Let’s explore Puerto Williams, Chile with us – the southernmost city in the world and part of Tierra del Fuego, commonly known as “Land of Fire”.
Imagine arriving in 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 at a map. Do you see it on the map below when you zoom in?
Puerto Williams was founded in 1953 and started as a settlement is, now a small and unique city. Puerto Williams is located on Navarino Island, only about 12 km 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 travelling to South America and would like to visit a unique place, this is it.
50 insane pictures of Chile to inspire your travels
This blog post tells our story of travelling to Puerto Williams, and of course, in the end, all tips we have for you if you’d like to visit.
Puerto Williams, Chile – the 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.
This is how it went down.
After trekking in Torres del Paine National Park, we took a bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, and then a taxi to the port Tres Puntes.
The 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 to Puerto Williams and a list of all the glaciers we’ll see. Excitement levels were rising.
Ferry ride through fjords and 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.
At the beginning of our ferry ride, the weather was moody with lots of clouds and we were looking at the passing fjords. Shortly into the trip, we were served dinner and the dark night fell soon. We settled into our comfortable reclining seats and were hoping for a calm ocean and a night of good sleep.
But the ferry started rocking from side to side and I was getting nauseous. Luckily what helped me was wearing my sea bands, and the seasickness left in a few minutes.
The captain announced a slight change of the route due to bad weather conditions and 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 because the first thing he saw was sea lions jumping and racing along with the ferry. From that moment, watching sea lions were our favourite activity for the rest of the day. Sometimes we were disturbed by cooks announcing the next meal and very rarely we’ve seen a few small fishing 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 were at the end of the world. And we almost were.
Constantly checking our itinerary paid off later in the afternoon. We saw the first glacier, then the second, then the third, and then we stopped counting. Our itinerary said there are six glaciers along our route, 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.
Reaching Puerto Williams, the end of the World
Arriving at 3 am we thought we would have to camp in the port because we had no accommodation booked. Luckily, the captain let us stay on the ferry to get some sleep till the morning. Warm sun rays woke us up at 5:30 am and unloading the cargo from the ferry was still in the full swing.
The Ferry arrives once a week during the off-season and carries a lot of food and other supplies for people living on the remote Navarino island.
We took our backpacks and walked 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 because we visited outside the high season, the room was cheaper. We paid for a shared room but it ended up being private as very few people were visiting this late. Travelling off-season and to remote places paid off once again.
We had a room and the only thing that was missing this beautiful morning was breakfast. A 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. All we needed was a fresh plain pastry with a bit of butter on top, and we were in heaven.
After a short walk around town, 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.
The Teeth of Navarino Island
With pastry and beers packed in the backpack, we chose to hike the hill called Cerro La Bandera reaching 662 meters above sea level. It’s 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 all along the Beagle Channel. We were standing on the Chilean land looking at Tierra del Fuego in Argentina on the other side.
What was totally unexpected and ended up being a cherry on top was our engagement. Literally at the end of the world. Navarino Island now has an even more special meaning for us.
It was a beautiful hike ending with a picnic with not a single soul around.
With 15 km in our legs at the end of the day, we looked for a restaurant back in Puerto Williams. It was Easter and most of the places were closed. Luckily Puerto Willams is very small and after a short walk around, we found an open restaurant. They served us a delicious fresh salmon caught right in the Beagle Channel.
After our 4-day memorable visit of hiking and enjoying the slow pace of Puerto Wiliams, t was time to leave. Our schedule was dictated by the boat leaving the island to Argentina. And we still wanted to see Ushuaia and the rest of Tierra del Fuego.
Disappointment in Argentina
Argentina claimed to be the only one that 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 was about, we would have flown from Puerto Williams back to Punta Arenas.
Unfortunately, the astronomic prices of Ushuaia (and Argentina in general) convinced us to go back to Chile. Ushuaia was far above our backpacking budget and after the cozy feel of Puerto Williams, we felt uneasy walking the streets with crowds of tourists.
But we didn’t let the streets filled with fancy restaurants and souvenir shops ruined our “End of the world” experience from Puerto Williams.
Visiting Puerto Williams was a trip we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
History of Navarino Island
A little about Puerto Williams
Puerto Wiliams is located on Navarino Island along the Beagle Channel. The first name was Puerto Luisa, now it’s Puerto Williams. It’s the capital of the Chilean Antarctic Province, the southernmost region of Chile. Puerto Williams was initially just a naval base for the Chilean army, and now has a population of around 3,100 people.
Despite its small size, it’s considered a city and it’s the only inhabited place on the island (if we don’t count two small settlements). The local economy consists of the naval base, fishing and tourism. Either tourists visit Puerto Williams or continue to Cape Horn or Antarctica.
The fresh water found in Puerto Williams is the purest in the World.
Locals of the Navarino Island
The first residents of the island were the 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 when we visited due to the Easter holidays.
