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How to Visit Ushuaia in 3 Days: Best Hiking and the Penguins Tour

How to Visit Ushuaia in 3 Days: Best Hiking and the Penguins Tour

Ushuaia is an incredible destination to visit in Patagonia. Featuring exceptional hiking nearby in Tierra del Fuego National Park and Laguna Esmeralda, Ushuaia is an excellent base for hiking and nature enthusiasts. And, if you’re an avid wildlife watcher, we’re sure you’ll be thrilled to do a Ushuaia penguin tour, where you walk among penguins on Isla Martillo. Best of all, even if you’re short on time, it’s possible to experience all of these amazing Ushuaia points of interest in just 3 days! With this in mind, in this guide, we’ll reveal the top things to do in Ushuaia in on a 3 day trip.

Ushuaia 3 Day Itinerary: Hiking and Wildlife Watching

Many people think of Ushuaia as just the gateway to Antarctica or merely a place to start or finish a trip to Patagonia. Others know it as ‘The End of the World’, where the Pan-American Highway (the longest motorway in the world) ends at Lapataia Bay in Tierra del Fuego National Park.

But, Ushuaia is much more than that. The area itself is naturally beautiful and deserves to be visited in its own right. Hopefully, our Ushuaia hiking and wildlife-watching guide can help convince you of this, by showcasing the best of Ushuaia, that you can explore in just 3 days.

Like most people on a trip to Patagonia, we hiked the popular W Trek, which takes place in Torres del Paine National Park, which is north of Ushuaia. However, we can guarantee that the Argentinean Tierra Del Fuego National Park in Patagonia and the surrounding areas of Ushuaia are just as beautiful and scenic, yet also less frequented and untouched. Plus the Ushuaia penguin tour is one of the most incredible Patagonia experiences you can have.

Ushuaia Hiking Itinerary: Day 1

The first day of this 3 day trip to Ushuaia will involve exploring the Tierra del Fuego National Park. For sure, one of the best things to do at the national park is to hike. When it comes to hiking in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego National Park has some of the best hiking on offer in the area.

Tierra del Fuego National Park

During your trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park, we recommend doing the Senda Costera and Cerro Guanco trails. Essentially, Ushuaia is located at the southern end of the Andes. To get views of this area and the surrounding coast during these hikes was absolutely breathtaking.

Patagonia obviously has many beautiful areas for hiking. But, trails can be busy. If you choose the right hike here (find details below), you’ll be rewarded with a quieter and more peaceful hike. For sure, hiking near Ushuaia, in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, provides some of the most underrated yet enjoyable hiking in Patagonia.

Also, hiking here can be easily arranged upon arrival. Conversely, the popular W Trek is strictly managed to prevent overcrowding on the route. So, advanced bookings are usually necessary. The fact that detailed planning and prior booking of the W Trek is required, may mean it’s not possible for some. But, this won’t be a problem in Ushuaia!

The best way to get the most out of Tierra del Fuego in Patagonia is to do a full-day trip, enjoying two adjoining trails described below in this Ushuaia hiking guide. These would be the first hikes that Beck and I did during our Patagonia trip. Needless to say, we were very excited!

Beck hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park in Ushuaia

Senda Costera Trail

  • Type: One-way
  • Distance: 7.5km
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 85m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Bahía Ensenada Zaratiegui 

We recommend starting with the Senda Costera trail. This easy hike is 7.5km one way and takes 2–3 hours. Tierra del Fuego National Park rates the trail as moderate difficulty. But we found the trail easy. This is because the trail is essentially a flat trail through some coastal forest-type terrain. For sure, we thought it was one of the nicest and easiest Ushuaia hikes to choose from.

The cheapest and easiest way to arrive is by the shuttle bus that departs here in Ushuaia. Arrive at the main bus station the day of, for a 9am bus. The bus takes you to the National Park Entrance Office where you get off to buy a day’s pass for around $600ARS ($10USD).

Afterwards, you get back on the bus that takes you to the start of the Senda Costera Trail. This actual hike isn’t the most extraordinary. But we were able to hear Woodpeckers throughout. Make sure to keep your voice down so as to not scare them away. There’s nothing worse than overly boisterous people or those playing loud music on a hike anyway! More importantly, though, the hike finishes at the start of the incredible Cerro Guanaco Trail!

