We originally set out to fly from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, the most southern city in Argentina. However, when the time came, no award mile flights were available for the entire month we wanted to fly. We thought of buying the tickets but felt that the cost was a bit too much considering it was nearly twice as much as taking a bus. Yes, a bus. A 48-hour bus to be exact. I'm not quite sure how we ever came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea but we went for it. I guess we thought, "hey, we're not in a rush, let's save some money and do it."
So, on that fateful Friday, November 15th, we boarded our home for the next two days, mentally prepared. How did it go? Well our bus broke down one and a half hours into the ride. We hadn't even made it out of the city! We sat patiently as they tried to fix the bus before they eventually gave up and sent another one to replace it. 3 HOURS LATER. We all boarded the second bus and were on our merry way. The journey after that was rather uneventful. They kept us entertained with movies, bingo and wine. The food must have been the worst we've had on our overnight rides but after so much time on a bus, you kind of stop caring. The only big problem we really had was missing our connection.
The long journey to Ushuaia is broken up by taking one bus for the first 36 hours to Rio Gallegos then switching to another for the last 12 hours. Of course, the company we booked through only has one bus completing the Rio Gallegos-Ushuaia trip per day and when our bus broke down, we missed it. To make it worse, Rio Gallegos does not offer much to the traveler. The town is a coal shipping, oil-refining and wool-raising hub so there is nothing to see or do. Thankfully, the bus company (Andesmar) put us in a hotel and paid for everything, including food. Turns out it was pretty nice to have a break rather than sitting for another 12 hours, which would have totaled 51 hours, by the way. The funny thing is when we caught our bus the following morning, it left later than when we had arrived the previous day. So frustrating! Thankfully, from there, we arrived without any more issues. Hurray!
After 3 days of traveling and sitting in buses, we could not have been more than ready to go out and explore Ushuaia, the city everyone refers to as “el fin del mundo”. So what did we do there?
The hike to Martial Glacier is very accessible from town. From our hostel to the glacier, it took us about 2 hours with a slight detour in an “enchanted forest.”
Once you reach the glacier, you can either keep hiking up to the top or enjoy the view of the city from the chair lift, which is what we did. We enjoyed the views but the hike itself wasn't particularly amazing since a majority of the trail is a concrete road. I would suggest taking a taxi up to the bottom of the chair lift and starting there then walking on the way back to enjoy the panoramic views of Ushuaia for a bit longer.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
We spent half a day in the national park, surrounded by its lush forests, lakes, and mountains. The weather was unlike any we'd experienced before, completely unpredictable, which as it turns out is very predictable for Patagonia. It snowed for most of our hike so you can imagine just how cold we felt by the end of it, especially since I fell in the mud, butt first (you'll notice this happens a lot).
But the best part of it was that whenever we would reach a viewpoint, the sun would come out, making it feel like it hadn't even snowed that day. I would definitely love to return on a sunny day to enjoy the views a bit more rather than looking down most of the time, trying to avoid stepping in mud.
Beagle Channel Tour
There are multiple boat rides you can take on the channel, all a bit different from each other. I wanted to see wild penguins, in addition to sea lions, cormorants and the famous lighthouse, Les Eclaireurs. One tour offered all of the above so it's the one we went with. The way to the penguin island was full of excitement as we stopped along various islets inundated with wildlife.
Following the islets, the boat arrives to the last island, which houses hundreds of penguins. You don't get to step off the boat so you just watch them from further out and see how they interact with each other. The boat switches off its engine and everyone is instructed to keep quiet so the penguins don't pay attention to the 50 or so visitors staring at them.
Most of them were sleeping when we showed up but we enjoyed watching a few of them waddle around, swim and fish. The only downside to the tour was the return trip. After all that fun and excitement, the way back is much less entertaining. With no stops and a 2-hour return to Ushuaia, it felt a bit long to us.
In addition to those activities, we really enjoyed walking around town, especially near the waterfront. Looking out at the vast ocean, surrounded by snow capped mountains, is incredibly peaceful.
If you save up enough money, you could even find yourself catching a last-minute trip to Antarctica. When we were there, a 3-week last-minute trip was somewhere around $3,800. Not too bad! We'll be back, Ushuaia! Mark my words.
- We booked both the van to the national park and the Beagle Channel tour through our hostel, Cruz del Sur.
- Make sure to try the local craft beer (Cerveza Beagle) and the various bakeries around town. We particularly liked the one next to the Irish Dublin Pub located on 9 de Julio 168.