Our recent trip to Antarctica was spectacular! It all started with embarkation in Ushuaia (pronounced oo-swai-uh), Argentina – literally the last town on the planet before you set sail to Antarctica.
Ushuaia is the capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego which is the least populated and southernmost province of Argentina. There are only around 75,000 permanent residents in this extremely picturesque town. The Martial Mountains shared by Chile and Argentina, are the backdrop and the Beagle Channel is the waterway to the south where the ships set sail to The Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica.
If you’re like us, you’ll want to arrive in Ushuaia a day or two prior to embarking on your cruise. You’ll have plenty of time to walk around the town and visit the nearby national park.
Best Things to Do in Ushuaia
Ushuaia has a maritime museum and a history museum. It’s nice just to stroll around the waterfront and admire the picturesque little town. There are all kinds of neat things to discover. Like this shipwreck that went down in 1930 (Read about it HERE)
There is a very concise article at Welcome Argentina that suggests an itinerary for touring the neighbourhoods and learning about Ushuaia’s history.
Be sure to snap your pick with giant USHUAIA sign and check out the merchandise in some of the shops on Avenida San Martin, the main tourist street in the centre of town. There you’ll find all sorts of stores selling chocolates, wines, clothing, crafts, art and souvenirs.
For posterity sake you’ll find an End of the World sign by the cruise ship terminal.
But by far the main attraction in this area is nature. You can take a boat ride out to see colonies of Gentoo and Macaroni penguins. Spend some time in the Beagle Channel which is home to umpteen bird species, seals, otters and a route for traveling orca. It is possible to rent a kayak or sailboat.
There are excursions that leave each day for scuba diving or just getting a great view of the conical red and white lighthouse, Les Eclaireurs, made famous in a book by Jules Verne. (“Lighthouse at the End of the World“) Or, maybe a guided tour of the national park which has an End of the World train ride?
We chose to spend a morning with a birding guide at Tierra Del Fuego National Park. The views of the mountains and lakes were breath-taking and spotting and photographing some of the bird species indigenous to the area was very satisfying for the birdwatcher in the family.
Birding Ushuaia comes highly recommended. (Below: two Upland Geese, a Magellanic Woodpecker and a Chimango Caracara.)
Where to Stay
You have a number of reasonably priced choices for Ushuaia accommodation. We stayed at The Albatross Hotel which was less than a 5 minute walk to the pier. Others in our group enjoyed the Hotel Ushuaia and the Fueguino Hotel Patagonico. For the budget conscious backpackers Ushuaia does have several hostels.
Where to Eat
Although Ushuaia is not known to be a culinary mecca, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. A must do when in Ushuaia is El Viejo Marino, or the Old Sailor (Avenue Maipu, 227) for gigantic king crab! Be warned that there is often a line-up of locals because the prices are so darn good! We waited almost an hour. It was worth it!
Another place for great seafood which has a more extensive menu is Volver also located on Ave Maipu (37). Volver prides itself on giving you an authentic Argentinian experience.
You’ll find plenty of coffee shops that offer cappuccinos, lattes, mate teas and a wonderful selection of sweets such as dulce de leche – a specialty of Argentina
When dinner is over, take another stroll to drink in the fabulous sunsets at the end of the world.
Tips for Ushuaia, Argentina
- Make sure you have pesos otherwise the exchange on your dollar will be abysmal!
- Lots of locals in Ushuaia spoke English. Your attempt at Spanish is appreciated.
- There is no UBER or LYFT in Ushuaia. Only taxis. You can also rent a bike.
- The airport is less than 10 minutes from the town
Ushuaia was a very pleasant surprise for us on our Antarctic Adventure. If you’ve been to Ushuaia, drop us a line and tell us about your experience there.f
Next stop: The Falkland Islands