While the rest of us prepare for winter, Argentina is already miles ahead. In South America’s southernmost region, you will find Patagonia: a vast wildlife haven shared by Argentina and Chile, and divided by the Andes Mountains. Outstanding landscapes are set against a steep terrain in this sea of snow. Home to Antarctica’s gateway and the world’s southernmost city, Argentine Patagonia is an odyssey of ice. And with penguin-spotting, glacier-gazing, and boat-riding on the itinerary, the ‘End of the World’ has never looked so cool.
Where is it?
Using our trusty Skratch map, you can spot Argentina’s Patagonia region in blue! While the Perito Moreno glacier can be found up north in the stunning province of Santa Cruz, the Tierra del Fuego is way down south. Though there are five different ways of travelling between the two regions available to you, the most popular options are either by a two-hour flight or a one-day road trip split between two buses. Or, if you book onto one of Say Hueque’s featured trips, they can take you down an alternative route.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, Los Glaciares National Park is one not to miss. One third of this park is covered in ice, with its glaciers only being surpassed in size by Antarctica and Greenland. Most famous of all the forty glaciers is undoubtedly the Perito Moreno Glacier. Named after one of the most influential men in Argentine history, the academic and explorer Francisco Moreno, this glacier is one of the best sights to spot in this incredible country. Both extraordinary and accessible (tickets cost around $13 USD upon arrival), this glacier spans 250km — making it the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world. And as one of the only glaciers in the world that appears to be growing instead of shrinking, it is easy to understand why it has so many fans.
Where you could stay:
Conveniently located near this National Park, El Calafate is famed as the Glacier Capital. Small and easy to navigate, forget everything you thought you knew about cities; there are no skyscrapers to be found here. And as this city happens to overlook the country’s largest freshwater lake, staying in El Calafate is the perfect option for those looking to be in the heart of nature without having to sacrifice comfort. There is plenty of accommodation available that suits all price ranges. For those looking to save money, the inexpensive but highly-rated America Del Sur Calafate Hostel is an excellent choice for scenery and a short-walk downtown. But if you want to stay somewhere first-class, then there is no better pick than one of Relais & Châteaux’s own, the magnificent Eolo Hotel.
Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego
At the bottom of Patagonia, intersected between the Andes, you will find the most mythical place, a legendary Land of Fire (and Ice). This archipelago is adorned with glaciers and mountains that will ignite your wanderlust, as the enticing ‘End of the World’ awaits exploration. Whether you choose to see this magical place on foot or by cruise is up to you. Either way, the Tierra del Fuego will set your heart ablaze.
Our first stop in Tierra del Fuego is its capital of Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. Once a cosy fishing village, Ushuaia has blossomed into a colourful tourist hub which attracts Argentinians from everywhere in the country with its comparatively high wages. With attractions everywhere you go, Ushuaia makes no secret of its location as the ‘End of the World’.
Take a picture by the Ushuaia’s sign or the city spelled out in white. Visit one of the several museums whilst you are here. There is plenty to appease your interests, whether that is gory prison cells or glorious maritime models. Or if you cannot get enough of that ‘End of the World’ feeling, then why not check out some of the local and natural history? Open from 10:00am to 7pm on Mondays to Fridays, this museum is the perfect spot to learn more about Ushuaia’s history without having to splurge (the entrance fee is only $3 USD!).
Where you could stay:
As a bustling departure point into Antarctica, Ushuaia is well-accustomed and accommodation to the number of tourists who frequent each year. Compared to other regions of Argentina, staying in Ushuaia can be quite costly — not least its in-demand season, there is also a distinct lack of hostels.
Despite this, Ushuaia is still worth every visit. There are personable and family-run services, like Les Retamas B&B (around $83 USD a night), promising an unbeatable location in the heart of town. And of course, you have the extraordinarily extravagant. For those needing a restful refresh, Los Cauquenes Resort & Spa is desirable. Situated just outside town, Los Cauquenes sits on its own private beach overlooking the iconic Beagle Channel. With two swimming pools, a wine bar, and a sauna at your disposal, you may even forget about adventure-embarking! Thankfully, the resort offers multiple experience trips — so that you can make the most out of your time in the ‘End of the World’ without any added stress.
Shining bright in Tierra del Fuego is its Beagle Channel, and not just because of its lighthouse! Named after the ship HMS Beagle, which Charles Darwin sailed on for his world expedition in 1831–6, the Beagle Channel has an epic history. Belonging to a landscape which Darwin described as beryl-like blue glaciers, his words still ring true. Today, the Beagle Channel is a wildlife hub which attracts all kinds of animals — the most notable of them all being its seals!
As one of Tierra del Fuego’s hotspots, the Beagle Channel is easy to access and navigate. There are several boat tours available for you to book onto, like this one offered by Patagonia Adventure Explorer.
Yes, you read that right. Tierra del Fuego not only entertains stunning scenery, but an island populated by penguins. Just a twenty minute boat ride from Ushuaia, Martillo Island is an exciting destination for all animal lovers. Although there are a few different tours to pick from, for the best possible experience we recommend the tour provided by Piratour, as it is the only tour which allows you to walk alongside the penguins. Spending your time with these cute creatures will not only have a positive impact on your mood but on the penguins too — since the tour began, the colony has grown!
Tierra del Fuego National Park
Last but certainly not least is the bewitchingly beautiful Tierra del Fuego National Park. Only a thirty minute drive from Ushuaia (there are taxi and shuttle services available to and fro), this national park covers an incredible 630km. Even more outstanding are the sights you will see here — unlike what the name suggests, you can expect to find a luscious landscape. The scenery looks like something out of a painting — with its endless, rich shades of cerulean, emerald and silver. Best of all, the admission fee is fairly cheap ($9 USD for tourists)!
There are so many different ways to explore this place, from scenic car routes to trekking on-foot. If you are an experienced hiker who likes a real challenge, then consider adding the Cerro Guanaco summit trail to your trip. Averaging a six hours to complete, this trek is extremely steep and muddy. But with a view so cool that it will rock your world, who cares if your legs ache the next day?
If your eyes widened reading that, then not to worry as there are plenty of options for the travellers who want something a little more tame. Stop by Ensenada Bay and brag to your friends and family in a postcard sent from ‘The End of the World’. And yes, there is another sign that you can take a picture by! These guys sure know how to send a message.
Most iconic of all the trips you can take in this national park is none other than the ‘End of the World’ train. Once a criminal railway developed as a penal colony for repeat offenders, this steam railway has since become a comfortable experience for its passengers. A short but slow-paced journey, this small railway will glide you through a plethora of panoramic views. And if you pay for premium, you can enjoy those same sights accompanied by a deliciously hot meal and a glass of that famous Argentinian red wine everyone is always talking about…