Tierra del Fuego
The 73,753 km² archipelago was divided between Argentina and Chile in 1881. The eastern part belongs to Argentina (the Territory of Tierra del Fuego) and its main towns are Rio Grande and Ushuaia. The western part belongs to Chile (Magallanes province) and its main towns are Porvenir and Puerto Williams. Cape Horn is at the southernmost part of the archipelago, in Chilean land.
The five medium sized islands and numerous small islands, islets and rocks include:
"Tierra del Fuego" (Spanish: "Land of Fire") got its name from Ferdinand Magellan who, on passing the archipelago in 1520, spotted a number of fires burning along the coastline. These fires may have been made by the archipelago's aboriginal inhabitants: the Ona, Alakaluf and Yahgan (commonly called Yamana). Four aboriginals were taken from Tierra del Fuego in 1830 by Robert Fitzroy, and were sailed to Britain to meet the King. The three survivors later returned to Tierra del Fuego on the Beagle, with Charles Darwin, who believed the native Fuegans to be "the missing link".
The arrival of missionaries, introduction of sheep farming and the discovery of gold in the 1880s led to European, Argentine, and Chilean immigrants, which gradually killed off the native Fuegans. An excellent book on the history of the Yamana and their demise is The Uttermost Part of the Earth by E. Lucas Bridges, the son of one of the early missionaries. His father, Thomas Bridges, documented what he could of the Yamana language and found that it had a larger vocabulary than the English language.
Today, the economy is based on petroleum, tourism, textiles, electronics and, to a decreasing degree, sheep-farming.
The western parts of the archipelago form the southernmost tip of the Andes range. The eastern parts are an extension of the Patagonian plateau. Based in the south of Patagonia, the climate is cold but warmer than many assume; in winter, the average temperature is -2 Celsius (28 Fahrenheit). In summer, it can climb to 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), although in reality it rarely rises far beyond 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). There are frequent high winds and much rainfall, especially in the coastal areas.
Only Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and Navarino Island are accessible by public transport.
There are regular Aerolineas Argentinas flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and Rio Grande. The latter, 210 km short of Ushuaia, is an interesting gateway since the 3 hour bus ride to Ushuaia will yield a fair sample of the landscapes and climate that make up Patagonia: from sunny rocky seaside & dry steppe, cloudy scrubland to foggy/rainy Andes covered with lush rainforest.
All land connection between argentinean Tierra del Fuego and argentinean mainland traverses chilean territory. Direct buses connect Ushuaia with Punta Arenas in Chile and Rio Gallegos in Argentina, both using the Primera Angostura ferry, between Punta Delgada and Cerro Sombrero. Primera Angostura means first narrows and is effectively the narrowest part of the Strait of Magellan and thus ferry travel is shorter, cheaper and more convenient than the Punta Arenas to Porvenir alternative, also in Chile. Sails daily many times between 08:30 A.M. and 11:00. Crossing Time approx. 20 minutes. Crossing Service at Primera Angostura.
Punta Arenas has good daily connections with multiple chilean cities.
Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego is sparsely populated with little public transport, Navarino Island has even less, the rest of the islands are virgin land.
Good, regular ferries sail between Lighthouse Punta Delgada and Bahía Azul (20 minutes, very frequent during daytime), Punta Arenas and Porvenir (2 hours, twice daily), and Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams (30 hours, twice a month).
There are no railways other than a short tourist train near Ushuaia. Frequent vans run between Ushuaia and Rio Grande, with stops in Tolhuin only. Heavily subsidized vans also run once every other day along Navarino Island's only east-west road, but destinations have little interest or services for travelers.
Car rental is only possible in Ushuaia, Rio Grande and Punta Arenas. Out of country permits are only available on early booking and with surcharge. The main road access to Ushuaia is completely paved but undivided all the way through Argentina (route 3) and Chile (route 257). Other roads in Isla Grande and Navarino are gravel, most suitable for all types of vehicles.
Private tours / transport can be booked through the Tourist Office (on San Martin, Ushuaia) or through many of the hostels. Taxis are another option, costing, for example, Ar$30-50 to get from the city centre to either the airport or Glaciar Martial. There are also several car / bicycle hire companies in Ushuaia.
A regional specialty is King Crab, called centolla in Spanish, and seafood is usually excellent. Otherwise, local cuIsPartOfe follows the tendencies of Chile and Argentina in general. Fruit and vegetables have to be transported from thousands of miles away and, as such, are rarely tasty.
Ushuaia has several bars and one nightclub.
Crime rates on Tierra del Fuego are very low. If hiking or trekking, it is important to take warm, waterproof gear.
Flights can be booked from the Aerolineas office in Ushuaia. Buses to Buenos Aires and other destinations (apart from Puerto Natales) all stop at Rio Gallegos. It can be cheaper to just buy a ticket to Rio Gallegos and purchase an onward ticket from there.