It’s hard to imagine people living here since 10,000 years ago. Conditions are very harsh in Tierra del Fuego. Even nowadays it’s chilly all year round with strong winds.
The tundra landscape of Navarino Island and around Ushuaia in Argentina is called the “Land of Fire”. Why? Because 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 the use of animal fat to protect their skin against the cold and the wind. This inspired the name Tierra del Fuego (in Spanish), the Land of Fire.
Interesting facts about Chile
How to visit Puerto Williams
If you read this far, I’m sure you’d like to visit Puerto Williams yourself, so we share all of our tips for your worry-free visit.
How to get to Puerto Williams
From Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams by plane
- When: daily from Monday to Saturday at 10 am
- How much: starting at 80,000 CLP/100 USD per person, one way
- How long: 1 hour
- More info: check the flights here
From Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams by Yaghan ferry
- When: weekly
- How much: 108,110 CLP/135 USD per person for a partially reclining chair (or 151,110 CLP/190 USD for a fully reclining chair), one way with all meals and drinks included
- How long: 33 hours
- More info: check the tickets here
When buying a ticket, you can choose a Pullman seat, a partially reclining chair (which we chose), or a Sofa-bed seat with a fully reclining chair. There was also a hot shower on the board which was amazing before going “to bed”.
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 several hostels/refugios for budget travellers in the city as well as a hotel, and an Ecolodge for the most comfort.
Hostel Dientes De Navarino
We stayed at Hostel Dientes De Navarino during Easter for 10,000 CLP/15 USD per person, per night including breakfast. Nowadays it costs 20,140 CLP/25 USD for a 4-bed dorm room and includes breakfast.
We enjoyed our stay here, the breakfast was always good, and the kitchen had everything we needed for cooking.
Refugio El Padrino
The camping area and hostel was named after Eduardo Mancilla Vera who was essential in helping to retain the rights of the austral islands as part of Chilean sovereignty. He’s highly admired by locals who often referred to him as el padrino (the godfather).
The uniqueness of El Padrino lies in welcoming all visitors regardless of the availability of beds. The door is always open for anyone and everyone. It has a very cozy and welcoming vibe, a true home away from home.
For availability, check out their website
Hotel Forjadores del Cabo de Hornos
A more comfortable stay with a private room, TV, private bathroom, main lounge, bikes and electric scooters offer Hotel Forjadores del Cabo de Hornos.
Errante Ecolodge, aside from a luxurious stay, provides a room view that’s hard to beat. From the huge windows that take up the entire wall, you see the beautiful nature and Beagle Channel right in front of you.
What to do in Puerto Williams / Navarino Island
Cerro La Bandera Hike
A 15 km long hike reaches the highest elevation of 662 meters above sea level. You can see “Teeth of Navarino”, Beagle Channel and Argentina across the channel. The tundra landscape of the Land of Fire is gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Dientes de Navarino/Teeth of Navarino
Also called Isla Navarino Circuit is a multi-day trek, which usually takes 4-6 days. The route is well signed but the terrain is a bit difficult to read as you hike up and down the mountain passes so if you’re not a very skilled trekker with excellent navigation skills, you can use an agency.
The trek is 53 km long and rated as moderate to difficult. The weather on Navarino Island is unpredictable year-round but the best chances of good weather are in summer from December to March.
For multi-day hikes, you need to register with local Carabineros de Chile (Chilean Police). In case you get lost and didn’t arrive back on time, they will search for you.
You can read a detailed report from Teeth of Navarino Trek here.
Usually, a 4-day trek covers a distance of 46 km as you hike south of Puerto Williams
For more info about treks, guides, buying camping equipment or renting bikes contact the local Shila agency.
Villa Ukika is located a short walk east of Puerto Williams. You can see the remains of indigenous Yaghan campsites and buy handcraft from the last Yaghan descendant who lives there.
Other activities in Puerto Williams
- Sea-kayaking or SUP in the Beagle Channel
- Mountain biking to Puerto Navarino or Puerto Eugenia
- Martin Gusinde Anthropological Museum – learn about indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego Yamana, Yaghan and Selknam
- Observe the life of fishermen bringing fresh king crabs to the shore
Cabo de Hornos
- Cabo de Hornos overflight
- Explore seaport for ships heading to Cabo de Hornos and Antarctica
Essential 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 wifi but the connection is not guaranteed to work
- Free public wifi is available at the library and museum
- 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
- For more info and contacts, visit city’s website
Amenities in Puerto Williams
- Post office
- Grocery store
- Boutique shop with outdoor clothes
- Micalvi Yacht Club
How to leave Puerto Williams
- By plane to Punta Arenas/Porvenir – starting at 80,000 CLP/100 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, the cost is 125 USD per person, one way (1-hour bus and 30 min boat)
“End of the World” debate
Who cares about the title “End of the World” debate 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 you 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.
Hope you enjoyed our travel guide, and most importantly you enjoy the visit to Puerto Williams.
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support!
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