You haven’t been to Ushuaia until you’ve navigated the Beagle Channel. This famous stretch of water separates the island of Tierra del Fuego from the smaller islands further south and provides a border between Argentina and Chile at the southernmost tip of the continent.
Explore this famous channel with a Beagle Channel Maritime Excursion / Photo by Daytours4u
It is a place of history and legend. This is where the indigenous Yaghan people settled, living naked and diving into the icy waters of the channel to catch fish. It’s also where the HMS Beagle, for which the channel was named, sailed to map the southern parts of the continent: captained by Robert FitzRoy, the boat carried Charles Darwin on the journey that inspired his book, The Voyage of the Beagle.
The channel comes with stories of exploration and discovery and is the entry point to understanding the history and geography of Ushuaia. The best way to experience it for yourself is with a Beagle Channel Maritime Excursion.
A comfortable catamaran will take you on a leisurely cruise of the channel / Photo by Daytours4u
BOAT CRUISE ON THE BEAGLE CHANNEL
The tour starts at the tourist port in Ushuaia, located a short walk from the main street in Ushuaia, and across from the tourist information office. Here you will have to pay a small port fee before boarding the catamaran. Inside, the modern catamaran is extremely comfortable. There are two levels, enclosed, with comfortable seats and tables. Downstairs, there is a small bar where you can get coffee, drinks, and snacks. There are also viewing decks outside on both levels, perfect for taking pictures.
We took this tour on a cold Spring afternoon, showing off the wild and remote nature of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The catamaran set off, and a guide provided commentary in English and Spanish over the boat’s sound system, explaining what we were seeing. The first great sight was seeing Ushuaia from the channel as the boat sailed away. This is the best way to get a feel for the beauty of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, tucked between the channel and a stunning snow-capped mountain range.
See the native Patagonian marine birds as you cruise past / Photo by Daytours4u
The boat then turned up the channel, venturing where such famous explorers had gone before. The first landmark in the channel we passed was the Island of Cormorants (Isla de los Cormoranes). From a distance, we could see the birds swooping and diving around the island. This rocky outcrop is home to hundreds of cormorants, as well as other Patagonian marine birds.
The next island in sight was the Isla de Lobos, or Sea Lion Island. Lounging on the island are many sea lions, catching a bit of sun, and moving into and out of the water. The boat’s captain moved the catamaran around the island at different angles, giving us plenty of time to observe and take photos of these amazing animals.
Observe the sea lions lounging on Isla de Lobos / Photo by Daytours4u
The final attraction on this cruise was to see one of the most emblematic sights of Ushuaia: the lighthouse in the channel, and the perfect postcard picture. The Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is often incorrectly called the Lighthouse at the End of the World, after the Jules Verne novel. This is, in fact, another lighthouse. But this certainly doesn’t take away from the wow factor of seeing this famous lighthouse, a beacon in the Beagle Channel. Again, the boat stopped here and turned, allowing everyone time to get plenty of pictures.
Then the boat turned around and headed back west towards Ushuaia. We disembarked, armed with lots of interesting information about the channel and its wildlife, and with the satisfaction of having sailed these legendary waters.
The famous Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is the highlight of the cruise / Photo by Daytours4u
TIPS FOR THIS TOUR:
While the catamaran provides a smooth ride, if the weather is bad and you’re prone to seasickness, take precautionary motion sickness medication to ensure you have a pleasant trip. Pack a warm jacket, a scarf, and a beanie. While the boat is warm and comfortable inside, the outside viewing deck can get very windy and cold out on the channel.
Take money with you to buy snacks or a drink on board the boat. This short tour takes approximately 3 hours and runs at 9am (only in summer) and 3pm, making it very convenient to schedule for your first or last day in Ushuaia, or another day when you only have half a day to spare.
By: Nicole Eberhard, travel writer and avid explorer, with a Masters in English Literature.