This is the end of the world. It's a place cut off from everywhere else, facing south toward the stormy waters of the Drake Passage, Cape Horn, and ultimately, Antarctica. It's a magical and alluring location that continues to draw tourists. Four hundred years have passed since Ferdinand Magellan cast his eyes on the dark headlands, silver shores, and craggy peaks of Tierra del Fuego. As he sailed past, flames blazed in the darkness along the coastline -- bonfires lit by the Yamanas tribe -- inspiring him to name the place "Land of Fire." Since then, this wind-swept island, washed by the Magellan straits to the north and Beagle Channel to the south, has witnessed a rich parade of shipwrecks, penal colonies, gold prospectors, and missionaries. The Yamanas have disappeared, but Chile and Argentina have repopulated the area, while conducting a bad-tempered tug of war over its icy inlets and penguin-populated rocks. This wild, romantic island is now divided in two: Argentina controls the lower eastern coast, and the rest belongs to Chile.
Vast sheep estancias (ranch farms) to the north cover a rolling tundra of brown furze and isolated farmhouses. Here the wide, meandering Río Grande holds the biggest sea brown trout in the world, making it a mecca for fly fishers. Farther south, the land rises into forests of beech trees and wind-chopped lakes. The snow-flecked summits of the Andes give way to the bustling pioneer town of Ushuaia. Here you'll find an eclectic mix of resettled Argentines and silver-haired European and American baby boomers stopping off on cruises bound for Antarctica.
They also come for rich coastal wildlife, stunning views, the best seafood in Argentina, and off-season skiing beneath hanging glaciers.
Just when you think you can go no farther, you remember that another continent lies farther south. If you're lucky enough to have Antarctica as your final destination, it's from Ushuaia that you get there.