24 Hours in Ushuaia
You’re about to embark on the adventure of the lifetime, but you have some time to kill before you get on the ship to Antarctica. Luckily, Ushuaia is full of incredible hikes, delicious food, and fun activities for travelers of all ages and budgets.
TAKE A HIKE
The mountains surrounding Ushuaia are full of trails that provide magnificent views. Whether you’re in town for an afternoon or for a week, you will find a hike that both amazes you and works with your schedule. One afternoon, take a remis (a taxi with predetermined fares) up to the trail to the Glacier Martial and take a hike into the mountains. On your way down, stop by the La Cabana Teahouse to relax with a cup of hot tea or coffee and enjoy the views of the city.
If you have a little more time, enjoy a half-day hike to the Laguna Esmeralda. Pack a lunch and catch the van (or share a remis with some friends) to the trailhead about 15 km outside of town, next to Valle de los Lobos. From there, follow the blue flags through peat bogs and forests full of native lenga and ciohue trees and past dams of imported beavers. When you reach the lagoon, set up your picnic and take in the brilliant blue of the lagoon’s water.
For travelers spending more than a day in Ushuaia, the Tierra del Fuego National Park is full of trails and campsites, where you can immerse yourself in the sub-Antarctic vegetation. Take a ride on the End-of-the-World train and take in the park’s diverse topography on a four-hour tour. Then, set up camp and spend the night!
TOUR THE BEAGLE CHANNEL
If you walk down to the pier, you’ll find a veritable small city of kiosks selling excursions throughout Ushuaia. Among the most popular is the boat tour of the Beagle Channel, a long strait dividing Argentina and Chile and named for the HMS Beagle, the ship which took Charles Darwin on his first trip around the world.
A tour of the Beagle Channel will introduce you to the gorgeous scenery and unique fauna of the Tierra del Fuego. As you sit at the bow, the boat will approach rocky islands full of sunbathing sea lions on Alicia Island and imperial and king cormorants on Despard Island. You’ll take a picture of the iconic Eclaireurs Lighthouse, and then witness a breathtaking panoramic view after a short trek to the top of Bridges Island.
For this excursion: the smaller the boat, the better. We recommend booking a tour on El Che, a boat which takes maximum 10 passengers. The three-person crew provides in-depth explanations of the animals and birds you encounter, responds thoughtfully to passengers’ questions, and serves food and drinks (even beer!) throughout the excursion.
EXPLORE THE TOWN
The ship isn’t leaving for a few hours? Take a walk around the southernmost city in the world! In the morning, sit down for an espresso and a medialuna (a sweet mini-croissant) at the Xpresso Cafe, a spacious coffee shop with couches and free Wifi. If you want to get some work done, they even have some tables in the back with outlets. If you’re pressed for time, visit French bakery Ramos Generales for some scrumptious pastries to go.
After breakfast, visit a museum to learn more about the history of Ushuaia. At the Museo Maritimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia, explore four separate museums – the Maritime Museum, the Prison Museum, the Antarctic Museum, and the Marine Art Museum. For ARS $350, you can learn about Ushuaia’s complicated past as (among other things) a penal colony and a naval base; examine artifacts of early Antarctic exploration; enjoy the Art Museum’s extensive collection of Argentine marine art from 1889 to the present.
For lunch, visit our favorite downtown spot Tante Sara, a traditional restaurant with yummy sandwiches and generous portions. Vegetarians, try take-out from El Bambu (Piedrabuena between Gobernador Paz and Deloqui), a small deli which offers a variety of Chinese-inspired, vegetarian takes on Argentine classics.
After lunch, do some last-minute shopping in town. Buy some motion-sickness pills (in Spanish: dramamina) in any pharmacy on the main street, San Martín. Shop for some snacks at La Anónima, a grocery store with many locations throughout the city. Send postcards to your friends from the “End of the World,” and shop for souvenirs in the Artisanal Fair on Avenida Maipú and 25 de Mayo (open 10am-7pm everyday).
EAT KING CRAB
If you’re in town at dinner time, make sure to try the regional specialty: king crab (centolla). For this tasty seafood dish, we recommend the restaurant Volver, located on Avenida Maipú with windows looking out over the Beagle Channel. Renowned head chef Lino Adillón serves up traditional dishes with a creative flare. Prefer fish? Try the sea bass or trout.
For those who favor view over all else, check out La Taberna del Viejo Lobo, a penal colony-themed, traditional restaurant with gorgeous views of the harbor. Enjoy a picada, a charcuterie platter, to start. For meat-lovers, this is a great place to try cordero fueguino, the tasty lamb of Tierra del Fuego.
VISIT THE FREESTYLE BUNKER
Though last on our list, this should be your first stop in Ushuaia! Visit the Freestyle office (Gobernador Delqui 845) for a hot cup of coffee or tea and some free wifi before you go off the grid. Pick up your free neck buff, wildlife guide, and rental gear (snow pants, water-resistant gloves, etc.) and check in with us about any last-minute concerns you may have. We absolutely love meeting all of the adventurous travelers making the journey to Antarctica, so make sure to visit us before you embark!