The Beagle Channel
This stretch of water connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans along 240 km full of incredible landscapes. It’s shared between Argentina and Chile, and it separates Tierra del Fuego from the Chilean Fjords and other southern islands. You can visit it through short navigations, or onboard one of the Cruises from Ushuaia such as the Australis one.
History of the Beagle Channel
This channel gained its name out of the “HMS Beagle”, a ship where traveled Captain Fitz Roy and Charles Darwin in 1833 during his expeditions. Another way to call it is “Onashaga”, which in Yagan means “the channel of the hunters”.
The Yaganes (a.k.a. Yámanas) were one of the different native peoples that lived in Tierra del Fuego. Actually, the name “Tierra del Fuego” has its origins in the first European expeditions, when they saw bonfires on the shores (made by the natives).
Nowadays, this channel is one of the natural borders between Argentina and Chile. However, the sovereignty of its islands was in dispute, and the conflict escalated in such a way that it almost leads to war (1970’s). Fortunately, after the intermediation of Pope Juan Pablo II, both countries reached an agreement and they signed the “Peace & Friendship” treaty in 1984.
Attractions on the Beagle Channel (and how to visit them)
There are several attractions to visit, and different things to do. The most popular activities could be divided into short and long navigations.
Most of them start from the city of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego. The most traditional excursion takes half a day (or less). It departs from the touristic pier of the city, and it passes by some of the islands such as Bridgets, Lobos & Pájaros, and the one where is located the famous Les Eclaireurs lighthouse.
There are tour boats of different sizes, from catamarans up to 180 people, to Yachts and small-boutique embarkations. In some cases, people can walk on the Bridget islands. During this navigation, wildlife such as sea lions and different birds, are part of the landscape, same as the beautiful views of the city from the sea, or the natural postcard made by the picturesque Lighthouse.
Other short navigation connects Estancia Harberton (90 km east from Ushuaia) with Martillo Island. This island is home to a penguin colony with thousands of Magellan and Gentoo Penguins. Sometimes, there are even some King Pinguins roaming around. Tourists cross from Harberton to the island in a zodiac (some minutes), walk among the penguins for about one hour, and then return to the Estancia.
There are also full navigations, which combine the half-day traditional one, with the penguin rookery at Isla Martillo.
Besides those two, there are other experiences such as fishing and cooking your own spider crab at a fisherman’s village, or crossing to Puerto Williams. Until now, Ushuaia (Argentina) was the southernmost city in the world. Now, this title belongs to Puerto Williams (Chile), which is a very small city on the opposite side of the Beagle Channel, and gate to different types of adventure.
Eventually, Orcas and Humpback Whales are part of the landscape.
The most iconic long navigation along the Beagle Channel is the one that goes from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas (and vice versa). This navigation is onboard the modern cruise “Australis”, takes 4 nights, and includes on its itinerary other destinations such as Cape Horn and other parts of the Chilean Fjords.
Regarding the Beagle, the great advantage is that allows you to navigate on its western side (Chile), through pristine waters and near attractions such as the Glaciers Alley and the Pia Glacier. The Glaciers Alley, also known as Glaciers Avenue, is a consecution of various tidewater glaciers creating a magic atmosphere.
There is another awesome navigation that goes beyond its easternmost side, crossing the strait Le Maire toward the legendary Isla de los Estados (Argentina / Atlantic Ocean). This island with fjords and scarped mountains is the place where was located the real lighthouse that inspired Julius Verne in his book “the lighthouse at the end of the World”.
A new lighthouse was built in the same place. The only way to reach is through a private expedition, it takes a few days, and you may see incredible wildlife of life such as king penguins and humpback whales.
Last but not least, the Antarctica Cruises navigate across the Beagle Channel, providing as well beautiful views of it.
Finding your path
We’re local travel experts who offer custom tours in Argentina and Chile. If you’re planning to visit the Beagle Channel, we would love to hear about your plans and help you find the right navigation for you. From an idyllic Patagonia Honeymoon to a family trip or any other kind of inspiring journey!