Argentina - Provincia de Tierra del Fuego

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Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, and South Atlantic Islands (Spanish: Provincia de Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur) is a province entirely separated by the Strait of Magellan from mainland Argentina on the Isla Grande of Tierra del Fuego, which it shares with Chile to the west. Besides the Argentine part of Tierra del Fuego, the province encompasses Argentine claims to Antarctica, and to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which are administered by the United Kingdom. The province is usually called just "Tierra del Fuego" partly because it is mostly comprised of that island's eastern half and partly because is just shorter. Argentines refer to the Falkland Islands by their Spanish name Islas Malvinas (itself a translation of French Malouines, (i.e. "of Saint-Malo", referring to the place of origin of many of the early whalers and sailors that frequented the archipelago). This is often a sensitive point since in Argentina the name Falklands is not viewed as a translation but as a reassertion of United Kingdom's sovereignty over the territory.


* 1 History
* 2 Geography and climate
o 2.1 Tierra del Fuego Island
o 2.2 Argentine Antarctica
o 2.3 Islands of the South Atlantic
* 3 Economy


The youngest of the Argentine provinces was first inhabited around 12,000 years ago. When the first Europeans arrived, they encountered a population of about 10,000 indigenous people belonging to four different tribes: Yamana, Alakaluf, Selk'nam and Manek'enk (Haush). Within fifty years after discovery, only about 350 natives remained after diseases and exploitation ravaged their tribes. The provincial capital city is Ushuaia, from a native word meaning "bay towards the end".

The territory was discovered in 1520 by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan, who named the place first Land of Smokes and later Land of Fire, as he saw what were probably the fires produced by the local aborigines for heat.

Juan de Alderete in 1555 and later Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa intended to found settlements in the area, but the inclemency of the weather and the constant attacks of British pirates, who took Sarmiento de Gamboa prisoner, frustrated their ambitions.

Spanish, Dutch, British and French explorers ventured on Tierra del Fuego island and the nearby seas. Gabriel de Castilla passed through before discovering the Antarctica, while Fitz Roy, and Charles Darwin explored this land and other parts of Patagonia.

In 1820 Argentina established a penal colony at Puerto Soledad on the Falkland Islands, but the British 1833 invasion of the Falkland Islands forced governor Luis Vernet and the inhabitants of Puerto Soledad off the island.

Luis Piedrabuena installed a base in San Juan de Salvamento on Isla de los Estados island. After accepting Argentine sovereignty, the Briton Thomas Bridges founded an Anglican mission in Ushuaia in 1870, and shortly thereafter Salesians missioneraries founded Río Grande.

In 1884 the Government of Tierra del Fuego was created, which already included an section of Antarctica, and the Islands of the Southern Atlantic. During this time, the meridian 68 36'38 was defined as the boundary between the Chilean and the Argentine sides of the island.

The southern part of the Beagle Channel was an issue of conflict between both states, specially regarding three small islands: Picton, Lennox and Nueva, which were given to Chile by decision of the mediating British Crown and revised by Pope John Paul II.

When the crews of sailing-ships told of the notoriously dangerous voyage round the tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego became a byword in Europe for an inhospitable land, where life would be impossibly harsh for settlers. In reality however, it is by no means the most sparsely populated province of Argentina, as Europeans often assume. Its population density of 4.75/ km² is in fact higher then five other provinces, due to various waves of immigration.

Gold fever started in Tierra del Fuego around 1883. Many Croatians from the Dalmatian coast arrived to these lands in search of gold. The rush for gold brought with it some progress such as the telegraph in addition to a wave of immigrants. Although by 1910 the gold fever had died along with the exhaustion of the precious metal's sources, most of the pioneers stayed.

With the creation of the Gobernación Marítima de Tierra del Fuego in 1943, construction of naval bases began in Ushuaia and Río Grande, as well as an airport and other infrastructure. This brought a significant number of immigrants from Argentina and other countries.

It was not before 1990 that the Territorio Nacional de la Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur was declared a province, and receiving its first governor 2 years later.

Geography and climate

The province can be geographically divided into 3 distinct areas: the Tierra del Fuego island, the Argentine Antarctica, and the Islands of the South Atlantic.

Tierra del Fuego Island

There are low mountains and sandy beaches at the north of the island, ascending to the south. The north is somewhat similar to the steppe of the Santa Cruz Province. In the middle of the island, the end of the Andes mountain system runs horizontally, and its highest peak, Mount Cornú, rises only 1490 meters. There are a number of short rivers (Grande, Moneta, Ona, Lasifashaj, etc.), and due to the low temperature, there are many small glaciers that descend towards the sea. The annual average temperature of the island is 5.3 ºC, with precipitation of 300 mm in the north and 550 mm in the south.

Argentine Antarctica

The part of Antarctica claimed by Argentina is formed by a long peninsula, and a gulf of which half remains frozen all year round. The highest peak of this section of the continent is Monte Chiriguano, at 3360 meters. The weather is normally cold and windy.

Islands of the South Atlantic

Most of the islands of the Southern Atlantic present a more humid climate, except for the Falkland Islands. For instance, the Año Nuevo and Isla de los Estados islands have a dense vegetation of low forests of lenga and ñire. An arid steppe covers the Falkland Islands, which receive less precipitation than other islands closer to the continent, and is constantly swept by strong winds. The South Orkney Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are also part of the South Atlantic Islands, and they are colder than the others, because of the big distances to the continent.


The province of Tierra del Fuego benefits from certain tax benefits that support industry and immigration to less populated areas.

In addition, it is one of the most prosperous provinces in Argentina, in terms of standard of living, after the autonomous city of Buenos Aires, and the province of Santa Cruz.

Recently, in the city of Río Grande, many international and Argentine companies, most notably the Korean company Samsung and the Argentine company Teltron, have installed factories that produce high-definition televisions (HDTV), mass production of CD-ROM-related articles, and low-cost GSM cell phones built mainly from Argentine components.

Sheep are still the main source of wool, meat and leather throughout the province except for Argentine Antarctica, where there are no commercial enterprises.

A number of factories have opened on Tierra del Fuego Island to take advantage of the tax benefits legislated in 1972, mainly of home appliances and electronics.

Hydrocarbons are extracted on Tierra del Fuego Island, and some companies have been searching extraction points, not only in the Falkland Islands but also in the waters between the islands and the American continent.

Tourism is gaining importance on Tierra del Fuego island, and the region offers mountains, glaciers, forests, fast rivers, waterfalls, a ski centre, and the sea, all within short distances. Both Jules Verne and Darwin were fascinated by the beauties of the island. The most visited destinations include Ushuaia, the Tierra del Fuego National Park, Fagnano Lake, Museum of the End of the World, Les Eclaireus lighthouse, the old jail, and the Isla de los Estados.

The Argentine Antarctica started receiving tourists a short time ago. Tourists can see wildlife at the Argentine Marambio Base during the summer.

The Falkland Islands gained notoriety after the Falkland War, but very few tourists adventure to the islands.




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