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Vast pampas, fjords, channels, and unexplored mountains make up this unique territory once traveled via land by the Selknam people and via water by the Yámanas people. Yendegaia means «Deep Bay» in the Yagan language. This park in Tierra del Fuego, declared a Biosphere Reserve, was formed thanks to the donation of more than 93,900 acres by the Yendegaia Foundation, led by Douglas and Kristine Tompkins, as well as the incorporation of more than 274,287 acres of parklands by the Chilean government. The Darwin Range and Lake Fagnano frame its pristine landscapes, showcasing this area of incomparable beauty nestled at the very edge of the world.
Six different trees can be found in the sub-Antarctic forests: Ñirre, Canelo, Leña Dura, Notro, Lenga, and Coigüe Magallánico. At 1640 feet above sea level, these trees begin to grow short and squat, bracing themselves against the region’s strong winds. Different types of Moss and Bryophytes grow in the peatlands, and in spring you can find delicate Orchids in the park, such as the Palomita. Murtilla, Frutilla de Magallanes (Magellanic Strawberry), Calafate (Magellan Barberry), Mata Negra, and Chaura can also be spotted in the park, as well as Yareta, a cushion plant that grows in the high passes.
Yendegaia National Park is home to several threatened species, including the Zorro Culpeo de Tierra del Fuego, the Huillín (Southern River Otter), and the Canquén Colorado (Ruddy-Headed Goose). This habitat is also home to 49 land and marine birds, including the Bandurria, the Pidén Austral, the Condor, and––in the forests––Comesebos, Rayaditos, Cachañas (Austral Parakeets), and Magellanic Woodpeckers. Guanacos can frequently be spotted on the pampas, as can Tucus. South American Fur Seals, Chungungos (Marine Otters), Toninas Overas, Minke Whales, Southern Right Whales, Orcas, and Sperm Whales also inhabit the park’s coasts.
The first inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego were the Selknam, who were excellent warriors, experienced hunters, experts in trail-finding, and among the continent’s tallest native peoples, with an average height of 5 feet, 11 inches. Their main source of food was the Guanaco, which they hunted with their bows and arrows. During an initiation ritual called Hain, the Selknam skillfully painted their bodies and wore tree bark masks, symbolizing forest demons. Another group, the Haush people, lived in the Mitre Peninsula and spoke a language different from the Selknam’s. The Haush were expert climbers and, at nighttime, used leather ropes to sneak along the tall cliffs and catch sleeping birds by surprise. Little is known about the Haush; by the beginning of the 20th century, they had mostly disappeared from the territory. In 2018, the first and thus far only cave paintings in the area were found on the island of Tierra del Fuego, in the Ponsomby Sound. The paintings date back to the 16th century and belonged to the Yámana people, fishermen and gatherers who sailed along the shores of Tierra del Fuego in canoes made from Coigüe bark.
Yendegaia Bay is 311 miles south of Punta Arenas. As of right now, the nearest place accessible by land is 9 miles south of Lake Fagnano; the park itself does not have land access at this time. Chile’s Military Workforce and Ministry of Public Works are currently building a road that will connect Lake Fagnano and Yendegaia Bay (Caleta 2 de Mayo) and will permit land access to the park along Route 7. From there, you will be able to take a ferry connecting Tierra del Fuego to Puerto Williams, a voyage of around 4 hours (substantially shorter than the current voyage from Punta Arenas, which takes 36 hours).
At Tres Puentes, 3 miles from Punta Arenas, you can cross the Strait of Magellan and arrive at Porvenir, a voyage of around 2 hours.
You can also cross the strait at Punta Delgada, 106 miles from Punta Arenas along Route CH-255. This voyage takes around 20 minutes and stops at Cerro Sombrero.
In the near future, a ferry called Aunashaka («Onas Channel» in the Selknam language) will offer regular trips from Caleta 2 de Mayo in Yendegaia Bay to Isla Navarino, a voyage of around 4 hours.
Punta Arenas is the nearest airport. DAP Airlines offers flights connecting Punta Arenas and Porvenir, a flight of just 12 minutes.
In Pampa Guanaco, 280 miles south of Punta Arenas, there’s an aerodrome offering private flights connecting to Punta Arenas.
Explore the immensities of Tierra del Fuego, the largest island in South America, making a stop earlier in Pali Aike, where the oldest archaeological remains of the region are recorded. Cross the Strait of Magellan from Punta Delgada to Cerro Sombrero, then head south to Lake "Kami".
Punta Arenas is the largest city in the Magallanes region and the main port for maritime travel north and south along the Chilean coast and to the Argentine port of Ushuaia.
The capital of Primavera, located 78 miles north of Porvenir, on the big island of Tierra del Fuego.
Villa Cameron is a village of around 60 people along the southern coast of Bahía Inútil (Useless Bay), on the big island of Tierra del Fuego.
Porvenir is the largest city in Tierra del Fuego, located across the Strait of Magellan from Punta Arenas. You can reach it crossing the strait by ferry.
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