Ushuaia, Argentina is the southernmost city in the world. I got the bug to visit Ushuaia, and made arrangements to visit after spring in the Southern Hemisphere had started. Even though it was spring when I visited in October, the weather was probably between 40 – 45 F when I was here, and on the day I left, Friday, 26 October 2012, it snowed that day. Local residents tell me that it is not uncommon to have a couple of feet of snow on the ground. Located in the Argentine State of Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia is also the state capital. The population grew to 1,558 by 1914. The current population is around 60,000.
The British were the first to explore the Ushuaia area. Robert FitzRoy was the first European to visit the area around Ushuaia. British missionaries had a major influence in early Ushuaia. The first Argentines arrived in 1873. To try to secure a permanent population in the area, Argentine President Roca established a prison here in 1896. A military prison was later established in 1903, and both prisons were merged in 1910. Argentine President Juan Peron closed the prisons in 1947.
Two of the major economic in the area are tourism and electronics assembly. Tourism is easy to understand, but electronics assembly in Argentina near Antarctica? Argentina has tried to increase the economics of Tierra del Fuego. and established a special economic zone for the state It seems that Argentina lets manufactures that assemble electronic products in Tierra del Fuego escape import taxes on their parts for products assembled (TVs, laptop computers, etc.) here. Most imports have duties approaching 50%. With duties like this you would not want to buy an iPhone in Argentina. Firms like Samsung have electronic assembly facilities in so that they can get their products in the country and avoid the high duties.
I went directly to my hotel when I arrived. My flight from the Buenos Aires EZE airport was about 3 hours. After getting a quick nap, I went to downtown Ushuaia to walk around, take pictures, and have dinner. After dinner, I returned to the hotel. An aerial view of Ushuaia below shows the snow caped mountains on the north side of the city, and the general layout. The second map shows downtown Ushuaia. As with most cities in Argentina, Ave San Martin is street through the center of town, and Maipu being the main street along the shore line. The circled area is the area I visited.
AIRPORT HOTEL TRANSFERS ARE A RIP-OFF AT USH
Currently, and airport transfer in at USH both to and from your hotel is priced at $26+ US Dollars. You will find taxis at a lower cost in front of the airport outside of the arrival area. If two of you get and airport transfer to and from your hotel, it will cost you over $100 US. Two or more people will save a lot of money by using a taxi instead of an airport transfer service.
Ushuaia is quit hilly, and is built on the side of snow caped mountains located north of the city. The city is spread-out, and one gets the feeling that there was not a lot of planning put into the layout of the city. Hotels are located all over the city. Many are a long distance from the center. A taxi is required from many of the hotels to get to and from the downtown area.However, the views offered from some of these hotels are wonderful, and well the cost of the taxi. Of course, if you are traveling with a tour, there is usually a van that takes you to and from your hotel, and in this case the cost of the taxi would not be an issue. I took a taxi from my hotel to the downtown area and spent the next few hours walking around and had dinner. I arrived in the downtown area about 5 PM, and did not get back to the hotel until 11 PM.
Several locals that I talked with said they were in Ushuaia because hire there than other parts of Argentina. This is quite interesting to be because most of these person came from a warmer climate where it usually does not snow. From articles I have read, jobs in the Ushuaia often pay double what you would get in most of Argentina.
Most of the cruise ships that visit the Antarctic leave from Ushuaia. Many other cruise ships also make a stop at Ushuaia as the cruise around the Cape Horn.
One of the first feelings I got walking around town is that this is a busy place, tourism is really a major economic force here, and that this really busy place. Most of the businesses I saw were tourist related. These included curio shops, travel agencies for tours in the area, many restaurants, and banks. I did not see very many stores in the central area that catered to the local population. Most of the business I saw catering to the locals that seemed to be in the outlying areas. When leaving the city to visit Tierra del Fuego National Park (discussed in another blog post), I saw several shopping centers. Outside of the downtown area I also say many grocery stores, business, and other businesses that catered to those living in Ushuaia.
Below are some pictures of Ave San Martin. On this street parking is hard to find, and one needs to be careful when crossing the street.
The waterfront area below Ave San Martin beckoned, and I walked down there after walking around a bit.
The abandoned tug (see below) St. Christopher (formerly the HMS Justice (W-140)) sits just off the waterfront and is interesting to visit. In 1953 the rescue tug St. Christopher was chartered to aid in the salvage operations of the SS Monte Cervantes. The tug ended up being beached and abandoned itself during the work and remains near Ushuaia today, a monument to the treacherous Beagle Channel.
The current squabble over the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Island) can be seen (see photo below) on the water front where at the entrance to the Ushuaia harbor area that ships from Great Britain are not to be unloaded or loaded.
When I first arrived in the afternoon the cloud cover was pretty heavy, and this prevented one from seeing the mountains above Ushuaia. As I was walking around the waterfront a couple of hours later, the snow caped peaks could be easily seen after the cloud cover had disappeared. Below are some pictures of the mountains to the north that look down on Ushuaia.
After walking a little further to the east, the main facilities of the Ushuaia harbor are readily seen, and you can also see across the Beagle Channel to Isla Navarino (Navarino Island) which is part of Chile.
The tour boats, catamarans, and sailboats the are used for tourist excursions are located just to the west of the main Ushuaia harbor area (see below).
Tours to nearby islands and wild life nature cruises can be arranged online, with tourist agencies in town, or at kiosks (see below) located just in front of the excursion boat pier. Some of the tours are half day, and some of them are all day tours. Both catamarans and sail boats are used for the tours.
After walking around the harbor area, I went back up to Ave San Martin, walked the length of the main business area, and then started looking for a restaurant>
I wanted a restaurant with a view of the harbor, and a good menu. I settled on Restaurante Tante Nina (www.tanteninarestaurant.com.ar). It had a good menu of carne (steaks for you gringos) and seafood. I had a plate of locally caught heck and an Argentine Chablis. A picture of me with my meal, and a view of the harbor can be seen below, along with a picture of my serving of heck fish. I must say that the mashed potatoes were simply wonderful.
By the time I finished dinner it was about 11 PM. The restaurant called a taxi for me and I went back to my hotel completing my walking tour of downtown Ushuaia, and completing my first day at the bottom of the world / Fin del Mundo.
The photo gallery of my walking tour of Ushuaia is at the bottom of this article. Click on any photo with your mouse, or touch the photo if you are viewing with a tablet. You can see a slide show of all of photos if you click on the “Slide Show” button in the lower right of the expanded photo, or in the lower left, you can scroll through the photos.
More information about Ushuaia, Argentina:
Wikipedia on Ushuaia, Argentina: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushuaia
Wikitravel on Ushuaia, Argentina: http://wikitravel.org/en/Ushuaia
Tripadvisor on Ushuaia, Argentina: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g312855-Ushuaia_Province_of_Tierra_del_Fuego_Patagonia-Vacations.html
Restaurante Tante Nina reviews from Tripadvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g312855-d1084097-Reviews-Tante_Nina-Ushuaia_Province_of_Tierra_del_Fuego_Patagonia.html