Can I see penguins in Ushuaia?

Walk with penguins on Martillo Island

Yes, it is possible to see penguins in Ushuaia, but it’s important to note that the city itself is not known for being a natural habitat for penguins. However, in areas near Ushuaia, such as the Beagle Channel and surrounding islands, penguin colonies can be found.

Some boat excursions offer the opportunity to visit these penguin colonies during certain times of the year, especially in the spring and summer months. During these excursions, it’s possible to spot penguins in their natural habitat, as well as other species of marine wildlife.

It’s important to research and plan in advance if you want to see penguins in Ushuaia, as excursions may vary in availability depending on the season and demand.


Penguins in the Beagle Channel

If you visit the End of the World, a fantastic activity is to observe the remarkable penguins. We boast three different penguin species in Tierra del Fuego. Of course, there are the Magellanic penguins, along with the King Penguins and the Gentoo Penguins.

Magellanic penguins are primarily black with white stripes around their heads and wings. Gentoo penguins display solid black and white colors, with distinctive orange feet and beaks. The King penguin exhibits a sleek grey and yellow appearance similar to that of the Emperor penguin, albeit slightly smaller in stature.

All of these species migrate to the island of Tierra del Fuego for breeding, which takes place during early spring and summer, starting in early October. Young penguins can be observed throughout the summer, up until February, which coincides with the best time to book a Patagonia trip due to the favorable weather in this southern region.

There are numerous exciting activities to partake in from Ushuaia, allowing you to observe these remarkable creatures that are characteristic of the Southern Hemisphere. Check out some of them below:

Penguins in the Beagle Channel, Martillo Island

Beagle Channel Navigation with Martillo Island Penguin Reserve

The excursion to Martillo Island in Ushuaia offers a captivating adventure filled with natural beauty and wildlife encounters. Located in the Beagle Channel, Martillo Island is renowned for its large colony of penguins, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.

The excursion typically begins with a pickup from your accommodation in Ushuaia or from a designated meeting point. From there, you’ll embark on a scenic boat ride along the Beagle Channel, taking in the stunning coastal landscapes and passing by other notable attractions such as Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse and Bird Island, where you may spot imperial cormorants.

As you approach Martillo Island, anticipation builds as you catch your first glimpse of the penguin colony. Upon arrival, you’ll have the opportunity to observe these fascinating birds in their natural habitat. Martillo Island is home to three species of penguins: Magellanic, Gentoo, and occasionally, King penguins. Watching these charismatic creatures waddle, swim, and interact with each other is a truly memorable experience.

Throughout the excursion, knowledgeable guides provide valuable insights into the behavior, biology, and conservation efforts related to the penguin colony. They’ll share interesting facts about the different penguin species, their breeding habits, and the challenges they face in their environment.

After spending quality time observing the penguins and capturing photos, the boat ride back to Ushuaia offers another opportunity to soak in the breathtaking scenery of the Beagle Channel and its surrounding landscapes.

Martillo Island: Walk with Penguins!

Embark on a unique journey with penguins on Martillo Island. The adventure commences with a pick-up from Ushuaia’s commercial dock. We’ll sail northeast along the Beagle Channel for approximately two and a half hours. Along the way, we’ll marvel at the various islands hosting colonies of sea lions. Witness the majestic imperial cormorants at Bird Island and catch sight of Argentina’s southernmost lighthouse, Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. Continuing our voyage, we’ll arrive at Harberton Ranch, an estancia where we’ll transfer to a zodiac for a 15-minute sail to Martillo Island.

Guided by an expert, we’ll spend 30 minutes on the island, encountering the Magellanic penguins that inhabit the area year-round. Throughout the excursion, our knowledgeable guide will provide insights into the local wildlife and ensure adherence to island regulations. It’s an unforgettable experience, as these creatures are incredibly serene.

The program commences at 2 pm and lasts approximately 7 hours.


Visit Gable Island in canoes, to see penguins

Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, sits on the southern shores of Tierra del Fuego Island, serving as the gateway to various incredible attractions. From the renowned Tierra del Fuego National Park to navigating the Beagle Channel, engaging in trekking activities, experiencing the fascinating Train of the End of the World, and embarking on breathtaking cruises to Cape Horn or Antarctica, there’s no shortage of adventure.

