Don’t miss this town! Puerto Madryn, Argentina (everything you need to know)
Perhaps you are heading towards Patagonia after flying into Buenos Aires… or maybe you have an open agenda for your South America trip… either case, I highly recommend stopping in to Puerto Madryn. This local’s vacation spot and cute beach town is famous for its marine life encounters, which is always a win in my book.
The town itself is located about a 15 hour bus ride south of Buenos Aires on the Atlantic coast. This is the method of transport we took here (from about $30), but you can also opt for a slightly more expensive option (from about $90+) and fly there within 2 hours. A 15 hour bus ride may sound daunting, but after having spent a majority of my time on buses in South America, I can attest that they are some of the nicest buses and offer some amazing views. However you make it to this sleepy beach town (that turns into a host for cruises every few days) you’ll find lots of great outdoor activities to enjoy.
the town itself is walkable even though there are plenty of taxis around if you ever wanted to catch a ride. The bus stop is also within easy access of most hotels/hostels and we walked directly to where we stayed. The waterfront has a lovely promenade to walk along and a pier with some great sunset views. There are also lots of different restaurant options including Mexican, fresh seafood, and Argentine steak houses. I would recommend spending 3-5 days here depending on how much and what you want to do.
If you are heading to Peninsula Valdes, it’s one of the best places in South America to see wildlife up close. Keep in mind that if you are going outside of whale season, you are seeing much less marine life than you normally would. In hindsight, I think seeing orcas would really make or break this tour for me. This is one of the only places in the world where Orcas beach themsleves to hunt seal pups, which makes for an incredible show if you are there at the right time of year. The best time is between March-April or again between October - December. Although we did get to see lots of sealion pups, we were just a couple of weeks too early for the Orcas. This tour cost us $65 per person and the park entrance fee was about $17 per person.
My personal tip is, if you have to pick between one of the trips and are in Puerto Madryn outside of the orca season, I would skip Peninsula Valdes (even though the park is incredibly impressive and full of guanacos and other beautiful wildlife) and opt for the Punta Tombo tour instead. BUT this tour also stops at Puerto Piramides, where during whale season you can whale watch directly from the beach! So if you have some extra time, why not spend a couple of days in this even smaller beach town and enjoy sightings of migrating southern right whales directly from the beach?!
On this tour you get to see the animals so much closer! You see elephant seals and penguins and can get some really great shots from being so much closer. I’m pretty sure penguins are my spirit animal so of course I had to add in heading out to see them here. The area around Puerto Madryn is home to huge colonies of Magellanic penguins - all you have to do is wrap your head around the fact that these penguins live on beaches, steppe land, and under bushes instead of snow and ice. You can walk around with hundreds of penguins and they are so damn cute to watch. The penguins wander freely so be sure to keep an eye out for nests and wandering friends. These clumsy looking and noisy creatures have the right of way here and seeing babies makes it even more special.
If you are interested in seeing the elephant seals, I recommend heading out in September. It’s the best time of year to see them and you it’s absolutely worth it. We wandered out to a beach and there they were - just lying around, resting their big blubbery bodies and making some of the funniest noises I’ve ever heard. Our guide explained to us how to approach them so we wouldn’t worry them, and then we just got to sit in their presence - still one of my favorite moments from our time in Puerto Madryn. The trip to Punta Tombo cost us about $55 pp for the whole day and the park entrance fee was about $10 per person.
Swim with Sealions!
One of the coolest things we did here was going swimming with Sealions. You take a boat out to one of the colonies and with your choice of wet or dry suit, you get to jump in the water. It was f***king freezing despite the wetsuit so just be prepared for that (although I may also be a bit of a wuss). The sealions aren’t fed so it’s up to them to want to swim over and check you out. And when they do, it is the cutest thing - poking their noses out of the water to look at you, flying past you under water, or doing playful twirls next to you. A must do for any wildlife lover! The tour itself was a bit on the pricey side at $85 per person, but absolutely worth it.
Day trip to Gaiman
Visit a Welsh town in Argentina! Probably one of the most random things you can do in Argentina is hop on a bus, and within 30 minutes be dropped off in a town where signs are written in Welsh and there are traditional tea houses on street corners. If you’re not familiar with Wales, it’s the lesser known part of what makes up the United Kingdom, just to the west of England. It’s a fun little day out if you’re up for a taste of a different culture and costs $7 roundtrip. The full set of cakes and teas cot us $17.
Up until now you probably never heard of Puerto Madryn, but as you can see, it is a little gem in Argentina that truly embodies the coastal & steppe region of this beautiful country. If you have the chance, I highly recommend a visit!