After a week hiking (and recuperating from the flu) in El Chaltén, we drove back to El Calafate and caught a flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Due to its location, Ushuaia is known as “Fin Del Mundo,” (the end of the world) and it is the gateway to many of the attractions in Tierra del Fuego (land of fire).
It was a rainy day as we departed El Calafate, but as we approached Ushuaia the clouds cleared and we had a nice view.
After checking into our AirBnb we went for a walk around town to get our bearings.
The town has a large memorial to the soldiers that died in the conflict with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands (or las Malvinas, as they are known in Argentina).
Nearby the kids found a playground to run off some energy after a long day of travel.
Ushuaia’s main street is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops. The city gets quite a few tourists from cruise ships and people passing through on the way to Antarctica.
Walking With Penguins
We have been learning a lot about wildlife on our journey and our trip to Ushuaia offered the very unique opportunity to get up close to penguins.
Our experience with Piratour began with a boat ride through the Beagle Channel. Along the way we passed an island packed with seals and cormorants.
The seals feed at nighttime. During the day they lounge on top of the rocks and try to get some rest.
The Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is one of the most popular symbols of Ushuaia.
We disembarked from the large tour boat at Harberton Ranch then boarded a small rib boat to make the final leg of the journey to the penguin colony at Martillo island.
The rib boat pulled up onto the beach of Martillo island. We climbed off the boat and there were penguins everywhere!
Martillo island is home to two species of penguin. Magellanic penguins make up the majority of the penguin population on the island.
The Magellanic penguins were paired up (they pick a mate for life) and many were nesting in holes in the ground. Because of the time of year, many of the penguins were molting where they shed all of their feathers to replace with a new set for the winter. There were feathers everywhere!
The other species of Penguin that lives on the island is the Gentoo, the third largest penguin species.
We were very lucky to also see a King Penguin; these are not normally seen in this area. Our guide speculated that the King must have gotten lost while out fishing.
The next stop on our tour was the museum back at Harberton Ranch. The museum has a large collection of bones from marine animals. Ocean currents in the area frequently deposit dead animals here, and the landowners decided to create a display place for them.
Our tour guide pointed out the differences between the skeletons of various species. The kids were interested to see and touch baleen and to learn about filter feeding animals.
Just outside the building are several big whale skeletons.
Tierra Del Fuego National Park
Tierra Del Fuego National Park is just a few miles outside of Ushuaia. We rented a car and drove into the park.
Our first stop in the park was a short hike to a waterfall.
The park is at the extreme southern end of Argentina. Travelers driving the Pan-American highway have nearly 18,000km to go to reach Alaska!
Interestingly, the “End of the World” is only as close to the South Pole as Newcastle, England is close to the North Pole.
We walked the boardwalk overlooking Lapataia Bay and took in the views of the end of the world!
“Fin Del Mundo” was a great stop on our visit to South America, and walking with penguins was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of our trip to date.
Next time we travel to Buenos Aires, our final stop on the continent!