Ushuaia: The End of the World
Ushuaia is the southernmost tip of South America. It is surrounded by the Martial mountains and the Beagle channel.
We were dropped off at the airport by our trusty taxi driver Pablo (see our Iguazu blog post). Greg is being a complete brave soldier as he is terrified of flying and we had not envisaged flying this much during the trip. We thought that the buses would be easier and cheaper than they actually are. All that said, we have to arrive at the airport 3 hours early for Greg to fill up with Valium and alcohol. I’m the type of person that arrives at the airport 20 minutes before boarding so it’s a bit of a different regime for me.
Anyway, here we were in a tiny airport with the saddest Christmas display but the first Christmassy thing that we’d seen so we needed to take a photo obviously. The flight to Buenos Aires was without note.
We arrived around 6pm at the Aeroparque airport where most of the internal flights go. After advice that the buses and taxis were a little dodgy so we got a remis (private car) from the airport to the hotel for AR$200. On our return to Buenos Aires we found the great bus service (AR bus) that costs AR$40 to particular places in the city like the bus station (Retiro), the centre of the tourist section (Obelisco), Palermo etc.
I had booked Hotel O-Baires due to its proximity to the airport and its price, US$40 a night. The hotel was really nice actually and in a quiet residential part of the Recoleta barrio. We took advantage of being in a big city straight away and headed out for an Indian meal at Tandoor. Yum yum, it was lovely.
Journey to the End of the World!
The next morning, we were up bright and early for our taxi (which was fine) back to Aeroparque to fly to Ushuaia. River Plate, one of two very famous football teams in Buenos Aires, had a match against Cordoba that night so we were surrounded by excited football fans waiting for their flight. River Plate won by the way!
Our flight was a lengthy 4 hours, making you realise just how big Argentina is. A taxi to our hotel, Hotel de los Andes, took 15 minutes and cost AR$80.
Ushuaia is a very sweet looking town with a European ski village feel. Our hotel was in the main part of town and so we were able to check in and go for a wonder.
The hotel staff were so helpful and friendly, we had a lovely room and would definitely recommend Hotel de los Andes. There are a lot of shops selling ski type gear plus cafes and pubs. We have decided to rent our outfits for the Antarctica so we searched for a rental outlet.
We found a pub, Tante Sara, near to the hotel that does good food and drink, but service is a little lacking. Ushuaia in general is expensive with poor service, I guess that comes from being the only town in Terra del Fuego on both the Chilean and Argentinian side. The Chilean’s are looking to build an airport on their side, which will be good for competition if not for the environment.
What to Do in Ushuaia
We spent some time wondering around the shops picking up last minute Antarctica bits and bobs, e.g. gloves. Allegedly Ushuaia is a tax free zone but if it is, then the shop keepers are making the additional cash as it really is not cheap. The majority of things were more expensive than they would have been in Europe.
There are a few rental shops for Antarctica, fishing and diving equipment. We used Windfly and found them to be reasonable with good gear, albeit limited choice. For two jackets and two trousers over 12 days, we paid AR$3,800.
There were a number of tribes that inhabited the Terra del Fuego area prior to European arrivals. The first arrivals were from Britain (19th century), mainly Christian missionaries looking to convert the indigenous people. The British ship, HMS Beagle reached the Beagle Channel in 1833 during its maiden voyage. The state was acceded into the country of Argentina in 1884.
It was then used as a penal colony for the most dangerous criminals, plus political prisoners (as with Isla Isabela, Galapagos Islands). It was very difficult to escape from although 2 prisoners did succeed in escaping albeit only for a few weeks. The prison was closed by Argentina’s most famous president, Juan Perón in 1947. I visited the museum (Pequeña Historia Fueguina) with Maeve-Ann (who I met in the Antarctica) at a latar date. The museum is pretty good, giving you a model version of the history in the area. We had a fun hour walking about and being museum idiots!
There are a number of very cool street art installations around Ushuaia that we loved. The interesting thing was that there are a lot of political socialist murals, clearly Ushuaian people are quite politically active.
There are a number of options for visiting the Terra del Fuego from Ushuaia. A public bus that goes from the centre of town every hour for AR$400 return. The National Park contains a few different walks. These walks range from 4km to 8km, moderate to strenuous. The trails will take you along the river, lakes and mountain views.
The best hikes are around Lake Esmeralda and are not too strenuous.
There are also a number of opportunities to take cruises around the Beagle Channel.
- Alicia Island for a sea lion colony;
- Isla de los Pájaros (Birds Island) for king cormorants and imperial shags;
- Islas de los Lobos (Sea Lion Island) for both sea lions and fur seals;
- Martillo Island to see a colony of Magellanic penguins;
- One cruise would take you to Isla Yécapasela (known as Penguin Island).
There is a wealth of local wildlife for you to see from Ushuaia.
Eats and Drinks
As mentioned, we found that the food and drink in Ushuaia was overpriced with poor service. We did, however have decent meals and it was nice to have some fish options rather than just beef!
The Dublin pub has a great atmosphere and meant that we were able to claim that we’ve been to the highest Irish pub (in Cusco) and the most southern Irish pub. I have to say though; the food is pretty awful so don’t eat here. Drinks only!
We also ventured to Maria Lola restaurant, which has a beautiful view and nice Italian food.
Ushuaia is classed (by Argentina) as the capital of the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands). It was interesting to see the amount of space dedicated to declaring parts of the Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Shetland Islands as Argentinian. It created a weird feeling within me as a Brit, seeing us declared pirates and stating that we are illegally occupying these lands. I am not going to get all political on here and I am definitely not a colonist but the propaganda definitely made my skin wrinkle!
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