Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina, is commonly known as the “End of the World” due to its geographic location. It’s the southernmost city in the world, located on the southern tip of South America.
This “End of the World” nickname is used in tourist promotions and local lore, emphasizing Ushuaia’s unique position on the globe. Ushuaia’s isolation contributes to the sense of it being at the “end of the world.” Additionally, the local natural landscapes—ranging from mountains and forests to glaciers and sea—give it an otherworldly, rugged appeal.
Ushuaia is also a common starting point for voyages to the Antarctic. During our journey to the end of the world, an Antarctic Cruise was unfortunately out of our budget. But found that the journey to get from Santiago, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina was still an incredible adventure in itself that was still filled with plenty of glaciers and penguins.
Even if not using Ushuaia to pursue an Antarctic expedition, there is still many worthwhile things to do in this southern city. Yet an overland journey through Patagonia to get to the end of the world is what’s really filled with adventure!
Our journey to the end of the world took us quite a distance, bussing and hiking our way through the impressive Andes Mountains of Patagonia on a winding route between Chile and Argentina. So hop aboard and come along for the ride as we roam around amazing Patagonia!
Travel Route from Santiago to Ushuia: At A Glance
Arriving in Chile just before the Christmas holidays, we first spent two weeks stationary in Santiago working remotely and plotting our grand adventure ahead. From there, we traveled south in Chile, adventuring to places such as Villarica, Pucon, Valdivia, and Puerto Montt, and Puerto Varas.
The map below shows our exact route from Puerto Varas, Chile, crossing into Argentina and down south to the end of the world (Ushuaia).
- Countries visited: 2
- Chile & Argentina
- Number of beds slept in: 24*
- *Note: we counted each campsite as a different bed even though we used the same sleeping bags
- Place-to-place transport segments: 33
- Hiking segments: 10
- Boat segments: 2*
- *1 vehicle ferry was used as part of bus travel and 1 boat was used during hiking
- Busses: 19 (80+ hours total!)
- Taxi: 1
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 2
- The Seaport of Valparaiso, Los Glaciers National Park (Argentina)
- Breweries Visited: 19
- Anfiteatro (Valparaiso), Altamira (Valparaiso), Mustache (Pucon), Kunstmann (Valdivia), Bariloche: Lowther, Bachman, Manush, Blest, Berlina, Antares, NYC’s; El Bolson: Otto Tip, Casona de Odlie; El Chalten: Don Guerra, La Cerveceria; Puerto Natales: Cerveza Baguales; Punta Arenas: Hernando de Magallanes; Ushuaia: Dublin
Travel Highlights from Santiago, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina
We spent two full months traveling from Santiago, Chile to reach Ushuaia. But our journey to the end of the world actually began in nearby Valparaiso.
That’s because, rather than flying to Chile, we took a more unconventional route to get there, by using a special repositioning cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Valparaiso. This repositioning cruise was actually a cheaper alternative to flying the same route, as we spent over two weeks on a luxury ship, stopping at various South American ports all along the way.
Want to know more about repositioning cruises, read our full article here: Repositioning Cruises: Everything You Need to Know
Once arriving in Chile, we had a long journey ahead to reach the end of the world, Ushuaia. There are so many different route options to get from Santiago, Chile to Ushuaia, and so many things to do along the way. So if you are considering traveling from Santiago to Ushuaia, we hope the following highlights may help to steer your itinerary.
Roaming Around Valparaiso
We very much enjoyed our few days in Chile’s gritty and artsy port city of Valparaiso (or Valpo as it’s locally referred to). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its hilly layout, complete with a number of narrow staircases and alleyways.
Or you can instead opt to move around the cerros (hills) using the crazy-steep 100-year-old funiculars that crank you up the sharp grade. The seemingly ancient cables make you fear for your life as they make you think the funicular may suddenly turn into a real-life Tower of Terror. It’s all part of the fun though.
Yet perhaps best of all was all the amazing street art, which covered all the buildings and passageways. We’ve viewed a lot of incredible graffiti throughout our travels, but Valparaiso may take the cake.
