“There is nothing to see there“. “Yes, it’s precisely what we want to see“. “?” He could not get it, why should we spend 2 days on a small town where there is nothing to do? But for us, it seemed like the only way to truly discover it. Tierra del Fuego. The name inspires hectares of emptiness as far as the eye can see. Wind and desolation. After reading about the small town of Porvenir in our Lonely Planet, we were determined on exploring the place. We didn’t regret it. Adventure starts where good roads ends.
What to do in Porvenir?
It’s when the ferry arrives in Porvenir that you realize you got off the gringo trail. No buses to go to the city center, within minutes the harbour is deserted and just a few backpackers are waiting for a cab. Here is the place where the path has not been beaten by tourists yet. The all area is difficult to explore without a car. In town, there is not much to see. The tourist office is far from being crowded, a small museum has been created and you can do a self guided tour of the architecture of Porvenir. But the real thing you came for, is to soak up the atmosphere of Tierra del Fuego.
So how is Tierra del Fuego? Such an empty place…
Looking from the window of the municipal bus, nothing or almost to meet your eye, just plenty of dust from the road. Desolated is the word that comes to mind. Hundreds of square kilometers of pampa, just bushes on the horizon and sometimes an isolated tree that grew bended by the winds of Patagonia. The silence or maybe just the wind, there are not so many people living there. From time to time maybe an estancia, with dozen of lamb – the speciality of the area- running around. The white Cordillera de Darwin in the background, a few fishermen houses by the bay of Bahia Inutil.
… full of wildlife!
Here you will probably see more animals than men. In this area where many men gave up and decided to move to town, you can tell that nature finds a bit more peace.
The area is fantastic for bird watching. Even the non bird geeks will get excited about going to the small colony of kings pinguins will be the highlight of the trip. The only place where you can see them out of Antartica.
The magic is most likely to happen from the back sit: from the dirt road, you will spot many guanacos (of the family of the lamas), fox or even sea lions on the bay of Bahia Inutil. Keep also your eyes open on ferries: to Porvenir, we saw whales and during the crossing of Punta Delgada, beautiful patagonian dolphins. Tierra del Fuego is probably the region of South America where we saw the most wildlife!
You have to go there! And remember: In Tierra del Fuego, the journey matters as much as the destination.
Make it happen
Many just come for a couple of hours, or on a day tour. To experience the isolation of the island, travel independently and stay at least 1 night.
Porvenir is the most accessible of the remote destinations of Tierra del Fuego: it’s a 2h20 min ride ferry from Punta Arenas. The ferry goes back and forth daily except on Monday and costs 6200Chilean Pesos per passenger one way (more info on their website here).
To visit the King penguins colony: Company España on Croacia 699 has a minibus going to Cameron twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, passing by the King Penguin colony. It leaves at 4pm and its a 2h journey one way on a dirt road, and you get a bit more than an hour at the colony -which is enough- before catching the minibus on its way back. It will cost you 5000Chilean Pesos for the return ticket and 12000Ch Pesos for the entrance.