PARQUE NACIONAL TIERRA DEL FUEGO, 12km west of Ushuaia, is the easiest to access of southern Argentina’s national parks. Protecting 630 square kilometres of jagged mountains, intricate lakes, southern beech forest, swampy peat bog, subantarctic tundra and verdant coastline, the park stretches along the frontier with Chile, from the Beagle Channel to the Sierra Inju-Goiyin (also called the Sierra Beauvoir) north of Lago Fagnano, but only the southernmost quarter of this is open to the public, accessed via the RN-3 from Ushuaia. Fortunately, this area contains much of the park’s most beautiful scenery, if also some of the wettest – bring rain gear.
The quarter is broken down into three main sectors: Bahía Ensenada and Río Pipo in the east, close to the station for the Tren del Fin del Mundo; Lago Roca further west; and the Lapataia area south of Lago Roca, which includes Laguna Verde and, at the end of the RN-3, Bahía Lapataia. You can get a good overview of the park in a day, but walkers will want to stay two to three days to appreciate the scenery and the wildlife, which includes birds such as Magellanic woodpeckers (Carpintero patagónico), condors, Steamer ducks, Kelp geese – the park’s symbol – and Buff-necked ibis; and mammals such as the guanaco, the rare Southern sea otter (Nutria marina), the Patagonian grey fox and its larger cousin, the native Fuegian red fox, once heavily hunted for its pelt.Read More
Parrots and hummingbirds
Parrots and hummingbirds
Most visitors to South America associate parrots and hummingbirds more with the steamy, verdant jungles of the Amazon than the frigid extremes of Tierra del Fuego. However, it is also possible to see them both in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. The unmistakeably garrulous Austral parakeet is the world’s most southerly parrot, inhabiting these temperate forests year-round. The Selk’nam christened it Kerrhprrh, in onomatopoeic imitation of its call. Once upon a time, according to their beliefs, all Fuegian trees were coniferous, and it was Kerrhprrh who transformed some into deciduous forests, painting them autumnal reds with the feathers of its breast. The tiny Green-backed firecrown is the planet’s most southerly hummingbird, and has been recorded – albeit rarely – flickering about flowering shrubs in summer. Known to the Selk’nam by the graceful name of Sinu K-Tam (Daughter of the Wind), this diminutive creature was, curiously, believed by them to be the offspring of Ohchin, the whale, and Sinu, the wind.