Introduction

At the southern extreme of the Americas, the immense Fuegian wilderness, with its slate-gray seascapes, crimson bogs and wind-worn forests, endures as awesome and irritable as in the era of exploration. 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.

Highlights

  • Dientes de Navarino Backpacking around the jagged peaks and sculpted landscapes on this burly five-day backcountry circuit.
  • Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego Exploring the ancient moss-bound Fuegian forests.
  • Ushuaia Splurging on fresh local seafood in gourmet style and racing through frozen valleys on a dogsledding tour.
  • Porvenir Skirting the scenic cliffs of Bahía Inútil while driving the empty back roads.
  • Strait of Magellan Cruising on ferry Yaghan while admiring glaciers, whales and remote lighthouses.
  • Cerro Castor Skiing and snowboarding with sublime views at the world's southernmost resort, just outside Ushuaia.
  • Parque Natural Karukinka Getting way off the beaten path to explore this pristine park in the middle of the main island.

When to Go

Nov–Mar Warm but windy, best for hiking, penguin watching and estancia (grazing ranch) visits.

Mid-Nov–mid-Apr Fishing season on the Atlantic coast and Chile’s remote Lago Blanco.

Jul–Sep Optimal for skiing, snowboarding or dogsledding in Ushuaia.