Ushuaia, the capital city of Tierra del Fuego, is considered the southernmost city on earth and also referred to as «The End of the World». It is located on the northern side of the Beagle Channel. Ushuaia might be the ending point of a journey from north to south of Argentina, but is also the starting point for many expeditions and cruises to the Antarctica. Besides visiting museums and the national park, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, I did a catamaran tour on the Beagle Channel. Spectacular scenery and wildlife. Definitly worth travelling all the way to the end of the world for.
The population of Ushuaia is about 80.000. It is a busy port town, that started as missionary outpost and penal colony. The prison closed in 1947 and has now been converted into a museum. It was the prisoners who built many of the constructions in town, including the church. Ushuaia has steep streets, colorful houses below mountains and a laid back atmosphere. A large amount of tourists, shops, restaurants and hotels. Along the waterfront there are lots of historical monuments. Walking here gives a good impression of how important it is as a port and as the gateway to Antarctica. In the streets you will see touroperates selling "last minute tickets" to Antarctica! Besides being a stop over before expeditions to Antarctica, it does have a lot more to offer, especially outdoor activities as hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping, skiing etc.
To really appreciate the nature along the channel, I did a 6 hour catamaran tour. When leaving the harbour, we got a good view of Ushuaia, the harbour and the surrounding mountains.
The catamaran made several stops along the way. Los Lobos (Sea lion's Island) So close that we could hear the cries of the sea lions. Another island was Los Pajaros (Bird Island) where more than 20 different seabirds, including cormorants, petrels and albatross lives. The Les Èclaireus Lighthouse was another stop. It is still in use, but automatically operated. The lighthouse is known as the lighthouse at «the End of the World» but this is misleading, as it is often confused with the San Juan de Salvamento further east. Since it is automated, it is no longer inhabited by humans, but birds and sea lions occupies now all of this tiny island.
The highlight of the tour, was our stop at the Martillo Island with the colony of Magellan penguins. A long stop with the engines shut off, gave us the possibility to watch them for a while. There are «babies» too, but they are almost the size of the adults.
Just before the Estancia Harberton the captain spotted two Humback whales. Everybody on deck to see them!
The catamaran made at stop at Estancia Haberton to let some people off. It is the oldest estancia (farm) in the Argentine part of Tierra del Fuego. Founded in 1886 by a missionary Thomas Bridges and his family. The estancia became wellknown because of the memoirs written by his son. Today the estancia still belongs to the family. The 4th generation. The original buildings are still here and in 1999 it was declared an Argentine National Historical Monument.
The Beagle Channel is shared by Chile and Argentina and named after the ship HMS Beagle. That was the name of the survey ship visiting the area between 1826 – 1830. Second time the ship returned was in 1839 and Charles Darwin, a young naturalist, was onboard. This survey lasted 5 years which gave Darwin plenty of time to explore on land. His book about his journey, includes many theories about biology, anthropology and geology. While sailing here we have Chile on one side and Argentina on the other. We pass the small settlement Puerto Williams on the Chilean side. The guide on board informed us that about 3000 people are living in Puerto Williams and even it is further south than Ushuaia, it has no city status. According to him there has to be more than 10.000 inhabitants to obtain that status. That still makes Ushuaia the southernmost city on earth....
There are several options for boat trips including catamarans, motorboat or sailboat. Many companies offers theese tours. Most follow the channel. The difference is the length. From half day tour to full day. Some includes Haberton. Some does not. The weather here changes quickly and is quite unpredictable. Even on this 6 hour journey we both saw the sun, dark clouds and some drops of rain. So be prepared!
Next stop: Salta region and Jujuy
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