Tierra del Fuego tips from locals

As a tour guide you arrive at special places. Tierra del Fuego, for example. The end of the world. Some stay forever, caught by its mystical character and rugged beauty. Three years ago I said: ‘no way, nunca, never’ when a friend asked me if I could live in Ushuaia.

Now, after almost one and a half years of living here, I increasingly feel like this has always been my home. And I can offer you even more Tierra del Fuego tips.

On my website Ternaround I combine my addiction to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego with my passion for road trips, hiking and adventure. And oh yes, I love to color outside the lines. Keywords: wild, desolate and inspiring.

Tierra del Fuego tips from Nicoliene:

A quick lesson in history to give you an idea. Tierra del Fuego in other words Land of Fire is an archipelago of islands. The largest, Isla Grande, is slightly larger than the Netherlands. The archipelago is shared by Chile and Argentina.

The name Tierra del Fuego was given by the Portuguese explorer Magellan, who discovered the strait in 1520 linking the Atlantic with the Pacific. He saw plumes of smoke along the coasts, coming from the local Ona population .


Ushuaia, pronounced oo-swa-ya, the capital of the Argentinean part, was founded in 1884. The name is derived from the Yamanas and means Bay to the west. The bay is located on the Beagle Channel, which was named after the ship of Captain Fitzroy on which Darwin visited the region around 1835.

Darwin called the Indian population an inferior race. Of a kind he had never seen before. Completely naked in their canoes on these cold, windy waters. Well it is one of the things we will not do, at least not naked. But if you want to get to know wild and untouched nature then enjoy my Tierra del Fuego tips.

1. Beaver watching at Laguna Esmeralda

My first Tierra del Fuego tips concern Ushuaia. The Argentine capital is at the foot of the Andes and surrounded by 360 degrees of mountains. If you like walking, then you will not get bored here.

A nice and easy walk is to the Laguna Esmeralda less than 20 kilometers from Ushuaia. You will walk through the typical Tierra del Fuego forest with many fallen trees, past beaver lodges and the the sparsely covered slopes to the beautiful green lagoon.


Bring a picnic lunch. The view is phenomenal. The beavers become active in the late afternoon. They are a disaster for the fragile ecosystem, but their lodges and dams are ingenious structures and their self-created paradise of dead trees are very picturesque in the fading light.

2. 4×4 Lago Escondido

A very different way to discover the beauty of Tierra del Fuego is by doing a tour to Lago Escondido. Rayen Aventura makes 4×4 tours, and if you like some complimentary kayaking. They take you on a spectacular descent over a bad road to Lago Escondido, with stops at the beautiful and sometimes impetuous Lago Fagnano.

Then they will enjoy a picada (snacks of meat and cheese with bread) in a cabana with a lot of wine followed a true Argentine asado with delicious steaks prepared on the spot. You can combine this with a kayak tour on the lake, enjoying the silence, the mountains and the beautiful skies. An absolute Tierra del Fuego adventure.

3. Chilean fjords and massive glaciers

West of Ushuaia lies the Darwin mountain range, surrounded by fjords and glaciers. One of my favorite Tierra del Fuego tips is to sail out from Ushuaia for a week to explore the area at leisure.

First you sail eastwards to Puerto Williams for the required customs necessities then you sail along a row of European glaciers – including the Holanda Glacier – deeper into the narrow waterways.

Holanda glacier

The view from the sailboat on the blue icicle of immense glaciers is impressive. You feel even more insignificant walking on a glacier or in a kayak looking up against the ice wall. People you won’t find here, but varied flora and fauna is abundant.

No matter when you go, the weather can be boisterous, but that’s one of the charms of the end of the world. Warm your self again with a hot meal and a good glass of wine.

4. Shipwreck in Cabo San Pablo

One of my other favorite Tierra del Fuego tips is Cabo San Pablo, a bay on the Atlantic coast. You reach it over the Ruta 3 and turn right after Tolhuin. A beautiful journey through the valleys with peat and beavers, forests and lakes, and then you along estancias you reach the rugged coastline.

Once you arrive at San Pablo you see the Desdemona, one of dozens of shipwrecks here on the coast of Tierra del Fuego. At low tide you can walk around the boat. I once set up my tent here during a very cold night.

You have the view guaranteed all to yourself. From the beach you can drive further in to a wood full of ghostly trees with long beards of moss towards the snowy mountains. Until the road ends.

5. King Penguins on the Strait

You do not have to go all the way Antarctica to see penguins. Tierra del Fuego has its own colony. I do not mean the three lost kings who stray regularly on Martillo Island in the Beagle Channel, but a group of about 30 individuals who have settled in the Strait of Magellan in Chile.

There is evidence that these type of penguins dwelled here some 8,000 years ago . Now a fence has been put down and National Park Pinguino del Rey was founded and you pay an entrance fee to see these graceful, colorful birds.

Patagonian landscape

Try to imagine penguins along a river in a green landscape of steppe and grasses. If you make a two-day road trip, you have enough time to also enjoy the expansive yet typical Patagonian landscape with guanacos, rolling hills and sheep farms.

Finally, a recommendation: Tierra del Fuego is largely wild and untouched, which means that the infrastructure is limited. Besides the ruta 3 there are only dirt roads, hotels you will find only in the cities and the same goes for restaurants and supermarkets.

Argentinian steak

So always make sure that you are well prepared to travel. The lack of infrastructure (or should I say the blessing) is fully compensated by spectacular vistas, colorful sunrises and sunsets, desolate nature and beautiful skies.

Once you are back in civilization, treat yourself to a juicy Argentine steak or a lamb on the spit with a nice bottle of Malbec or a tasteful king crab (centolla) with a good Torrontes. Beer drinkers can venture Beagle beer. A nice ending to a wild adventure!

For more information about these and other tours, road trips, walks and activities in Tierra del Fuego. You can always mail me at nicoliene@ternaround.com.

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