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Port Review: Ushuaia, Argentina

By:
Joanna Hall
 

Situated on the Beagle Strait, and a jumping off point for many Antarctica cruises, Ushuaia is the largest city in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, and arguably the southernmost city in the world.

The Facts

Location: On the southern tip of South America.

Language: Spanish, but English is also quite widely spoken.

Currency: Argentina peso.

Docking/anchoring: Ships dock right in the centre of the town.

Transport: You can walk into town within minutes and there are usually taxis right outside the port complex.

Overview

Founded just over one hundred years ago, Ushuaia is a somewhat rustic town situated amidst incredible snowcapped mountains, dramatic waterfalls, massive glaciers, and a forest famous for its red foliage. Tierra del Fuego, the "Land of Fire," 18 kilometres to the west of Ushuaia, has a glacial landscape and is a national park which is also a bird-watcher's paradise. In the past, Ushuaia has been a missionary base, a penal colony and a naval base for the Argentine Navy. Today it’s primarily a major tourist hub, complete with casinos and nice restaurants, and commonly used as a base for hiking, winter sports and expedition style cruises to Antarctica.

Don’t Miss

The explorer Magellan gave the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego its name, which translates to “Land of Fire”, and was Argentina’s first coastal national park. There are easy walking trails through the magnificent bays, rivers and forests and the best time to visit is in early Autumn when the landscape turns a fiery red - hence its name.

The Beagle Channel is where you’ll find volcanic mountains, ice-blue glaciers, and a historic lighthouse, and most of the boat tours here also make a visit to the lively sea lion and cormorant colonies.

The Museo Maritimo is a museum built by convicts between 1906 and 1920; it held up to 800 prisoners in just 380 small cells until it was closed in 1947. Now you can also explore the maritime history collection of the Argentine Navy, an amazing treasure trove of models, exhibits of Antarctic discovery and research. 

Best Photo Op

There’s a ski lift just outside town which takes you to the restaurants and hotels high above the city, and from here you can photograph Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel and enjoy panoramic views.

Shopping

There are shops set up at the cruise port but these are mostly expensive tourist traps. A short walk into town, however, and you’ll find some local retail outlets selling Patagonian sheep’s wool clothing and authentic leather gaucho hats.

Food And Drink

There is no shortage of great restaurants in Ushuaia, and if you’re into seafood or Argentine beef and great South American wines at cheap prices, then this will be heaven for you. There are plenty of cafes and bakeries if you want to indulge in something a little more simple, but if you want to push the boat out, try Kalma Resto near the End of the World Museum for classic crab and octopus, sea bass and roast lamb stews.

Pick of the Excursions

Trekking through the Tierra Mayor Valley Natural Reserve is a fairly strenuous half day excursion, but the reward is stunning landscapes and wildlife including foxes, beavers, rabbits and muskrats. One of the highlights is the stunning Five Cascades Waterfalls.

The Southernmost Railway and Mountain Drive is an easy half day excursion for train buffs which takes you on a narrow gauge train through the Tierra del Fuego National Park, the Beagle Channel and Ensenada Bay. 

 

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