After our brief trip to Uruguay and an overnight wait at the airport in Buenos Aires, we arrived in Ushuaia. In a few hours we went from a lovely 25 degrees to something nearer zero. Ushuaia is about as far south as you can go in Argentina…next stop would be Antarctica! We were prepped for the cold weather and within seconds of landing we had dug out the hats, scarfs and gloves that hadn’t seen daylight since London.
Having glimpsed the mountains as we came into landing and having admired the lake on the walk from the airport we knew Ushuaia was going to impress. Ok so maybe not the city itself…it was pleasant enough but nothing to rave about. It is picturesque, situated amongst the snow-capped mountains but the centre can be covered in an hour or so…unless of course you want to traipse around endless outdoor stores…saying that Iain would have been quite happy too. But like most we had not come to Ushuaia to be wowed by what the city had to offer, despite the cold weather we were determined to see the surrounding natural beauty.
On our first full day in Ushuaia, Argentina’s national strike was in full swing. No buses, no coaches, no flights, and officially no taxis or supermarkets. Thankfully however a few taxis and stores had persevered despite the burning roadblocks and picket lines throughout the country! A meal of pasta and stir in sauce was purchased for dinner…we wont lie its not the first…and a taxi would be our only hopes to escape the city.
We tourists found the strike fascinating and our evenings were spent exchanging stories of travel delays and cancellations. Some had spent several hours at the airports whilst others had to disembark buses and cross the burning roadblocks by foot. With our limited Spanish we never did quite get the full story behind the strike, but most Argentinians seemed more annoyed by it than rallied behind it. Unlike us most of the locals didn’t have the luxury of being on holiday and having time to spare. Many of our fellow travellers found themselves stuck in Ushuaia for a few days more than intended, but as we soon found out the end of the world was not the worst place in the world to be for a few extra days…
Like many who stay in Ushuaia, our intention had been to head to Tierra del Fuego National Park at the earliest opportunity. However with the strike in full swing a group of us from the hostel, settled on visiting the local glacier. Flagging down one of the scarce taxis, we headed off to Martial Glacier, about 15 minutes from town. In the summer months the taxis drop you off at the base of the ski lift however for us brave winter souls, we faced the short hike up the hill. Some say Ushuaia is best visited in the summer months but in April, with winter setting in, the trees or more importantly the colour of them, on the walk up were a sight in themselves…
Some stunning forest and enough snow to sink in up to your knees, this walk was a pleasant way to spend what otherwise could have been a very dull day. It was made all the better as for one of our group it was the first time they had seen snow!
The next day we successfully visited Tierra del Fuego. As a light snow fell around us we enjoyed a pleasant walk through yet more stunning forest, stopping at various coves along the way. Most importantly we got our passports stamped from the “End of the World” post office.
We were amazed at the number of languages on offer in this tiny hut: they had no problem accommodating our friend from Hong Kong’s request as he established they offered stamps in both Cantonese and Mandarin. Although our trip to Tierra del Fuego was somewhat more expensive than the glacier (which is free, just the cost of the taxi) it is certainly worth a visit. Had the weather been better we would have likely spent another day here in order to make the most of the numerous hikes on offer.
Not put off by the dropping temperature we also embarked upon a boat trip on the Beagle Channel during our stay. Regular trips leave from the port throughout the day, on vessels of varying sizes.
Wrapped up in every layer of clothing we had with us we set off on one of the smallest in search of sea lions and cormorants. We were not disappointed. We smelt both before we saw them in vast their numbers, and our skilled captain got us close enough to almost touch them (though not advisable with the sea lions).
Apparently in our pictures there are two types of sea lions, but at dinner with our fellow seafarers later we established none of us had actually understood the difference between them despite our guides thorough explanations – I think we were all too busy being snap happy…sorry Max we will listen better next time!
With a quick visit to one of the islands on the Beagle Channel and a quick hike around it we were amazed at Max’s enthusiasm for the wildlife and history of Ushuaia. So much so that we were inspired to visit the local museum when back on the main land that afternoon. Certainly worth a visit, this museum is vast and set in an old prison, however truth be told we would have probably rather listened to Max all afternoon.
Best of all Max recommended the excellent Chiko for lunch that afternoon. Excellent seafood and with four meals sampled, which we all agreed were delicious, we highly recommended this place in Ushuaia. As for hostels you have to stay at La Posta. A lovely family run business with great facilities and a brilliant atmosphere…aided of course by all the lovely people we met during our stay!
Here are our final tips for Ushuaia…
Bring warm clothes – the wind can be brutal and a boat trip is a must.
Take a boat trip on the Beagle Channel – be wowed by the sea lions.
Eat at Chiko – great seafood. Its Chilean but don’t hold that against it!
Stay at La Posta – great all round hostel with private rooms too.
Change money at the Casino (just off the main street in town) – the southernmost place to find the blue dollar! Open 24/7!