Tierra del Fuego is a common name for the series of isles in the southernmost end of the South America continent. The name is Spanish, it means “The land of fires”.
Contrary to popular belief, this name wasn’t inspired by the volcanic activity in this region. Indeed, there are plenty of volcanos on the archipelago, the Andean Volcanic Belt starts there. But those fires came from the people who lived there—the Yaghans. When the Spanish explorers first came to the shore of the Strait of Magellan, which is dividing isles from the South American continent, they saw the campfires of Yaghan tribes on the other shore. Thus came a name—Land of Fires.
But first, the land was discover by the famous Ferdinand Magellan, who has found the way from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific and gave it his name.
Today Tierra del Fuego is divided half by half between Argentina and Chile. The climate in this area is pretty rough since it’s not that far from the South Pole. Not much people are living there constantly. There are only two major cities: Ushuaia is on the Argentinian side is counting less than 57 thousands of denizens. This is the southernmost city on Earth.
On the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego there is a population of 154 thousands Punta Arenas. It is located a little bit more to the north than the Ushuaia. The climate is pretty much the same with the strong winds and freezing temperatures half of the year, in Southern Hemisphere’s Winter. The local Summer doesn’t bring a lot of heat either—no more than 20 degrees centigrade on the hottest days there.
The southernmost city world record is held by Argentina, but the southernmost village is a Chilean one—less than three thousand people live in Puerto Williams constantly, but they are proud to be the people permanently living closer to the South Pole than anyone else.
After the Panama Canal was built more than a hundred years ago, the cargo ships sail from Atlantic to Pacific and back though it saving sometimes almost a month worth of time. Only cruise ships and scientific vessels are sailing through the Strait of Magellan these days. It’s enough to feed the economy of Tierra del Fuego.
Nine months a year the cruise ships spill thousands of tourists attracted to this picturesque lands, with its unique untouched sub polar landscapes.
Most of the area of the largest island of the archipelago—Isla Grande—and most of the smaller isles are protected. Here, on Isla Grande, on the Argentinian side of the isle, you can visit the southernmost National Park in the world. Its waterfalls, rocks and meager landscapes are giving home for surprisingly rich and diverse subantarctic wildlife.
On the Chilean side, in Punta Arenas, you can visit the southernmost museum of natural history. The center of the exposition and the main attraction of which is the full size replica of the Nao Victoria—the ship Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the world on five hundreds years ago.