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461km (286 miles) SW of Punta Arenas; 594km (368 miles) S of Río Gallegos

Pinned snugly in a U-shaped cove facing the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia is a substantial metropolis of 70,000 people. Colorful clapboard houses with rickety staircases and corrugated roofs at impossible angles are punctuated by the occasional bland block of brick or concrete. All rise steeply into a backdrop of beech trees and spirelike mountain summits. Not only is it the most southerly city in the world (Chile's Puerto Williams is actually farther south, but hardly qualifies as a city), but it also has the distinction of being the only Argentine city on the other side of the Andes. At its tail end, the mountain range is dragged eastward by restless tectonic plates that rattle frequently. To reach Ushuaia by car, you must cross briefly through Chile and then cross the Andes. What you find is a frontier town with lots of character, a rich outdoor life, and a surprisingly cosmopolitan feel. One hundred years ago, the only people crazy enough to live here were convicts in chains. Indeed, the city owes its existence to the prison: Inmates built the town railway, hospital, and port. Now it attracts Argentines from all over the country, who come for tax breaks and plentiful jobs. Visitors find lots to do -- whether it's visiting that same prison, which is now a fascinating museum, or exploring the many attractions of the Beagle Channel. Local residents are welcoming and friendly, with a refreshing hardiness and eccentricity that likely come from living at the end of the world.

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