Making it to the end of the world…twice!

“Bienvenido al fin del mundo”.  (Welcome to the end of the World)  – slogan for Ushuaia, Argentina

“Más allá del fin del mundo”.  (Beyond the end of the World) – slogan for Puerto Williams, Chile

It seems that Argentina and Chile have a rivalry. We’re not referring to the obvious, and highly subjective subjects like which country has more passionate soccer fans or whether Carménère is a better wine than a Malbec. We’re referring to the question of which country possesses the southernmost city in the world.  Ask an Argentine, and they’ll tell you that city  is Ushuaia.   Chileans believe the answer is Puerto Williams. You may wonder, why the controversy?  Can’t this be resolved with a quick click of the mouse and a visit to Google Earth?

Stringent baggage weight limits? No problem - just wear extra layers of clothing (Sean won with 8 layers).

Our ride to Puerto Williams: The pilot/flight attendant demonstrates the flexibility required for the job. Even claustrophobic passengers will find the spectacular views to be (almost) worth the cold-sweat inducing flight.

As it happens, Puerto Williams, Chile is approximately ten miles south of Ushuaia, Argentina. That should settle things then, right?  Well, not quite.  Some say that Puerto Williams, originally founded as a Chilean naval base and home to a mere 2,000 people, doesn’t qualify as a city, given it’s small size and dependence on the presence of the navy.  Ushuaia, on the other hand, home to 70,000 matte-toting Argentines, draws tons of visitors (90% of trips heading to Antarctica originate from Ushuaia), and offers scores of restaurants and souvenir shops selling everything from bejeweled penguin statues to llama key chains.  Now that qualifies as a real city – the southernmost city in the world, they say.

Puerto Williams: more than just a one horse town. We counted at least six hanging out in the city square.

Puerto Williams, does indeed have many fewer tourists, and thus fewer restaurants and llama key chains for sale.    However, one can find similar city staples as in bigger towns – a post office,  fire station,  school, and even an airport.  You’ll also find horses lazily grazing downtown, friendly locals, even friendlier dogs, and the cozy, welcoming feel of a small-sized, big-hearted city.   In this case, less is more – this town was a clear winner with us in that it offered so much more than just its southerly location.

Welcome to Ushuaia!: Proof that you can find bad advertising just about anywhere, even at the end of the world.

Wishing to offend no one, however, we visited both locales.   We made it to the end of the world in Chile …and then we crossed the Beagle Channel and did it all over again in Argentina.  What’s more, it seems that the karmic power-that-be decided to reward our efforts.  As we crossed the channel, we were briefly greeted by six sei whales swimming in a pod directly in front of us, a site so uncommon and dramatic, that even the boat captain uttered a “Jesus Christ!” before quickly guiding the boat in for a closer look. And at that moment, half-way between the two cities laying claim to being at the end of the world, it certainly felt like we were indeed there.  The end of the world!  Or beyond the end of the world as it would be, flanked by our six new best friends with the jagged peaks of Tierra del Fuego and Navarino Island around us – an amazing highlight within a year of highlights.

link below to more photos of Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego

Torres del Paine & Tierra del Fuego

Since February 1st, we've been on the road, traveling from Santiago to Puerto Williams and then north to Uruguay, stopping in all the cities in red along the way.

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2 responses to “Making it to the end of the world…twice!

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