South America > Argentina > Patagonia (Argentina) > Valdes Peninsula
Valdes Peninsula is a UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its unique fauna and geology. The peninsula has a surface area of 3,625 km² connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus.
The city of Puerto Madryn is the gateway to Valdes Peninsula. There is only one village on the peninsula, Puerto Pirámides.
The first Europeans to arrive were the Spaniards in the early late 1700s. They built a fort and established trading relations with the native Tehuelche population. The relations soured and fighting broke out. All of the Spaniards were killed in a raid by the Tehuelche in 1810.
Flat-Patagonia steppe, with knee-high bushes.
Flora and fauna
From October till March penguins are hedging on the shore. From June to mid-December it's whale watching season. Other inhabitants include sea lions, elephant seals, armadillos, guanacos, maras and gray foxes. If you're lucky you can spot orcas (killer whales) snatching seals from the shore at Punta Norte during April.
Very dry with less than 8 in (200 mm) of rain per year.
Instead of taking an expensive tour, it might be best to rent a car with 2, 3 or 4 people from Puerto Madryn—you will probably find some people in your hostel.
Pick up a tour from Puerto Madryn or go by car, otherwise you might be stuck in the small town of Puerto Pirámides and miss the rest of the peninsula.
There are buses going to Puerto Pirámides or book a tour in Puerto Madryn. If you take a bus from the Puerto Madryn terminal to Puerto Pirámides, there are no peninsula tours that leave or pickup from within the park.
- Puerto Madryn to Puerto Pirámides: Daily @ 08:55, 17:00. And M W F @ 06:30.
- Puerto Pirámides to Puerto Madryn: Daily @ 11:00, 19:00. And M W F @ 08:15.
- Tel.: 0280 4450600
- Price: AR$131
The same bus company apparently also goes to Trelew for AR$195.
If you hitchhike (from the corner Ruta National 3 and Ruta Provincial 2) with a local, you might be lucky and just pay AR$210. Also, someone might even take you around the whole island. But without car you are mostly bound to Puerto Pirámides and Punto Pirámides, which is too little considering the price and sights (incl. penguins) you miss.
Fees and permits
For non-resident adults the entrance fee is AR$420. Argentinian adults pay AR$210, further concession for others.
Most people visit the peninsula with a day tour organised from Puerto Madryn. The tours usually start at 7:30 and return between 06:00 and 07:30 depending on the tour company. Destinations are typically the visitors center, Puerto Pirámides (for whale or marine fauna watching depending on the season), Caleta Valdes/penguin area and Punta Norte. An advantage of a tour is the English speaking guide.
For more independence rental cars are available to explore the peninsula. The entrance fee is valid for a single entry and not depending on how many days you stay.
If you are only interested in the whales, just take a bus to Puerto Pirámides and pick a boat-tour from there.
- Elephant Seals
- Sea lions
- Southern right whales
- Maras (Patagonian cavy)
- Orcas (killer whales) attacking sea lions (if you are extremely lucky)in Punta Norte.
Make sure to include a trip to the Salinas along the route to Punto Delgada.
Puerto Pirámides is a tiny village on this peninsula with about 300 inhabitants. The town of Puerto Pirámides consists of two roads forming a "T". One road leads to the water and has restaurants, a small market and some tourist shops. The other road has an ATM, an internet and call center and the hotels and hostels.
Puerto Pirámides is the only settlement and one of the best sites to observe the famous southern whales. These animals will come south from June to December to breed and give birth to their offsprings. It is located in the north of the province of Chubut, Argentina. This town is one of the fastest growing in Argentina since it almost tripled its population, growing from 152 inhabitants (INDEC, 1991) to 429 inhabitants (INDEC, 2001). At 5 km from Puerto Piramides you can see the sea lions. December to March is the ideal time. Also, near La Caleta Valdés, you can see the continental elephant sanctuary.
Isla de los Pájaros
Located in the southern sector of Golfo San Jose, you can find Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island), a portion of land 800 m away from the coast. It is in this place where thousands of bird nests surprise visitors when they reach the observatory due to the great buzz produced by the different species found there.
In the months of January and February the city hosts a major tourist influx, since many Argentinians choose to spend their summer vacation here.
- From Puerto Pirámides you can arrange a boat trip for watching whales.
- scuba dive and snorkeling
- 1 Delgada. At Delgada they offer commercial tours, so you cannot go down to the picturesque cliff coast and the sea lion colony by yourself. However, a short scenic walk to the edge of the area and the Punto Panoramico is for free, which allows for pictures down the coast—just ask for it if they do not offer it to you. AR$180/AR$120 foreigners/locals.
Valdes Peninsula has lots of meals to choose from. It is characterized by a great variety of fresh sea food. You may find an important number of gourmet restaurants with international menus or fast food stores with low prices too. There are several restaurants in Puerto Piramides, a restaurant in Punta Cantor and at the lighthouse in Puerto Delgado there is a self service restaurant that serves extremely good asado for that remote area. If you plan on going during the low season its best to call ahead to make sure they are open. In Puerto Pirámides there are several seafood restaurants with fish from the daily catch.
There are several bars at Puerto Piramides.
Book in advance, especially in summer and at weekends because it is a popular tourist area. You can rent a room in the light house in Puerto Delgado but it is very pricey!
For budget or mid-range budgets it is better to stay in Puerto Pirámides. There is a inexpensive hostel and camping area here as well.
The entire peninsula is privately owned and people are not allowed to explore on their own or camp outside of designated campgrounds.
Estancia San Lorenzo, ☏ . Hotel on the Valdes Peninsula. It has a community of penguins inside the perimeter of the hotel.
If you are travelling with a normal car, it is probably not a good idea to take the road between the penguin point and Punta Norte due to the loose and sometimes deep gravel along the way. If you take the road, proceed with caution and best require up to date information from the tourist information beforehand.