Tierra del Fuego

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Tierra del Fuego is a place of extremes: the world's southernmost national park accessible from the world's southernmost city (Ushuaia). Tierra del Fuego is Argentina's only coastal national park, and water is a prime attraction: fishing, kayaking, maritime wildlife, stunning fjords, transcendent seascapes. The parks 240 square miles are completely contained in the Argentine portion of Tierra del Fuego island, but the eastern edge of the park is the Chilean border, and with the right papers, it's possible to cross over into Chile by either land or water.

Many have compared this island to the Alaskan panhandle. It shares the same relative latitude: 550 Some of the same industries: oil, fishing, with similarly high wage rates. And the same frontier spirit of independance and diligence. See it on a map of Chilean & Argentinian outdoor attractions.

What's There

Tierra del Fuego is surrounded on three sides by two oceans. The winds blow this way from the Pacific, and that way from the Atlantic, constantly bringing clouds and rain storms.

The coastal wildlife is rich and diverse, with many sea birds, and seals and walruses. On the interior, North American beavers, Arctic reindeer, and European rabbits, all introduced by white settlers as cash crops, have distorted the rivers and streams and devastated the local flora. And local sheep farmers, convinced that the native duck and geese, and their natural predators, native foxes, were too much competition for their flocks, have also done much damage to the local fauna.

When to Go

The sunniest, warmest time of year is from mid-November to the end of March. But be forewarned, the weather is always unpredictable. Even during high season, it sometimes will rain for a week at a time.

What to Do

Tierra del Fuego offers a full range of hiking and trekking options. There are several short trails that are long on fascination in short distances. A good example is the quarter mile Sendero Laguna Negra, or black lagoon trail, that takes you to a small lake rapidly becoming a spaghum peat bog. Longer treks include the Lapatai Trail, on which, with proper documentation, you can walk Bahm Yendegaia on the Chilean Pacific coast.

Trout fishers will have a blast along the many interior streams and lakes. Expert kayakers who have done their bureaucratic legwork can explore the storm-prone, but dramatic waters of Lago Fagnano, bounded by high fjords and glaciers.

Wildlife watchers and beachcombers will find lots to fascinate them along the coast.

Sleeping & Eating

Because Tierra del Fuego is so remote, food and lodging is expensive. In the park, you can stay at the Hosterm Alakush., and the surrounding towns have a full range of (expensive) hotels. Camping is the way to go if you want cheapness and/or flexibility.

Because everything is more expensive, you'll save money if you bring your own food in from up north. Foragers will have slim pickings. One plant to look out for is the Tierra del Fuego wild strawberry, also known as the rainberry.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 23 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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