By the time this gets published I’ll be a long way from the End of the World and will, in fact, be somewhere quite normal. That wasn’t the case this past February, when I traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina, the third stop on a whirlwind trip to Buenos Aires and Patagonia. Previously, I posted about how to get to Patagonia for cheap, and what to do if you’re ever in El Calafate, a popular town to start your Patagonian adventures from. I’ll finish by talking about Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, which is also known as the End of the World because, well…it’s pretty much the last town in Argentina before you either fall into the Beagle Channel or you board a really expensive boat to Antarctica.
I’m going to be completely honest here: this isn’t an exciting place. Ushuaia isn’t hopping with things to do like El Calafate. You aren’t going to see stunning glaciers or world famous national parks. The main reason to visit Ushuaia is to say that you’ve been to Ushuaia, or even better, to say that you went to Antarctica! I can say the former, but I can’t say the later. (Yet!) Yeah, I reached the End of the World, and being able to add it as my location in my Facebook posts made me the talk of the town for about three days. Social media silliness aside, my travel mates and I were grasping to find things to do to fill our time there.
Before I make suggestions, let’s talk about pronunciation. I hadn’t a clue how to say the name of this place, so I made something up in conversation: oo-shoo-ah-i, and hoped that I was right. Nope! Impress your friends by knowing how to say the name of the town: oos-way-ah. That’s right, you don’t pronounce the “sh” like you would in English. Good. Now that you know more than I did when I was already on my way there, we can now move on to bigger and better things.
After the excitement of El Calafate, I was kind of stumped on the quick one-hour flight down to Ushuaia, with a kind of “now what?” thing going on. When I had done my research from home, the information I came up with was scanty at best. Yet, my thoughts changed as we neared. If you’re as lucky as we were and get a clear day to fly into the area, you’re going to get the best view you’ll ever have of the mountains surrounding the town:
And you may just get the feeling that you’re about to land in a dream. Not so, but it’s definitely something to remember.
The town itself, while not particularly attractive, is well equipped, with plenty of restaurants, including a Hard Rock Cafe, gift shops, and quirky venues, like the Ice Bar. For ten bucks you can spend something like twenty minutes in the place, have a really strong drink, and wear a silver and fur poncho and gloves while rubbing elbows with the Abominable Snowman. This may not seem like a lot of time, but when you see how small the ice room is and feel the cold start to seep in, twenty minutes will seem like an eon. I’m not sorry I went, but just a warning: the people running the place were incredibly rude and unprofessional. Maybe you’ll have a different experience.
A walk around town will provide you with a chance to take a picture in front of the sign touting the geographical End of the World, as well as a another spelling out the name of the town in giant white letters. You’ll also be afforded the best sea level view of Ushuaia, with a reflecting shot of the mountains and colorful boxy buildings:
If this doesn’t sound that exciting to you, join the crowd. But rest assured, I’ve saved the best for last. The most fun you can have in Ushuaia without going to Antarctica is to get on a boat tour to Isla Martillo, to see the penguins. It’s a lovely experience. You’ll also see sea lions and cormorants, which are similar to penguins. Most tours don’t allow you to get off the boat. We didn’t and I don’t feel like we missed much. The vessel still got close to the animals and gave plenty of time to take pictures.
Several companies compete with each other for customers. We went with Canoero Catamaranes and were very happy with our experience. Comfortable boat, friendly staff, and nice on-board amenities.
Whew! It took me months to do it, but I finally have a complete trio of Patagonia posts!
Now, time to complete my packing for tomorrow’s trip…