The Top Things to See and Do in Ushuaia, Argentina

Mountainous Ushuaia has long been a hub for adventure travel in Argentina
Mountainous Ushuaia has long been a hub for adventure travel in Argentina | © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sorcha O'Higgins
6 August 2021

Ushuaia makes no secret of its location at the end of the world, but the tip of Argentina – and mainland South America – really does feel that way. Home to the Esmerelda glacier lagoon, the forests of Tierra del Fuego National Park and a healthy population of penguins, adventure-hungry visitors continue to flock here.

Cruise on the Beagle Channel

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Argentina, at the end of the world, in the southernmost city: Ushuia, Beagle Channel. Image shot 2013. Exact date unknown.
© ONEWORLD PICTURE / Alamy Stock Photo

Ushuaia is part of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago straddling both Chile and Argentina. The Beagle Channel separates the two countries – and a boat trip across makes an incredible introduction to the Patagonian landscape. From the water, you’ll see a panorama of Ushuaia city, pass Isla de Los Lobos and the Isla de Pajaros and have a chance to cross some of the bridges that link the islands together.

Hit the ski slopes

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Backcountry alpine skiers climb on ski skins; roped for glacier crossings; Glaciar Martial; Mount Krund; Cerro Castor; near Ushuaia; Argentinanear Ush
© H. Mark Weidman Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

With a blanket of snow between June and October, Ushuaia offers plenty of opportunities to get out and about on skis or snowshoes. It has its own ski resort, Cerro Castor, which provides plenty of skiable terrain and 33 marked trails, linked by an infrastructure of lifts that’s modern by South American standards. Backcountry skiing through the trees is available just beyond the boundary of the resort, which you can do on a guided tour.

See the forests on a dog sled

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Experience the thrill of being pulled through the forest by Siberian huskies, in Ushuaia’s Valley of Wolves. These dogs are naturals when it comes to navigating the snowy contoured terrain, and this winter activity is available from June to September. Argentine Gato Curuchet runs the Valle de Lobos sledding center and, as a breeder too, there are often cute puppies around the place. If that wasn’t enough for kids, there’s a café back at base serving hot chocolate and homemade pie.

Walk among the penguins

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Birds and penguins on the island in Beagle channel close Ushuaia city, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
© SERGEY STRELKOV / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a day trip to Martillo Island to meet Ushuaia’s colonies of penguins. Cormorants, vultures and South American terns populate this spot along with various types of penguins. The tuxedo-wearing waddlers are inquisitive and not afraid of humans, so you might find yourself walking right in their midst. Some tours are led by a naturalist guide, so you can learn more about the wildlife and ecology of the island as you explore.

Visit the Les Éclaireurs Lighthouse

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Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse in Beagle Channel, tierra del fuego,
© Kathleen Featherstone / Alamy Stock Photo

Often referred to as the Lighthouse at the End of the World, those returning from Antarctic expeditions would indeed use the Les Eclaireurs as a landmark of the mainland. The 10m (33ft) red-and-white tower was built in 1920 – it still functions to this day, flashing every 10 seconds via solar power. Standing firm in the elements on its mossy islet, it’s become a symbol of Ushuaia and is an omnipresent motif.

Enter the End of the World Museum

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Ushuaia has been a hub for explorers, sailors and discoverers for centuries. History seekers should check out the five rooms of the Museo del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Museum), which displays artifacts from the region’s indigenous population, historical wildlife exhibits such as stuffed birds and the remains of shipwrecks. A highlight is a figurehead from the British vessel, the Duchess of Albany, which was shipwrecked near here in 1893.

Send a postcard from the End of the World

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The quintessential tourist activity in Ushuaia (along with getting your passport stamped in the tourist information center), send yourself a postcard from this corner of the earth and test how long it takes to reach home. The place to send it is the tiny post office in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, which sells postcards too – including adorable penguin designs – so you can send one there and then. A stop-off here is on the itinerary of several tours.

Visit the maritime museum and jail

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As the most southerly jail in the world when it was built in 1896, inmates here would have experienced cold, damp and blustery conditions. It closed in 1947, but the eerie building remains – and tourists can enter the cells that once contained notorious criminals. These include the young anarchist car-bomber Simon Radowitsky, who tried to make a swim for it at his sentencing. The jail also now contains the Maritime Museum of Ushuaia, which features scale models of tall ships.

Hike to the Esmeralda Lagoon

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Esmeralda lake and Beautiful landscape of lenga forest, mountains at Tierra del Fuego National Park, Patagonia, autumn
© Oleg Senkov / Alamy Stock Photo

Hiking for two to three hours across a boggy valley is rewarded with the sight of this exquisite turquoise lagoon – which has an equally enchanting name. Esmeralda is a tranquil body of aquamarine glacier water, ringed by craggy snow-topped mountains and surrounded by a dense lenga forest. Beavers have made the lagoon their home – and you might see condors flying overhead. It’s also possible to fly over Esmeralda on a helicopter tour.

Trek in the National Park

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Tierra del Fuego National Park provides an opportunity for outdoorsy types to get up close to the spectacular Patagonian landscape. Rivers, lakes, glaciers and virgin forest await while guanacos (llama-like creatures), Andean foxes, penguins and sea lions all call the park home. Take your tent, as several campsites with facilities are open here between November and April.

These recommendations were updated on August 6, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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