Written by Lucie
In the last week of January 2018, Mark and Lucie did a few lovely day walks around Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Sorry about all the photos, I struggled to choose!
Overlooking the town of Ushuaia is Glaciar Martial. It is possible to drive/taxi to the end of the Luis Fernando Martial Road and then walk the last section of path up to the glacier. However, it’s an enjoyable walk up from town.
We first walked from the centre of town up to the start of the walking path Sendero del Glaciar Luis Martial, at the edge of the main huddle of buildings. We then followed the meandering woodland path up the hill. The incline is fairly gentle and travels through lush green growth and along a stream. The last hundred metres or so is on the road and then we reached the small cafe at the base of the (now defunct) chair lift.
At this point the incline steps up few notches and the gravel path climbs steeply uphill, following the chair lift. At the top platform, the gravel road ends and two (very similar) different paths climb up to the glaciers, crossing over small, icy streams. The views were absolutely gorgeous, both of the glacier and the surrounding mountains, and back down towards Ushuaia and across the Beagle Channel. At the top, the wind was biting and it got quite cold.
After a look around and a stop for lunch, we headed back down, faster than we walked up. We also did the short side trip to a lookout that faces down to the city, the Beagle Channel and the Chilean mountains across the water. On the way back to town took a different woodland path, which ended in someone’s farm, but walking along their short drive got us back to the start of the road where we’d been a few hours before. From there, we wandered back into the town.
The whole trip took around 3 hours up and 2 back.
Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego is about 12km west of Ushuaia’s town centre and is traditionally a home for the native Yámana/Yaghan people, although – as with everywhere else – the arrival of white Europeans and their diseases decimated the population. Like many Argentinian national parks there is an entrance fee, and you can also take the overpriced tourist bus to get there and back, plus do a few short shuttles around the park, or you could hitch a lift which is easy and safe. Free maps are distributed at the entrance to the park.
In the park there are about ten different walks of varying lengths and difficulties – too much for one day. You can camp in the park which would be a nice way to do all of the walks. We picked two of the walks. The first one was ‘Hito XXIV’, a 7km return trip along the western bank of Lago Roca – a beautiful lake surrounded by impressive mountains. The water was very clear and light green or light blue in colour, depending on the sun. The walk travels through a woodland path and goes along the lake until it reaches the Chilean boarder, at which point it stops and there is a small sign declaring the boarder and ‘no tresspassing’. We had lunch on an idyllic pebble beach on the shore of the lake. This walk took about two hours, not including lunch (but including some photo stops).
Our second walk was ‘Senda Costera’, a short walk from Lago Roca and was comprised of 8km of up and downhill through forests and along the coast of the Beagle Channel. Again, the water was crystal clear, it was incredibly peaceful and unbelieveably gorgeous. The walk ended at the most southerly post office in the world. From there, we walked uphill along the gravel road to join the main road that runs through the park, close to the park entrance. This trail took about three hours.
Other walk options in the park include a few very short and easy walks at the very end of the park, a longish and steep uphill to Cerro Guanaco and another harder uphill walk to Canadon Mount Toro. Look out for all the wildlife, particularly birdlife, along the way.
Lagunas Esmerelda and Turquesa
Laguna Esmerelda and Laguna Turquesa and reached by two separate walks, conveniently located at about the same point on the main road out to the north east of Ushuaia. There’s no fee for these walks, and again you can choose your transport option.
Our first destination was Laguna Esmerelda, which is by far the most popular of the two walks (and the easiest). The trail to the lagoon took us about 1.5 hours (on the way there, about an hour on the way back) and is reasonably consistently uphill (a bit steep in sections but not too bad). It passes through through sections of light forest, open grass and peat bog. In the open sections there are panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. In the peat bogs it can get very wet and Mark managed to fall in with one leg, mud reaching halfway up his calf. It took a bit of effort to retrieve his leg and he left his shoe behind in the mud for Lucie to fish out by hand.
After the bogs, the path went alongside the small river (convenient for a wash!) that flows down from the lagoon. The water was a mineral rich, cloudy, pale blue – similar to the blue lagoon in Iceland. Beavers (introduced from North America) live in the area and their dams and lodges were easy to see, as are the effects they have on the local area.
The lagoon itself was stunning, gorgeous water (very cold), nestled under a glacier, steep cliffs and some trees. As mentioned, it is a popular was and there were quite a few other people there, but it did not feel busy. We ate lunch on the edge of the water, on a pebbly beach and started back down the trail.
Back at the road (without more peat bog incidences), we walked a few hundred metres back towards Ushuaia and then turned off to destination number two: Laguna Turquesa.
This trail took us one hour (about 40 minutes coming down), but it was ruthlessly steep uphill, which made it much more challenging that the walk to and from Laguna Esmerelda. Again, the path went through trees, next to a stream, over some boggy land and came out above the tree line. We looked back and could clearly see Laguna Esmerelda across the valley, plus more, very impressive, glaciers above the lagoon which we hadn’t seen from close up. We worked our way uphill and eventually reached Laguna Turquesa, now at quite a high elevation.
This water was crystal clear and there was hardly anyone there, in fact, on this whole walk we only saw two other small groups of people. The lagoon itself is less impressive than Laguna Esmerelda, but the increased elevation meant that the scenery was very impressive and Lucie enjoyed this walk more than the first one.
After enjoying the lagoon, we decided to keep going uphill a short distance further to the top of the mountain. From the top, the lagoon lived up to its turquoise name and we could see for miles all around. The panoramic view of jagged, rocky mountains and glaciers was an incredible sight.