This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina is a beautiful seaside town located only a stone’s throw from the Peninsula Valdés and is also located right in the middle of one of the largest whale breeding bays in the world.
The wildlife surrounding Puerto Madryn makes it a must-visit destination in Argentina.
So, if you’re headed to Puerto Madryn anytime soon, I’ve written this blog to include everything you need to know before you go!
Topics included in this blog:
- About Puerto Madryn
- When to Visit
- Getting to Puerto Madryn
- Whale Watching near Puerto Madryn
- 10 Other Awesome Things to do (wildlife and more!)
- Where to stay
About Puerto Madryn
Puerto Madryn, Argentina is located in Chubut on the Gulfo Nuevo. It is located within the region of Patagonia. The town was first settled in 1865 by Welsh immigrants. Today, the Welsh community is still thriving in and around Puerto Madryn, but people aren’t the only ones who call this remote region of the world home…
Puerto Madryn is a place where you can come watch whales swimming with their young ones only meters from the shore. If you’re a whale lover, this should be the number one destination on your bucket list.
But, Puerto Madryn has so much more to offer than whales.
You can see the largest seal in the world- the Elephant Seal. Elephant Seals grow as large as 4000 kg (8,818 lbs) and as long as 4 m (13 feet)! Puerto Madryn also offers the chance to see Penguins and Orcas, and visitors can even swim with sea lions.
It is also a very cute town in general offering great restaurants and plenty of places to stay. The historical Welsh architecture in nearby towns is also something not to miss!
It’s safe to say that Puerto Madryn is deserving of its position as an Argentina highlight!
Related Read: Learn about where the best areas to stay in Buenos Aires are for tourist attractions and safety.
The Best Time to Visit Puerto Madryn, Argentina
The warmest months in Puerto Madryn are December, January, and February. However, there is no “right time” as temperatures stay generally mild averaging 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) even in the coldest months (June and July.)
That being said, if you want to see Southern Right whales you should come between June and December. July and August are generally the best times to see whales right from town, sometimes breaching! Orcas are most commonly seen in October and November.
Penguins are usually around from September to April!
Related Read: One of the best places in South America to see penguins is in Punta Arenas!
Getting to Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn is somewhat remote, located along the Atlantic coast of Argentina almost exactly between the cities of Buenos Aires and Rio Gallegos.
You can reach Puerto Madryn by either bus, driving yourself, or by airplane.
There is a small airport in Puerto Madryn, but flights are not very common and only domestic. 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Puerto Madryn is the town of Trelew where there is a larger international airport. You can catch a bus from Trelew to Puerto Madryn.
Bus travel is common in Argentina and very comfortable. In fact, this is what we did. We took a bus from Buenos Aires directly to Puerto Madryn. Then, we left Puerto Madryn on a bus to Rio Gallegos to continue our travels in Patagonia
Tip: You can search for buses to Puerto Madryn on Bus Bud. This website shows you all of the companies operating your desired route as well as the price. You can book securely online and even pick your seat!
There are also shuttle routes from popular cities that reach Puerto Madryn through Bookaway.
Argentina is also a great country to travel to with a rental car! We actually rented a car in Patagonia on our most recent visit and loved every minute of it! Plus, rental cars are cheaper than you probably think. Use the website Discover Cars to search for an awesome deal on a car rental in both Argentina and Chile.
Whale Watching in Puerto Madryn
The majority of people come to Puerto Madryn, Argentina to see whales! And rightly so, it is a place where if you visit at the right time of year and go on the right tour, you are almost guaranteed to see them!
There are two main types of whales you can see in Puerto Madryn: the Southern Right whale, and the Orca (also known as the Killer whale.)
Southern Right Whales
Southern Right whales are rare. People who love whales know this and often come to Puerto Madryn for the chance to see these giants. Weighing in at up to 50 tons and 20 meters (66 feet) long, these are one of the larger breeds of whale! Although endangered, the bay surrounding Puerto Madryn is said to be home to up to 2,000 Southern right whales at certain times of the year.
Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you can actually see these whales right from the shoes of El Doradillo Beach right in Puerto Madryn. But most commonly Southern Right Whales are seen on a boat tour from Peninsula Valdes.
