Further afield – Tierra del Fuego

rgentThe ‘land of fire’ is literally at the end of the earth, at the bottom of South America, next stop Antarctica. Having said that it is only as far south as Dublin or Manchester are north from the equator so it’s relative, and far warmer than you’d imagine.

Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world, is what you’d expect if the Soviets built Queenstown, a mostly rough, dirty and unappealing settlement on the Beagle Channel, with a backdrop of snow capped mountains. For most visitors this will be their entry to Antarctica but there are a few attractions worth spending a day or two to explore.

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Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Argentina’s only coastal national park, and a rather beautiful spot on the border with Chile. The Coastal Track was scenic and pretty easy, the Cerro Guanaco Track was spectacular if much harder, heading steeply through forest, across the muddiest bog I’ve ever crossed, over large patches of snow, and up to the 973m summit for views over the Beagle Channel and 360 degree snow capped mountains.

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The waterfront
Mainly wasted, but the start and end of the day proved good for photography. Fortunately for you these photos don’t capture the stench of raw sewage which is discharged directly into the lagoon and Beagle Channel…

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Beagle Channel
The name alone is hugely evocative, having read of Captain Fitz Roy, Darwin, the Yamana, and the voyages of the Beagle. The reality is a beautiful stretch of water, home to wildlife filled islands, a lighthouse, and stunning views.

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Museo Maritimo y Presidio
A fascinating former prison, the main settlement in Ushuaia for a long time, now home to maritime, prison, wildlife, and art museums, the highlight being the wing left in it’s original state.

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If I’d had an extra day I would have visited Estancia Harberton, though more for the history of the Yamana and Bridges family, than the colony of penguins which appeared to be the main attraction for most people. The Martial Glacier would also have been worth visiting, though more for the views across the Beagle Channel than what is left of the glacier itself. Maybe next time I’m at the end of the world…

Author: jontycrane

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