue Free Style, Paz 866, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Free Style has an excellent view of the bay from their 3rd-floor common room. The hostel is clean, new and well-maintained, with internet costing $1 per half hour, and breakfast is included. The kitchen is clean and fully stocked, with room for perishables. Dorm rooms, private rooms and private rooms with kitchenettes are available. Dorm bed $70/$80 (shared/private bathroom).
- Albergue Los Lupinos, Deloqui 750, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Centrally located, big kitchen, free breakfast, padlockable lockers, free Wi-Fi. Dorm bed $110.
- Camping La Pista del Andino, L.N. Alem 2873, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located on the slope of Club Andino overlooking the city. Great for hikers and mountain bikers. Entry $45/person, $20/child under 12.
- B&B Casa Tekenika, Tekenika 192, e-mail: email@example.com. Affordable B&B. 423117.
- B&B Familia Piatti, Bahía Paraíso 812, ☎ . Located in the forest, isolated from the city center. Single $350, double $450, triple $550.
- B&B Tango, Valdez 950, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers daily room service, excellent location, seven blocks away from the main street, with warm and drinkable water 24 hours available, free Internet, cable TV in the living room, optional TV in the room, conditioned atmosphere, safe box at the front desk, buffet breakfast and the good quality that only the owners/hosts can give you. Tango show free with the unique view of the Beagle channel and the islands that surround it. Double $500.
- Cabañas Las Aguilas, Provincia Grande 519, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Well-maintained, nicely furnished cabanas with kitchen. Double $360, triple $400.
- Hospedaje Posada Costa Serena, Roca 129, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located just next to San Martin in the middle of town, this posada offers simple accommodation with an excellent position. Free Wi-Fi is available in all rooms, 2 computers are available for the use of those without laptops, residents have full use of a kitchen, the room price includes all-day breakfast and snacks (e.g. coffee, cakes) and the managers are very friendly. Single $250/$350, double $300/$350 (shared/private bathroom).
- Hotel Antártida Argentina, Rivadavia 172, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Centrally located. Single $400, double $460.
- Hotel Austral, 9 de Julio 250, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10 rooms, centrally located. Single or double $420, triple $490.
- Hotel Las Lengas, Goleta Florencia 1722, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. This is the first eco-friendly hotel of Ushuaia and it is located over a natural elevation of the terrain. Thanks to its large floor-to-ceiling windows, which are insulated and provide natural lighting, it is possible to enjoy the fantastic views over the bay of Ushuaia and Beagle Channel from all public areas of this unique hotel. All 46 rooms and suites are completely insulated and all of them have views to mountains and/or Beagle Channel. They all have in-room heating temperature controls, LCD and cable TV, hair dryers, safety boxes, LED and/or low energy bulbs, flow regulators and dual-flush system. Wi-Fi is complimentary in all rooms and public areas of the hotel. The attached restaurant integrates traditional dishes from Patagonia. Single or double $635, triple $810.
- Hostería Posada del Fin del Mundo, Rivadavia 603, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Lodge located in a residential area a few minutes from downtown. Single or double $600/$660, triple $720/$780 (shared/private bathroom).
- Hostería Tierra de Leyendas, Tierra de los Vientos 2448, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Cozy lodge with five rooms and a small restaurant with large windows facing the Beagle Channel. Single or double $1,000 (standard), $1,300 (superior).
- Hotel Albatros, Maipú 505, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located on the waterfront near the port, this hotel offers 78 comfortable rooms and suites and excellent service. Although most of its rooms do not have a view, they are warmly decorated. Free Wi-Fi is available to all visitors, the room price includes a continental buffet breakfast, and the staff are helpful and speak English. Amenities include the Albatros Spa: Sauna, Scottish and Finnish showers, hydro-massage and a gym. The use of the spa & health club is included in the rate (only massage sessions incur an extra cost). An on-site restaurant serves international food and also traditional dishes from Patagonia, with an air-conditioned wine cellar featuring Patagonian wines. Single or double $780, triple $945, suite $1,170.
- Hotel Canal Beagle, Maipú 547, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. On the Beagle Channel near the harbor. Single $732, double $818, suites from $1,026.
- Hotel Las Hayas Resort, Luis F. Martial 1650 (2.5 km from the city, on the road to the glaciar Martial), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Surrounded by a natural forest with a view of the town and Beagle Channel Bay. Single or double $1,160, suites from $1,552.
- Hotel Ushuaia, Lasserre 933, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Single $528, double $672, triple $768.
Both industry and tourism were until the 1990s major draws for workforce from elsewhere. As some tax privileges were removed, this had a negative effect on the employment market. Today it isn't as easy to get a job in Ushuaia as it once was, but there are still job openings in the tourism and restaurant sectors, especially if you can speak many languages.
Usuaia and the region in general isn't entirely free of crime, but significantly safer than most of Argentina. There aren't any slums, and businesses seldom have bars installed in the front of their windows. Potential criminals from elsewhere would have a hard time getting out of Tierra del Fuego undetected, as the only ways out would be via the airport or Chilean territory.
There are two hospitals in the city:
- Centro Médico Ushuaia, La Estancia 1925, ☎ 445130.
- Hospital Regional, Malvinas y 12 de Octubre, ☎ 422950.
There are no particular health risks in Ushuaia; the biggest threat would be catching a cold due to the varying weather conditions. But also note that especially in the summer and when trekking in the mountains, you should protect yourself from sunburn, as the ozone layer is relatively thin in this part of the world.
- The local newspaper is Diario del Fin del Mundo (literally the Newspaper of the End of the World); however, it does not feature cultural events very widely.
- Banks and exchange booths can be found along San Martín.
- The calling code for Ushuaia is 02901 and the postal code is V9410. Broadband Internet and a cell phone network are available.
- Internet cafés can be found on San Martín. Rates are higher than elsewhere in Argentina, $5/hour.
- Should you want a special "end of the world" stamp on your postcards, head to the small post office in Bahía Ensenada in the national park.
- Tierra del Fuego National Park - In Lapataia, 12km west of Ushuaia. This national park provides some nice day hikes on well-marked trails in a forest and bog landscape. Longer treks are also possible, such as Paso de la Oveja (2 days) or the Sierra Valdivieso Circuit (4 days). These treks cross part of the national park but start and end elsewhere. The Compania de Guias de la Patagonia and Club Andino Ushuaia can help with organization and renting gear. The fee for each day spent in the park is $30, but there is no extra charge for camping there. Guided treks start from $200. You can get there by rental car, taxi ($25) or the aforementioned Tren del Fin del Mundo.
- Isla Navarino - Zodiac boat to Puerto Williams, one way $1,000. It's a 15-minute boat ride to Puerto Navarino and then the minibus takes you to Puerto Williams.
- Estancia Haberton - Open only in the summer months, Estancia Harberton is a worthwhile trip for those interested in the Bridges family and their role in the local history. It's the oldest farm on the island and quite a popular place to visit. It's about 60 km east of Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel and there is no public transport, but some tour companies arrange tours. Going there by rental car is also possible, and in that case you can also continue further along the coastal road to the farm Estancia Moat.
- Isla de los Estados is the only ocean island of Argentina. It's an uninhabited and protected natural area with fiords and mountains. However people are not allowed to land there, but just to look at it from a boat.
- Punta Arenas - Daily buses depart at 5AM from the bus station (there is one now), $180-210
- Antarctica - Ushuaia is one of the largest, if not the largest port and airport for cruises and flights to Antarctica. There are three ways of getting in: normal (luxury) cruises, cruise expeditions and overflights. Most cruises go to South Georgia Island, South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands or the Antarctic Peninsula. The season is from November to March.