Want to know more about the southernmost city in the world? Have you ever imagined it?
I’m glad we can show you Puerto Williams in Chile – southernmost city in the world and a part of Tierra del Fuego, commonly known as “Land of Fire”.
Just imagine you come to Ushuaia in Argentina believing you’re visiting the end of the world, only to see the lights across the Beagle channel. And when you look at the map, you’ll see that further south is another city.
And you know what? We also thought Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world until we looked very closely on the map.
Do you see it? What was founded in 1953 and started as a settlement is now a small and a unique city. Puerto Williams is located on Navarino Island, only about 12km more south than Ushuaia. A bilateral agreement between Argentina and Chile says Puerto Williams is the southernmost city in the world. Yes, you read that right. Ushuaia is only better marketed around the world.
For anyone traveling to South America and would like to visit a unique place, this is it.
Let us show you Puerto Williams in Chile – southernmost city in the world.
The end of our travels on the South American continent was reached in the southernmost city in the world – Puerto Williams in Chile. Where else could we finish our journey from north to south? It was the perfect ending, even though it took some time to get there.
After trekking in Torres del Paine national park we took a bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, and then taxi to the port Tres Puntes.
Our ferry tickets we booked two days in advance were already waiting for us. We were also given an itinerary with an approximate time of arrival and a list of all the glaciers we’ll see. Excitement levels were rising.
Ferry ride on the open ocean
We boarded the ferry in the late afternoon and made ourselves comfortable in the seats where we’ll spend the next 33 hours. I looked out of the window and a couple of dolphins were jumping right next to us. Our excitement for the journey ahead skyrocketed. We haven’t even left the port yet and I had a feeling it will be an unforgettable trip.
The dark night fell soon and we were served dinner. Our reclining seats were very comfortable and we were hoping for calm ocean and a good sleep.
The ferry started rocking from side to side and I was getting nauseous. What really helped was wearing my Seabands, seasickness left in a few minutes. And just when I thought I won’t get any sleep, the captain announced a slight change of the route due to bad weather conditions.
I could hardly close my eyes when I imagined the wildlife and glaciers we’ll see the next day.
Glaciers and countless sea lions
Michal woke me up in the morning and the first thing I saw were sea lions jumping and racing along the ferry. And from that moment watching sea lions became a thing for the whole day. Sometimes we were disturbed by cooks announcing the next meal and very rarely we’ve seen a few small boats.
We were passing hundreds of small islands all belonging to the Alberto de Agostini national park while sea lions kept jumping alongside the ferry.
I felt like we’re at the end of the world. And we almost were.
Constantly checking our itinerary paid off later in the afternoon. First glacier. Than second, than third. We stopped counting. Our itinerary says there were six of them, all crispy blue and gigantic.
When we entered the Beagle Channel, shared by Chile and Argentina, we were nearing our destination – Puerto Williams on Navarino Island.
Life at the end of the world
Arriving at 3am we thought we would have to camp in the port. Luckily the captain let us stay till the morning. Warm sun rays woke us up at 5:30am and unloading the ferry was still in the full swing.
Ferry arrives once a week during off season and carries a lot of food and other supplies for people living on this remote island.
Walking the empty streets, breathing the fresh autumn air and nothing but silence around us made us appreciate this special place and special moment – how far in the world we are. As always, we were going to make the most out of our time here.
Finding a hostel didn’t take long and what a pleasant surprise. The room was cheaper than during the high season and our shared room ended up being private. Traveling off season and to unusual places paid off once again.
Small shop on the plaza was selling fresh-from-the-oven pastry, our favourite breakfast. Chilean pastry is the best we’ve tried on both American continents. Seriously.
We stumbled upon the only tourist agency and fortunately it was open on Saturday. A lovely Chilean lady gave us a hiking map and patiently answered our questions about the area (we are less fluent in Spanish that we like to admit).
The teeth of the Navarino Island
Pastry and beers packed in the backpack; we chose to hike the hill called Cerro La Bandera (662m), a part of the multi day trek Dientes de Navarino (The teeth of Navarino).
After a short walk on the dirt road, we entered the forest and started hiking uphill. An hour later we reached the top and saw mountains The teeth of Navarino.
The clear blue sky allowed nice views along the Beagle Channel. We were standing on Chilean land looking at Tierra del Fuego in Argentina on the other side.
Cherry on top was our engagement, literally at the end of the world. Navarino Island now has even more special meaning for us. But that’s a story for another time.
Beautiful hike up ended with a picnic with no other people around.
