~Ushuaia, Argentina~

Ushuaia is one of the best destinations in Argentina, and for good reason. Dramatically nestled between the Martial Mountains, the Bay, and the Beagle Channel, this beautiful city is popular for its sheer beauty, spectacular marine wildlife, and reputation as the city at the end of the world.

Ushuaia is one of Argentina’s top destinations, and for good reason. This beautiful city, perched dramatically between the Martial mountains, the bay, and the Beagle Channel, is popular for its sheer beauty, spectacular marine wildlife, and for its acclaim as the city at the End of the World. It also has a very interesting history, adding to the reasons it should be on your itinerary in Argentina.

It also has a very interesting history, which adds to the reasons why it should be on your Argentina itinerary. Here are some more interesting facts about what makes the city of Ushuaia unique:

It is the southernmost city in the world. Puerto Williams, in Chile, is technically further south, but with only 2,500 residents, it doesn’t quite qualify as a city.

Argentinians pronounce it “oo-all-ah”. The town was founded by British missionaries in 1870.

It used to be a penal colony. Founded in 1883 by President Julio Argentino Rocca, prisoners considered the most dangerous were sent to Argentina’s southernmost territory, where they built the prison themselves, as well as other infrastructure in Ushuaia, such as the railroad.

There is a problem with the beaver. These furry animals were introduced from Canada in the 1940s to build a fur industry, which did not work. Now beavers are responsible for most of the damage around the island.

Ushuaia is not connected to mainland Argentina. The city is located on the island of Tierra del Fuego, which is divided between Chile and Argentina. To get to the city by land, you have to cross into Chile and take a ferry to the island.

It’s the portal to Antarctica. While you can also get to Antarctica from South Africa and New Zealand, Ushuaia is the most popular and easiest way to reach the 7th continent as a tourist.

Charles Darwin’s influence lives on here. The channel is named after the ship Darwin traveled on, the HMS Beagle while collecting research as a naturalist.

The southernmost ski resort in the world and the southernmost golf course can be found in Ushuaia. Of course, many establishments in Ushuaia use this title as a recognition of fame; you can even find the southernmost Irish bar in the world in Ushuaia.

Tierra del Fuego means land of fire. The name was given by early explorers who saw fires on the coasts of the indigenous people of Yaman.

News of these expeditions reached England and generated an interest in “civilizing” the native peoples of Tierra del Fuego. In 1844, Captain Allen Gardiner created the Patagonian Missionary Society (later known as the South American Mission Society); his two attempts were a complete and utter failure. Gardiner and the eight men who landed at Picton Island on 5 December 1850 died of starvation shortly after. He was hailed as a martyr back in England, and donations started to pour in. This allowed the Society to build a schooner, the Allen Gardiner, and establish a settlement first at the Falkland Islands and later at Ushuaia.

The Bridges Family

G.P. Despard was one of the missionaries that settled at the Falklands with his family, including his adopted son Thomas Bridges. Thomas would also become a missionary and together with his wife Mary Ann, he landed at Ushuaia in 1871. Fifteen years later, a father of six, he left the Mission, became an Argentine citizen, and was granted by the Argentine Government 50,000 acres of land to the east of Ushuaia, where he and his family established the Estancia Harberton to raise cattle and sheep.

Reverend Bridges worked tirelessly to help the Yámana and Selk’nam peoples survive the rapid changes the Europeans had brought about.  His life’s work was a dictionary and grammar of the Yámana language. His son Lucas Bridges published 1948 The Uttermost Part of the Earth, an epic saga I cannot recommend enough for anyone interested in the region’s history and in the lives and customs of both the missionaries and the natives. 

More in the book Living and Working on a board a cruise ship

Here are some more interesting facts about what makes the city of Ushuaia.