It sure ain’t New York or Paris, but it has a huge claim to fame: Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. When a place smells like a frontier town, feels like a frontier town and has the sophistication (or lack of it) of a frontier town, chances are: it is a frontier town. With a population of 60,000 people, Ushuaia is the jump-off point for trips to Antarctica. Adventurers, tourists, scientists, government employees and crazy people (e.g. those who sail to Antarctica in a 29 ft sailboat), all leave from here to travel the 1,000 km (600 mi) distance to a very cold and icy continent. To be accurate, Ushuaia’s claim is being disputed by the citizens of the much smaller town of Puerto Williams, which is located on an island further south.
Formerly a missionary station and then a prison for very nasty people, Ushuaia, which now is the capital city of the island province of Tierra del Fuego, suffered a major problem for a very long time: nobody wanted to live here. But hey, look what incentives can do: cut taxes to corporations and lure people to Ushuaia with salaries that are three times when compared to the rest of Argentina and voila – people show up. The oil and gas industries, sheep farming as well as fisheries and eco-tourism employ the majority of workers in this town.
The weather, even the locals admit, is pathetic: it is cloudy and cold all summer long. Very rarely does the sun come out. And the temperatures don’t look too appealing either: Average high in summer is 15o C (59o F), average high in winter is 4o C (40o F). The cold southern ocean surrounding the entire region and the close proximity of the Antarctic continent don’t let the sun’s heat do its job. Even though Ushuaia is located at a southern latitude of only 54o SL, the town does not seem to enjoy nice warm weather any time of the year.
Another claim to fame is that Ushuaia features the terminus of the Pan American Hwy. So, if you have travelled 17,848 km (11,090 mi) south on your bicycle or motorcycle from Alaska to Ushuaia (as many people do!!), you’ll be happy to know, that the mighty Pan Am Hwy shrinks to a narrow, winding dirt lane and ends with a small gravel parking lot at its end. Then, if your legs will let you, you can stroll another 200 m on a boardwalk to a view point by an ocean bay. This, ladies and gentlemen, is officially considered the END OF THE WORLD. Why didn’t I come up with that idea?! I would have opened a McDonalds or a Starbucks right there and taken money from all those people who still believe in the flat earth theory and expect a steep drop-off at the end of the board walk.