Whale watching is an incredible experience for travellers from all over the world, young and old, who want a closer look at these gentle giants of the ocean. One of the best places in the world to see whales is on the coast of Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Thanks to the large whale numbers and influx of tourists, Puerto Madryn has developed a range of high quality tourism services for visitors, while keeping the focus on their wildlife and conservation. But whales aren’t the only reason why you should visit Puerto Madryn. There are a number of other exciting activities on offer in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here are 10 reasons to include it in your itinerary:
1. Go Whale Watching
Between May and December, the Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis) migrate to the coast of Puerto Madryn. The experience of approaching these curious mammals governing the Atlantic Ocean is indescribable. There are a number of whale watching tours which take you sightseeing by boat along with great guides for an enriching experience that allows you to connect with the whales in a non-invasive environment. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about marine life and the importance of environmental conservation.
Tip: Besides a traditional whale watching tour in a boat, you can also see whales straight from the beach with a tour to El Doradillo Beach, or by kayaking in Golfo de San José.
2. See a variety of wildlife at Peninsula Valdes
Peninsula Valdes is one of the most important nature reserves in the Southern Hemisphere and one of nine World Heritage sites in Argentina. This peninsula’s 3,625 km² acts as a refuge for many endangered species. In its bays, beaches, cliffs and steppes you can find whales, orcas, penguins, elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, guanacos, rheas and hundreds of migratory birds. The best time to visit the reserve is between September and March for the greatest concentration of animals.
Tip: Book a night at one of the hotels located inside the reserve.
3. Snorkel with Sea Lions at Punta Loma
An opportunity like no other, don’t miss this chance to snorkel with sea lions. You don’t need to be able to swim well, as the activity involves floating on the surface. You’ll be given a wetsuit or a dry suit depending on the conditions, and will snorkel in the shallow waters as these curious and playful sea creatures come up to greet you. It’s a definite must-do activity for the adventurous traveller.
Tip: Puerto Madryn is the scuba diving capital of Argentina, so if you have your scuba diving certificate, you can opt to do this tour as a dive.
4. Visit the Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo
Every year, the Punta Tombo Nature Reserve, 170km South of Puerto Madryn, receives nearly 800,000 Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). These fascinating birds come here to have their young, and always come back to the same spot to build their nests. The first to arrive are the males who come in late August to build the nest, while the females arrive in early October to lay their eggs. At the end of April you can see them preparing their babies for life in the ocean before they start their journey back to the Antarctic in march. Seeing this cute black and white creatures and hearing their raucous singing is a memorable experience.
Tip: While you can take a tour to Punta Tombo between September and March, the best month to visit is October.
5. Learn about the marine environment at Ecocentro Mar Patagonia
The Eco Centre of Puerto Madryn is the perfect complement to your wildlife watching in the region. The interactive museum, opened 25 yeas ago, invites children and adults to learn about wildlife in Chubut’s oceans. The museum, featuring a number of exhibits, was awarded the Best Museum of the Year Award in 2006 by Magazine Places, showing that conversation and environmental education can be fun and interesting. Plus, the museum is situated on the cliffs overlooking the bay, with beautiful views over Puerto Madryn’s coast.
Tip: The museum has a great shop to pick up souvenirs.
6. Get to know the Welsh Community
Puerto Madryn and it’s surrounding towns, Rawson, Trelew and Gaiman, were the main settlements built by the Welsh community who arrived in this region 150 years ago. After being subject to religious persecution in Great Britain, they rebuilt their lives under the harsh conditions of Patagonia. One remarkable feature of the Welsh was their peaceful coexistence with the Tehuelche indigenous people. They also brought their culture and traditions to this region, creating a lasting impact on this part of Argentina.
Tip: It’s worth setting aside a few hours to tour these Welsh towns and learn about their history and culture. Trelew also boasts a dinosaur museum, the Museo Paleontólogico Egidio Feruglio.
7. Enjoy a tea ceremony at a Welsh tea house in Gaiman
Among the most cherished customs that the Welsh brought to Argentina, the traditional teahouses stand out. Gaiman is a popular spot to enjoy a proper tea ceremony accompanied by cakes and sweet treats. A delicacy that shouldn’t be missed in this ceremony is Cacen ddu (Welsh black cake), a delicious sweet bread typical of Wales. Be sure to also try the Chubut cheese, made with a recipe dating back to the early years of the Welsh colony.
Tip: You won’t be allowed to share a tea tasting, despite the large amount of food, so go hungry!
8. Have a cultural experience at Eisteddfod
Another custom the Welsh brought to this region is the Eisteddfod. This is a competitive festival of poetry and music. The best druids (dryw) of the region meet each year to share (and compete) the beautiful myths and stories of their culture, recited in the Welsh language and also in Spanish. The first Eisteddfod took place in Rawson in 1865, and continues today, taking place in Puerto Madryn during August.
9. Eat delicious Patagonian Lamb
While you may associate Puerto Madryn with fresh seafood (of which there is plenty in abundance), make sure you also taste the delicious Patagonian lamb. The secret to this highlight of Patagonian cuisine is the wild oregano and other species that the lambs feed on in the Patagonian steppe. You can eat it gaucho style, grilled on a stake over a wood fire giving it a smoky flavour.
Tip: Add mint sauce to your lamb, or enjoy it as part of a local dish such as stew (or cawl), or in a shepherd’s pie.
10. Attend the National Salmon Festival in Camarones
Each February, hundreds of fishing experts and fans travel 250 km south of Trelew to the town of Camarones to celebrate the Festival Nacional de Salmón. Fishing competitions are held, while the foodies can sit around and enjoy the best seafood in the region. Other attractions in Camarones are the Parque Marino Costero Patagonia Austral (Southern Patagonian Coastal Marine Park) and the Reserva Faunistica provinvial Cabo Dos Bahías (Cabo Dos Bahías Provincial Wildlife Reserve). These two nature reserves were developed to conserve the habitat of the wild animals living on the coasts of the southern hemisphere.
Tip: Although there are no regular tours to this area, you can rent a 4×4 in Puerto Madryn to drive through these stunning landscapes.
With so many reasons to visit Puerto Madryn, don’t hesitate to include it in your itinerary for Argentina. With plentiful wildlife and great oceanic nature reserves, it’s sure to be an unforgettable holiday!
By: Daytours4u’s Content Team