For years I have dreamed of traveling to Patagonia, but it always seemed out of reach. Not only due to the distance (approx. 4 thousand kilometers from São Paulo and at least 10 hours of travel time), but also for the characteristics of the destination: intensive cold, lots of planning involved, the difficulty of access, etc.
After researching a lot, I came to the conclusion that visiting Patagonia was much more feasible than I imagined. Like any other trip, it requires a lot of planning, but nothing that makes it a deal breaker. One day, during dinner, I unpretentiously proposed the idea to my family members who, despite being a little surprised at first, agreed to go.
And so, our adventure in Tierra del Fuego began.
How to get to Ushuaia?
On December 19th, we started our journey to Ushuaia in Argentina. We took a four hours flight from São Paulo to Buenos Aires (capital of Argentina) and another three and a half hours flight to our final destination.
We left home in São Paulo at 3 a.m. and arrived at Ushuaia International Airport (Malvinas Argentinas) at the end of the day – 10 p.m. to be exact, but the sun was shining so bright that it doesn’t seem fair to say “at night”.
Although long, the trip was very smooth. If you are like me and can’t sleep on airplanes, you can see beautiful landscapes from the window, especially when arriving in Ushuaia.
The Ushuaia International Airport is small but very beautiful with its architecture all designed in wood. There are five or six boarding gates and only a few airlines operate there. Most flights are from Buenos Aires or El Calafate and are always full of tourists.
Last, but not least, I was also very surprised by how close the airport is to the city center (about 1.2km).
Access Ushuaia as a tourist is relatively simple, but the capital of Tierra del Fuego is a very isolated city in Argentina.
There is a single road that connects it to the rest of the country (Ruta Nacional 3) and the first city is 211 km away – It is called Rio Grande.
Rio Grande and the other cities near Ushuaia are on Chile’s territory so any delivery of supplies needs to go through Chilean inspection – Imagine how difficult it is to make a delivery? Also, some products can arrive through the port of Ushuaia, although locals have told us that few goods are received via ships.
How cold does it get in Ushuaia?
I believe temperature and weather are the most researched topics about Ushuaia.
During the winter, average temperature is between 4ºC and -1ºC, but the thermal feeling can reach well below that. There is a lot of snow, but despite that, our guides explained the days are sunny and dry. They are shorter too, darkening at 5 p.m. It is the busiest time of the year for tourism – Many people travel in search of winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, etc.) and white landscapes.
In summer, the temperature can vary between 15°C and 5°C. You will get snow up in the mountains – In this time of year, the proposal is different from winter.
The main activities become trekking, climbing, etc. It is worth mentioning that the weather varies a lot between the sun and rain. The wind is practically a constant, so it is also important to bring appropriate clothing.
Another factor that may affect your stay: The longer days. It gets dark around 10/11 p.m. in summer!
We thought it was best to go in the summer to enjoy the longer days and the milder temperatures. We experienced perfect weather almost every day – Bright skies for most of the time and little drizzle by the end of the afternoon.
But don’t be fooled by the thermometer! Even with summer temperatures, you should be prepared for the cold.
Curiosity: Ushuaia locals prefer the winter. During summer, it rains on every single day, which disrupts their routine. According to our guide, you get used to the cold somehow.
Any thoughts on that? As someone living in São Paulo, it doesn’t really get cold in here so I can get used to anything. 😛
What do locals work with at the End of the World?
An interesting thing we discovered talking to locals: They practically do not leave the region.
Most were born in Ushuaia and spent their entire lives there, while some came from Buenos Aires and never left! You will most likely run into several people who “migrated” to Ushuaia. For many years, there were lots of job opportunities available in the city, which attracted a lot of people.
Ushuaia has received several government incentives to populate the region over the years. The first major action was the creation of a prison in 1902, where only repeat offenders or high-risk criminals were sent to.
At the time, there was hardly a city to live in.
The prison was largely responsible for the development of Ushuaia. Prisoners were assigned to cut wood, build houses, open roads, and could even work at local stores, as a reward for good behavior.
This whole story may sound jolly, but in 1947, when the World began to discuss human rights after the atrocities of Nazism, the prison was closed due to humanitarian conditions.
Very little is said about this topic during the tours. I had the impression that the prison’s story is treated as a “good” memory. I confess that the whole situation made me extremely uncomfortable and gave me zero desire to visit the city museum that talks about the theme.
Now, moving on: What are the city’s main economic activities nowadays? Tourism is the first, of course.
Adding to that, Ushuaia is a tax-free zone and also offers tax incentives for industries, as long as the manufacturing lines are manual. Doing that, the government guarantees the generation of employment in the region.
The extraction of oil and gas is also very relevant, given that the climatic conditions are favorable.
We spent four nights in Ushuaia, but it was enough to learn a lot about its culture. I hope these topics will help you plan your journey to the End of the World or encourage you to travel to Patagonia.
New posts about Patagonia will come, so if you enjoyed or have anything to add, don’t forget to leave it on the comments! I expect to see you again soon. 😉