Spending the Holidays in Santiago, Chile
From Valpo, we ventured inland to Chile’s capital, Santiago. Here, we rented an apartment in the central area for two weeks to get some work completed and celebrate the holidays.
Christmas was first on the agenda and we discovered that Chileans tend to celebrate it by feasting on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. So we followed local tradition and cooked up a big turkey dinner on the night before Christmas.
We also followed the local customs by sipping on a drink called cola de mono (monkey tail), which is a delicious Christmastime concoction made from aguardiente, milk, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar. It was deceptively smooth and reminded me faintly of Irish cream liqueur but this was even better and it really packed a punch!
Christmas in Santiago, Chile
On Christmas day, the entire capital city was essentially shut down, so we decided to head out to the big church in the center of town – Cathedral de Metropolitana – to see if anything was going on.
We ended up partaking in the full Christmas Day mass, which was given by the Bishop, himself. It was an interesting cultural experience and was quite nice getting into the spirit by attempting to sing Christmas songs in Spanish. Thank goodness they provided handouts with the lyrics.
Leftover cola de mono followed church services. 😉
New Year’s Eve in Santiago, Chile
New Year’s Eve next approached and we discovered our apartment just happened to be only a few blocks away from Santiago’s equivalent of Time Square. Here, there was a huge party spanning dozens of blocks with a big concert stage.
Vendors were set up everywhere selling party supplies such as confetti, plastic hats, and novelty ties. Meanwhile, opportunistic youth more discretely sold beers from their backpacks. It was an awesome fiesta and everyone was in such fun celebratory spirits.
As January is the summer down here in the Southern Hemisphere, it was quite warm. Yet people threw around white confetti that mimicked snow. We left the big party a little early though to instead view the grand firework display from the rooftop of our apartment building, which provided a spectacular view.
Adventure in Southern Chile: Climbing Volcan Villarica
We were working remotely for part of our time in Santiago. So during this two-week stay, we were growing thirsty for adventure. Although we enjoyed our time in Santiago, we were anxious to resume our adventures, doing so by taking a bus from Santiago to Chile’s Lakes region.
The village of Pucon was our next stop, which lies beneath the ominous snow-covered Villarica Volcano. We just had to climb it. Wow, what an experience! The hours-long summit is done almost entirely in the snow, using crampons and ice picks to climb up the steep and icy grade.
We barely made it to the cone at the very top, as this trek really wore us down. But perhaps the best part of the day was sledding the entire way back down! What a thrill!
To read full details about what it’s like to summit Volcan Villarica and slide down, read our full post: Climbing Volcan Villaricca
Hydrospeeding in Chile!
Also out of Pucon, we embarked on a hydrospeed adventure down the Liucura River. What is hydrospeeding?
We slapped on some diving fins, and a wet suit, and grabbed a foam board (similar to a boogie board) to shoot down the river’s wild rapids.
Class III rapids are playful on a big raft. But when the only thing between you and the water is a thin piece of styrofoam, the rapids take on a whole new dimension!
Boats and Beers in Valdivia
From Pucon, we going to head across the border to Argentina and journey further south. But with high season in full swing and no accommodation prebooked, we couldn’t find anywhere to stay.
Instead, we continued our southbound travels towards the end of the world, by remaining on the Chilean side of the Andes, for now. This probably worked out for the best, because we really enjoyed the next several destinations in Chile, as we ultimately made our way to Ushuaia.
This was evident with our next stop, Valdivia, where we explored the city’s boats and beers!
In the city of Valdivia, we took a lovely boat tour of the surrounding rivers. We visited forts, watched war reenactments, and did some small hikes. We also paid a visit to the city’s resident sea lions that get fat hanging out by the fish market, awaiting scraps from the daily catch.
To top it all off, the brewery of Chile’s most well-known craft beer is also conveniently located just outside of town. So, of course, we had to drop into Kunstmann to try all of their offerings.
