Tierra del Fuego National Park – located just a dozen kilometres from Ushuaia, covering 63 thousand hectares of land and stretching along the border with Chile. It was one of the first locations we marked on the map when we planned our trip to Argentina. It’s funny how driving 9000 km can change one’s point of view.
The day starts beautifully. The sun is shining from the early morning and the temperature is 15 degrees or so which is not a common thing in Ushuaia – here the average annual temperature is 6 degrees. People who we talk with say we’re lucky. Time to take advantage of our luck. Quickly.
We arrive at the park after more or less a quarter. We stop before the bar in order to pay the entrance fee. This is the moment when we ask what can we do here since 63 thousand hectares sound like a lot. The guy gives us detailed information which is not too helpful. In his opinion, everything is worth seeing. But… it’s 63 000 hectares! Some history first.
Tierra del Fuego National Park was established in 1960 in order to protect the evergreen formations such as coihue (a tree from the beech family) and lenga type southern moist forests (highland type of broadleaf forest). Local forests are called ‘Andino-Patagonico’. Back in the day, Yamana Indians lived here. They arrived in these lands more than 7000 years ago. They spent their lives in boats, hunting for fish, seals, crabs and otters. In 19th century there were more than 2500 of them but in 2000 their population dropped to about 90. Right now the group is almost non-existent.
Let’s get back to the park. It’s (like it or not) a must for every organised trip. Fortunately the buses park mainly by the bays – Bahia Lapataia and Bahia Ensenada. Especially by the former, in order to walk on the pier, you have to pass at least several dozen people speaking various languages, taking thousands of posed pictures of themselves and their friends. We quickly leave and head further and it turns out that it was the only place crowded that much. Finally we can admire it all in peace: glacier landscapes, mountain tops, valleys, Fagnano and Roca lakes, little charming beaches, meadows and cliffs by the shore. You can check it out on the pictures below.
If you’re a fan of birds you’ll love the park. Reportedly there’s hundreds of them here (obviously I can’t make one sound from another since I was never into ornithology that much). They didn’t put the park on Important Bird Areas list covering endangered bird species for nothing. Now I know why I didn’t heard about such species of birds like white-rumped sandpiper, southern crested caracara or Patagonian buzzard. They all live here exclusively and are protected species.
The park was designed so that every place is reachable by car. Lazy tourists should like that. We liked the park too, but after our previous experiences, especially the glaciers, Lanin volcano and Cuesta de Miranda hairpin roads it was just a place where we walked around and relaxed in charming environment. That’s it, that’s all.