A lake called Lago Acigami during the Cerro Guanaco Trail in Tierra del Fuego National Park during our Ushuaia hiking trip
Lago Acigami

Cerro Guanaco Trail

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 15km
  • Time: 4-5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 1,037m
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Trailhead: Lago Roca Visitor Centre

The Cerro Guanco trail is tough but worth it. This hike is a 15km return and takes 4–5 hours. You’ll start this around midday. The National Park rates the trail as high difficulty. As a result of its considerably steep ascent to begin with, it’s physically demanding and exhausting. Basically, it’s a tough hike upwards! Also, it gets fairly wet and sludgy nearing the end with a lack of signage. But, it’s totally worth it though for the views at the end.

It’s one of the most underrated hikes in Patagonia, let alone South America! Gorgeous views of the Andes and Beagle Channel await you! But it’s very cold at the top. Make sure to pack gloves, layers and warm clothes for the top.

The return bus to Ushuaia will pick you up from where this hike starts at the Lago Roca Visitor Centre. Yes, it’s possible to use different drop-off and pick-up points on this shuttle service. Don’t worry, it’s thoroughly explained by staff at the main bus station in Ushuaia in the morning. They’ll also give you a map to ensure you know where to go.

Dan hiking in Tierra del Fuego in Ushuaia

Ushuaia Hiking Itinerary: Day 2

After enjoying Tierra del Fuego National Park, it’s time for a hike to the impressive Laguna Esmeralda.

A lake called Laguna Esmeralda in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Laguna Esmeralda

Laguna Esmeralda

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 9.5km
  • Time: 4-5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 145m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Laguna Esmeralda Parking

The Laguna Esmeralda hike requires a day trip. And, it’s totally worth it as it’s another one of the great Ushuaia day hikes! Perhaps, it’s one of the best hikes in Ushuaia.

This is a 9.5km return hike and takes 4–5 hours. Specifically, Laguna Esmeralda falls just outside the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The hike is a very muddy affair, but a beautiful emerald (as the name suggests) lake is the reward. Certainly, Laguna Esmeralda in Ushuaia is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in Argentinian Patagonia.

Again, a shuttle bus from the main bus station can be bought on the day for around $700ARS return ($11USD). It departs Ushuaia around 9am. The bus will take you to and from the start of the hike and returns to Ushuaia mid-afternoon. Check the exact return time with the helpful staff at the bus station. Also, there is no entrance fee for this hike. 

You could possibly also add the 7km Martial Glacier hike to do in the afternoon. But due to rain, we opted to stay in at our Airbnb which afforded views of the glacier anyway! Guilty as charged, we chose to relax inside instead of hiking to Glacier Martial. And, we call ourselves hiking enthusiasts – for shame!

Dan at a lake called Laguna Esmeralda in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Ushuaia Hiking (and Wildlife Watching) Itinerary: Day 3

After hiking in beautiful places near Ushuaia, it’s time to focus your attention on wildlife for the third day of your trip. This will involve the amazing Ushuaia penguins tour.

Dan with penguins on Isla Martillo during the Ushuaia penguins tour

Ushuaia Penguin & Beagle Channel Tour

Make sure you do the penguin tour during your time in Ushuaia. Certainly, you can’t visit Ushuaia without a tour to Martillo Island (Isla Martillo) to see the incredible penguins. You’ll have the opportunity to walk amongst and near these breathtaking animals!

Many places in town organise the Ushuaia penguin tour. But, we highly recommend Piratour Travel as a reputable and fantastic company for doing the Ushuaia penguin tour. They have bilingual guides and top-notch facilities. Although $165USD (plus small port fees) isn’t cheap, the boat tour was incredible. Included is a visit to sea lions, the Les Éclaireurs Lighthouse and a basic but interesting wildlife museum. In addition, this is the only company that has a license to do guided walks on Isla Martillo – giving you the chance to walk among the penguins.

