One Day in Ushuaia: Planning and Research
I had a big, once in a lifetime trip to Antarctica and the ships leave from Ushuaia, Argentina.
As you probably figured out by now, I like to arrive at least a day early. This not only allows for flight issues but also provides an opportunity to explore.
I had one day in Ushuaia to explore everything in this city touted as “The End of The World”. To start my story for this adventure, I have to talk about the flight.
The Flight from Buenos Aires
The plane took off from Buenos Aires and landed at El Calafate. It was one of those flights where anyone continuing to Ushuaia stayed on the plane while everyone else got off.
El Calafate is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park which is home to the Perito Moreno glacier, a popular location for hiking and exploring.
I wasn’t aware of this and after everyone going to El Calafate got off the plane, it was me and one other person.
We both looked at each other, simultaneously thinking of Stephen King’s The Langoliers.
We joked about it, but in reality, we were both ready to jump off if no one else boarded.
Luckily after thirty minutes people started boarding. I’ve never been so happy to be on a plane full of people in my life.
Looking out the window during take-off I could that El Calafate nestles between two huge mountains and we were flying right between them.
The plane was very close to the mountains and the air was choppy. I let out my breath after we passed through.
As we began our final descent into Ushuaia, I got my first look at the area and couldn’t stop staring.
Deep blue sea and rugged, snow-capped mountains; everything you think of when you think “Patagonia” appeared out the window.
As the plane pulled up on the tarmac and we walked down the steps, I caught that first blast of cold air.
Settling in and Getting Started
Pulling myself away from the views, I grabbed a cab to the hotel, which was another great surprise.
The company running the Antarctica cruise had everyone arriving a day ahead of time and staying at the Arakur Resort and Spa. I just booked an extra night at the same hotel.
The Arakur sits on top of a hill within the Reserva Natural Cerro Alarken, which means there is a lot of land with no development around it.
There are multiple hiking trails that weave through the property, and an incredible view of the Beagle Channel below.
Technically I had the rest of the afternoon and all the next day so I took advantage and used the time to explore downtown and plan out my one day in Ushuaia adventure.
One of the benefits of the Arakur is their regular shuttle to downtown Ushuaia. It takes about 10 minutes and drops passengers off right in the middle of the city.
The downtown area is quite small and comprised mainly restaurants and tourist shops. It was easy to navigate and I felt safe wandering around on my own.
Ushuaia is often referred to as the southernmost city in the world thus the sign, “Ushuaia Fin del Mundo” or “End of the world”.
I admit to being a total tourist and having a fellow visitor take a picture of me next to the sign.
Before heading back to the hotel, I stopped at the town visitor center for a map and ideas for the next day.
The staff, understanding I had one day in Ushuaia, highly recommended “El Tren del Fin del Mundo” or the “Train at the End of the World”.
The Train at the End of the World
The next morning, I took the shuttle back into town and grabbed a cab to the train, all of which was easy to navigate.
Once there, I purchased a ticket and went to the platform to board the little red train, part of the history of Ushuaia.
The train originally started from the jail in downtown Ushuaia and ended at the slope of Monte Susana.
It carried prisoners to Tierra del Fuego where they would set to work cutting trees and gathering materials for the construction of the city.
The tour recreates a portion of the route through Tierra del Fuego.
As the train departed the station, the guide shared the history and importance of the train to Ushuaia in both English and Spanish.
We stopped at Estacion La Macarena to walk around and see the Macarena waterfall.
Other passengers on the train were kind enough to snap a picture of me against the waterfall.
After re-boarding, we continued through the petrified forest, which I believe they call the tree cemetery.
At the end of the track, the train turned around and brought us back to the main station. The complete tour was around two hours.
The Maritime Museum
After returning to Ushuaia, I visited the very interesting Museo Maritimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia.
It’s actually four museums in one building and is located in the old prison. There is a train car out front which was a nice tie into my morning.
The building is divided into five wings. The first wing I came to was the prison museum where I walked an old prison hall and could go into the cells.
There were statues of prisoners and guards to provide perspective and add to the creepy factor.
The second wing was a maritime museum that included information on the history and early people of Ushuaia.
The third housed an Antarctica museum where I wandered through a collection of information and materials from many early Antarctica explorers.
The fourth wing was an art gallery with incredible paintings and sculptures, some for sale.
The fifth wing was closed while I was there, but I believe it was a part of the prison museum.
While it may sound bizarre to have so many museums in one building, it worked and made for a great afternoon.
Finishing Up My One Day in Ushuaia
I had an evening cruise meeting to learn about my Antarctica trip so I had to wind down my one day in Ushuaia tour and head back to the hotel.
There I met my roommates for the cruise. We hit it off immediately and headed to the meeting together where we met up with the other excited passengers and members of the tour company.
The tour representatives went over some basics on the trip and what to expect.
We also got really lucky and were able to see the Hebridean Sky, our ship, come into view and dock.
Getting Ready for Antarctica
The next morning, we had a few hours before boarding the ship. My new friends and I headed out on the hiking trails where we saw petrified trees, beautiful creeks, and what we thought were wild horses.
It turns out local farmers turn their horses loose and they just wander where they want. The horses ignored us and just kept grazing.
I was almost disappointed to have to leave and head to the ship, but there was a bigger adventure waiting for me.
Things to Note
Most people in Ushuaia, especially cab drivers, speak only Spanish so it’s helpful to have more than a basic grasp of the language.
Almost everyone accepts US dollars since it has far greater worth than the Argentine Peso. If you don’t want to wind up overpaying, make sure to get some local cash for food and cabs.
There are weight restrictions on your luggage, including carry on. While they do weigh your bags in Buenos Aires, they didn’t seem to really worry about charging you extra if you were over the weight.
When leaving Ushuaia, they pay more attention and you could incur a fee if you’re over the limit.
The Ushuaia airport is very small and quite nice. They don’t allow you to go through security and enter the boarding area until right before your flight so everyone winds up sitting in a hallway outside the security area.
This area can get pretty warm so be prepared with food and water.
Everything in Ushuaia was expensive. It’s much better to bring items with you rather than plan on purchasing them in town.
I found the area to be quite safe and had no worries walking around during the day on my own.