Begin the New Year at the End of the World with Chocolate in Ushuaia. Turn your snow-globe into summer at the southern end of the world, where it is summer from November to February. Cruises around South America, in what passes for winter months in the northern hemisphere, are so popular that more cruise lines are committing more ships to itineraries around the Horn in December to January each year. Cabins book up quickly.
In 2019, Cruise through History will take followers from the southernmost to the northernmost cities of the world. In January to February, we cruised around the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile, experiencing breathtaking scenery of glaciers and green fjords. This is the story land of Magellan, Darwin, the rouge Sir Francis Drake, gauchos and dreamers of Patagonia.
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. It sits on the southern border of Argentina, on the edge of Tierra del Fuego National Park. Captain FitzRoy of the Beagle came by in 1833, with Darwin on board. FitzRoy named the channel he discovered for his boat the Beagle and went on to map the windy, icy wilderness for his bosses back at the British Maritime Office. FitzRoy gave mariners maps and portable barometric pressure gauges to predict sudden changes in weather. A critical item in this part of the world. He gave the rest of us a great spot to connect with civilization amid the beautiful but barren fjords of South America.
Today Ushuaia is filled with stores catering to hikers off to the Patagonian wilderness, trekkers off to Antarctica and chocolate lovers coming in from cruise ships. The small town has two main streets, Avenue Maipú along the harbor, is filling in with seafood restaurants adored by locals and short time visitors. The main business street, Avenue San Martin, named for the brilliant liberator of Chile, is as lively today as it was prior to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1914, when Ushuaia was a regional port, servicing ships sailing around Cape Horn.
Upscale outdoor gear dominating the shops has not made Ushuaia trendy. The city has retained its funky appeal. The tourist museum fronts as a jail, with characters in the midst of jail-breaking climbing down walls. The popular crab restaurant, Freddy’s, still has a giant red crab on the tin roof, although he is looking a bit weather beaten. Hard Rock Ushuaia offers $30 hamburgers. Further down Avenue San Martin, where hostels house hikers, there is ample, good, cheap eating.
Ushuaia is too small for a proliferation of boutique beer breweries. The number of coffee spots and small restaurants is growing, such as Balcarce, mostly frequented by locals; practical and frugal. For cruise travelers coming in for the day, and stopping in town between the ship and a cruise around the bay, or a trip on the End of the World Railway, the ideal way to pause for a bit with locals is to have coffee in a chocolate shop on Avenue San Martin.
In a quarter mile of main street, there are about six chocolate shops, two which serve great coffee and treats decadent enough to throw your glucose level overboard. Two of my coffee/chocolate favorites are: Laguna Negra, located mid-block, and Ovejitas de la Patagonia located at the end of the up-town shopping area in a little historic building.
Additional great stops for chocolate on Avenue San Martin are: Chocolates del Tourista, Hönecker Chocolates, and Tante Sara Pasteleria and Confitería. For an end of the world chocolate experience to rival anywhere in the world, turn away from the water on Avenue San Martin at Luis Piedrabuena and walk up two short blocks to Chocolate Edelweiss.
Chocolate from the end of the world is the perfect souvenir gift. Light and unbreakable in transit, everyone loves chocolate. Drinking hot-chocolate on a summer day in December in Ushuaia is a memorable experience.
To read all the stories of South America, find Cruise through History, Itinerary IX Ports of South America on Amazon.com. Follow this blog as we travel north to south and around the world in 2019 and 2020.
See the stories of Australia in Cruise through History, Itinerary XIV, coming soon.