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Down at the foot of South America, beyond the wilds of Patagonia and across the treacherous Straits of Magellan, lies the vibrant outpost of Ushuaia, the self-proclaimed southernmost city in the world.

 

 

Simply getting to this remote outpost of civilisation is an experience in itself.

If you choose to take the ground route from Punta Arenas, the bus will take you alongside the Straits of Magellan, one of the world’s most famous waterways, then onto a ferry for the 25-minute crossing, a bumpy ride at the best of times that is often cancelled due to the rough waters that splash over onto the unprotected cars on the deck.

 

 

Landing on Tierra del Fuego, the journey continues across barren lands where icy winds blow with gale-force ferocity as you cross from Chile into Argentina. The mountains begin to rise again as the coast road winds its way along to the city of Ushuaia, snugly set into the hills beside the Beagle Channel.

 

 

This rugged port town functions primarily as the gateway to Antarctica. It is a rare day when there is not at least one ship in the docks being filled with passengers or goods to sail away around Cape Horn and into the fearsome iceberg-filled Southern Ocean, and that is what gives the place its buzz.

 

 

Typically cold for most of the year, the place has the feel of a ski town, clinging on to the slippery snow-covered slopes yet offering a warm and welcome hospitality, with restaurants a-plenty and cosy hotels to keep you comfortable for your stay. On the waterfront, a poignant statue stands at attention, in silent tribute to those Argentines killed on the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands.  

 

 

A trip out into the calm bay area, protected from the rough seas, is essential to view the picturesque city and the snow-capped mountains. 11 km from the city lies the Tierra del Fuego national park, a bracken-covered tundra with trails leading to Lago Roca, where you can hike along the Lapataia River while staring at the sight of Cerro Cóndor before reaching the turnaround point at the borderline with Chile. You can take the “end of the world” train. On the other side of the Park, best seen with a tour outfit, lies Lapataia Bay, where you can see Laguna Verde and Laguna Negra before heading back out.

 

 

It is possible, but not easy or cheap, to book onto a scenic flight over the infamous Cape Horn or get passage on a vessel to the ice continent of Antarctica further south, but if you do not have the time the transfixing experience of visiting Ushuaia once will make you want to return for that trip of a lifetime in the future.



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