Located at the tip of Argentina, Ushuaia is known as “Fin del Mundo” which translates to the end of the world. It’s a port town, most visited by individuals boarding an expedition cruise to Antarctica, which is exactly what led me here. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from Ushuaia. But I was pleasantly surprised by this little town and the stunning landscape surrounding it. So for those wondering what to do in Ushuaia and if Ushuaia is worth visiting, read on!
How long to spend in Ushuaia
I had less than 2 days total in Ushuaia. This was enough to explore the town and see the highlights. However, a lot of the charm of Ushuaia is the surrounding nature and I didn’t have time for that. So, if you’d like to explore more of the National Parks or if you enjoy hiking, I would probably recommend 3 days in Ushuaia.
How to get to Ushuaia
Most people arrive to Ushuaia by plane. You can get direct flights from Buenos Aires that will get you there in about 3 hours. Most of the flight is over water rather than the mountains of Patagonia, however, as you get closer to Ushuaia you will be rewarded with some incredible views and a very scenic landing. You can also fly into Ushuaia from Rio Gallegas, Patagonia in about one hour.
It is also possible to get to Ushuaia overland by car or by ferry if you are coming from neighbouring Chile. However, the journey will take you at least half a day.
Getting Around Ushuaia
Ushuaia town itself is very small and walkable. That being said, it is built on a hill and some of the roads can be incredibly steep so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
There is a public bus system but it’s not ideal for getting to the main areas that tourists like to visit. In these cases, there are also plenty of day trip options and excursions from town. You can book online in advance or visit the waterfront where you will find lots of tour vendors. However, if you would prefer to explore on your own, car rentals are available.
Note that Uber and Lyft aren’t options in Ushuaia however, there are plenty of taxis. There are a couple of taxi stands in town but your best bet is to head down to the main office area by the water, you’ll find plenty there.
Where to Stay in Ushuaia
For a small town, Ushuaia does have a good mix of accommodation options. There are classic hotels, hostels, and B&B-type spots both within the town itself and on the outskirts more in nature. Keep in mind, if you are staying outside of town you will need a car or be ready to pay for taxis to get around. When I was here our hotel was further up in the hills which offered beautiful views but meant we had to rely on taxis every time we wanted to leave and come back which wasn’t ideal. Especially since accommodation in Ushuaia isn’t exactly cheap.
That being said, here are a few ideas of where to stay in Ushuaia:
Things to do in Ushuaia
For those wondering what to do in Ushuaia, there’s more than you would think! From museums to hikes to excursions to see penguins, yes that’s right, I said penguins! Here are some of the top things to do in Ushuaia.
Ushuaia actually reminded me a little bit of Banff town. Against the backdrop of the mountains, it gives winter ski-village vibes. There are plenty of little shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants lining the main streets. As you walk around keep an eye out for street art (plenty of penguins!) and some fun signage to take photos with. Tip: for amazing chocolate head to Edelweiss chocolates and for delicious empanadas go to Dona Lupita!
Check out the Museums
The town of Ushuaia also has a couple of different museums as well that you may be interested in exploring.
The Galería Temática Historia Fueguina shares the history of Ushuaia. It looks a little cheesy with all the wax figures leaning out of the building and interactive exhibits. However, those that visit find it really interesting and educational.
There is also the Museo Maritimo which is housed in the old prison building. This actually is four museums in one and includes the Maritime museum, the Antarctic Museum, the Marine Art Museum, and the very popular Museum of the Prison.
Get an Antarctica and/or End of the World Stamp
The tourism office in Ushuaia has some tourist stamps that you are free to use. Stamps include a “Fin del Mundo” stamp and an Antarctica stamp. These are super fun but please keep in mind that these are considered tourist stamps, not official stamps. Some countries do not recognize them and will consider your passport illegitimate with these types of stamps. It’s up to you whether to stamp your passport or not. I chose not to take the risk and instead stamped my passport journal and the postcards I bought in town to send from Antarctica.
Shop for Souvenirs at the Paseo de los Artesanos
Down by the port next to the tourist office, you will see a very brightly coloured building called the Paseo de los Artesanos. This is where you will find local artisans selling their work. From woodwork to paintings, ceramics and textiles, there’s plenty on offer here making it a unique place to pick up a souvenir. I got the cutest painting of a mommy and baby penguin.
Tierra Del Fuego National Park
The southernmost national park in the world, Tierra del Fuego is known for its beautiful scenery which includes glaciers, mountains, lakes, and waterfalls. You can visit on your own or with a guide and you can even camp here. Book a guided day trip to the park here.
End of the World Train
This train once carried lumber to the prison but today is one of the most popular things to do in Ushuaia. You can board the train which will take you 8km from town to the national park. The journey takes about an hour and your guide will share the train’s history with you over the span of your journey. Book your end of the world train adventure here.
Go Penguin Watching
Speaking of penguins, did you know that you don’t have to go all the way to Antarctica to see them? That’s right, there are some penguin colonies close enough to Ushuaia that you can visit them on a day trip. If you are lucky you might also see dolphins, sea lions, and whales. Book your penguin watching tour by catamaran here.
One of the best ways to see Ushuaia is from above! This way you get incredible views including the glaciers and lakes below. You can choose the flight-only option or land on a glacier and have a champagne toast. I didn’t do this but some of my friends did and their photos were incredible! Check out the helicopter ride options here.
One of the most popular hikes in the area, the trek to Emerald Lake is well-marked and relatively easy. It’s about 2 hours each way (so bring water and snacks!) and the goal at the end is a beautiful blue-green lake. Book a guided trek with a picnic here.
Travel Tips for Ushuaia
A couple of handy travel tips to keep in mind for your time in Ushuaia:
- Make use of the Blue Rate when in Argentina. This is a special rate offered when you exchange USD at specific money exchanges. The rate they will give you is nearly double the posted rate. While it does sound a little black market, I assure you it is legal and normal. It is definitely in your best interest to bring USD with you to take advantage of this. As of my visit (January 2023), Visa and Mastercard had also started offering the Blue Rate, but not American Express.
- Always wear sunscreen: Even when it is cloudy. The sun here in this part of the world (and moving further south to Argentina) is incredibly strong as it is the place where the ozone layer is its thinnest. Even if it is cloudy, put on sunscreen. Trust me.
- Don’t plan to buy everything you need in Ushuaia. It’s the departure point for Antarctica cruises and the shops know their clients. I did a quick peek in and a lot of gear was more expensive than you would pay at home. So, it’s great if you realize you forgot something, but don’t come planning to buy it all here.
- If you dream of going to Antarctica but can’t afford full-price cabins, it’s worth knowing that you can get last-minute deals from Ushuaia. Any ship that isn’t full will sell off cabins at discounted prices right before departure. Of course, this means you can’t be picky and if you are travelling with a partner or friend there is no guarantee that you will get a room together. You also will be too late to sign up for things like kayaking (which always book up right away) but you will get steep discounts. Worth keeping in mind if you can be flexible with your travel schedule.
So, is Ushuaia worth visiting?
If you are visiting here as a stop on your trip to Antarctica then absolutely! I definitely recommend 2-3 days in Ushuaia before or after your trip. You are coming here anyway, why not explore?
That being said, I’m not sure I would suggest coming all the way to Ushuaia if you aren’t planning to continue on to Antarctica. It’s not the easiest to get to and the flights are rather expensive. If you are doing a full trip exploring Argentina then maybe add it in, but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see that you should go out of your way to visit.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Argentina
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.