Where is Tierra del Fuego?
Located at the bottom of the South American continent is Tierra del Fuego, a territory shared by Argentina and Chile. The Islands that comprise Tierra del Fuego were discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, who called it Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fires) because of his observation of bonfires on the shores of the island set by the Ona Indians. Shared by Argentina and Chile, the main island Isla Grande or Big Island is the largest island that make up the territory of Tierra del Fuego. Isla Grande is 61.5% or 11,385 sq miles Chilean territory and the rest belongs to Argentina. Both countries also share a series of smaller islands that includes Cape Horn.
The topography of southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego is dominated in the west and south by the rugged Andean Mountain chain and in the east by low plains. This geographic characteristic reflects the tectonic structure of the region with granitic intrusions and rocks forming spectacular peaks in certain areas such as Torres del Paine, Cerro Fitzroy and Sarmiento Massif, at an altitude of more than 2000m.
As one travels to Tierra del Fuego, south of Puerto Montt, the terrain becomes suddenly dramatic. Tierra del Fuego is where the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans meet making this region one of the stormiest places on earth. Snow and freezing rain fall almost daily accompanied by endless winds, annual precipitation is over one hundred inches a year. The area called the Archipelago covers about one thousand miles between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn on the southern tip of the continent and it is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magallanes. The western side of the archipelago, from Chiloe to Tierra del Fuego, is composed of a puzzle of small islands and narrow water passageways where colonies of penguins and sea lions live.
The majority of this territory is cold, wet and inhospitable, but hosts many globally known extreme geographical features such as the archipelago, fjords, the Strait of Magallanes and Cape Horn, the southernmost point of the continent, and the Chilean Antarctic.
At the extreme southern part of Chile, the coastal range and the Andes Mountains meet creating an explosion of islands forming a puzzle tangled in channels and fjords. Glaciers, mountains and icebergs intertwine facing the Pacific Ocean. In the western part of the archipelago we can observe the southernmost tip of the Andes Mountains.
Travel to Tierra del Fuego from Santiago de Chile
Although it seems isolated and hard to reach Tierra del Fuego is not cut off from the Mainland, it is very accessible to tourists. The easiest and most common way to get to Tierra del Fuego is to fly from the capital Santiago to Punta Arenas and then to Puerto Williams, the world’s southernmost town. There are daily flights to Punta Arenas offered by LAN, Aerolineas del Sur and Aerovias DAP. The direct flight takes about 3 hrs but they are expensive. Usually the best fares involve one or more stops. The connecting flight to Puerto Williams takes about 45 minutes. The town of Puerto Williams is located on the southern edge of the Beagle Channel and was home to the Yamana Indians. The best way to visit Cape Horn is by taking a boat trip to the bottom of the continent where you can visit the Chilean Army base, a lighthouse and chapel.
An alternative to flying to Tierra del Fuego is to drive or take the bus to Punta Arenas which will take over 40 hours and multiple stops. To travel south you will need to fly or to take a vessel as there is no land transportation crossing the archipelago.
Tourist on their way to Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn visit the rest of the South Patagonia Region which include the city of Punta Arenas which serves as a base for excursions and attractions; Torres del Paine, penguin colonies, remote fjords, wildlife, Strait of Magellan, Uhuaia in Argentina and Tierra del Fuego National Park among other attractions.
Most of tour operators are good and honest and provide a good service for your money. If you decide to travel independently Chile is a safe country and its people very hospitable and welcoming, lodging and food are inexpensive.
Tierra del Fuego offers a wealth of outdoor activities such as world known fly fishing, hiking, wildlife expeditions, biking, sailing and excursions to the End of the World, Cape Horn. For those who have traveled to the uttermost part of the earth getting to the end of RN3 is the ultimate goal. This is in Bahia Lapataia within Tierra del Fuego National Park in the north shore of the Beagle Channel.
The best time of the year to visit Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego is summertime from December to February as temperatures are warmer and trails accessible. Days are longer in the summer as the sun shines up to 18 hours a day. Temperatures range from 6C to 12C or 43F o 53F. Winds are strong reaching 40 km/hr and higher.
Springtime which in the southern hemisphere is October and November and Fall, March and April can be an option as there are less tourists but the weather is not as pleasant as in the summer and days are shorter.
Be aware that regardless of the season weather in this part of the world tend to be unpredictable, be ready for sudden changes in weather, rain, sun and strong winds.
Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego stretches along the border with Chile and protects more than 63,000 hectares of beech forest, jagged mountains and glaciers, lakes, sub Antartic tundra, local flora and fauna and coastline.
Santiago, the capital of Chile has become one of Latin America’s most modern and vibrant cities.
Easter Island is a tiny piece of land located in the south east of the Pacific Ocean, it is best known for its 887 giant statues called moai created by the Polynesian indigenous Rapa Nui .