A Few Cool Facts About Ushuaia, the City at the End of the World

Selfie at the End of the World!

So the big adventure is underway! And we can’t think of a better place to kick this all off than the city at the End of the World (Fin del Mundo). As mentioned in our premiere episode, we were very pleasantly surprised by our first visit to Ushuaia, enough so that we’re sad we only got to spend a couple of days there. But even though our visit was quick, we did learn several cool things about this very unique, very groovy place. Check this out:

Okay. It’s not actually the southernmost city in the world. Or is it? Well, it depends on how you look at it really. There’s actually a little town that lies across the Beagle Channel in Chile that’s a bit farther south, called Puerto Williams. But since it’s only home to around 2,500 people, technically Puerto Williams doesn’t qualify as a city. And as a couple of small town kids ourselves, we kinda get that. There is a difference. But still… poor Puerto Williams. Where’s the respect? ūüôā

The End of the World!Despite that, Ushuaia is still home to the “southernmost” everything. Or just about everything.¬†Yes, it’s home to the southernmost national park, as you’ve seen in this week’s episode. But also the southernmost golf course in the world, the southernmost ski resort. Heck, even the southernmost Irish pub in the world. But then, we suppose, whatever it is – if it’s in Ushuaia – chances are you can put the “southernmost” tag on the front¬†and get away with it.

It began as a¬†home for Argentina’s most dangerous prisoners. Although it was actually founded by Brisith missionaries in 1870, it was officially established as a penal colony by the Argentine government in 1883. And it’s where the government sent the worst of its worst prisoners – who, as it turned out – were really the ones responsible for making¬†Ushuaia what it is today. They not only built the prison themselves, they also built much of the original infrastructure of the city¬†itself. Their story, and the history of Ushuaia itself, is laid out nicely at the¬†Museo Maritimo del Presidio de Ushuaia, which is absolutely worth a visit if you have the chance.

Ushuaia is home to the Train to the End of the World. In the process of building Ushuaia, the prisoners also constructed a railway to help with the transport of materials like rock, sand and timber. It was closed officially back in the 1950s, but a¬†modern version of the railway was established as a tourist attraction in 1994 and today the Train to the End of the World is still very much in operation. And you can’t go anywhere in Ushuaia without seeing ads for it. We¬†didn’t actually get the chance to ride it ourselves, but¬†after hearing from a number of people that it was just a giant tourist trap we were okay with missing out.

Yes,¬†Ushuaia is¬†in Argentina, but you can’t get to it from Argentina. Not by car, anyway. Ushuaia is located on the island of Tierra del Fuego, and the only way to reach it (without flying in) is by first crossing into Chile and then taking a ferry over to the island. So it’s no wonder a visit to Ushuaia leaves you feeling¬†wonderfully disconnected.

Ships in the Port of Ushuaia

Ushuaia is the world’s main portal to Antarctica. Sure there are other ways to get there, and other places from which you can begin your Antarctic adventure. But Ushuaia is certainly the most popular. And crossing the Drake Passage from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula is widely considered the easiest way to go, despite the Drake’s reputation as one of the most dangerous passages in the world (which, by the way, we’ll be the focus of an upcoming¬†episode).

The weather ain’t too bad, considering.¬†Thanks to its southerly location Ushuaia averages 17 hours of daylight in the summer, but¬†only 7 in the winter. Temperatures in the summer range from average highs of around 59 degrees to a lows of around 42 at night. In winter the temperatures – both high and low – remain steadily in the low to mid 30-degree range. We were there in January – which is summer in the southern hemisphere – and enjoyed a couple of really beautiful days.

Ushuaia has a serious beaver problem. For real. Back in 1946 the Argentine government allowed the introduction of 25 pairs of breeding beavers from Canada into Tierra del Fuego, thinking that beaver trapping (and thus, beaver pelts) would become a profitable business. But as it turns out, the beavers wound up the big winners out of that deal. With no natural predators the population quickly exploded, and today an estimated quarter of a million beavers have spread out across the region and are causing all sorts of havoc. Dang beavers.

The Shops Along Av. San Martin in UshuaiaUshuaia is a shopper’s paradise. It’s said the cost of living in Ushuaia is pretty steep, because its so geographically isolated and practically everything has to be brought in from elsewhere. Makes sense. But in its efforts to¬†encourage settlement in the region, the Argentine government made the province of Tierra del Fuego (of which Ushuaia is the capital) a giant virtual tax-free zone, and you can get some really decent tax and duty free deals there. So leave lots of room in your luggage for some excellent souvenirs.

When it comes to eating in Ushuaia, king crab is… well… king!¬†And we can testify it is deeeeee-licious! Especially with a glass (or two) of Argentine wine. ūüôā

Cheers y’all!

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2 Comments

  1. diane wade

    Hey Y’all ! I am from The Great State of Texas and I have dreamed and looked into going to Antarctica toon see the Penguins and when I stumbled upon your show today I about died ! I got so excited , I recorded both shows and y’all made ma so happy . I can’t wait to see the episode when y’all get there ! I have a world map and a U.S. map on the walls in my hallway . I have googled The Drake Passage and am fascinated by those Penguins and that is the only place in the whole world they exist . Love and Peace from Ft Worth ! Diane Wade.

    • Hey Diane! Thanks so very much! And yes… Antarctica is a magical, magical place. Just wait until the next episode and you’ll really get to see! Maybe you’ll get to visit for yourself someday. ūüôā Cheers and thanks again for watching and following along! We appreciate it!

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