Highlights and main attractions of the Valdes Peninsula

As Argentina’s premier wildlife destination this, almost desolate, windblown peninsula is a scenic nature reserve that extends out of Central Patagonia and is loosely connected to the mainland, reaching into the South Atlantic. As one of the world’s largest marine wildlife reserves, it offers some of the continent’s best sightings of whales, penguins and elephant seals amongst others. 

The peninsula is accessed from the nearest gateway town of Puerto Madryn, which was founded in 1886 by Welsh settlers. Despite its popularity as the access point to the reserve, it has retained its pleasant, small town atmosphere and some of the street names in the town have kept their welsh name, hinting to their heritage, but there is little other evidence of this.

Marine wildlife lovers in particular will be drawn to the region, which was declared ‘Mankind’s Natural Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 1999.

Where is the Valdes Peninsula?

Whales, penguins and more

Arguably the biggest star of the wildlife show in Valdes is the southern right whale, one of the world’s rarest and friendliest. Before the whaling industry subsided it was nearly hunted to extinction and it still remains endangered today. The best time to experience the whales here is between June and mid-December, when they come to the area between Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San José in order to breed. 

The Magellanic penguins are equally popular, comical creatures that reside on the shores of the peninsula between September and January. Up to one million penguins are seen waddling from their burrows out to sea. The Valdes Peninsula is also one of the few places on earth to witness the Commerson’s Dolphin, one of the smallest and most beautiful dolphins in the world. Being found off the Argentinian Patagonia coast, means it shares its waters with killer whales and elephant seals.

On land the wildlife may be less dramatic but it is still possible to see guanacos, rheas and armadillos roaming the parklands and the birding is exceptional, with 200 species such as albatross, terns and cormorants.

The area is explored mainly by boat expedition with local guides, bringing you close to the marine life. Accommodation options are mainly in Puerto Madryn, but there are also estancias or working farms that provide more of a naturally inspired and intimate setting, such as La Ernestina, which also offers excellent wildlife tours from the Punta Norte of the peninsula.

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