Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and the gateway to Tierra del Fuego National Park and Antarctica. With stunning scenery, a former prison, blustery winters and some glaciers, there are plenty of options for adventure. This former penal colony is now a large tourist town, so you’ll find plenty of hikes, tours, ski runs, and boat tours to fill your day.
Food at the end of the world is also good, as traditional Fuegan cuisine includes roasted local lamb and fresh seafood from the surrounding waters. Another draw to the area is the wildlife, so take some time here to see sea lions, penguins, dolphins, beavers and amazing bird life.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Ushuaia:
1. Visit Beagle Channel
Cruise to the End of the World and take you to the most iconic sights and landscapes of the Beagle Channel.
Like Charles Darwin, you’ll see plenty of wildlife on board, swinging around Lobos Island and Pajaros Island, watching sea lions and a variety of birds.
Some were lucky and spotted dolphins and even whales along the way.
You will also pass by Faro Les Eclaireurs, the iconic red and white lighthouse still in operation.
Some boats allow you to disembark and stroll around Bridges Island to see the flora and fauna and the archaeological site of Yamana.
Large long-distance cruise ships even take tourists to visit Glacier Lane and Cape Horn.
Depending on your preferred mode of transportation, the marina in Ushuaia offers cruise ships, sailboats, catamarans and even kayaks.
Suggested Cruise: Beagle Channel and Sea Wolf Island Catamaran Cruise
2. Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego National Park and Archipelago is known for its spectacular scenery, waterfalls, lakes, snow-capped mountains and glaciers (it is also the southernmost national park in the world). There are many quiet and beautiful walks you can experience around the park or take a tour with a guide who can tell you more about the local wildlife, scenery and the ancient Yamana people who lived here.
Hike through peat bogs, stop at the Beagle Channel viewpoint, or climb Cerro Guanaco.
Stroll along the Seaside Path along the edge of lagoons and rugged beaches, or take a stroll along the Hito XXIV trail along the Lago Roca coast, where families come for a picnic.
You can also go canoeing on the lake or spend the night at campsites such as Ensenada, Pipo and Lago Roca.
3. Estancia Harberton
The oldest estancia (ranch) in the area, founded by an English missionary, the 50,000-acre farm is still run by his descendants today.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the land to see terraced gardens and roaming cattle, and you can even spend the night here (about $300) if you want to splurge. Travel 40 miles (64 km) from Ushuaia by car or bus, or like many tourists, take a boat trip to see the penguins of Matillo or the sea lions of Lobos.
Dine in one of the tea rooms overlooking the Beagle Channel, then stroll through the rooms of this historic estate.
4. Cerro Castor Ski Resort
If you want to ski, check out this family-run resort near the end of the world, known for having one of the longest ski seasons in all of South America.
With over 26 trails and some non-ski sections, it’s perfect for all skill levels, and you might even see some professional teams training here.
Cerro Castor has modern lifts, good infrastructure, ski and snowboard instructors, and is just 16 miles (26 km) from Ushuaia.
There are places to eat, drink and play on the mountain, and even if you don’t ski, the scenery here is beautiful.
5. Matillo Island
If you want to see penguins in their natural habitat, then you will have to travel to this island for one of the must-do activities in Ushuaia.
Schedule a tour and walk among the colonies of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins that live on Matillo Island.
Make sure the boat you choose has a zodiac sign that will allow you to be on the island rather than just cruising.
You’ll get up close and personal with these smaller species of penguins, who don’t seem to mind the tourists – they just keep wading along as if you weren’t there.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of some baby penguins, or even the odd emperor penguin.
6. Explore the town and drink beer
Ushuaia is a tourist town, so wander the streets and see all the crazy people here who are stocking up on supplies for their Antarctic trip and getting ready for their trip.
Head to the waterfront to check out the fishing boats, or stop for a coffee at one of the many lovely shops in town.
You’re in Patagonia – the heartland of Argentine craft beer – so you’ll find a variety of craft beers here too.
Head to Almacen Ramos Generales, a local grocery store, to see the quirky historical memorabilia, books, and antiques that adorn the place.
Enjoy a draft beer – pour a cold beagle into a penguin pitcher – or a glass of wine while enjoying the atmosphere.
They also offer light meals and baked goods.
7. Laguna Esmeralda
Hike along muddy trails to this spectacular blue-green glacial lake.
Take a car or bus directly to the start of the track.
This is a relatively easy hike and you don’t need a guide as the trails are well marked – just be prepared for the peat bogs.
You’ll cross streams, pass beaver dams, and meander through old-growth forests on the way.
