There is a surprising number of cool things to do in Ushuaia, town at the end of the world. Argentina’s southernmost city boasts interesting and unique museums, national parks with breathtakingly beautiful scenery, unexpectedly tasty cuisine and much more!
When I was a kid, I asked a relative where he was going. “To the end of the world”, he responded flippantly. I thought that was a real place. I became fascinated with knowing where this place was. What did it look like? Was it hot there? What were the people like? How far was it? How long would it take to get there? Shortly thereafter, on a cold morning, I woke up very early and left the house when everyone else was still asleep. I went to look for the end of the world which I imagined was somewhere beyond 72nd street and Broadway, the farthest I had ever walked. To this day I remember the way I felt that day; the excitement, the anticipation and wonder at what I would find once I reached the end of the world. After a few blocks, I got really cold. I went back home and got into bed thinking I might not have gotten to the end of the world that time, but someday I would. I’ve been obsessed with travel ever since. That conversation and the way it made me feel is one of the key events that have driven my sweet obsession.
USHUAIA IS THE REAL END OF THE WORLD
After imagining it for a lifetime, I recently went to Ushuaia, the town at the end of the world. Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. It is the southernmost city in the world and the REAL end of the world. The name Ushuaia means “deep bay” in the language of the Yamana people that once populated the area. The town is nestled on a beautiful bay with the sparkling Beagle Channel before it and the majestic Martial Glacier mountain range behind it, at the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
THINGS TO DO IN USHUAIA, TOWN AT THE END OF THE WORLD
The city is the final stop – or kick-off point, depending on if you are coming or going – for ships cruising the Beagle Channel, Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn. Ships dock in picturesque Ushuaia Harbor and unload tourists on shore excursions. This tourism represents a major source of income for the city. Ushuaia has done a very good job of capitalizing on its unique geographical position. Many locations and attractions around town are “end-of-the-world” related; Train at the End of The World, End of The World Hotel, pizza shop, bar, and so forth. It is a decent sized town of 60,000 people with a lively main street and a nice collection of tourist attractions. This plucky little town does its best to make sure you don’t run out of things to do in Ushuaia, town at the end of the world.
Tierra del Fuego National Park which, is the southernmost national park in the world and as beautiful as the other parks in the Patagonian region.
By far the most interesting part of this cultural venue is the recreation of the Old Prison. Modeled after England’s Port Authur Prison in Tasmania and France’s Devil’s Island, the Old Prison was designed as a remote outpost in which to house the worst offenders of Argentina. It was also an effort by the Argentine government to populate an isolated area in order to reinforce Argentine sovereignty and prevent other nations from encroaching. Built in 1846, the prison eventually held up to 800 inmates in 300 cells. It was closed in 1947 due to rumors of abuse. The prisoners were put to work building parts of the city including the local railroad which today runs the popular tourist attraction, “The Train at the End of the World.”
One of the prison wings show conditions that existed at the time. The other wing exhibits prisoner stories and wax figures representing guards and inmates. History buffs will appreciate the intriguing little tidbits of information exploring a prison society in bleak, remote mid-1800 Argentina. One such story involves the notorious “Petizo Orejon” (big-eared dwarf) who lured children with candy then strangled several children with a rope. The museum is open 10 am to 8 pm. Entrance fee is currently about US$20 but it includes entrance to the entire complex.
A charming feature of Ushuaia is the southernmost post office on earth. Rather than send postcards from a post office in town, people travel south to this remote post office to send postcards that arrive with the postmark stating “the end of the world.”
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