Founded by the British in 1884 on the edges of the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia started out as a penal colony housing mass murderers and pirates. Although the prison has long since closed to offenders, its doors remain open to the curious who can visit the Museo Maritimo y del Presidio.
Entering the museum isn’t cheap (US $20/$400 ARS), but you can spend hours treading the flagstones of this vast building learning about its infamous inhabitants or stepping into a corridor of untouched former cells still bearing graffiti left by ex-inmates.
Surrounded on three sides by vast mountains, Ushuaia has plenty of hiking day trips on offer. Starting 4mi (7km) from the center, a three-hour hike winds up to the base of the Martial Glacier. At the top, expect panoramic views of the Beagle Channel and a lesson in Patagonia’s specialty: four seasons in one day.
Equally popular is the two-hour hike to Laguna Esmeralda, a green-tinged glacial lake located 12mi (20km) northeast of Ushuaia. Shuttle buses (
Due west from Ushuaia, this is the place for trekking through dramatic, windswept scenery. Its crown jewel is the challenging-but-well-worth-it Cerro Guanaco trail, offering expansive views of the Beagle Channel from the top of the 3,172ft (967m) summit. Rent a car and get to the park early to avoid the onslaught of cruise ship passengers.
With a rental car, it’s easy to hit up another of Ushuaia’s historical monuments: Estancia Harberton. Hour-long tours of the oldest farm in Tierra del Fuego covering the history of colonization, missionaries, and indigenous people are held in English and Spanish at
The resident colony of Magellanic, Gentoo and King penguins on Isla Martillo, 37mi (60km) east of Ushuaia, is another top choice for travelers. Avoid the larger ships and
Cross the Beagle Channel by speedboat to visit the actual southernmost settlement in the world, Chile’s Puerto Williams. Just 9mi (14km) south of Ushuaia, it feels a world away from civilization, a place where horses roam the town’s streets and challenging hikes offer access to pristine wilderness. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being a highlight of your trip to Ushuaia.
The ultimate adventure from Ushuaia is to the white continent: Antarctica. For most of us, this is a chilly, expensive pipe dream.
But luckily, last-minute Antarctica cruise deals still exist. The best bargains are to be had in January and February, which have more frequent departures; just be prepared to spend up to two weeks waiting to grab that deal.
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