Popular Ushuaia Shore Excursions
Museo Maritimo y Presidio: A highlight in terms of must-see sights in the town, entrance to the town's former prison does not come cheap but it's worth it as the Maritime Museum is a one-stop shop for the history of the area -- from the pre-history of the original inhabitants the Yamana, via the discovery of the area by the white man, missionary settlements, countless shipwrecks, Antarctica, building of the original penal colony and the Falklands War, right up to the present day.
Not only does the prison museum allow you to see the actual cells of the prisoners who were housed here through 1947, a couple of them have been left intact with the last of the miscreants' belongings still visible. There is also an art gallery and a gift shop. (Yaganes, Ushuaia; +54-2901-43-6321; open daily, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. January and February, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., March to December)
Tierra del Fuego National Park: Straddling the border between Chile and Argentina and lying just 10 miles west of the city, this is one of the largest natural preserves and maintained national parks in the world, with 150,000 acres of lush natural beauty to explore. It is a wonderful example of eco-cooperation between nations. Glaciers, pristine lakes, incredible views, streams, rivers and mountains can be found here, within two hours of Ushuaia itself. Ships offer the park within their excursions, highlights of which include: Lake Roca and vista point looking into the Beagle Channel and Lapataia Bay; or you can hire a taxi in town for the journey, if you want to do it on your own.
Martillo Island Penguin Rookery: If your journey isn't one that includes the penguin rookery at Punta Tombo, this is your best chance to see the marvelous Magellanic penguins up close and personal. And, rather than driving over dusty and bumpy roads for a couple of hours, this trip includes sailing on small vessels or catamarans through Lapataia Bay, past Sea Wolves Island, Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse and Archipelago, Bird Island and several other Beagle Channel landmarks. Most ships offer it as a shore excursion, or you can purchase the trip from the tourist kiosks at the end of the dock.
Ski Lift to Glacier Martial: A $5 cab ride from the center takes you to the chairlift beside the Cumbres del Martial Hotel, which operates year-round. Here, you can enjoy extraordinary views over Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel and the rapidly receding Glacier Martial while dining on king crab or Argentine beef at the hotel.
Catwalk over Bahia Encerrada: This small body of water -- located at the end of Maipu to the left of the dock as you exit -- freezes in winter and becomes the city's ice skating rink; in summer, you can cross it via the catwalk (at the Nautical Club) to get to the peninsula on the other side, enabling fabulous views of the city.
Sailing Beagle Channel: Ushuaia is the place for visiting the legendary Beagle Channel, a breathtaking stretch of water capped with mountains at the south end and the gentle beaches of Ushuaia along the north coast. Named after Robert FitzRoy's ship, which came here in the 1830s carrying a young botanist named Charles Darwin, the channel today is a prime wildlife spotting area, with sea lions, dolphins, occasional whales and a wealth of birdlife. Boat trips leave from kiosks all along the Muelle.
Visiting Antarctica: Ushuaia is the nearest port to Antarctica (though still 1,000 km away), and with a bit of forward planning it's quite possible to add a trip to the White Continent. You can do it a couple of ways: operators offer "flightseeing" trips in which you'll fly there and back without landing; or you can make the two-day crossing across the infamous Drake Passage. For more details, visit the information center Oficina Antarctica next to the tourist office in the port. Cruise operators that regularly visit Antarctica from Ushuaia include Quark Expeditions and National Geographic Expeditions. (Oficina Antarctica, Maipu 510; +54-2901-43-0015; typically open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Tierra Mayor Trekking: Take a tour through the Tierra Mayor Valley Natural Reserve and trek along mountain paths to The Five Cascades, waterfalls tumbling from the Alvear Mountains. Dress warmly, as it gets cold during this hike, but it also gives you an opportunity to experience the beauty and natural wonders of the region.
Train Ride at the End of the World: Take this replica of a steam-driven "prison train" through Tierra del Fuego National Park and experience what the prisoners felt when they were transported to the region a hundred years ago. This tour also visits reconstructed camps of the original Tierra del Fuegans, the Yamanas and concludes with a motorcoach trip through scenic areas of the national park before returning to Ushuaia. (Ruta 3 Km. 3065, Ushuaia (CP: 9410); +54-2901-43-1600; May 1 to August 31 train leaves at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.; from September 1 to April 30 train leaves at 9:30 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.)