With 15km in our legs at the end of the day we looked for a restaurant back in the city. It was Easter and most of the places were closed. But when we found one, they served us a delicious fresh salmon caught right in the Beagle Channel.
Locals of the Navarino Island
First residents of the island were indigenous people of Yaghan. They lived in Villa Ukika, just east of Puerto Williams. The last descendant of the Yaghan tribe still lives there. Her handcrafts would be a really unique souvenir but the house where she sells them was closed due to Easter holidays.
It’s hard to imagine people living here since 10,000 years ago. Conditions are very harsh in Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”). Even nowadays it’s chilly all year round with strong winds.
Interesting fact: Why is it called “Land of Fire”? When European explorers first came to this area, they saw constant burning fires on land and even in the canoes of the indigenous Yaghan people. They used to dress sparingly and walked barefoot on the snow. What kept them warm was constantly burning fire and use of animal fat to protect their skin against the cold and the wind. This inspired the name Tierra del Fuego (in Spanish), Land of Fire.
Puerto Williams was initially a naval base for Chilean army, now it has a population of around 3100. And despite its small size, it is considered a city. It’s the only inhabited place on the island, if we don’t count two small settlements. Local economy consists of the naval base, fishing and tourism.
Disappointment in Argentina
After our short but memorable visit, our schedule was dictated by the boat leaving the island to Argentina. We still wanted to see Ushuaia and the rest of Tierra del Fuego.
Argentina claimed themselves to be the only one who can transport people between Puerto Williams and Ushuaia. Therefore we paid too much money for half an hour boat ride across the channel. If we knew what Ushuaia is about, we would have fly from Puerto Williams back to Punta Arenas.
Unfortunately the astronomic prices of Ushuaia (and Argentina in general) convinced us to go back to Chile.
But we didn’t let the streets filled with tourists, gift shops and restaurants ruined our “end of the world” experience from Puerto Williams.
Another trip we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
Want to know how you can visit Puerto Williams? We’re here to help; here is everything you need to know:
Who cares about the title “End of the World” the most?
Definitely Argentina. Gift shops are lining the streets and you won’t find anything without “End of the World” on it. Ushuaia is hugely marketed that way, probably the reason why most people think there is nothing further south.
Locals in Puerto Williams don’t try to lure into their store and sell you a tour or something else. They hardly care you’re visiting their city. We got a feeling of actually living with locals the local way.
Puerto Williams also offers visitors a quiet place to enjoy the Land of Fire and a stamp in the passport that says it all: Puerto Williams – beyond the end of the world
How to get to Puerto Williams
- By plane from Punta Arenas – 90 USD per person, one way, 1h
- By ferry from Punta Arenas – 160 USD per person, one way, ~33 hours
Off season – if you’re planning to go by ferry, we recommend going from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams. If going the opposite direction, the ferry passes all the glaciers at night and you won’t see them.
High season – the ferry departs at two different times. Make sure you’re buying a ticket to the one which passes the glaciers during the day.
Where to stay in Puerto Williams
There are few hostels for budget travelers and one Eco-lodge for more comfort, check prices here
We stayed at Hostel Dientes De Navarino during Easter for 10,000CLP (15USD) per person, per night including breakfast.
What to do in Puerto Williams / Navarino Island
- Day hikes to lakes, waterfalls or to the hill Cerro La Bandera
- Multi day trek (4-5 days, 53 km) of circuit Dientes de Navarino (Isla Navarino Circuit)
- Mountain biking to Puerto Navarino or Puerto Eugenia
- Martin Gusinde Anthropological Museum – learn about indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego Yamana, Yaghan and Selknam
- Cabo de Hornos overflight
- Explore sea port for ships heading to Cabo de Hornos and Antarctica
- Walk east from Puerto Williams to see Yaghan campsites and buy a handcraft from the last Yaghan descendant
- Observe the life of fishermen bringing fresh king crabs to the shore
Basic info about Puerto Williams
- The city has an ATM, stores accept Chilean pesos only
- The bigger supermarket takes cards, we used cash everywhere else
- Every accommodation has a wifi but the connection is not guaranteed to work
- Conversational Spanish is essential
- Info about hikes, maps and hiking supplies can be found in the tourist agency Shila
- You don’t need a map of the city, everything is walking distance away
How to leave Puerto Williams
- By plane to Punta Arenas/Porvenir – 90 USD per person, one way to Punta Arenas (1h)
- By boat to Ushuaia – available to book at the tourist agency in Puerto Williams, days of departure vary on the season and number of passengers, cost is 125 USD per person, one way (1 hour bus and 30 min boat)
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