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Tierra del Fuego

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Travel Guide South America Tierra del Fuego

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Introduction

Montanas de Tierra del Fuego

Montanas de Tierra del Fuego

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Spanish for the land of fire, Tierra del Fuego provides visitors a chance to really see the end of the world. Despite its fiery name, the climate is cold, windy and rainy, but visitors will still find interesting sites. The Argentinian city of Ushuaia is both the southern most city in the world, and a popular starting point for boats to Antarctica. Nearby is Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, with opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking, trekking and hiking to scenic Lapataia Bay.

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Geography

Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago consisting of a main island (Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, often simply called Tierra del Fuego or Isla Grande) with an area of 48,100 km², and a group of smaller islands. The archipelago is separated from the southernmost tip of the South American mainland by the Strait of Magellan. The southern point of the archipelago forms Cape Horn.

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Subregions

Half of this island, and the islands west and south of it, are part of the Magallanes y Antártica Chilena Region, the capital and chief town of which is Punta Arenas, situated on the mainland across the strait. The biggest Chilean towns are Porvenir, capital of the Chilean Province of Tierra del Fuego, on the main island, and Puerto Williams, on Navarino Island. Puerto Toro lies a few kilometres south of Puerto Williams and is the southernmost town in the world.

The eastern part of the archipelago belongs to Argentina, being part of the Tierra del Fuego Province; its capital is Ushuaia, the biggest city of the archipelago, and the other important city in the region is Río Grande, over the Atlantic coast.

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Countries

Tierra del Fuego is shared by Chile and Argentina.

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Sights and Activities

  • Tierra del Fuego National Park is located west and northwest of Ushuaia, stretching from the Beagle Channel north along the Chilean border. The park is famous for great hiking and the scenery contains waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, forests and lakes. You can also witness some of the park's fauna, like foxes, beavers and guanacos (family of the llama).
  • The park can be reached by the Train at the end of the world (Tren el Fin del Mundo), which runs from the outskirts of Ushuaia for about 5 kilometres.
  • In winter you can go skiing at the Mount Castor Ski Resort.
  • There are daily bus/boat tours to Estancia Harberton, east of the city, where the Bridges family used to live during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nearby is a museum about the natural history of the region.
  • Another popular daytrip is a boat tour on the Beagle Channel, which enables you to see Ushuaia from a distance and to add you can also see numerous aquatic birds, seals and sealions. With some luck, penguins and orca's may be spotted as well!

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Weather

The best chances for fine weather are in summer, which lasts from November trought March. Daytime temperatures are averaging between 12 and 14 °C, while nights are rather chilly with 2 °C to 5 °C. Lucky travellers will experience temperatures of 20 degrees or a bit more, but these days are pretty scarce. The north is somewhat warmer compared to the south where Ushuaia is located. Winters last from May to September when temperatures are between 3 °C and 7 °C during the day and a few degrees below zero at night with sometimes temperatures dropping to -10 °C although it rarely gets colder. Precipitation is quite evenly distributed throughout the year with around 40 mm a month, though summers tend to be somewhat wetter compared to winters, when some precipitation comes in the form of snow. The north in general is drier compared to the south.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are regular Aerolineas Argentinas flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and Rio Grande. Air services also link major settlements to Punta Arenas in Chile.

By Car

Argentine National Route 3 connects Buenos Aires to the Chilean border near Tierra del Fuego. There is no road from main cities of Chile to Tierra del Fuego, so the Argentine road must be used. To reach Tierra del Fuego by car the ferry service must be used.

By Bus

Buses from all over Argentina enter Tierra del Fuego via Rio Gallegos. Note that buses running from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia all pass through Chile, and thus trips include two border crossings.

By Boat

Ferry service on the Melinka regularly links Porvenir and Punta Arenas, and naval vessels supply Ushuaia and Isla Navarino, Chile.

There is also a ferry at the narrowest part of the Strait of Magellan that connects Tierra del Fuego to mainland Chile at Primera Angostura (between Punta Delgada and Cerro Sombrero), with many departures from 8:30am (mainland) to 11:00pm (island) every day. The crossing takes approximately 20 minutes.

Most of the boat tours are luxurious cruises to Antarctica, the Falklands, South Georgia, Cape Horn or Punta Arenas. Still, it is also possible to get a seat on a chartered boat to Puerto Williams, across the Beagle Channel and on Chilean grounds.

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Getting Around

Roads are poor in Tierra del Fuego, and apart from the tourist tour train, there are no railways. There is little public transport. However, tours and transport can be booked through the Tourist Office (on San Martin, Ushuaia) or through many of the hostels.

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Eat

A regional specialty is king crab, called centolla in Spanish, and seafood is usually excellent. Otherwise, local cuisine follows the general Chilean and Argentine traditions. Fruit and vegetables have to be transported from thousands of miles away and, as such, are rarely tasty and rather expensive.

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Drink

Ushuaia has several bars and one nightclub.

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Sleep

Most of the accommodation options are in and around Ushuaia.

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Contributors

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This is version 9. Last edited at 10:50 on Jul 21, 17 by Utrecht. 13 articles link to this page.

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