Among these attractions is the opportunity to encounter penguins, adding an extra layer of excitement to your journey. One such activity is the Canoeing to Gable Island and Penguin Colony excursion.

Gable Island offers everything tourists seek in Tierra del Fuego: rugged wilderness, diverse fauna, and terrain ideal for exploration, making it a highly coveted destination worldwide. What sets this excursion apart is the combination of two unique activities: paddling canoes on the Beagle Channel and visiting the Martillo Island penguin colony.

This excursion is dynamic and comprehensive, offering a full-day immersion into the wonders of Tierra del Fuego. Starting from Ushuaia, we’ll travel eastward on National Route No. 3 and then onto the “J” route. Upon reaching the Lasifashaj River, preparations will commence for paddling inflatable canoes along the river and the Beagle Channel.

We’ll pay homage to the original peoples of the region, who navigated these waters in canoes, embracing a nomadic way of life. Those opting out of the canoe journey can rejoin the group at the end of the rowing section to continue the adventure together.

Following the canoeing experience, we’ll arrive at the historic Harberton Estancia, the first settlement in Tierra del Fuego, founded in 1886. From there, we’ll embark on a motorboat journey toward Yécapasela Island, known as Martillo Island, where a vast penguin colony awaits. With over 3,000 pairs of Magellanic penguins, Papuan penguin couples, and over 100 pairs of rocky cormorants, it’s a sight to behold.

Continuing our motorboat voyage, we’ll head to the main attraction: Gable Island. Here, a delightful hot lunch awaits, accompanied by fine Patagonian wine, soft drinks, and mineral water. Afterward, an interpretive walk through the island’s natural surroundings offers insights into the local environment, including giant beaver dams and Magellanic forests teeming with lenga and ñire trees.

Along the way, we’ll encounter traces of the Yámana families who once inhabited the area alongside Anglican missionaries. Finally, we’ll follow the coastline back to Puerto Harberton, where a bus will take us back to Ushuaia, concluding an unforgettable day of exploration and adventure in the southernmost reaches of the world.


What species of penguins can we find in Ushuaia?

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) are two distinct species of penguins, each with unique characteristics and habitats. Here are some key differences between them:

Gentoo penguins are easily distinguishable by their bright orange-red beaks and feet, as well as a white patch around their eyes that extends to the top of their heads. They have a white belly and a black back, with a distinctive wide white stripe across their heads.
Magellanic penguins have a predominantly black back with a white belly and chest. They have two black bands across their chest and their heads are black with a white stripe running from their eyes to their throat.
Gentoo penguins are larger than Magellanic penguins. They typically measure around 51 to 90 centimeters (20 to 35 inches) in height and weigh between 5 and 8 kilograms (11 to 18 pounds).
Magellanic penguins are smaller, measuring around 61 to 76 centimeters (24 to 30 inches) in height and weighing between 3 and 6 kilograms (6.6 to 13.2 pounds).
Gentoo penguins prefer to breed on sub-Antarctic islands, including the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands. They typically nest in open areas with rocky or sandy substrate.
Magellanic penguins breed along the coasts of Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands, primarily on burrows dug into sandy or grassy areas.
Gentoo penguins are known for their curious and energetic nature. They are excellent swimmers and can dive to depths of up to 200 meters (660 feet) in search of food.
Magellanic penguins are known for their strong nesting instincts and are often found in large breeding colonies. They are skilled swimmers but tend to stay closer to shore compared to Gentoo penguins.
Finally, both Gentoo and Magellanic penguins primarily feed on fish, krill, and squid. However, Gentoo penguins tend to favor larger prey items and may consume more krill compared to Magellanic penguins.

Gentoo Penguins and Magellanic Penguins in Ushuaia

Can I see King Penguins in Ushuaia?

Yes, few years ago, a couple of King Penguins arrived to the Martillo Island, so you can see them there. It´s just a couple right now, but the colony can grow soon. They are recognizable by their large size, with predominantly gray and white plumage on the belly, as well as an orange patch on the upper chest



Picture of Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in travel market, as Sales & Marketing Manager in RipioTurismo, Marketing Manager in Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

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