A lighthouse on a small rocky outcrop in the ocean during an Ushuaia penguins tour

It goes without saying, that the main attraction is Isla Martillo, where you get to chill out with penguins. Seeing Gentoo and Magellanic penguins is assured but we were even lucky enough to even see a solo King Penguin. It was actually lost and shouldn’t have been there. So we were actually stoked it got lost. We were beside ourselves that we were so close to such beautiful creatures!

Book the Ushuaia Penguins Tour Online

Dan near penguins

For more details about this unforgettable Ushuaia Penguins Tour, head to Viator, where you can also book the tour online in advance

Beck near penguins on the Ushuaia penguins tour
Beck near a penguin on the Ushuaia penguins tour

Other Ushuaia Penguin Tour Options

An alternate Ushuaia penguins tour option is the catamaran tour option. By doing this tour, you’ll visit the same attractions, with the key difference being that you won’t get to walk on Isla Martillo. Instead, you’ll simply watch and admire the penguins on Isla Martillo from the catamaran. Expectedly, this tour option is cheaper and allows you the chance to see the incredible penguins, creating a memorable experience.

Ushuaia: Penguin Watching Tour By Catamaran

A catamaran of people watch penguins
  • A cheaper alternative for seeing penguins in Ushuaia
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Free cancellation, reserve now and pay later

It’s also possible to book this tour on Viator.

Ushuaia Hiking Itinerary Recap

Make sure to visit Ushuaia as part of your Patagonia itinerary. For the hiking and wildlife enthusiasts, you’ll be in your absolute element. Tierra del Fuego and Lake Esmeralda are two fantastic locations for hiking. On top of that, the Penguin Tour is an extraordinary experience. Even if you’re main objective is to go to Antarctica, make sure to spend some time at Ushuaia.

How to Get to Ushuaia

Many people will fly to Buenos Aires to start their South American travels. Flying to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires isn’t exactly cheap. But it is the best option if Buenos Aires is your starting point. The flight takes around 3 hours 40 minutes. 

Buses are definitely cheaper when travelling throughout Patagonia. However, a bus all the way to Ushuaia; the bottom of Patagonia, is just not a good idea. It may take a few days with numerous bus changes. Even getting a bus from Buenos Aires to the top of Argentinean Patagonia – Bariloche, is a very long +24 hour bus journey. So, we don’t recommend it, particularly if you have limited travel time.

However, if you do decide to book a bus, we recommend booking with Busbud. They are the most comprehensive and popular bus search engine used for travellers in South America. Feel free to use our link to book.

Booking Buses

Busbud

Busbud is one of the best online bus booking platforms. Wherever you’re travelling, you can easily compare bus tickets from different companies and book the best option for your trip. We highly recommend using Busbud to find the cheapest bus fares.

Getting From the Airport to Your Accommodation

Ushuaia Aiport is very close to town – around a 12 minute drive away. Local buses and airport transfer services to the city centre can be arranged. From our experience, the people here are really friendly and the area is safe. This includes honest taxi drivers.

Accommodation in Ushuaia

Below, you’ll find the most popular budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation options in Ushuaia.

Best Places to Stay in Ushuaia

Where Next After Ushuaia?

If you’re not heading to Antarctica, and Ushuaia is only the beginning of your Patagonia itinerary, then it’s likely that your next destination north will be the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, perhaps to do the W Trek.

To do this, you’ll need to get a bus to Rio Grande (Argentina). Then, you’ll need to get a bus that crosses the border to Puerto Arenas (Chile). Then, another bus onwards to Puerto Natales. All can be booked in advance using Busbud. Ushuaia to Punta Arenas via Rio Grande can be bought as a combined ticket for around $50USD. Additionally, the Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales bus was only around $10.50USD.

This is, of course, unless you decide to hire a car. We found car hire would be too expensive and also difficult with crossing borders. So, that’s why we decided buses were the way to go in Patagonia. But if you decide to hire a car, we recommend using Discover Cars if booking in advance online. Otherwise, booking upon arrival at a local car hire agency may be more risky in terms of availability and reliability but may also be cheaper.

Car Hire

DiscoverCars.com

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

What Should I Pack For A Hiking Trip to Ushuaia?

