Jutting out from Patagonia’s Atlantic coast, the landform of the Valdes Peninsula encloses two peaceful bays which have become a natural breeding ground and habitat for a host of marine species and wildlife. An area with one of the most concentrated diverse population of mammals, birds and sea animals, the Valdes Peninsula provides a haven for sea lions, elephant seals, penguins, dolphins and giant Southern Right Whales, and is a must-visit for any wildlife lover visiting Argentina’s shores. The peninsula itself is a swathe of scrub and grasslands, with little to no vegetation or trees to provide shelter for human or animal. This landscape allows for sweeping panoramas of the curving bays and the vast Atlantic ocean beyond.
You will set out early in the morning to Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve. After about an hour and fifty-minute drive along captivating Patagonian roads, you will arrive at the colony. Be amazed to witness one of the most fascinating shows performed by nature: the Magellan penguin continental colony. You will have plenty of time to take it all in, walk along the paths and taking breathtaking pictures before arriving to Punta Tombo Interpretative Centre. After lunch, on your way back to Puerto Madryn, if there is time, you will be able to arrange a visit to the Paleontology Museum in Trelew.
You will set out early in the morning for Peninsula Valdes Provincial Reserve. After a one-hour drive you will arrive in Puerto Piramides, before embarking on a boat trip where whale-watching is the most popular activity (from June to December). From December to March you can also view sea-lions, cormorants and dark dolphins. On the way back, you will head south of the peninsula going through Salinas Grande and Chica: Two vast depressions under the sea level. Upon arrival to Punta Delgada, around midday, lunch will be served the El Faro resort. There, you will have the opportunity to descend the cliffs and view the sea-elephants. After that, you will continue to Punta Cantor along the eastern coastline of the peninsula where Caleta Valdés’ (Valdés Inlet) remarkable features can be observed. Then you go back to the Ameghino Isthmus, with its interesting visitor’s center. On the way, you will have good chances of coming across land fauna such as guanacos, rheas, foxes, maras, armadillos and a variety of birds before finally arriving to Puerto Madryn at sunset.
You will set out early in the morning for Peninsula Valdes Provincial Reserve. After a one-hour drive, you will arrive in Puerto Piramide, before embarking on a boat trip where whale-watching will keep you busy (June to December). From December to March you can also view sea-lions, cormorants and dark dolphins. Later, you will head to the San Lorenzo sheep station, a traditional farm in the area, where, apart from being offered typical Patagonian lamb on spit (not included), you will visit the Magellan penguin reserve situated 7km far from the farm-house. You will have the opportunity to visit the Punta Norte reserve where, as from December, sea-lions and orcas can be observed in a perfectly balanced environment. From here you will leave for Punta Cantor to watch elephant-seals. On your way back to Puerto Madryn, you will stop at the Carlos Ameghino Isthmus interpretation centre before finally returning to Puerto Madryn at sunset.
Every year, between June and December, Peninsula Valdes plays host to one of the most amazing natural spectacles on earth: the lives of whales. This tour sets sail in Puerto Piramides and takes you to Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San Jose seas, where you can observe these enormous but friendly creatures from close range. Around 2600 individuals live around Peninsula Valdes and, as the waters near the shore are calm and shallow, every year between 300 and 400 come, taking turns as each whale returns every three years to the same spot. During this experience, and as if it wasn’t enough, you may also have the chance to see playful dolphins all around you.
Sailing to the nature reserve of Punta Loma takes no more than 25 minutes. Near the diving area, Patagonian birds are seen together around the cliffs. As this is an area heavily visited by tourists, the diving site is set far from the viewpoints to preserve the vision that land visitors have of the place. Any human presence on the beach makes them feel afraid and flee to sea, however, the situation changes in the ocean. As soon as we enter the water, curious and restless sea lions will start appearing all around you. The idea is to stay in one place and let them naturally get closer, so they can set the conditions for the encounter. This beautiful wild animals will slowly approach you, sometimes taking tiny bites to the wetsuit or fins we are using. When feeling confortable enough, they will get in front of your face and release bubbles imitating our own breath. The game is just harmless and peaceful, do not fear them. They seem to like the presence of people in their environment and are not aggressive. This exciting experience takes 40 minutes with an almost constant present of the colony and finishes with an unforgettable gift as sea lions will swim along all the way back to the boat.
Take a half-day trip from Puerto Madryn to discover the sand dunes, coastal paths and sea lions of the Cerro Avanzado and Punta Loma. First, you’ll be picked up at your hotel and head off in sturdy 4X4 truck, hurtling across off-road tracks and rolling sand dunes. On your way to Cerro Avanzado, you’ll stop a few times to take short walks, amazing pictures and learning all about the local flora. You’ll also navigate medium-difficulty coastal paths in the truck, guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping. Afterwards, you’ll make your way to the sea-lion colony at Punta Loma, packed with barking sea lions splashing in the waves and stretched out on the rocks. You’ll study the rockbound beaches and sea fossils, learning all about the paleontological legacy of the area, before beginning the journey back to Puerto Madryn.
A visit to Peninsula Valdes is centred around seeing its incredible marine and wildlife, so the best time to visit is during Argentine winter and spring when much of the wildlife comes to the Atlantic coast to breed. The Southern Right Whale can be seen as early as June right through until December, but the best months are September and October when it is almost guaranteed that you will see the mothers and calves in the sheltered bay of the peninsula. Spring also welcomes dolphins and penguins to the area and it is most likely to see penguin chicks in late December. Orcas can also more be seen in summer from January to March when the baby sea-lions are taking their first dives and, sadly, are easy prey.
There are daily flights from Buenos Aires, Ushuaia and El Calafate to Puerto Madryn’s El Tehuelche Airport, or to Trelew Airport. If you are flying from Chile, Puerto Madryn can be reached through a connecting flight from Santiago via Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt. We will organise internal flights for you as part of your itinerary, so just speak to our travel advisor about your desired destination. If you plan on staying longer in the area and exploring, renting a car or hiring a driver is worthwhile, and we will also assist you with this.
Puerto Madryn is the area’s most developed tourist centre and is where most of the hotels and lodgings are located. From here, the Valdés Peninsula to the north and Trelew and Punta Tombo to the south are all easily accessible. Puerto Madryn is a small city and can be easily explored on foot. Tour shuttles or private transfers will take you to the nearby attractions, which can be arranged as part of your itinerary. Alternatively, you can stay in Puerto Piramides, a small enclave in the centre of the peninsula, though accommodation is more limited here. There is also a small selection of hotels in Trelew, which is closest to Punta Tombo, but further away from the rest of the area’s highlights.