GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE OF PENÍNSULA VALDÉS
There are a few places in the world where you may watch the animals in their natural habitat as it happens in Península Valdés. It is such a great natural sanctuary that Unesco declared it World Heritage in 1999. Puerto Pirámides is the only town in this trimmed plateau exposed to Patagonian winds. When travelers leave, the peninsula gets back to the nature, the sea mammals, and the birds sheltered in the 110 km along the open shores over the Atlantic Ocean and in the 150 km along Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San José. As the hot currents that come from Brazil meet the cold currents from Malvinas, the maximum feeding and breeding conditions are ensured for animals. Thus, Península Valdés has become a huge maternity ward for whales, sea elephants and lions, birds…
Coming from the city of Puerto Madryn, 77 km away, you must go through this isthmus to get into the park. Puerto Pirámides is located on the south, over Golfo Nuevo, and is the starting point for ships that take you whale-watching. In the far southern region and at the bottom of the lighthouse: Punta Delgada with sea elephants and lions. Penguins live over the Atlantic coast towards Caleta Valdés; to the north, a gravel tongue is the shelter for sea elephants. To the north: Punta Norte with its vast colony of sea elephants and lions. On the way back to Golfo San José up to Isla de los Pájaros, although access is prohibited, you may enjoy its beauty from the coast. See Map of the Península Valdés.
The weather is dry in the peninsula. In the winter, temperatures get by far below 0° at night rising to a maximum of 15° during the day. In the summer, it is chilly at night but it may get boiling hot (near 40°) during the day. When to go to Argentina.
HISTORY OF PENÍNSULA VALDÉS
In 1865, the Welsh founded Puerto Madryn as well as Trelew and Gaiman in an arid and uninhabited region that today belongs to the province of Chubut. The former has not kept the traditions of the founders as the other two cities have. After building the railway, at the end of the 19th century, it became an industrial (aluminum) and fishing city. As from some years ago, it has developed a tourist offer to receive thousands of visitors that come to discover Península Valdés.
Península Valdés was “discovered” by the Spanish Crown at the end of the 18th century when the King decided to populate the unexplored Patagonia. In 1779, it was founded as a small colony, a bunker that later aonikenk indians destroyed in 1810. Up to the second half of the 20th century, the peninsula had caught nobody’s attention but from those pioneers that were exploiting the salt mines. The first measures to protect the environment were adopted in 1967 with the creation of a reserve in the peninsula. The size of this original reserve was enlarged and, nowadays the whole peninsula is a protected natural area with provincial jurisdiction.
WHAT TO VISIT IN PUERTO MADRYN?
Puerto Madryn is the nearest city to Península Valdés and it is also the most pleasant one with sea view and a great variety of tourist services. Likewise, it is an important submarine center but in whale season, submarine activities are prohibited.
Ecocentro, 3 km from the city on the sea shore: an interesting oceanographic center to understand the sea fauna and the protection of the environment. It overlooks the gulf and the whales.
WHAT ANIMALS YOU CAN OBSERVE IN PENÍNSULA VALDÉS ? Whales, sea elephants, killer whales...
Southern right whale: the biggest mammal on Earth, named by Argentina: A Natural Monument. These whales arrive every year in Península Valdés to mate and give birth to their calves. Peculiarly, the southern right whales have a baleen structure in the mouth to filter water and have chosen these warm and shallow waters to gather in a unique manner throughout the world. You can’t miss it if you are keen on photographic safaris. The best whale-watching points are: on board a ship at Puerto Pirámides and from Punta Flecha observatory.
Sea Elephants: this big seals were named after the males, who have nasal holes in the shape of an elephant’s trunk and have quite a respectable size: 4 meters long and 2 tones. The sea elephants are excellent scuba divers and may find their food deep in the sea. As from September, the females start arriving in Península Valdés to give birth to their calves. In this season, sea elephants stay on the beach stocking up with reserves. The males’ roar is striking when they defend their females and calves. The most important colonies are: Punta Norte, Caleta Valdés, and Punta Delgada.
Sea Lions: the sea lions or Otaria flavescens are mammals that live in colonies and build their home on solid ground in Península Valdés to breed and mate. They are called sea lions due to their manes and roars similar to true lions. The most important colonies are in Punta Delgada.
Killer Whales: as well as the whale, the killer whale is a cetacean; and similar to the shark, it also has a dorsal fin. It is a predator with teeth that arrives in Península Valdés to attack the small sea lions or elephants pretending to be aground on the beach to deviate the adults’ attention. The best killer-whale-watching point is: Punta Norte.
Dolphins: you may see three kinds of dolphins in Península Valdés: the dusky dolphin (lagenorhynchus obscurus), the common dolphin (delphinus delphis) and the Commerson’s dolphin. In Argentina you will find the biggest population of Commerson’s dolphins featured by: their small size and white body color and black color in head and fins.
Magellan Penguins: you can’t miss the tour to Punta Tombo to watch the extraordinary colony of Magellan Penguins, curious birds that can’t fly. Every single year, in September they come to the island to breed.
Birds: cormorants, Antarctic doves, bustards, flamingos, seagulls, oystercatchers, herons… every year thousands of birds migrate towards Península Valdés, especially to Isla de los Pájaros, in Golfo San José.
GASTRONOMY : WHAT TO EAT IN THE SURROUNDINGS OF PENÍNSULA VALDÉS
Seafood, Crustaceans, and Fish : Puerto Madryn is an important fishing region and it is the ideal place to enjoy sea products that are not normally found in Argentine cuisine.
Lamb (cordero in spanish) roasted in one piece over wood fire in big vertical grills: Patagonia is an important sheep-rearing region and some estancias are devoted to do so to the south of Península Valdés.
Welsh specialties : tea, black cake, scones, and other pastry products.
Patagonian Wine :the vineyard region is located on the Andean side: in the provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro, but it is an excellent opportunity to try the new Patagonian wines.
TRANSPORTATION: HOW TO GET TO PENÍNSULA VALDÉS
Puerto Madryn: it is the nearest city to Península Valdés located 1,300 km from Buenos Aires, in the province of Chubut. However, Trelew, 65 km from Puerto Madryn, offers the best means of transportation.
Plane : Aerolíneas Argentinas and Lade offer daily flights between Trelew and Buenos Aires, as well as to Gallegos, Ushuaia, Córdoba, Mendoza. There is a bus service to transfer you from the airport to Puerto Madryn.
Bus : there are several bus companies that link Trelew with the most important Argentine cities. The journey to Buenos Aires takes at least 18 hours.
IN THE SURROUNDINGS OF PENÍNSULA VALDÉS – Punta Tombo, paleontology, Gaiman
Punta Tombo and the Magellan Penguins : 175 km south of Puerto Madryn, those keen on nature and animals must visit Punta Tombo. This beach receives the biggest colony of Magellan Penguins in the world that every year come back to their nests to breed, and as from November baby penguins start to be born. A must-see show.
Egidio Feruglio Paleontology Museum in Trelew : the biggest dinosaurs were discovered in Patagonia and it is one of the most interesting paleontological regions of the world. Trelew museum proposes to rebuild the history of the dinosaurs’ kingdom and exhibits several fossils, among which you may see the Epachthosaurus sciuttoi, the most complete titanosaurian specimen. Near Gaiman, you will find Geoparque Bryn Gwyn for observation of pre-historic fossils in an outdoor exhibition.
Gaiman and its Welsh Traditions : Gaiman is the town that has best preserved its founders’ cultural legacy as it has been lost in Puerto Madryn and Trelew. Even today you may visit the first house made of wood in 1874 or enjoy a typical Welsh tea.
CIRCUITS THAT INCLUDE PENÍNSULA VALDÉS
Argentina Excepción suggests photographic safaris with a guide – chauffer to discover the fauna in Península Valdés in three different seasons.
Photographic safari in Esteros del Iberá and in the Peninsula Valdés : 9 days for the most amazing safari of the South American continent.