If you’re travelling in Argentina, chances are, the southern city of Ushuaia is not on your list to visit. That’s because it’s not as well known as many of Argentina’s other wonderful destinations. But there are enough things to do in Ushuaia to fill up a few days.
Ushuaia has incredible views, wildlife tours, skiing, hiking and maritime history are some of the things to enjoy in the world’s southernmost city. It’s certainly one of the places to visit in Argentina if you’re planning an extended holiday.
Ushuaia is in the Argentinean side of Patagonia and visiting Ushuaia should be on your list of things to do in Patagonia. You can fly from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, so if time isn’t on your side just hop on a plane.
10 things to do in Ushuaia
1- Watch the ships in the Beagle Channel
Surrounded by water, sky and mountains, the southernmost city in the world is also known as the city at the ‘End of the World’.
As the closest city to Antarctica, the harbour is a hub of activity for Antarctic ships.
Pick a spot on the harbour to sit and watch the ships sail in and out.
Even better is a view from one of the surrounding hills.
A table at Reinamora restaurant at Hotel Los Cauqueness is one such place with a hill view. The restaurant offers big-city quality fine dining at reasonable prices.
2- Brush up on convict history
Between 1906 and 1920, convict labour from Staten Island was used to build Ushuaia’s national prison.
The prison was closed as a jail in 1947 and now houses the Museo Maritimo de Ushuaia.
The museums showcase Ushuaia’s maritime and prison history with displays of penal life.
Two of the prison’s most infamous inmates were author Ricardo Rojasand and Russian anarchist Simon Radowitzky.
There is also an area dedicated to displays on Antarctic exploration and an exhibit containing detailed scale models of famous ships spanning a time frame of 500 years.
3- Visit Museo Del Fin Del Mundo
Museo Del Fin Del Mundo is housed in a building, built in 1903, which was once the Banco de la Nacion (National bank).
The main room has displays of Indian hunting tools and colonial maritime instruments.
There’s also a natural history exhibit of stuffed birds and a room set up to resemble an old general store packed with antique products.
There are over 60 history and nature videos available for viewing and a reference library with over 3,650 volumes.
4- Take a historic walk
Pick up a free city tour map with information on many of the historic houses at Ushuaia’s municipal tourist office, which now occupies the Biblioteca Sarmiento (1926), the city’s first public library.
There’s the ex-governors official residence (Legislatura Provincial) and the century-old Iglesia de la Merced which was built with convict labour.
At the corner of Avenida Maipú and Rosas, prisoners built the recently restored Capilla Antigua, a chapel dating from 1898.
The waterfront Casa Beban is an elaborate reassembled pioneer residence dating from 1913 and now houses the municipal Casa de la Cultura, a cultural centre.
5- Go shopping in Ushuaia
The city’s main street, Avenida San Martin, is packed with cafes and bars serving espressos and submarinos, a decadent local specialty in which a slab of chocolate is melted into a glass of frothy hot milk.
There are plenty of shops where you can stock up on souvenirs and clothes for your cruise (mos people are in Ushuaia on the way to Antarctica or waiting for the Stella Australis cruise to Patagonia.
Drink in the world’s southernmost bars, dance in the world’s southernmost discos and gamble in the world’s southernmost casino.
6- Off to the farm
Estancia Harberton is Tierra del Fuego’s oldest ranch and the oldest house on the Argentine part of the island.
It was built in 1886 on a narrow peninsula overlooking the Beagle Channel when missionary Thomas Bridges was given the land by the Argentine Congress for his outstanding work among the local Indians as well as his help in rescuing the victims of shipwrecks in the channel.
Visitors can tour the grounds, outbuildings, cemetery and a botanical garden with replica Yamana Indian huts.
7- Go skiing in Ushuaia
Ushuaia’s ski season runs between June and September.
The hills around Ushuaia are dotted with downhill and cross-country ski runs.
The largest resort is Cerro Castor which has 19 runs with varying levels of difficulty and 20 kilometres of off-piste area.
Ushuaia’s biggest ski event is the annual Marcha Blanca (white march) race in August each year.
8- Hike Glacier Martial
Hike from the city to Glacier Martial for stunning views of the city and the Beagle Channel.
For the less energetic, during the summer months, the chairlift to Glacier Martial operates from Aerosilla.
In winter, the area operates as a ski field with downhill runs suitable for beginners.
9- Wildlife tours
Ushuaia’s surrounding areas are teeming with wildlife.
Take a tour to De los Lobos Island and Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse for sea lions or De los Pájaros Island (Bird Island) for sea birds such as rock cormorants, blue-eyed cormorants, albatrosses, southern petrels and skuas.
Martillo Island is known for its Magellanic penguin rookery in the summer.
10- Ride the El Tren del Fin del Mundo
Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego was formed in 1960 to protect 63,000 hectares of Patagonian wilderness which includes soaring peaks, rivers, black-water swamps and forests.
Only 2,000 hectares are available to the public as recreation areas.
It’s the only Argentine national park with a maritime coast and offers the chance to see plenty of birdlife such as condors, albatross, cormorants, gulls, terns, oystercatchers, grebes and kelp geese.
A quaint way of seeing the park is to ride on El Tren del Fin del Mundo, a steam locomotive that is a replica of the train which once shuttled prisoners to the forest to gather wood to heat the penal colony.
The train departs from its station near the park entrance four times a day.
For more countries to visit in South America see:
- 15 Incredible Things To Do In Brazil
- 15 Things To Do In Quito
- 15 Things To Do in Peru
- 15 Things To Do in Lima
- 15 Things To Do in Patagonia
- 15 Things To Do In Santiago