Bear in mind, that the Ushuaia trekking terrain in Patagonian summer will likely feature long sections of peat bogs, mud and damp terrain. So for these hikes, you’ll need waterproof hiking boots and hiking poles are also helpful. Anyway, here are some hiking essentials for your trip to Ushuaia.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Bonus Travel Tips About Visiting Ushuaia

  • Trail navigation: to be fully prepared for trekking in Ushuaia, consider downloading GPS-guided Ushuaia hiking maps before you set out. We recommend Wikiloc or AllTrails for your Ushuaia hiking trail maps.
  • Other day hikes: Glaciar Ojo del Albino, Vinciguerra Glacier Trail, Laguna de los Témpanos and Laguna del Caminante. There are also several multi-day hikes in Ushuaia worth considering if you have more time.
  • Other activities: if you’re into skiing, you’ll be happy to know that Cerro Castor is a ski resort on the southern slope of Mount Krund, that is close to Ushuaia. Otherwise, you may want to explore ice caves by doing the Vinciguerra Glacier Trek.
  • Where to buy supplies: La Anónima is a huge supermarket by Patagonia standards. It has everything you need!
  • ATMs: if you want to avoid ridiculous $10USD ATM fees, we highly recommend taking $USD in cash to Argentina to exchange. If possible, exchanging safely in Buenos Aires on the legal black market to get the blue dollar will see your dollars go much further. But be careful, you may be stitched up with counterfeit money. We were lucky enough to have friends living there who helped us with this.
  • Compare $ARS vs. $USD: ask for prices in the local currency and also $USD to see what is cheaper. We found it frustrating that there were no hard and fast rules. There was inconsistency between which currency was cheapest for things such as transport. So if there is an option to pay in either currency, find out what’s cheapest.

A Warning About Booking Buses Too Far in Advance Online

A word of warning when booking buses well in advance for your Patagonia trip. We thought we would be well-organised for our Patagonia trip, so we booked the Ushuaia to Rio Grande bus about four months in advance. When we got to the bus station for the 5am bus, it didn’t arrive. We desperately needed to get that bus as our following bus from Rio Grande to Puerto Arenas was leaving around 10am.

Luckily, a taxi driver was there and directed us to a private minivan company with a bus leaving at 6am to Rio Grande. Again, very luckily, there were just two seats left. So, this was a very close call. Thankfully, Busbud did give us a full refund.

Overall though, we do highly recommend using Busbud. We had no issues with booking any other buses. But perhaps, only book a few weeks in advance. Bus schedules can change and if you buy a ticket too far in advance, you may not be alerted to this.

Ushuaia FAQs

Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Ushuaia.

Penguins seen on a tour from Ushuaia

Where Is Ushuaia?

Ushuaia is located in Argentina at the southern tip of South America. Click on the map below to access an interactive map of the southernmost city in the world.

A screenshot of a map showing the location of Ushuaia
Ushuaia map

Is There A Shuttle Service From Ushuaia to Tierra Del Fuego National Park?

Yes, shuttle services depart from the town centre of Ushuaia and go to Tierra del Fuego National Park. These shuttle services provide access to various points within the national park.

Can You See Glaciers in Ushuaia?

While the town of Ushuaia itself isn’t known for glaciers, there are opportunities to visit nearby glaciers, particularly in the surrounding areas of Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Glaciers that are popular to visit from Ushuaia include the Martial Glacier as well as boat tours to see glaciers in the Beagle Channel. On top of that, many tourists visit the nearby Perito Moreno Glacier, although it’s located further away in Los Glaciares National Park near El Calafate.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Hike in Patagonia?

The best time to hike in Ushuaia, and Patagonia in general, is during summer (November to March). During this time of year, the weather is milder with longer daylight hours, making it ideal for hiking.

Is Ushuaia Worth Visiting?

Yes, absolutely. Even if just for 3 days, there are many fun activities and amazing experiences to have in Ushuaia.

Are you keen on doing the Penguin Tour in Ushuaia? Share this post on Facebook with your penguin exploring buddy!

Daniel Piggott

Physiotherapist turned travel blogger, Dan is a keen hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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