Picture: Valdir Grassi on Flickr
Between Cape Horn and the Magellan Strait, under the Patagonian sky, is Tierra del Fuego. Argentina shares half of this island territory in the South Atlantic Ocean with Chile. It’s a place of oil derricks, sheep, glaciers, wind and waterways. Ushuaia and Río Grande are the two main towns; awesome scenery, wild walks and fishing are the island’s main attractions.
Known as the southernmost city of the world, Ushuaia is 3300 km from Buenos Aires. Because of its location near the South Pole, has approximately eighteen hours of daylight in summer, while in winter, only seven or eight, but no longer tourist destination. In Yamana language, “Ushuaia” means “bay overlooking the west.” Located on the shores of the Beagle channel extended, this beautiful city offers unique landscapes, including forests dominate the mountains, sea, glaciers and wind. The city is bordered to the west by Mount Martial and east by Mounts Olivia and Cinco Hermanos.
It is located in the southern area of the island, by the Beagle Channel, and surrounded by the Martial Hill, which offers a unique landscape due to the combination of mountains, sea, glaciers and forests. The strange topography of the region created a very picturesque city that combines colors and depressions with the Andes in the background. From the coast to the south there is a superb view of the bay, the peninsula, the Beagle Channel and the Navarino and Hoste islands. The End of the World Museum, also called Territorial Museum, exhibits numerous elements related to the history of the city and its primitive inhabitants.
In the outskirts of the city stands the old prison of Ushuaia called Presidio y Carcel de Reincidentes. Very dangerous convicts and well known political prisoners made this prison famous. It stopped working as a prison in 1947 and one of its buildings is still kept in its original state. This prison played an important role in Ushuaia’s history since all its staff lived in the village and the prisoners contributed with the work of the rest of the inhabitants. At present, the Naval Base Almirante Berisso works here. On top of the Martial Glacier there is an excellent view of the city and its outskirts. The glacier is reached through a lift chair located 7 km from the center.
Leaving Ushuaia to the north, bordering the river that descends from Olivia Mount, symbol of Ushuaia, the road goes through the Andes. The landscape turns into beautiful valleys and mountain ranges such as the Carbajal mountain range or the Alvear chain that extends to the Garibaldi Pass. Among these hills, there are important cross-country ski resorts where different winter activities are carried out such as the Huskies Valley, Tierra Mayor, Las Cotorras and Haruwen. The Garibaldi Pass, 430 m. above sea level, is the highest point of the route where there is a panoramic point that allows the visitor to discover the Escondido Lake, the Petrel Inn and part of the Fagnano Lake.
Going down towards the shore of the Escondido Lake stands the Petrel Inn, located near the most important sawmills: “Lago Escondido”, at the beginning of the Milna River, and “Laguna Verde” where a process of industrialization of local wood is carried out. The Fagnano Lake, called Kami by the Indians, is the largest lake of the area. Its long shape from east to west runs parallel to the Beagle Channel and flows into the Pacific Ocean. The nearest town is Tolhuin, located 7 km away to the north. Another lake of the Tierra del Fuego Island is Yehuin, word that means “Woodfire Home” in Quechua. It is located 95 km south of Rio Grande and it is a place of incredible beauty. It belongs to the basin of Fagnano Lake and its waters are only interrupted by the “Roca de los Pajaros” (Birds’ Rock), whose name is due to the presence of cormorants (Phalacrocorax) that rest on it. It is also a special place for fishing lovers.
In an outstanding place surrounded by mountains, stands the station of the Train of the End of the World. It belongs to the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino (Southern Railway). It is a small train with capacity for 36 passengers that stops in different panoramic points. The train uses the original terreplein of the old small train that worked until 1947 and that transported prisoners from Ushuaia’s jail to the sawmills where they worked daily. The steam trains have been specially designed and built in Argentina for this railway.
The train goes through the Pipo River across the Quemado Bridge and makes its first stop at the De la Macarena Cascade. Here, you can see the reconstruction of the Indian camping of the Yamanas and Shelkman cultures, called “Rio Ajej”, which recreates their customs. In the final part of the journey, along the Canad6n del Toro, there is a tourist circuit and 4.5 km from the departure point, you can either choose to continue the visit of the park by bus or to return to the station by train without stops. One of the outstanding parts of the park is the Lapataia Bay. This is the final point of the only road that goes from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, 3300 km away. Here, it is sometimes possible to embark and to combine the tour of the National Park with the navigation through the Beagle Channel, with no need to go back to the city.
Sailing across Ushuaia Bay, you can admire an impressing view of the city and the mountain range that surrounds it. At the end of the bay, the Chico Pass indicates the entrance to the mythical Beagle Channel. It keeps the history and mystery of old shipwrecks. The preservation of the marine fauna in its natural environment provides a unique scenery. Close to the Bridges Archipelago stands the Birds’ Island where, guardians over the rocks, the imperial and Magellan cormorants deceive the visitors with their penguins appearance and live together with a wide variety of marine fauna formed by albatross, huge petrels, noisy seagulls and ducks. Within short distance is the Sea lions’ Island, where different species of sea lions rest under the sun. Nearby, stands the Les Eclaireurs Island with its lighthouse, only witness of the sinking of the German ship Monte Cervantes in 1930.
End of the World Train
How to get there: The railway station is located 8km from the city inside the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Go along Route 3 till you reach km 3042, 8km towards the West of the city.
Times: Departures 9:30am and 3pm. The train operates 365 days a year, adjusting timetables and departures according to season.
Recommendation: To appreciate the ride better and learn the history better, before getting on the train, it is convenient to visit the Museo del Presidio (Prison’s Museum). At the ticket office, there is information available about the various trails that cross the area leaving from the Parque station, at the end of the rail.