The appeal of Ushuaia lies in its wild natural beauty, the snow-capped mountains, legendary Beagle Channel, fields and forests, and of course, its fascinating history. Looking for a way to experience all these different aspects of this Patagonian city in a limited time, I was delighted to find the Complete Summer Tour in Ushuaia.
This full-day excursion shows off the highlights of Ushuaia in summer (there is a different winter edition as well). It is divided into three parts: visiting Tierra del Fuego National Park, Playa Grande and Martial Glacier. Some of the best sights are combined, giving you a little taste of everything, plus a lot of nature and history.
This Complete Summer Tour will take you to some of the highlights of Ushuaia / Image Source
TIERRA DEL FUEGO NATIONAL PARK
After being picked up at our hotel in a minibus, the tour’s first port of call was the Tierra del Fuego National Park. On arrival, all passengers had the choice to either take the End of the World Train or walk into the park and meet the group at the train station. We opted to walk, enjoying taking our time and admiring our surroundings on a peaceful stroll.
Once the whole group was reunited, the tour continued in the minibus, visiting various points of interest in the park. This included Ensenada Bay, where the southernmost Post Office in the world is, the end of the Pan American highway (and the end of the national Ruta 3), Lapataia Bay, and Lake Roca. There was also a stop at a small café to enjoy a snack and a coffee.
After spending the morning exploring the beautiful Tierra del Fuego National Park, we headed back into Ushuaia, where we were dropped off at a restaurant in the centre of Ushuaia. Here we were introduced to our new guide who would be accompanying us on the second half of the tour. But first, we tucked into a delicious lunch and a glass of wine to refuel for the rest of the day.
Take a walk through nature in Tierra del Fuego National Park / Photo by Daytours4u
After lunch, our small group continued on with our excellent guide, Sebastian, to Playa Grande (literally translated as Big Beach). This quiet and scenic beach lies to the east of Ushuaia, on a curve in the bay, giving us great views of Ushuaia and the mountains.
More importantly, we spent our time here learning more about the Yaghan people (also called the Yámana), who lived on this coast. These indigenous hunter-gatherers have lived in Tierra del Fuego for many thousands of years. They lived naked until the Europeans arrived. Our guide explained more about how they lived here on the shores of the Beagle Channel, and about their encounters with missionary Thomas Bridges, who famously learned their language, and with the HMS Beagle, whose captain FitzRoy took a Yaghan man hostage, called him Jemmy Button and took him to England.
Enjoy a peaceful moment on Playa Grande / Photo by Daytours4u
After visiting Playa Grande, it was onwards to the final attraction: Martial Glacier. The minibus took us up a mountain road above Ushuaia. The rest of the way was done on foot. It was a steep climb up the mountain, but it took no longer than an hour, with incredible views over the Beagle Channel every time we stopped for a break. It wasn’t long before we were in snow, still covering the mountain in early summer.
We walked past the old ski resort that once operated here, and further up to the edge of the Martial Glacier. Because of the snow covering it, it is not possible to walk on it, but being up there in the surreal icy white landscape, with amazing views in every direction, it didn’t matter.
The walk back down was quick and easy, and before long we were being dropped off back at our hotel, satisfied at having seen three very different places in Ushuaia, including two that were off the main tourist routes, and having a much better historical, cultural and geographical understanding of the area.
Walking in the snow up to Martial Glacier / Photo by Bresileiros em Ushuaia
TIPS FOR THIS TOUR:
Entrance to Tierra del Fuego National Park is not included, as this has to be paid in person at the park entrance. The cost is AR $210 for foreigners, AR $130 for MERCOSUR residents, and AR $90 for national residents.
Tickets for the End of the World Train are not included in the tour price, and can be bought at the entrance for AR $600 (as of July 2016). Lunch is included in the tour, as well as a drink and coffee.
The walk up to Martial Glacier is steep, but doesn’t require a high level of fitness. Pack warm clothes for the walk, as the snow and ice make for chilly conditions at the top.
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For more great tours and activities in Ushuaia, visit Argentina4u!
By: Nicole Eberhard, travel writer and avid explorer, with a Masters in English Literature.