Punta Arenas  can be a sightseeing base, but only for a day or two; for those who haven’t seen Magellanic penguins elsewhere, it’s worth scheduling or waiting for the boat to Isla Magdalena. It’s also the home port for the spectacular cruise to Tierra del Fuego ’s remotest fjords and Cape Horn via Ushuaia (Argentina) , a trip that deserves its full week but is worth doing even in a three- or four-day segment. Based on an island in the western Strait of Magellan, summer whale-watching is drawing a small but growing public on three-day excursions.
Exploring the thinly populated Chilean sector of Tierra del Fuego  requires a vehicle or an airplane—connections to Puerto Williams , though it’s not far from Ushuaia  as the crow flies, are haphazard except by air from Punta Arenas . Once you’re there, hiking the Dientes circuit takes at least a week.
Puerto Natales , the urban gateway to Torres del Paine , is mainly a place to prepare for trekking, but its seaside setting, youthful exuberance, and nearby hiking excursions can extend the stay. The park deserves no less than a week, for day-hikers and overnight trekkers alike, but even an abbreviated day trip—some people do it, despite the time and difficulty of getting here—is worth the trouble.
A new attraction is the Skorpios III cruise through the fjords on the west side of the Campos de Hielo Sur, across the ice from Torres del Paine . In summer, this pioneering five-day, four-night excursion could become a regional highlight.
Like the rest of the region, Tierra del Fuego  deserves all the time you can give it, but most visitors have to make choices. The Argentine city of Ushuaia  is the best sightseeing base in Tierra del Fuego proper, given its access for excursions to the nearby national park, the Beagle Channel, and Estancia Harberton , with a minimum of three days. Hikers may wish to spend several days more, and fly-fishing aficionados—who often prefer the vicinity of Río Grande—can easily stay a week or two.