In 1994 the government of Chile began construction on the route to Yendegaia. Route Y-85 when completed will link the pampas of Tierra del Fuego to Yendegaia Bay on the Beagle Channel, with the ultimate goal of providing a terrestrial and ferry connection through Chile to Navarino Island. Due to tough terrain and extreme conditions the progress has been slow. In December 2017 we drove south with the goal to explore the newly constructed portions of Route Y-85, as far as we could go. What a way to inaugurate our new van-home, right?
We’ve divided our 8-day road journey through Tierra del Fuego into 5 posts:
- Part 1 - Punta Arenas to Cerro Sombrero
- Part 2 - Cerro Sombrero to Cameron
- Part 3 - Cameron to Pampa Guanaco
- Part 4 - Pampa Guanaco to Caleta Maria
- Part 5 - Porvenir
But first a little background about Tierra del Fuego.
Tierra del Fuego is the largest island in South America. The Strait of Magellan separates it from continental South America. The Beagle Channel borders it to the south. The island itself hosts two countries, the west side of the island belonging to Chile and the east to Argentina.
When you want to talk about Tierra del Fuego, you need to know the word Karukinka. Karukinka means “our land” in the language of the Selk’nam, the indigenous people of this hostile part of the world. The Selk’nam were nomadic hunters, following herds of guanaco around the island, while developing an incredible expertise in archery. Maybe you’ve seen one of their iconic pictures in books, or on handicrafts, with their bodies painted in black and white, wearing a mask with long horns. Sadly the Selk’nam were massacred during the European colonization. They are extinct, but not forgotten.
Tierra del Fuego has an incredible diversity of landscape. In the north, you will find the vast and flat Patagonian steppe. The largest concentration of people on the Chile side live between the towns of Cerro Sombrero and Porvenir. In the south the mountains are the protagonists in the D’Agostini and Yendegaia National Parks and Karukinka Natural Park. There are rivers and lakes well known for the fly fishing as well.
As an island divided between two countries, there is one side that tends to get a lot of attention. Argentina has a thriving tourist industry, especially around their famous city of Ushuaia. Maybe this series of articles will inspire you to plan your next adventure in Chilean Tierra del Fuego.