It takes about two hours one way, so once you get to the lake, bring a picnic (and maybe a bottle of wine) to enjoy.
If you want to spend the night, you can even bring a tent and camp here in peace!
8. Tren del Fin del Mundo
The southernmost train in the world, originally built to transport timber to the prison in Ushuaia, but now visitors can ride the rails.
The national park is an hour’s journey from the station, which is located 5 miles (8 km) outside the city.
Along the way, a bilingual guide will explain the history of this “criminal train” as you travel through the Pip River, Beech Forest and Macarena Falls.
With five departures a day, you can take the early bus, get off for a walk in the national park, and return on the evening bus.
Seats range from tourist cabins to presidential coaches with drinks, snacks and VIP service.
9. Glacier Martial Arts
If hiking is your thing, this is an affordable (and free) hike that takes you close to the military glacier outside Ushuaia.
As you pass streams and wooded areas, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the city, mountains and Beagle Channel until you reach the end of the trail beneath the glacier.
The route starts at a teahouse, where you can have a hot drink or meal, and then climbs steeply up, lasting about four hours in total.
You can take a taxi to the trailhead or walk there from town (about 40 minutes) and then you can choose whether you want to do a moderate or difficult hike.
10. Galería Temática Historia Fueguina
Everyone loves this place and learning about Ushuaia’s history and apocalyptic life is a must do.
Housed in an old prison, the museum provides guests with super fun information in the form of audio guides, wax figures and paths drawn along the floor.
Visitors roam from cell to cell, learning about locals, early settlers and Antarctic explorers.
Find out how people survive the harsh winter here, learn about some famous prisoners, and take photos with the wax figures in their cells.
There are also gift shops, cafés and gardens worth visiting.
11. Eat a good meal in town
Fuegan cuisine calls for plenty of seafood from local waters, such as sea bass, king crab, octopus and mussels, combined with traditional roast lamb and other local ingredients.
From exceptionally fresh seafood to Argentine Asados filled with premium red meats and wines, you’ll find it all here.
Eating out in Ushuaia isn’t cheap, but you’ll be amazed at the number of high-quality restaurants in town.
If ambience and views are important to you, try the beachfront restaurants at Reinamora and Kuar.
For incredibly fine seafood, check out Kaupé, and for something to eat, try Kalma, Chez Manu or María Lola.
They are all very popular so you may need to make a reservation!
12. Paseo de los Artesanos
Right next to the port and tourist information office, you’ll see local artisans and vendors making colourful goods.
Shop for souvenirs here, or just stroll through the 48 stalls that offer everything from paintings, woodwork, textiles, leather and ceramics.
You’ll get a feel for the local handicrafts and maybe even see some artisans making things on site.
You’ll know you’re there when you see the colored signs.
13. Bahia Lapataya
If you want to say you’ve officially reached the end of the world, then come here for a coveted photo that says you’ve reached the end of the Pan American Highway (and how many miles you’re still from Alaska). Get here early to avoid the buses of tourists who want to take the same photo! Once you reach the finish, you can actually continue exploring the trails through the forest and coast.
Carved by glaciers long ago, this bay and nearby fjords can now be hiked along the water’s edge to see otters, dolphins, and mounds of grassy shells and bones left by the Yamana people.
14. Visit Lago Escondido and Lago Fagnano
To explore these two magnificent lakes in the southernmost Forte Andes, book a tour or drive north of Ushuaia along the Pan American Highway, passing through peat bogs and beech forests along the way.
Lago Escondido is at the foot of the Garibaldi Pass, and by the lake you can do some great hiking or fly fishing.
Lago Fagnano is huge, it’s located along the Magellan fault – part of it actually belongs to Chile.
Check out the beaver dams, take photos, have a picnic or camp around these lakes.
Or you can book a guided tour and stop along everyone’s strategic viewpoints on a full-day outing.
Suggested Tour: 4WD Off-Road Canoe Adventure on Lake Ushuaia
15. Maritime Museum
Learn more about the city’s history at Museo Maritimo, which is actually four museums, all housed in the former prison building that closed in 1947. Visitors can visit the Maritime Museum, the Maritime Art Museum and the Antarctic Museum, but the main attraction is the Prison Museum.
Ushuaia exists because it was developed in Argentina as a penal colony for repeat offenders, many of whom were transported from Buenos Aires in the early 1900s.
Parts of the original prison remain intact for visitors to explore and learn about famous prisoners and notorious sentences, and they can even get a feel for life in unheated cells.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Ushuaia, Argentina
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