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.
Prior to the late 19th century, the land that is now called Ushuaia was inhabited entirely by Yámana 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 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, summers tend not to climb much above +12°C and, as in all of Patagonia, strong winds add a significant wind chill factor.
There is one major airport serving the city:
- Ushuaia – Malvinas Argentinas International Airport (IATA: USH, IACO: SAWH) (4 km/2.5 mi south of the center of Ushuaia).
Buses between all destinations (apart from Puerto Natales) all 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 is advertised as taking around 12 hours, however, it is often much longer.
A number of cruise ships stop at Ushuaia, either as an attraction or as the destination.
- Cruceros Australis, ☎ +54 11-5199-6697, +1-305-695-9618, toll-free: +1-877-678-3772 (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 only 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.
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 also several car and bicycle hire companies. Be aware that in Ushuaia, all vehicles on hillside streets automatically have the right-of-way. The rule is intended to prevent accidents due to ice and snow on the steep mountain roads.
- Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse (9 km east of Ushuaia). Reached by a short boat tour from Ushuaia, known locally as the Lighthouse at the End of the World, but 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.
- Estancia Harberton (~60 km/40 mi east of Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel). 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.
- Laguna Esmeralda. It's a short, but muddy hike through peat bogs to get there, but the stunning lake is worth it. The color of the water changes with the time of day.
- 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 del Fin del Mundo. Highlights include the largest exhibited collection of birds from Tierra del Fuego, the figurehead of the Duchess of Albany (a sunken vessel), and library dedicated to the history and nature of Tierra del Fuego. Admission $20.
- Museo Marítimo. Yagones y Gobernador Paz. Located in an old prison displays a collection of the history of Tierra del Fuego. Admission includes entry into the Presidio which is on the same site as el Museo Marítimo.
- Museo Mundo Yámana, 56 Rivadavia (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.
- Plaza Malvinas, Maipú (on the seafront). Monument to the Falkland Islands War of 1982.
- Presidio. Museum of the historical military prison of Ushuaia. One wing of the museum has been converted to an art gallery featuring the work of local artists. Adults $90, students $70.
- 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.
- Cerro Castor. This centre for winter sports offers skiing and snowboarding. Nearby, you can also ride snowcats or husky sleighs.
- Hike the Glacier Martial. Provided that you wear comfortable shoes and have the patience, a hike up the Glacier Martial will provide a very beautiful view of Ushuaia and the Beagle Chanel. There is also a single ski slope open during the winter months, and ski hire is available from the site.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tren del Fin del Mundo. Located west of town just before the entrance to the National Park. 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. Starting from $175.
- Ushuaia Divers located in the AFASIN Yacht Club, ☎ +54 9 2901 61-9782 (Carlos Giuggia). US$150 + AR$40 for 2 dives.
- Ushuaia Golf Club. Located west of town just before the entrance to the National Park. Probably the southernmost golf course in the world.
The main shopping district of Ushuaia is located near the waterfront, mostly on San Martín. There is a smaller centre 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 (obviously) 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-prepared/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 miles 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, ☎ . Coffee, sandwiches and hot fast food, along with beer, wine and other spirits.
- El Turco, San Martín 1410, ☎ . Argentine (not Turkish) cuisine.
- 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, ☎ . 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: email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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, artesanal, home-cooked food. Tapas-style picadas recommended as sampling menu. Good wine selection.
- Dublin Bar, 9 de Julio. Popular with tourists.
- Galway Bar (on San Martin). Another popular Irish pub although it usually has less atmosphere than Dublin.
- Kuar, Perito Moreno 2232, e-mail: email@example.com. 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 a bit 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 (on Maipu). Open until 6AM on the weekends. Ushuaia's only real nightclub/disco.
Hotels in Ushuaia are often booked, especially during peak tourist season, thus it is advisable to arrive in Ushuaia with reservations. Hostels (albergues) on the other hand are numerous and even in mid summer you should have no problem finding a bed.
- Albergue Antarctica Hostel, Antártida Argentina 270, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the best hostels in town. Just opened recently. Free internet access and breakfast is included. Shared kitchen. Dorm bed $70, double $250.
- Albergue Aonikenk, 25 de Mayo 576, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 10AM. Free internet access and breakfast is 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hostel. Dorm bed $78.
- Albergue Free Style, Paz 866, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The FreeStyle has an excellent view of the bay from their 3rd floor common room. Hostel is clean, new and well maintained with internet costing $1 per half hour and breakfast is included. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Centrally located, big kitchen, free breakfast, padlockable lockers, free wi-fi and Internet. Dorm bed $110.
- Albergue La Posta, Juan D. Perón 864 (first traffic circle coming from the airport), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 10AM. Free Internet & Wi-Fi, quiet location, friendly atmosphere, 2 spacious kitchens, medical assistance on site, free laundry room, large yard with grill, parking lot. Dorm bed $70, double $220/$340 (shared/private bathroom), triple $390.
- 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 Familia Piatti, Bahía Paraíso 812, ☎ . Located in the forest, isolated from the city centre. Single $350, double $450, triple $550.
- B&B Tango, Valdez 950, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Offers daily room service, excellent location, seven blocks away from the main street, really exclusive, with warm and drinkable water 24 hours available, free Internet, cable TV in the living room, optional TV in the room, conditioned atmospheres, safe box in front desk, buffet breakfast and the good quality that only the owners/hosts can give you. A 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Well-maintained, nicely furnished cabanas with kitchen. Double $360, triple $400.
- Hospedaje Posada Costa Serena, Roca 129, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Centrally located. Single $400, double $460.
- Hotel Austral, 9 de Julio 250, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 10 rooms, centrally located. Single or double $420, triple $490.
- Hotel Las Lengas, Goleta Florencia 1722, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 TV cable, 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: email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com. 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 need have 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single $528, double $672, triple $768.
- Antarctica. Ushuaia is one, if not the, largest port and airport for cruises and flights to Antarctica.
- Isla Navarino. Zodiac boat to Puerto Williams one way $1000. It's a 15 minutes boat ride to Puerto Navarino and then the minibus takes you to Puerto Williams.
- Punta Arenas. Daily bus at 5AM from the bus station (there is one now) $180-210.
- Tierra del Fuego National Park. This national park provide some nice day hikes on well marked trails. 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 organisation and renting gear.