The Adventure Continues in Puerto Varas: Canyoning
Next, we journeyed back towards the Andes to a town called Puerto Varas. It was here that we embarked on an exhilarating canyoning excursion down the Rio Blanco. This day trip took us jumping off cliffs, sliding down natural slides, and even rappelling down the side of a huge waterfall! Talk about adrenaline!
Trekking in the Yosemite of South America: Cochamo Valley
The adventures continued with an incredible trek, that we found to be very underrated.
We set out with a good five-hour hike into the Rio Cochamo Valley, which is known as the Yosemite of South America due to its granite towers that surround the lush and peaceful valley. It really did live up to its nickname.
Once deep into the valley, we stayed for a few nights in a remote refugio. The highlight in the Rio Cochamo Valley was the harrowing hike we did which turned about to be our longest day hike to date, which took us grasping to ropes and across icy snowfields to take in the incredible views that surrounded us.
Full post about hiking Hiking Arco Iris Trail from Rio Cochamo Valley Chile
A Chilean Beer Fest!
Upon hiking out of the valley and bussing our way back to civilization, we discovered there was actually a beer fest in a nearby town!
So despite our exhausted aching muscles caused by Arco Iris, we managed to make our way to the annual Puerto Montt Fiesta de la Cerveza (Beer Festival), where we got to indulge in dozens of local Chilean craft brews.
It was completely a local affair, so it was a blast for me to practice my Spanish talking to passionate brewers over a shared affection for cerveza. What a fantastic sendoff after spending more than a full month roaming around Chile! Yet it was now time to cross from Chile to Argentina to continue our push south to Ushuaia, the end of the world.
Welcome to Argentina! Mountains, Steak, & Beer in Bariloche
We finally crossed over the Andes Mountains and into Argentina. This marked our 39th country visited! Our first stop in the country was in the mountain village of Bariloche, which was a delightful introduction to Argentina.
The town lies not only amongst the mighty Andes but also in the midst of several beautiful blue lakes. There are some great day hikes in the region that we took advantage of in order to absorb all the fantastic views. Yet what also shined about Bariloche were the food and the beer.
We ate at our first parrilla (Argentine steakhouse), which was absolutely amazing. Best steak we’ve ever had. Really. It was that good. We came back the very next night we liked it so much.
And to top it all off, there are at least a dozen or so little craft breweries interspersed throughout town! Great mountain hikes, incredible food, and more beer than we had time to try… this is definitely our kind of place.
A Mountain Hideaway in El Bolson
We eventually left Bariloche and bussed it a few hours south, down the famed Route 40, to a smaller mountain town called El Bolson. This interesting town is set smack dab in the middle of Argentina’s hops-growing region and had a laidback hippy vibe to it.
We quickly discovered that it was a lovely place with lots of fantastic hikes and recreation (in addition to a few more brewpubs), so we were kicking ourselves for only booking a couple of nights here. But we made the most of our full day and took an awesome kayaking trip across Lake Epuyen, just down the road. The excursion took us jumping off waterfalls and even snorkeling in the lakes!
El Bolson was one of those unexpected delights that we could have easily stayed in for at least a week or more, but our journey south needed to continue. So we hopped on a bus to continue down Route 40 as far as the bus would take us, which was a town called Los Antiguos.
Our Strangest Yet Best Bus Ride Ever
— John & Heather (@RoamingDaWorld) January 26, 2015
From El Bolson to Los Antiguos, was an interesting bus ride that would last for 12 hours. When the bus came to pick us up, we were literally the only people on it other than the bus driver, his backup driver, and the ticket guy / luggage handler.
This seemed a bit strange at first, particularly since it is high season here. But then we realized that we had the entire bus to ourselves, riding through the beautiful desert landscape of Patagonia with the Andes Mountains to our right.
This was a traveler’s dream come true. We reclined our seats. We stretched out. We walked up and down the aisle, all just because. The bus driver strongly encouraged us to let him know whenever we would like to stop.
So we would signal to him when we noticed an interesting tiny one-street village to eat lunch. Further down Route 40, we would stop for bathroom breaks, to grab a beer, or simply to stretch our legs.
