Ushuaia on a Budget (Argentina)
Aktualisiert: 5. Feb 2019
Trekking Tierra del Fuego for 7 days or how we accidentally did one of our best multi-day hiking-trips.
Ushuaia – EL FIN DEL MUNDO/THE END OF THE WORLD – as they like to call their city. This slogan is the reason for many travellers to visit Tierra del Fuego in high season between January and March and indeed, this region has a lot to offer: trips to Antarctica (if you have enough cash), king penguin colonies (if you have enough cash), a most southern hangover possible (if you have enough cash) and of course some wonderful hiking trips through very special and distinct landscapes (if you are short on cash). That everything is quite expensive will be one of the first things you realise when arriving at this very southern point of the world: hotels, lodges, park entries, ferries, museums – everything! The town itself has its rustic charms but is not super pretty. You can imagine that we were not very amused when the woman at the bus-ticket office told us, that the next free seats to leave Ushuaia were in 5 days’ (!) time. But guess what, hiking was the solution! We spontaneously explored the wilderness of Tierra del Fuego around Ushuaia on foot for 7 days, had one of the best hikes of our travels and spend only 10 Euros a day! Here is how we did it.
We packed food for 7 days and all our hiking equipment into our backpack, bought a trekking map and off we went. We just had a rough idea in the beginning and made adjustments on the way. Eventually, we ended up doing 3 days exploring Tierra del Fuego National Park without having to pay the entrance fee, 2 days in the wild and 2 days exploring two highlight-lakes of Tierra del Fuego. You can do these three parts also individually. There are many more options and you can spend weeks hiking around Ushuaia.
The trek passes through the spectacular wilderness around Ushuaia, you have boosting views of glaciers, pristine lakes, peaks and untouched alpine valleys. As soon as you leave the main trekking routes, you can experience true mountain solitude. You will hardly meet anyone except of a few beavers and black-faced ibis – a wonderful contrast to the busy “end of the world” Ushuaia.
The trek requires a good level of fitness. You should be comfortable walking in rugged and muddy terrain, but the route is not technically difficult. The excursion to Cerro Falso Tonelli and the section from Laguna Encantada to Ruta 3 have no marked or visible trails. Navigating your way through dense forests, around swamps and fallen trees can be challenging in the latter section. For these two sections, you should have experience with orientation in pathless mountainous terrain.
Maps of Tierra del Fuego, © OpenStreetMap-Contributors
ITINERARY (15. – 21. January 2018)
Ushuaia – Cañadón and Paso de la Oveja – Lago del Caminante
Lago del Caminate – Cerro Falso Tonelli – Lago del Caminate
Lago del Caminante – Laguna de los Témpanos – Laguna Encantada
Laguna Encantada – Lake at the end of Valle de Rio Chico
Lake at the end of Valle de Rio Chico – Ruta 3 – Valle Carbajal
Valle Carbajal – Refugio – Laguna Esmeralda
Laguna Esmeralda – Glaciar del Albino/Laguna Ojo del Albino – Laguna Turquesa – Ushuaia
WAYFINDING AND OTHER DIFFICULTIES
You can buy decent maps in several stores in the city centre of Ushuaia. In general, orientation is relatively easy as the mountains are not very high. The glacial valleys make it hard to get completely lost and in many places, they are not as steep as e.g. the European Alps or the Himalayas. Having said that, way marks away from the tracks to the touristic highlights are sometimes sparse. On some sections of the track, there are no way marks or tracks at all.
In January you have daylight between 5 am and 11 pm (wonderful!) and you can camp or bivouac basically everywhere. Water is not a problem at all. What can be a problem though is that Argentinians seem to adore fences and like to build them everywhere. Sometimes, we had to climb over fences, which were crossing the trail and not every farmer is building steps to help hikers to get to the other side.
Wild dogs: At the tourist office, they told us there were problems with wild dogs in some areas, so we shouldn’t go on our own and especially not camp in the wild. However, our hostel owner told us, that this is not a problem anymore and we really didn’t see a single wild dog on the way. In general, there is absolutely no reason for wild dogs to walk remote hiking trails. There is simply no food for them. We met lots of street dogs in and around Ushuaia and sometimes they were a real annoyance, but this was always around settlements. If you feel intimidated by dogs, pick up some stones and threaten to throw them at the dogs. For us this always made dogs keep a safe distance.
