Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego (land of fire in English) is an archipelago (island group) of Patagonia, in the southernmost part of South-America. It's one of the 23 Argentinean provinces. The capital Ushuaia is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world. Due to this location everything is named "end of the world" over here. The city has an end of the world restaurants, an end of the world train, etc...

Ushuaia is located at the Beagle Channel, a strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. On the other side of the Beagle channel you see Isla Navarino with Puerto Williams, a former Chilean army base. Ushuaia is bounded north by the Martial mountains, with the Martial glacier. Because of the harbor, the airport and its location, Ushuaia is also the gateway to Antarctica.

Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel (Photo by Remi Jouan)

History:
The name land of fire was given by Ferdinand Magellan. He discovered the islands in 1520. From his ship, he saw the fires of the original inhabitants: the Yaghan. In 1832, Darwin's Beagle expedition also visited the islands. That's why the strait was named the Beagle Channel.

National park Tierra del Fuego
The National park Tierra del Fuego is 630 square kilometers (240 sq mi)large, but only a small part of it is open to the public. But the part that is open is really worth a visit. With lot's of small lakes, rivers, mountain peaks and birds you'll find nature at it's best. The Andean Condor also lives here. With his wingspan of three meters, it's one of the biggest flying birds on earth.

Beavers can also be spotted in the park. They were imported from North-America for fur production. Some beavers managed to escape, and since then they spread out over the lands and started building dams. Because they are so harmful against the trees in the park, plans are being made to eradicate them.

Beavers in Terra del Fuego
Beaver rampage in Tierra del Fuego (Photo by Russel Hayes)

You can reach the park with the end of the world train. It's a little train that connects Ushuaia with the national park. The tracks were laid by prisoners in 1910, as a wood supply line to keep the citizens warm. If you bring a tent with you, you can stay on one of the camping areas in the park. Waking up in the middle of the overwhelming nature is a special experience.

Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego (Photo by nadula.info)

The Beagle Channel
From Ushuaia you can take a boat excursion on the Beagle Channel. The strait looks like a big lake, because you can see land on either side. You'll see a lot of birds and also the famous The eclaireurs lighthouse. On the trip you can see the Andes Mountains go down in the ocean and get a real "at the end of the world" feeling.

Beagle Channel
The Beagle Channel (Photo by Russel Hayes)

Martial glacier
A few miles outside Ushuaia you can find the Martial glacier. This is a must for hikers. Take national road number three from the city center, and after a few minutes you're at the base of the mountain. You can take the chairlift to go up. When you go up, you'll see the Beagle Channel on one side, and the glacier on the other. When you arrive on the top, it's a 2km walk to the glacier. Climbing the glacier itself can be dangerous, so bring some ice climbing material and someone with experience with you. Once you are on top of it, it's an easy walk. From there you can see the mountains and glaciers of Hoste island rising out of the ocean.

Martial Glacier
The Martial Glacier (Photo by cesarcriado)

tags: 
destination, south america, argentina