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Peninsula Valdes
Travel Guide


Plan for Peninsula Valdes with Local Expertise

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Peninsula Valdes at a glance

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.

Experiences around Peninsula Valdes

What not to miss

This area, known as Atlantic Patagonia, has an imposing coastline full of barren, rocky cliffs, crystal clear waters, reefs and white licks of surf.  The Valdes Peninsula was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, and is one of the most important nature reserves in Argentina. The San Jose and Nuevo Gulfs lie to the north and south of Peninsula Valdes respectively. Every year, animals and mammals alike return to the calm, protected waters of the two bays to mate and raise their young. Large colonies of Magellanic penguins native to Argentina, sea lions and elephant seals make their home on the miles of coastal beaches, while huge whales are easily spotted close to the shoreline off the gulfs. Whale watching is one of the highlights of a trip to the Valdes Peninsula, and there are many tours and excursions that will bring you just beyond the coast to observe the immense Southern Right Whale, or even, if you are lucky, an iconic Orca. Puerto Madryn is the biggest town in the area and is used by many as a base from which to explore the rest of the peninsula. Punta Delgada is the most southeastern point of the peninsula and offers panoramic views back towards the coast, as well as being home to large groups of elephant seals who live on its long beach. Punta Tombo is another enclave to the south of the peninsula where you can experience the thrill of walking among a giant colony of Magellanic penguins, marvelling at how cute and funny they are. Another notable fact about this area is that it was first populated by the Welsh in the 1860s, and the Welsh language is still spoken in some parts of the region.

Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo Top

You will set out early in the morning to Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve. After about an hour and fifty-minute drive along Patagonian roads, you will arrive at the colony. You will stay at the reserve for no less than two hours and a half in order to walk along the paths and also visit the Punta Tombo Interpretative Centre. You will be able to have lunch at the cafeteria or restaurant and also will also be allowed to use other facilities: toilets and paths to experience the Patagonian winds. In the evening, 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. Main Attractions: Penguin Colony Provincial Reserve, which is one of the most famous and visited sites in the Argentinian Patagonian littoral. Thousands of tourists gather here to be amazed at one of the most fascinating shows performed by nature: the Magellan penguin continental colony. Operates from October to March pending on penguin migration.

Full Day Peninsula Valdes Tour Top

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 – boat trip costs are not included). From December to March you can also view sea-lions, cormorants and dark dolphins. This tour is subject to weather conditions. Once the boat tour is over, you will head for the South of the peninsula going through Salinas Grande and Chica: Two vast depressions under the sea level. On arriving 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. Finally, you will return to Puerto Madryn at sunset.

Peninsula Valdes w/ San Lorenzo Penguins Top

You will set out early in the morning for Peninsula Valdes Provincial Reserve. After a one-hour drive, you will arrive in Puerto Pir mide, before embarking on a boat trip where whale-watching is the most popular activity (June to December – not included in price). From December to March you can also view sea-lions, cormorants and dark dolphins. After this, 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 also visit the Punta Norte reserve where, as from December, sea-lions and orcas can be observed. 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. Finally you return to Puerto Madryn at sunset.

Zodiac or Catamaran Whalewatching Top

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 live around Peninsula Valdes and, as the waters near the shore are calm and shallow, every year between 300 and 400 come. Each whale returns every three years. During the tour, you may also see dolphins and killer whales.

Diving with Sea Lions Top

The navigation to the nature reserve of Punta Loma takes no more than 25 minutes. Near the diving area, typical Patagonian birds are seen together with the towering formed cliffs. As this is an area heavily visited by tourists, the diving area is set far from site of the viewpoints, to preserve the vision that land visitors have of the place. It is useful to visit by land before doing the dive, in order to see the very different behaviors the sea lions exhibit  in and outside of the water. Any human presence on the sandbar or beach makes them feel afraid and go to sea, however the situation changes in the water. As soon as we enter the water, curious and restless sea lions start appearing all around us. The idea is to stay in one place and let them naturally get closer, so they can set conditions of the encounter. The wild animals slowly approach the visitors, sometimes starting to give soft bites to the wetsuit or fins we are using. When dicing, they get in front of our face and release a breath as imitating our own breath. The game is 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 and the presence of sea lions is almost constant. While we are leaving, sea lions usually swim with us until we get back on the boat.

Cerro Avanzado with Punta Loma Top

Take a half-day group 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 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.

Fast Facts on Peninsula Valdes

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to Peninsula Valdes.

When to go

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.

How to get there

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.

Infrastructure

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.

Tour Package Connections w/ Peninsula Valdes

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