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The fire in Tierra del Fuego's name is a cruel irony - the island is the gateway to one of the coldest and most remote locations on Earth. Antarctica is a mere boat ride away, but travelers will first want to take a tour of Chile's most mesmerizing island.
An explorer's playground
Many ships have passed by Tierra del Fuego, among them Magellan, who lent his name to the deadly passage around South America's Cape Horn. Sailors passing around through the Strait of Magellan also gave name to the island that comprises the cape - spotting campfires of the native Yamana people, they dubbed it the Land of Fire, according to Lonely Planet.
It is not fire that awaits travelers to the island, but frigid waters and wondrous parks. The Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego is a diverse terrain laden with peat bogs, wild cherry forests, and massive glaciers.
Though Tierra del Fuego is surrounded by rough seas, the island itself offers quiet lakeside retreats. Algae lining the bottom of Laguna Verde give this body of water its iridescent green glow, while Lago Roca sits like a secret in the center of a ring of mountains. Anyone looking to brave a small boat ride can leave from Bahia Ensenada Isla Redondeada to walk through a rich wildlife refuge.
Glaciar Martial is a detour both far and high. From the nearest town, it is a 4-mile trek along Glacier Road, according to Fodor's. Travelers then take a ski lift to the glacier itself. The relaxed aerial sightseeing, however, is short-lived. Once on the mountain, a steep 90-minute hike leads over lichen and shale for a half-mile. The scene atop the mountain is is reward for the labor, with uninterrupted views of the glacier, valley and channel.
Entrance to the unknown
Tierra del Fuego is home to the southernmost city in the world, and while there is plenty to explore in Ushuaia, it is also the crossroads for travelers looking to move to depart for the great beyond. The Drake Passage is a deadly and rough sea, but crossing it brings travelers to the shores of the Antarctic peninsula. Cruises will skirt the continent and the iconic wildlife that populates it, among them seals, penguins, whales and seabirds.
Those who do not want to spend the money or the time heading farther south can still get a cruise experience by turning their sights toward Argentina, which also provides the opportunity for memorable adventure.
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