Ushuaia: The City at the End of the World

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The city at the end of the world – that’s how Ushuaia in Argentina is described. Although if you’re from Chile you’d dispute that and point out that Puerto Williams is further south.

Regardless of the accuracy – Ushuaia has the feel of the end of the world; it is the launch point for a trip to the wild ice of Antarctica and the treacherous seas of Cape Horn.

But as you’d expect from the “last shopping point for miles” there is plenty to buy here; walking boots, waterproofs, camping gear, cameras, comedy hats with penguins on top, fluffy penguins and penguin oven gloves and even handmade chocolate (although I didn’t see any shaped like a penguin).

There are two museums: The prison, which was built in the early years of the city’s growth. And the End of the World Museum, which has a large collection of stuffed birds and shows an interesting black and white documentary shot in the 1940s of the Americas proudly, and at great cost, releasing beavers in to the area with the aim of creating a fur trade (a move that has since caused massive environmental damage as the beavers eat their way through the local trees, dam the rivers, flood the fields and breed rapidly, thanks to the absence of any natural predator: yet another example of man’s interference in nature upsetting the balance for generations to come).

Ushuaia

Perhaps in defiance of its bleak location, sandwiched between the Martial Mountain range and the Beagle Channel, the houses of Ushuaia are painted bright colours and arranged in what appears to be a higgledy-piggledy mess perched wherever there is space. Many look like Swiss ski chalets that have been squashed on either side until they are tall, narrow and very pointed, but with the eaves still reaching almost to the ground.

Ushuaia

Overlooking the town, on the side of the hill, is the newly built Arakur Hotel. Its huge windows give residents panoramic views over the town and across the bay. At night the town twinkles and the ships anchored further out to sea blink their lights; looking like tiny glow worms skipping on the ocean. The hotel has taken its internal theme from the environment outside; wood and stone on the walls, huge felt art from a local artist, and wool carpets with leaf and kelp patterns using the natural colours of the wool – without the need for dyes.

Ushuaia is a great place to visit – not because there is loads to do, or a buzzing night life or even theatres full of cultural activities, but because it has the feel of adventure, it has a small-town, friendly atmosphere, the people here are passionate about the place and the tourists all exude an air of excitement as they wait to board their ships. It may be the end of the world, but it’s also the start of a great adventure.

FACT BOX:
Arakur Hotel offers great views over the city and the bay.

British Airways flies direct to Buenos Aires. From there you’ll need to pick up a domestic flight to Ushuaia.

To arrange your tour to Argentina contact Argentina Travel Partners

To arrange a tour once in Chile contact ProTours Chile: contact@protourschile.com

Australis runs regular four and five day voyages around Cape Horn, through the Straits of Magellan and ending in Punta Arenas.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.

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