Where do we go now? To the south. The very south. As south as you can imagine. At the end of the Andes and Patagonia. So south that it is the gateway to Antarctica. So far south that the title of “the world’s end” has accompanied him since the first white men landed on its shores, beyond the 19th century.
In that far and sometimes unattainable south is Ushuaia, the southernmost city on the planet… until recently.
“The southernmost city in the world”
At the beginning of 2019, a change in Chilean legislation gave Puerto Williams, in Chile, the status of ‘city’, making the trans-Andean town hitherto officially ‘the southernmost city on the planet’. It is not that much changes for Ushuaia; at most, they will have to change the poster that announces the world’s end on Maipú Avenue, with the Beagle Channel behind. In front, a queue of tourists will also wait for their turn to record that they have been there, where the world ends (or ended).
For the original inhabitants, the Yámanas, Ushuaia was the ‘bay that penetrates the west.’ A much more practical name because it does not compare with anything or depend on the number of inhabitants. It simply “penetrates the west”, incomparable and oblivious to names and legends.
Its mountains, the snow that covers its landscapes from June to October, the Magellanic penguins of Martillo Island and the red foxes of the Andes, the Martial Glacier… All that will remain there, with the title of ‘city of the world’s end’ or without. And that is the true spirit of Ushuaia.
The archipelago of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) owes its name to the European navigators who baptized this region in this way, since from their boats they saw it covered with the small fires that lit the original villages to protect themselves from their extreme climate. The province of Argentina and the most important national park in the area took the same name, and the rest is history.
Snow, forests and glaciers
Tierra del Fuego National Park is one of the main attractions of Ushuaia, one of those reasons that make you forget that you are no longer in the southernmost city in the world. With about 70,000 hectares of Patagonian forests and lagoons, it offers about 40 kilometers of trails and a virgin environment where you feel like one of the first explorers. Despite its name, it is characterized by its low temperatures (with an annual average of 5.6º C), uniform rains (200 days a year) and abundant snowfall (it remains covered in white from May to September). Its entrance is only 12 kilometers from the city of Ushuaia.
Even closer, the Martial Glacier rises, seven kilometers from the center. In winter it becomes a perfect ski resort to dare with alpine skiing, while in summer the walkers take their 900 meters high in search of the best views of the bay.
“To do” list in the world’s end
In addition, the former end of the world offers other activities such as navigation through the Beagle Channel (or Onashaga Channel, in native language), the strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic.
The typical route passes by the Isla de los Lobos, Isla de los Pájaros, and the Lighthouse Les Eclaireurs, a symbol of the region, although it is not the true ‘lighthouse of the world’s end’ that inspired Julio Verne – the real deal is located at the end of San Juan on the island of the States, but it is not so photogenic. You will share the journey with sea lions, penguins and imperial cormorants, among others.
And if you’ve been wanting to know the current southernmost city on the planet, you can still do it. From Ushuaia excursions are offered to Puerto Williams, which cross to Puerto Navarino, just in front, and border the coast to the Chilean city. Once there, you can do the Trekking Dientes de Navarino or visit one of the last virgin corners of the planet, the Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve.
Whatever you choose to do, the south of the south will never disappoint you.