City lying beneath the mountain

No sea day in between our visit to Punta Arenas and Ushuaia, Southern Argentina.

City lying beneath the mountainThe city of Ushuaia beneath the mountains

Like the other places we had visited en route,Ushuaia is called a city because it has a Cathedral, Our Lady of Mercy RC Cathedral. I shall write more about that later. We were up and about as the ship entered the harbour and were pleased that this time we would berth at the pier so no need for tenders, especially as it was cold and damp. It did not actually rain while we were there was an advantage to our exploring.

ships at the jetty2 other small cruise ships at the pier

First a bit of history about Ushuaia. For about 10 000 years before European peoples arrived, the Yámana Indians had inhabited the area. The first known outsider was Capt Robert Fitzroy on a missionary voyage to Tierra del Fuego in 1883. Gradually others arrived and settled here. In 1896, Argentina declared the town a penal colony, completed a jail in 1902 and inmates were housed there for 45 years. Others who came were missionaries, gold diggers and castaways so when the prison was closed in 1947 the population of 3 000 was a rather motley bunch creating an eclectic cultural heritage. Today the population tops 70 000 and it is a beautiful little city.

Hotels below the mountain3 hotels in the mountains with an impoverished community below them

When we disembarked we had a fairly long walk along the pier to reach the port building through which we had to walk on our way out of the harbour area. When being told about Ushuaia by our Excursions Manager she had said to turn to the right and we would get to the Museum, shops, Tourist Information and some of the best places to photograph the mountains. How we wished that she had mentioned turning left as you will see further on.

We chose to explore town in the morning and then join an excursion on a narrow guage train into the mountains in the afternoon. We turned right and immediately came across a number of wooden huts where people were trying hard to convince people to go on their excursion as ‘it was definitely the best!’ We didn’t take the bait and walked along the promenade where there was a very interesting row of sculpted busts which we found were Antarctic explorers. That area of the promenade is called the Walkway of Antarctic Pioneers. Like Punta Arenas, Ushuaia was also a popular harbour from which these explorers would leave.

Condor sculptureMemorial to the early settlers

Walkway of the Antarctic PioneersWalkway of the Antarctic Pioneers

On the opposite side and raised above the street was the Casa del Gobierno for which the only tranlation I could get was Home of Gobierno. It was quite attractive and seemed to be a government building. Not far from there was the Town Plaza which was really quite boring. We didn’t know it at the time but saw it later, there was a simple but striking memorial to Eva Peron, First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952, behind the Casa Del Gobierno.

Casa de GabiernoCasa del Gobierno

Memorial to Evita PeronMemorial to Eva Peron


Being at the base of a mountain, the southern tip of the Andes, to get anywhere from the promenade meant climbing uphill so we did. There was not much to appreciate up on the High Street except shops and restaurants, most of which were closed for siesta. At the end of the street we came across the new, 70 year old, Cathedral building painted a bright yellow with crimson trimmings and a beautiful clock bell tower. It, too, was closed as it only opens for services.

Clock and bell tower of Our Lady of MercyEntrance to the Cathedral

The original parish church is situated on the road directly below this building. This building was consecrated in 1898 and renovated in the 1940s but with the new building being erected it was left to deteriorate. When plans were made for its restoration at the time of its centenary in 1998, the tower had collapsed and the only part in good repair was the Nave, but it has been lovingly restored. In 1999 it was declared a National Historic Monument by the National Executive Power.

Clock tower of the first churchOriginal Parish Church

We then found that we were on what would have been on the left of the pier and found so many interesting things to see and learn about. We had seen a large new building which was a Casino and decided to take a look, not that we are gamblers, but it looked so different from everything around it. The Casino was soon forgotten as we found a number of monuments and memorials in various squares.

New CasinoThe new Casino

There was a large memorial with 4 arches in memory of those who fought in the Falklands War of 1982. To one side was a large sculpture of South America and the Falkland Islands around which and along the path under the arches were plaques naming the men and women from Ushuaia who had died. This formed the Plaza Islas Malvinas which is the Spanish name for the Falkland Islands.

Monument for 1982 Falklands WarSculpted monument for the Falklands War

Ent to Plaza Las MalvinasEntrance to the Memorial

In another area of this large Memorial Plaza was second set of 4 arches as a Memorial to the Gendarmeria Nacional or National Guard who protect the Argentinian borders. There is a bust of Gen Martin Miguel de Guemes. He was from Ushuaia and a leader of the Army during the War of Independence of Argentina from Spain in the early 1800s.

Bust of Gen Martin Miguel de GuemesBust of General Miguel de Guemes

Memorial to National PoliceEntrance to the monument to the Gendarmeria Nacional

As we made our way back to the ship we passed some other monuments and sculptures and one of particular interest was of a man with 3 children. His name was Don Bosco, an Italian Priest, who had a great love for children worked to develop schools and education, especially for the poor and marginalised. He is known as the Patron Saint of children.

Don Bosco and 3 childrenDon Bosco and 3 children

We saw some beautiful views of the airport and some of the early homes on the far side of the haarbour and a pink footed and beaked gull sat beautifully still on a railing so that we could get a nice photo of him.

AirportThe airport and other homes

Gull with pink beak and feetGull with pink beak and feet

Further along the promenade was a partially sunken ship which, on reboarding, we learnt that no one else whom we met had seen.

shipwreck in the harbourShipwreck in the harbour

As we walked through the port building we noticed some framed posters giving the history of Ushuaia from 1880-1980 and it made interesting reading.

History of Ushuaia 1880 19201st Frame – from 1880 – 1920

History of Ushuaia 1970 19804th frame – 1970 – 1980

As it was now lunchtime and we had to be on the pier at 13:30 for our train excursion, about which I shall write in the next blog, we did a quick freshen up and had a small lunch on the ship.