Way Down South: Exploring Ushuaia

Delta Business Elite ECP-ATL-SCL
Four Points by Sheraton Santiago
W Santiago
Exploring Santiago
KLM World Business Class SCL-EZE
Hilton Buenos Aires
Exploring Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-USH
Alto Andino Hotel Ushuaia
Exploring Ushuaia
Aerolíneas Argentinas Economy USH-AEP
Sheraton Libertador Hotel Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-GRU + Delta Business Elite GRU-ATL-ECP

Ushuaia, which claims to be the southernmost city in the world, sits on the Beagle Channel at the tip of South America and is only 1000km from Antarctica. As such it is one of the gateway cities for folks heading to the frozen continent, especially those who are tourists and taking a cruise. But, back to that claim that the city makes – southernmost. There are settlements that are more southern than Ushuaia, in fact on the opposite side of the Beagle Channel on the Chillean side is Puerto Williams, which has far fewer people. As such there is some contention there over who claims what, but for what it is worth, it’s airport is probably the southernmost airport with regularly scheduled international flights.

When I was planning my trip I had a couple of different options with how to tackle Ushuaia. Originally, I looked at making it a day trip, but that was just silly sounding. I didn’t want it to become like my trip to Barrow, Alaska where I found myself for a few short hours and that was it. Instead I opted to spend at least one night so that I could fully explore the town; the only question was when to fly back? I could fly back in the morning or afternoon, and ultimately opted for morning so that I could have the afternoon to continue seeing Buenos Aires. In the end I had just about 24 hours in Ushuaia, and while I didn’t get to see nearly everything in town, it was probably the highlight of my trip.

I landed in Ushuaia that morning while the sun was still barely working it’s way above the horizon, hopped in a cab and made my way to the Alto Andino hotel. The first order of business of my time on the ground? Explore!

Around The Corner From The Hotel

Heading down the hill from the hotel, I made my way first to what is best described as Ushuaia’s “Main Street” where one finds many souvenir shops, restaurants, the post office, government offices, etc. There really isn’t anything along here that I would call a site to see, however that post office will be pretty important for sending some mail home.

Av. Saint Martin – The “Main Street” of Ushuaia

The Ushuaia Post Office

From there, I made my way to the harbor area. There was a rather interesting ship that had run aground right up close that looks like it had been there for quite some time. In fact I guess it had become a landmark, as they had strung up lights on it so that at night time it is all lit up.

The Run Aground Ship In The Harbor

As I walked along the water I had to go past the commercial container port for Ushuaia, which made me glad I was not British. As you walk past the gate to the port, a large mural had been painted on the wall that said “Prohibido El Amarre De Los Buques Piratas Ingleses” or roughly, from using a translation tool as “English pirate ships are prohibited from mooring” a reference to the feelings of Argentina that the British territory of the Falkland Islands are part of Argentina as Islas Malvinas. Obviously there was the Falklands War between the two countries in 1982, and since the Argentine defeat, it seems like everywhere you go throughout the country they have signs or phases talking about how the islands belong to Argentina. For example, Ushuaia’s airport has the official name of Ushuaia – Malvinas Argentinas International Airport, and in walking around town past a Government office there was a sign outside that said “Islas Malvinas, and South Georgias and Sandwichs (sic) Island are Argentine and will be Argentine.”

The Ushuaia Port

Brits Not Welcome

Argentina Really Does Feel Strongly About This Issue…

I eventually found myself taking the requisite picture in front of the “End of the World” sign and decided it was a little chilly and that I wanted something warm to drink. So I found myself in the Xpresso Café Gourmet which interestingly enough shares it’s space with a helicopter tour company and used the wifi to start trying to figure out which excursion I was going to take that afternoon. Honestly, I should have done more research in advance, and I quickly ruled out the helicopter. I wanted to go out on the Beagle Channel and thus I needed to decide on which boat tour company to book with.

This Is A Close To “The End Of The World” As I Will Make It….For Now! Next Stop Antarctica!

The Tour Company Huts Next To The Waterfront

Unfortunately, I arrived in Ushuaia outside of the prime penguin season and thus there would be no opportunity for a land excursion at a penguin colony. There’s quite a few companies offering boat tours out into the channel and each one has a little shack next to the harbor. Most appeared to be closed now that it was the off season, but fortunately there were still a few open. Of the ones that were open, what had appeared to be the best option: The Patagonia Adventure Explorer.

On the Water
I had booked my ticket that morning for a tour departing later in the day which had given me some more time to roam the town. When it was time to head back down to the waterfront, I checked in and found myself with the small group of other visitors who had also booked this boat. The best thing was that it was a very small group and the best thing about this boat is that it has a rather small capacity. Several of the tourist boats are massive and thus you are competing with everyone for a view and boat can’t get as close. Not a problem here!

After all the departure formalities, including paying a departure tax to the local government, it was time to board and to get underway. As we cruised out of the harbor we passed a few commercial ships loading/unloading and an Argentine Navy patrol boat and took in the view of the town as it got smaller and smaller as we continued out into the channel.

You Have To Pan An Official Looking Guy Here A Departure Tax

Seemed Appropriate For A “Three Hour Tour”

Leaving Port…

Argentine Navy Patrol Boat – They Waved, We Waved Back


Let’s Not Discuss The Number Of Photos I Shot During Those 5 Minutes

Now, let me tell you, the biggest reason I had wanted to go to Ushuaia other than pretty much say that I had been there, was penguins. The biggest disappointment was that as I planned out my trip, I discovered that Peneguins migrate back to the Antarctic before I even would arrive. So I had no expectation or hope that I would see any…then as were just outside the harbor, the boat came to a halt. Things were said in Spanish (just myself and an Aussie couple were the only English speakers) and everyone practically rushed to one side – there were Penguins! A group of maybe 20+ were swimming through the water making their way to the Beagle Channel. The boat stayed around here for 5 minutes while everyone took many, many photos. I’m not even sure how many I took and although I didn’t get to see the Penguins on land, this was the next best thing. I got to see Penguins in the wild!

