Tierra del Fuego’s windswept archipelago has for centuries held an allure for its end-of-the world novelty.
Lying at the southernmost tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego’s windswept archipelago has for centuries held an allure for its end-of-the world novelty. But once you arrive, you realize this remote corner shared by Chile and Argentina is teaming with life. From the arid, lamb- or guanaco-filled steppes and lichen covered lenga forests of the north to the snow-capped Andes mountains in the south, Tierra del Fuego is a nature lovers dream.
If wildlife viewing is your thing, Tierra del Fuego is your place. Attractions include local birds such as condors and cormorants, penguins, guanaco, seals, and whales–many of these species colonizing the islands and fjords along the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel. Hop on a boat run by PiraTour and sail past the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse before disembarking on Martillo Island near Estancia Harberton where you can walk amongst the Gentoo and Magellanic penguins for the afternoon.
2. Summer Skiing
With a long winter season that starts before ours even ends, head to Ushuaia to ski year round–many North American and European pro skiers do just that. The Cerro Castor ski resort sits just 26 kilometers outside of the city and with the base at only 195 meters above sea level, you’ll no worries about altitude sickness here. The mountain rises up to 1,057 meters above the base and offers 28 trails with different degrees of difficulty, including 30 kilometers of off-piste skiing. With stable temperatures hovering in the 20s and 30s Fahrenheit and heavy precipitation, you are guaranteed months and months of pristine powder snow.
Most of Tierra del Fuego remains undeveloped, which makes for some amazing hiking and backpacking.
3. Hiking and Backpacking
Most of Tierra del Fuego remains undeveloped, which makes for some amazing hiking and backpacking. You can choose single-day trips such as hiking to the Emerald Lagoon outside of Ushuaia or climbing to the top of Pietro Grande in Karukinka Nature Park, or head out on a more involved multi-day backpacking adventure where it’s highly likely you will have the wilderness to yourself–apart from a guanaco or two. Backpacking options include the five-day Los Dientes trek on Navarino Island or a 5 to 7 day route through the Paciencia Valley in Karukinka Nature Park.
Ushuaia is the base for all boats heading to and from Antarctica. Probably one of the greatest boat crossings in the world (and perhaps the most expensive), it take four days to cover the 1,000 km to the Antarctic peninsula, including two days in the notoriously turbulent Drake Passage–be sure to pack the Dramamine. But once you are there, expect to see penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and endless beautiful glaciers everywhere you look. If you are hoping to get to Antarctica on a budget, you can take your chances at securing a last-minute place aboard a boat–it just requires some patience and time to kill waiting around Ushuaia for the chance.
5. Relive The Revenant
Most people don’t know that the climactic confrontation between Glass and Fitzgerald was filmed outside of Ushuaia. When they ran out of winter up in Canada, director Iñárritu moved the entire production down to the bottom of the world to capture those final scenes along the Olivia River.
6. The Food
The end of the world isn’t the first place you’d think of when it comes to fine dining but once you arrive, you will find yourself in foodie heaven. Luscious king crab, lamb roasted over a lenga-wood fire, and grilled sausages with homemade chimichurri sauce to fuel all your adventures–all washed down with local Argentinean and Chilean wines, of course. And don’t forget to drink a calafate sour or two to ensure your return to this beautiful part of the world.
7. Stand on a Mountain Top
No, you don’t have to be an experienced mountain climber for this one. With their fleet of Robinson helicopters, Heliushuaia will whisk you away from the bay for a tour around the surrounding Andean mountains including the prominent Mount Olivia and Mount Cinco Hermanos before landing atop Cerro Le’Cloche. From here you are treated to a magical 360-degree view of the Andes behind you with the sprawling town of Ushuaia beneath your feet. Toast your good fortune with a glass of champagne supplied by the expert pilots–it doesn’t get any more James Bond than that.
8. Learn to Dog Sled
Numerous places in the Tierra Mayor Valley outside of Ushuaia own fleets of Alaskan and Siberian Huskies that are eager to work. Learn how to drive a sled as a team of dogs pull you along snow-covered trails through the ancient lenga forest. Then warm up with some mulled wine and a delicious stew served at a log cabin in the middle of the woods.
9. Cross-Country Skiing
Most of South America flocks to Tierra del Fuego in winter as it’s one of the only places on the continent with guaranteed snow. With the only place to cross-country ski in Argentina, Ushuaia–and in particular Tierra Mayor–is home to more Olympians than any other part of the country. Run by a family stacked with former Olympians, Tierra Mayor is home to the 21-kilometer Marcha Blanca race each year and the full distance Ushuaia Loppet, part of the Worldloppet Ski Federation series.
If wildlife viewing is your thing, Tierra del Fuego is your place.
10. Sea Kayaking
Spend one day or a full week kayaking along the Strait of Magellan, in and out of the numerous fjords where you are greeted with huge walls of ice cascading down the surrounding mountains and icebergs floating in the frigid water. Paddle alongside elephant seals, leopard seals, dolphins, sea lions, black-browed albatross, king penguins, and humpback whales, to name just a few.
11. Trout Fishing
Ask any experienced angler about fishing for brown trout on the Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego and their eyes will light up. The fishing is that good. The waters are filled with an abundance of trout of all different kinds, including brown and rainbow, and you can be almost guaranteed to find a spot all to yourself. Fishing lodges abound to cater to all sorts of anglers, including Hosteria Las Lengas on the Chilean side, where you can fish right out your front door on the world-famous Lago Blanco surrounded by a thousand-year-old native lenga forest.