We had our own private transport through Patagonia. We usually dread long uncomfortable bus rides, but this ride through Patagonia to the end of the world was utterly relaxing.
Los Antiguos: A Land of Cherries
Yet we eventually arrived in Los Antiguos and had to disembark this wonderful bus. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in this town and we were really just using it as a transportation hub to get a good night’s sleep and connect to another bus, heading further south.
Los Antiguos is known for its cherry production so after walking around town we strolled by some cherry farms, hiked up to some miradors (viewpoints), and walked out to Lago Buenos Aires.
The Stunning Fitz Roy Range
It was soon time to hop back on yet another 12-hour bus to continue our southbound journey in Patagonia, now to El Chalten, which lies at the northern boundary of Argentina’s Glacier National Park.
We arrived early in the morning to uncharacteristically Patagonian weather of blue skies and immediately set off on a long day hike to look around.
The scene of the Fitz Roy range was absolutely breathtaking. The skies were literally shimmering and the view almost looked fake, as if someone had just put up a painting or a huge movie screen.
We eventually traded in our warm and cozy hotel for some rental camping gear and set out into the Patagonian wilderness for a few days of overnight trekking.
We hiked over mountains, through valleys, and across streams in this remarkable terrain.
The crowning jewels of the park are the granite towers of the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, which were indeed spectacular.
But perhaps the highlight for us was taking in the Glaciar Rio Blanco, after a really fun hike that took us climbing over enormous boulders to reach it.
Perito Moreno: A Growing Glacier
From El Chalten, our southbound travels next took us to El Calafate, which is the jumping-off point for the Perito Moreno Glacier. This was another truly spectacular site to see one of the few large glaciers in the world that is actually growing.
We got to witness firsthand, enormous chunks of ice – the size of entire houses – crash right down into the water below! A-maz-ing!
The Incredible “W” Trek in Torres del Paine
We then journeyed west and found ourselves back in Chile, now in the town of Puerto Natales. Our stay here was simply to prepare and get gear for our 5-day trek through the renowned Torres del Paine National Park.
So after another few hours of bussing and a transfer over a lake via catamaran, we began the famous trek inside the national park. The route we took is known as the “W” due to the shape it makes on a map. And we successfully made it to all three awe-inspiring points on that “W”: Glacier Gray, Valley Frances, and lastly to the lakeside at the base of Paine Grande.
Penguins in Punta Arenas
After Torres del Paine, it was south yet again. This time we ended up in the port town of Punta Arenas. It was near here that we ran into penguins! It was so neat to see these little guys waddling and hopping around out in the wild while visiting the Seno Otway penguin colony.
Going to the End of the World on Friday the 13th
Our last stop on this entire southbound stint of travels was Ushuaia: a final 12-hour bus ride on Friday the 13th would carry us to the last stretch of roadway to the end of the world.
We made it to the end of the world. We had completed the route, entirely by public transportation, from Santiago Chile to Ushuaia, with so many awesome adventures in between!
Yet there was still more fun to be had in Ushuaia. Unfortunately, our boating trip through the Beagle Channel got scrapped due to the weather. So we instead spent our last days down south pursuing some day hikes through this distant landscape.
Our arrival to the end of the world coincided with Valentine’s Day trekking for miles around Tierra del Fuego National Park. We even saw a fox!
We ended the day with another Argentine steak dinner overlooking the Beagle Channel, accompanied by, what else but… Beagle Beer!
We’ve seen some remarkable wildlife down throughout Patagonia. From the penguins and foxes already mentioned to countless sitings of guanacos during our long bus rides. But it was seeing some beavers working on their dam really won our hearts. Such an incredible sight!
Reflections on the Journey from Santiago to the End of the World
The route from Santiago to Ushuaia made for an incredible trip, full of long bus rides across incredible amazing landscapes.
We would definitely recommend this journey to other travelers who have a love for adventure and also have the time to dedicate to the length of this journey. It takes a great amount of planning and flexibility. But overall was so worthwhile and fulfilling.