Penguins are my favourite animal and it is one of my dreams to see all 18 species of them in the wild. When I found out that you could walk with two types of penguins in Ushuaia, Argentina, I knew I had to go.
How to walk with Penguins in Ushuaia
Getting to Ushuaia
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. There’s even a sign there that says Fin Del Mundo “the end of the world”. I love remote places, but it makes getting there more challenging then other cities.
Getting to Ushuaia By Plane
Ushuaia does have an international airport, located 4km south of the center of Ushuaia. There are non-stop flights from El Calafete and Buenos Aires, where you can connect to other airports around the world (I flew from Colombia).
Getting to Ushuaia By Bus
Ushuaia has a bus station where you can grab a bus to other parts of Patagonia. I took a bus to Punta Arenas (Chile) to see more penguins which took 8 hours. Some other travellers I met took a bus to El Calafete that took 24 hours (long, but much cheaper then flying).
Best time of year to see the penguins in Ushuaia
The best time to see the penguins in Ushuaia is between November and February as this the populaiton is highest then. However I was there in March and saw many penguins! Just get there before April as that’s when they start heading north to migrate.
How to see the penguins in Ushuaia, Argentina
The penguins actually live on Martillo island which is only accesible by organized tours, so you need to book with a tour company in advance. I booked my tour with Piratour, which was a great experience. Piratour offers a few different tours in Ushuaia. I opted to do the Penguin Colony + Navigation through the Beagle Channel.
Visiting the penguins in Ushuaia with Piratour
On the day of the tour I woke up in so much excitement to go see the penguins. The tour starts when you check in at their office and they give you a penguin pass to get on the bus with. The Piratour office is on the main pier in Ushuaia, next to the end of the world sign.
The tour departs at 8am and you drive for about two hours through beautiful landscapes of mountains and forest. On the way to Martillo island, the tours stops to see these unique trees. They have grown sideways because they are always hit by the wind in the same direction.
Visiting the penguins on Martillo Island
The penguins live on an island so you have to take a short boat ride to get there. They only allow 20 people on the island at a time so the group gets split in two according to the colour of your penguin pass. Thank goodness I was on the first group as I don’t think I could have contained my excitement any longer. As soon as we got off the boat you could see hundreds of penguins waiting to greet you. As you walk around the island you see more and more Magellanic penguins, there are thousands there!
The penguins are pretty curious and will come up to you although the guides ask you to stay 3m back to help protect them. At the time I visited the penguins were moulting their coats before they head out to sea to migrate. So cute!
There is also a small colony of Gentoo penguins on the island that we were able to see. And a king penguin! King penguins aren’t native to the island and it’s new that they started appearing, so scientists aren’t sure why yet. He looked so majestic standing there. It was so cute how the other Gentoo penguins were standing around him!
After the penguin walk you come back to land and switch with the other group. While waiting you can visit a science museum with interesting marine animal bones on display.
The tour included a gorgeous three hour boat ride back to Ushuaia through the Beagle channel which divides Argentina and Chile. The landscape through the beagle channel is beautiful the entire way. It’s full of marine wildlife. We saw multiple humpback whales (video below), swimming penguins, tons of birds, and a sea lion colony! It was the perfect ending to a magical day.
If you are a lover of penguins or wildlife encounters, I recommend coming to see the penguins in Ushuaia. It’s an amazing eco-friendly way to see these incredible creatures up close in their natural habitat.
Other activities to do in Ushuaia, Argentina
Aside from the Penguins, Ushuaia has many great features about it. Ushuaia is the gateway to Antartica, and if you’re lucky you may find a last-minute discounted cruise deal there. Ushuaia is part of Patagonia and the landscapes here do not disappoint. The area is full of a number of great hikes to do like Laguna Esmeralda pictured below.
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