Ushuaia city near the bottom of the world

Its motto says: “Ushuaia, at the end of the world and the beginning of everything”, which pretty much sums up the place that is regarded as the southernmost city in the world.

Ushuaia is part of Argentina and capital of the island of Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire. Tierra del Fuego is also shared by Chile, and they have a settlement of about 2,000 residents south of Ushuaia at a place called Puerto Williams which they claim is the world’s southernmost city but nobody, except Chile, recognises that settlement’s credentials.

The city is bordered on one side my mountains and on the other by the Beagle Channel, it is has a pretty big harbour, so sees many ships in its port.  Ushuaia is not far from Cape Horn, the treacherous channel between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsular, and as you would expect from a place that is so far south, you can expect to experience some pretty miserable weather there on most days of the year.

Tierra del Fuego got its name because early explorers marvelled at the many fires they could see ashore.  These fires were what kept the original inhabitants, the Yamana Indians, warm.  Ushuaia was first settled by Europeans in 1869 and in 1873 it was made a penal colony where Argentina’s worst prisoners were held in captivity as there was virtually no way of escape.

These days tourism is an important factor in the city’s economy.  It is a spectacularly beautiful place, particularly nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park which forms the southernmost part of the Andes mountain range and is renowned for its subantarctic forests and the mountains, lakes and river which form deep valleys.    

The best way to reach the National park is by the End of the World Train, which is a narrow gauge steam railway.  The route takes passengers along the Pico Valley in the Toro gorge and to Cascada de la Macarena station where you can get off to learn about the Yamana People.  The train then enters the national park and the forest, travelling through the valley below the mountains, reaching El Parque station where tourists can return by coach or train.

Because many people do us Ushuaia as a setting off point for cruises to Antarctica there is a good range of accommodation in the city.  Ushuaia is a long way from Buenos Aries, the capital of Argentina, so the best way to get there is to fly.  It is possible to go overland, but because you have to enter Tierra del Fuego via Chile you need to go through customs and immigration four times before you get to Ushuaia, and that can add quite a bit to an already long trip.

For sightseeing there is a double-decker bus tour you can do, and it is worth visiting the Ushuaia Aquarium which gives you the opportunity to see the Beagle Channel marine life, particularly the Southern King Crabs which eerily resemble giant spiders.

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