Fellow Tourists Getting Their Penguin Photos

That was probably the highlight of the boat tour for me and it wasn’t even a planned thing. The rest of the journey was about three hours long and took us to the actual sights in the Beagle Channel. There was a small rocky island full of sea lions, with the appropriate stench to match (maybe that was a bad thing about the boat being able to get right up close?); another rocky island filled with Cormorants; and the turnaround point, the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. You don’t get to go ashore, but the lighting was fantastic at that point in the day and I managed to take a few good photos from the boat.

One Of The Briefings By Our Tour Guide

Loud And Stinky…But At Least We Could Get Close

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse

Just….Beautiful (Looking South To The Chilean Side Of The Beagle Channel)

Heading back West, we passed one of the larger tour boats, which didn’t have many onboard, but it still reaffirmed my decision to book with the Patagonia Adventure Explorer. The other boat couldn’t get in as close to the stinky sea lions! As we cruised west through the Channel, there were snacks as well as some information given by the tour guide on the boat (whom was actually pretty good; and would give us three English speaking visitors separate ones so that we kinda knew what was going on as well). Eventually we made our to a group of islands known as Islas Bridges where our final stop would be to disembark on one of the larger islands. The tour guide pointed out the various plants on our way up to the highest point where everyone took photos. From there it was back to the boat where the journey continued back towards port; while underway they held a drawing for the flag that flew from the bow of the boat of which I unfortunately did not win.

I’m Glad I Wasn’t On This Tourist Behemoth…

Docked At The Island For A Shore Excursion

Learning About The Plants On The Island

Hey, Look – It’s Me On An Island! Ushuaia And The Whole Of Argentina Is Behind Me.

Almost Back To Port

Once back in port, everyone dispersed pretty quickly and I myself headed back to the hotel for a quick stop before heading out for dinner.

Food and Drink
It was Ushuaia where I wound up eating one of my most uniquely prepared meals that I’ve managed to get anywhere. After I landed and had been exploring for a bit, I stopped in at Küar 1900. Located on the second floor of a building off San Martin, it’s an easy walk from everywhere. It was not very busy when I walked in, and was seated pretty quickly. I think only other table was occupied and it looked like a large family; making me the only tourist. Luckily for me as the only non-Spanish speaking person, the menu was bilingual; however even with the translation, there were quite a few things that I had no idea what they were. But that is part of the adventure of traveling! So I ordered what appeared to be fish, and hoped for the best.

Typos Are Fun – I’ll Have The Lion, Please!

The Fish. Need I Say More?

Well, what you see is what I got. Per the menu it was Fuegian Trout with a carrot emulsion and caramelized onions in red wine. See, you read that and nowhere does it say, your fish is going to be turned into essentially a burrito with a head staring at you. And as for the caramelized onions, there was more than what I knew what to do with that filled the center of the “fish burrito”. With all that being said, it wasn’t bad at all; perhaps too much onion, but easily fixed. All I had to do was chop that head off first!

As for dinner and drinks, I had opted to go to Dublin, an Irish Pub, just around the corner from my hotel. I had actually attempted to visit a few other bars for dinner that were listed online, but after walking clear across town, none were open! Therefore, I found myself at Dublin, which was always part of the plan, but I had intended on it just being a stumble back to the hotel watering hole.

Well, in comparison to the Irish Pubs I visited in Santiago, the reception here was frosty. The bar staff seemed to mostly ignore me once I sat down and the place wasn’t even packed! One I got a drink order and food order in I found myself mostly just keeping to myself thanks to the fact that no one seemed to want to converse with the English-speaking person. In fact, outside of a small group I saw in the corner, I was probably the only other English speaker, and given the “propaganda” that is ever so present in the city about the Falklands being Argentine and anti-British, I’m not exactly surprised by the reception. Perhaps they all thought I was British? It killed the buzz a bit, and so after a few beers, I retreated and called it a night.

My Only Picture From That Night – People Burning A Mattress In The Street (Some Sort Of Protest, I Think).

As for little places to refuel through my exploration of the town, there was the Xpresso Café Gourmet, which as mentioned much earlier on share spaces with a helicopter tour outfit. The latte I ordered was pretty good, and they had a selection of baked goods as well. One of the nice things is the large windows that look down one of the streets to the waterfront, so you can look out at the Beagle Channel as you sit there and warm up with a cup.

The Wall Of The Building That Xpresso Cafe Gourmet Is In

Ushuaia was essentially what I expected it to be, so unlike some other places that I visited, I didn’t leave thinking “Wow, what an amazing place”. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery that surrounds the town is extremely beautiful and I wished I had the time to spend a little time hiking and doing other activities. The town itself though just wasn’t anything special on it’s own; and the cold shoulder that I got from some people was definitely a bit of a turn off. Am I glad that I went? Very much so! I saw Penguins, flew to the southernmost regularly-scheduled commercial international airport, got to take in the beauty of the Beagle Channel, and was closer to Antarctica than I had ever been in my life. Would I return to Ushuaia? Sure, but probably in conjunction with a cruise to the southernmost continent. I don’t think I would return just to visit, or at least just to visit on my own. I guess you could put this down as “been there, done that.” Would I recommend to other people to visit Ushuaia? Definitely! It’s worth visiting at least once in your life…and if you do go, go during penguin season!

This entry was posted in South America, Travel, Trip Report. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: