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Where to See Penguins in Ushuaia Argentina [2023]

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Penguins are my favorite animal, and it’s one of my dreams to see all 18 species of them in the wild. When I found out that you could see two types of penguins in Ushuaia Argentina, I knew I had to go.

Walking among hundreds of penguins in Argentina is one of my favorite travel experiences to date.

Short on time? This tour is the best way to see penguins in Ushuaia! You’ll get to walk among hundreds of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins on a secluded island.

Although Ushuaia is not the most accessible place to visit (it is the end of the earth after all), it is worth visiting the penguins and seeing the wild nature. It’s also the gateway to Antarctica!

This post will go over what you need to know to see penguins in Argentina and some tips for traveling around Ushuaia.

What to expect on a Walking with Penguins tour

On the tour day, I woke up so excited to see the penguins. It started with a check-in at their office at the main pier in Ushuaia, where they give you a penguin pass to get on the bus with.

Departing at 8 am, we drove for about two hours through beautiful landscapes of mountains and forests with a few stops. One was these unique trees, which have grown sideways because the wind always hits them in the same direction.

Sideways trees near Ushuaia, Argentina
Sideways trees near Ushuaia, Argentina

After another short drive, we arrived at the boat that would take us to Martillo Island where the penguins live.

They only allow 20 people on the island at a time, so the group gets split in two according to the color of your penguin pass. Thank goodness I was in the first group, as I don’t think I could have contained my excitement any longer.

Types of penguins you can see on Martillo Island

Magellanic Penguins

penguins by the bay with large wood
Penguin greeters at the start of the island

As soon as we got off the boat, you could see hundreds of penguins waiting to greet you. The majority of penguins on Isla Martillo are Magellanic penguins.

Similar to African penguins, Magellanic penguins have a black mask across their face and wide black bands at their throat. They migrate up north in the winter months, sometimes as far as Brazil.

I saw the penguins on Martillo Island in March, right before they started migrating, so they were molting their coats in preparation. So cute!

Magellanic penguins in Argentina
Adorable Magellanic penguins molting their coats before they migrate

The Magellanic penguins are curious and will come up to you, although the guides ask you to stay 3m back to help protect them. They generally breed in burrows or under bushes. It was adorable seeing them come up for their little underground burrows.

Gentoo Penguins

Gentoo penguin in Ushuaia
Adorable gentoo penguin taking a nap

Gentoo penguins are black with distinctive orange on their feet and beaks. The groups of Gentoo penguins on Martillo Island are much smaller than the Magellanic Penguins; we just saw a few of them. It was still such a treat to see these awesome-looking creatures, as the majority of the population in the world lives in the Antarctic peninsula.

And a King Penguin?!

king penguin on martillo island in ushuaia
The majestic lone king penguin

I was beyond excited and surprised to see a king penguin on Isla Martillo, as they do not advertise this. King penguins are not usually found outside the Antarctic Circle, and it’s relatively new that they’ve started appearing on the island. At the time we visited, there was just one lone king penguin.

It was so cute how the other Gentoo penguins were hanging out around him as if they were admiring him! King penguins have bright yellow and orange coloring and are similar in color and size to Emperor penguins.

After walking with the penguins, you take the boat back to the mainland and switch with the other group. While waiting, you can visit Museo Acatushun. It’s a small museum with some interesting exhibits about the local species, marine mammals, and native bird species.

Beagle Channel Navigation

The combined walking with penguins tour I did also included a gorgeous three-hour boat ride back to Ushuaia through the Beagle Channel, which divides Argentina and Chile. The landscape of the channel is stunning; I couldn’t look away for a minute without missing another beautiful scene.

Navigating the beagle channel with Piratour
Beagle Channel between Chile and Argentina

In addition to the beautiful natural landscape, the channel is full of marine wildlife. We saw multiple humpback whales, swimming penguins, many birds, and a huge sea lion colony. It was the perfect ending to a magical day.

Click here to book a beagle channel boat cruise!

If you are a lover of penguins or wildlife encounters, I recommend coming to Ushuaia to visit the penguins. It’s a fantastic eco-friendly way to see these incredible creatures up close in their natural habitat.

Other activities to do in Ushuaia, Argentina

Aside from the Penguins, Ushuaia is a stunning part of the world to explore. It’s the gateway to Antarctica, and if you’re lucky, you may find a last-minute discounted cruise deal there.

Ushuaia is part of Patagonia and the landscapes here do not disappoint. There are several great hikes to do in Ushuaia.

Find more things to do in Ushuaia

Where to stay in Ushuaia, Argentina

Budget: Staying in hostels will help reduce your overall costs in Ushuaia. I stayed at Antarctica Hostel and La Posta Hostel which are both lovely, clean places. La Posta Hostel is a little further out of town but the walk into town, which about 25 minutes, is beautiful.

Mid-range: Tierra de Leyendas has amazing reviews and looks like the coziest spot to spend a night. Ushuaia can be chilly, and it looks like a perfect place to warm up.

Luxury: If you want to pamper yourself after some trekking, Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa looks stunning. Outdoor swimming pool with views of the beagle channel? Yes, please!

Are there penguins in Argentina?

Patagonia, a stunning part of the world made up of Argentina and Chile, is home to four different types of penguin species – Magellanic, Humboldt, Gentoo, and King.

The main places to see penguins in Patagonia are Puerto Madryn near the Valdes Peninsula, Punta Arenas in Chile, and Ushuaia in Southern Argentina.

What makes a trip to Ushuaia special is the chance to walk along with several types of penguins in a group no larger than twenty people.

Where is Ushuaia Argentina?

Ushuaia is FAR South. There’s even a sign there that reads  “Fin Del Mundo”, meaning the end of the world. It’s known as the official gateway into Antarctica, although thankfully, you don’t have to go all the way there to see penguins! As remote as it is, getting to Ushuaia is not as difficult as you might think.

The easiest option is to Fly to Ushuaia. There is an international airport, located 4km south of the center of Ushuaia. There are non-stop flights from El Calafate and Buenos Aires, which connect with many other major airports around the world.

Alternatively, there are daily buses to/from Ushuaia where you can grab a bus to other parts of Patagonia. I took an 8-hour bus to Punta Arenas (Chile) to see more penguins. Some other travelers I met took a bus to El Calafate that took 24 hours. I’ve done these 24-hour buses in Argentina, and they are not that fun, but significantly cheaper than flying.

Flying into Ushuaia
Stunning views flying into Ushuaia

Best time of year to see the penguins in Ushuaia

The best time to see the penguins in Ushuaia is between November and February as this is when the population is highest. However, I was there in March and still saw many penguins!

Just get there before April, as that’s when the penguins start heading North to migrate. Penguins begin to show up on the island for the breeding season again around early October.

penguins in argentina
No shortage of penguins when I visited!

FAQ: Experience visiting Penguins in Ushuaia

How do you see penguins in Ushuaia?

To see penguins in Ushuaia, book a guided tour to Martillo Island, where you can observe Magellanic and Gentoo penguins in their natural habitat.

Can you walk with penguins in Argentina?

Yes, in Argentina, you can walk with penguins on Martillo Island near Ushuaia, offering a close-up, eco-friendly experience with these fascinating birds.

What is the best time of year to go to Penguin Island?

The best time to visit Penguin Island in Ushuaia is between November and February, when the penguin population is at its peak.

How long does it take to walk around Penguin Island?

Walking around Penguin Island typically takes about an hour, allowing visitors to observe and enjoy the penguins without disturbing their natural behavior.

Are there toilets on Penguin Island?

No, there are no toilets on Penguin Island to maintain its natural environment; facilities are available before and after the tour.

Can you stay overnight on Penguin Island?

No, overnight stays are not permitted on Penguin Island to protect the penguins and their habitat.

What time of day do penguins come ashore?

Penguins typically come ashore in the early morning or late afternoon, especially during feeding times or when returning from the sea.

What is unique about Ushuaia?

Ushuaia’s uniqueness lies in its breathtaking natural beauty, status as the world’s southernmost city, and its proximity to diverse wildlife, including penguins, making it a must-visit destination for nature and adventure enthusiasts.

How many days should I stay in Ushuaia?

A stay of at least three to four days is recommended in Ushuaia to fully experience its unique wildlife, scenic hikes, and cultural attractions, including a visit to the penguin colonies on Martillo Island.

Is Ushuaia worth a visit?

Absolutely, Ushuaia is worth a visit for its stunning landscapes, unique wildlife experiences, and status as the southernmost city in the world, offering a gateway to Antarctica.

Final thoughts: Seeing Penguins in Ushuaia

From the intimate experience of walking alongside the charming Magellanic and Gentoo penguins on Martillo Island to exploring the breathtaking landscapes of Ushuaia, every moment here is a blend of adventure and awe.

Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a unique travel experience, Ushuaia promises memories that will last a lifetime.

Ushuaia isn’t just a destination; it’s a journey into the heart of nature’s wonders! 🐧✨


  • Lora Pope

    Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country in the world and pet as many dogs as she can along the way. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled to 70+ countries and six continents solo. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home and enjoys ending each day with sunset and tacos on the beach.

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  1. Gunny says:

    Hi Lora,
    Thank you for the nice writeup. I will be completing my camping/treking adventure in El Chalten in mid-Feb ’23. I have only 5 days to spend. If I take the bus, will be spending 2 days in the bus. The only reason for me to take the bus is to stop in Punta Arenas. Given the limited time and time takes to reach places, I am planning to ditch PA and spend more time in Ushuaia. #1. What am I missing by not going to PA..? #2. I will be spending 4 days in Ushuaia…is it too long? Thanks in advance

  2. […] NOTE | The Peninsula Valdes, while the best place to see Argentina wildlife, is actually not the only place you can see penguins in Argentina! If you’re continuing your trip through Patagonia, you can also see penguins in Ushuaia. […]

  3. […] I came to Ushuaia to walk with the penguins, I stayed for the […]

  4. Paul Kullman says:

    We will be in Ushuaia for only 9 hours arriving at 8:10 am on May 24 th and leaving at 5:05pm. How can we see penguins?
    Please write me at
    Paul Kullman

    • lora says:

      Hi Paul,

      The Piratour penguin tour I did leaves at 9 and takes 8-9 hours so I don’t think you would have enough time. I believe you can only visit Martillo Island with a tour company so I would contact Piratour directly to see if you can make it work with your timeframe. Hope you can see the penguins!

  5. […] main reason I traveled to Ushuaia was to walk among thousands of penguins, a lifelong dream of mine. The penguins live on Martillo Island which is only accessible by […]

  6. […] not the best for an up close experience with the penguins as opposed to the tour I did in Ushuaia. They do have some telescopes at the viewing area you can look through to get a better view of the […]

  7. […] originally came to Ushuaia to see the penguins but stayed for the hiking, given the gorgeous nature surrounding the city. Ushuaia has some […]