Tierra Del Fuego (Chile)
At the southern extreme of the Americas, the immense Fuegian wilderness, with its slate-gray seascapes, crimson bogs and wind-worn forests, endures, awesome and irritable. Shared by Chile and Argentina, this area is also lovely and wild. The remote Chilean side consists of hardscrabble outposts, lonely sheep ranches, and a roadless expanse of woods, lakes of undisturbed trout and nameless mountains.
In contrast, the Argentine side lives abuzz. Antarctica-bound cruisers arriving in Ushuaia find a lively dining scene and dozens of outfitters poised at the ready. Take a dogsled ride, boat the Beagle Channel or carve turns at the world's southernmost resort. When you tire of the hubbub, cross the Beagle Channel to solitary Isla Navarino.
Uninhabited groups of islands peter out at Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn). And if Tierra del Fuego is not remote enough, Antarctica remains just a boat ride away.
Chilean Tierra del Fuego
Foggy, windy and wet, Chile's slice of Tierra del Fuego includes half of the main island of Isla Grande, the far-flung Isla Navarino and a group of smaller islands, many uninhabited. Home to only 8500 Chileans, this is Chile's least-populated region. Modest Porvenir is considered the main city. These isles exude a rough and rugged charm; those willing to venture this far can relish its end-of-the-world emptiness. Increasingly, anglers are lured to the little-known inland lakes, birders are visiting the king penguin colony and adventurers are exploring Karukinka Natural Park and the wild backcountry of Parque Nacional Yendegaia.
Chile's long-standing plans to develop the region are finally underway. Tourism will eventually ramp up as the road from Estancia Vicuña to PN Yendegaia nears completion (slated for 2021) and a public airport is added. In future years, a direct crossing to Isla Navarino from nearby Chilean Tierra del Fuego is expected.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Tierra Del Fuego (Chile).
A well-crafted museum named for the Austrian priest and ethnographer who worked among the Yaghans from 1918 to 1923. Focuses on ethnography and natural history. Spanish-only signs. Public wi-fi is available in the library. See its Facebook page for visiting shows.
A pristine private park owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Karukinka has 300,000 hectares of lush wetlands, lenga forests and snowy peaks. There's great birdwatching, and possible glimpses of guanacos, foxes, river otters, dolphins, seals and elephant seals. There's camping as well as a list of nearby accommodations on the website. No fires are allowed. Access is by car from Porvenir or seasonal flights from Punta Arenas to Pampa Guanaco, some 20 minutes away.
Serene glacier-rimmed bays and native Fuegian forest comprise this ultra wild and practically inaccessible 1500-sq-km national park. Among Chile's newest, it was created with the Yendegaia Foundation's donation of a third of the land in 2014. Located in the Cordillera Darwin, it's a strategic wildlife corridor between Argentina's Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego and Chile's Parque Nacional Alberto de Agostini.
A grounded German cargo boat, the Micalvi was declared a regional naval museum in 1976 but has found an infinitely better use as a floating bar, frequented by navy men and yachties. Unfortunately, the bar isn't open to the general public.
On the Plaza de Armas, the intriguing Museo de Tierra del Fuego has some unexpected materials, including Selk’nam skulls and mummies, musical instruments used by the mission Indians on Isla Dawson and an exhibit on early Chilean cinematography.
Near the entrance to the military quarters is a replica of the original bow of the ship that rescued Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition from Elephant Island in 1916.