WATER-PROOF EQUIPMENT AND TEMPERATURES
We did the trek in mid-January, the best weather-period of the year as everybody told us. But don’t believe when they tell you Ushuaia has 4 seasons in a day. Because honestly, summer is hard to find. Nevertheless, temperatures were very nice for hiking. Differences between day and night are small and usually, rain is light and not for long. However, on our seven days of trekking it rained almost every day and especially the ground is wet, wet, wet. Don’t even think about only taking the “usually they keep me dry”-things with you! Waterproof gear is essential to make this trip enjoyable. We nicknamed Tierra del Fuego “mud-country” and you will literally be walking on water for many hours. So, don’t forget your best water-proof equipment, especially water proof shoes are important. This hike will be the quality test for them. As the ground often was wet, we also took a spare sleeping mat with us for cooking etc.
Concerning the temperatures: We went with our three-season sleeping bags, only a light down/Primaloft jacket and were absolutely fine with that. Of course, light gloves and a woollen hat are comfy in the evenings and at night, too. Basically, we followed our usual packing list we use for hiking in the mountains during summer.
You can buy everything you need in the local supermarkets. No problems with that. Note that in Argentina the variety of dried ready-made meals is limited when compared to e.g. Germany. Nonetheless, you’ll find instant soups, that make a good pasta-sauce substitute and supermarkets often sell dried instant pesto which is very nice. Usually, we buy instant coffee, sugar, muesli and milk powder for breakfast, crackers, cheese and mayonnaise for lunch, soup, pasta and sauce for dinner, a hand full of nuts and a muesli-bar per day/person for snacks plus one treat like a bar of chocolate.
By the way - temperatures in Ushuaia are not only perfect for hiking. They are also very handy for taking mayonnaise and cheese with you. Perfecto!
PRICES - JANUARY 2018
Park Entrance Fee (for up to three days, only one entry) – approx. 17 Euro
There are several simple and free campsites in the park.
For the track described here you won’t have to pay this fee.
The borders of the national park seem a bit arbitrary and in my opinion the hiking outside the park is as nice as inside its borders.
Ferry and Bus to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino), Chile (one way) – 120 US Dollar
This village is even further south than the “end of the world”.
Your only choice, if you want to do the multi-day hiking trip at “Dientes del Navarino”.
If you come from/ want to go to Puerto Natales, you can also take a supply ship. www.tabsa.cl (approx. 30h / 150 Euro (semi cama), 200 Euro (cama)
Boat trips from Ushuaia to the Lighthouse via Sea Lions Island and Birds Island (1/2 day, about 45 Euro), + Penguin Colony (1/2 day, about 55 Euro), + Estancia Haberton (1 day, historical ranch, about 80 Euro)
Tren del Fin del Mundo (1h) return trip approx. 42 Euro
The Museum is supposed to be very good, but they only sell this “one for all”-tickets, which is around 20 Euro. If you want to go, plan a whole day.
Hostels: Even dorm beds are from 20 Euro upwards in high season. If you come in high season, try to book at least 2 weeks in advance or calculate some time to wander around. Some hotels don’t sell all their rooms on booking platforms.
The same applies for your bus tickets. Try to book a week in advance. Note that as a foreigner it might be difficult to book bustickets online in Argentina! When we were there, it was only possible for BusSur via https://www.recorrido.cl/es, because this company operates from Chile. We hope there is some progress in the future. Otherwise, if your Spanish is good enough, hitchhiking is a good option to be more flexible in high-season.
Ushuaia – Rio Grande: 15-22 Euro, 3:30 h
Ushuaia – Punta Arenas: 9h 47 Euro, 12h from 40 Euro
Ushuaia – El Calafate: 70 Euro, 16h
You have comments, thoughts, updates or questions? Please leave them in the comments below. Thanks a lot and enjoy your time trekking in beautiful Tierra del Fuego!