Orcas (Killer whales)
Orcas are a little less common to see, but you still might in Puerto Madryn! During October and November Orcas often come to the shore to feed on Elephant seals. If you’re very lucky, you might even see one go in for a meal! Orcas are usually seen from Penninsula Valdes as opposed to Puerto Madryn town.
Whale Watching Tours From Puerto Madryn
- Doradillo Beach Whale Watching – this tour is a great affordable option instead of paying for a full-day tour and includes local pick-up from central Puerto Madryn. Whales happen to come up super close to the shoreline where you are able to see them right from the beach. A nice lunch spread is also included. A good choice for those who struggle with seasickness.
- Full-day Penninsula Valdes Tour includes stopping at scenic viewpoints an the option to add on whale watching! It is a great two-in-one-day trip! You’ll learn from your guide about all of the different marine life as you cruise along the coast.
10 Amazing Things to do in Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn isn’t just about whale watching, and there is actually a ton to do and see around! Here are 10 other amazing things to do in Puerto Madryn.
1. Go on a Tour to Penninsula Valdes
As an animal lover, this wildlife mecca didn’t disappoint. We booked a tour which was a full day out to the Peninsula Valdes where we first enjoyed some whale watching, we were lucky enough to catch a mother with her baby who was born only a few months earlier.
We then headed off to a beach where the Elephant Seals mate and hang on the beach waiting to shed their fur for another few months in the ocean. These guys were amazing to see (although they don’t move much) we spent a long time watching them.
After that, we went to my favorite place, the penguins! We got the opportunity to get within 1 m (3.3 feet) of these beautiful animals and see them nurturing their nests (and some just struggling to stand with the extreme winds.) It was unfortunate that no babies had hatched yet, but it was a good experience nonetheless.
We also saw llamas, rheas (similar to emus), and an armadillo.
These full-day tours to Penninsula Valdes are a great way to see a variety of wildlife all in one day. To us, it is a great choice if you’re short on time.
Tours start at around $60 USD per person without whale watching.
Tour Option: This particular tour is the same as what we did. It is a full-day tour with the option to include whale watching! Your day begins with a visit to the Carlos Ameghino Isthmus center where you’ll briefly learn about the local fauna and geology of the peninsula.
Then you’ll head to a panoramic lookout point before spending a few hours driving around the Peninsula Valdes in hopes of spotting native land animals and finishing with a trip to Peninsula Caleta to admire the seals, penguins, and sea lions.
2. Swimming with the Sea Lions
Sea Lions are described as the dogs of the sea – because they are so playful and curious! Swimming with them is something every wildlife-lover needs to do at least once in their life! So, while you’re in Puerto Madryn this would be my number one thing to do! Seeing animals is one thing but being able to interact with them is a whole different experience.
When you go swimming with the sea lions you will be taken out on a boat at Punta Lomo. Here, you will gear up in a wet suit before jumping in the cold water. The sea lions are curious about people and they will come over and say hi. No need to lure them with food or anything, they just come over on their own!
It is a crazy unique and fun experience. Something I personally really recommend!
Note on wildlife encounters: You are not allowed to touch the sea lions. They may come up and bump into you, but do not reach out and touch them. Respect the sea lions!
Swimming with the Sea Lions will set you back about $100 USD. You should book a tour online in advance with a credible company to avoid it filling up and you missing out on this incredible activity in Puerto Madryn!
Related Read: You can also see sea lions in the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chile!
3. Walk with Penguins in Punta Tombo
Punta Tombo is home to over one million penguins! Yes, you read that right – one million! It is the largest penguin colony in all of South America. With so many penguins all in one spot, you’re guaranteed to see them, and a lot of them at that!
You will wander around the boardwalks as penguins wander on either side of you. You might even be able to snag a selfie with one!
The only downside to this activity is that Punta Tombo is located a 3-hour drive from Puerto Madryn. You can either rent a car or go on your own (a good idea for a group of travelers as rental cars are quite affordable in Patagonia). Or, you can join an organized day tour from Puerto Madryn.
If you decide to rent a car I would recommend booking online in advance with DiscoverCars!
Either way, it is a bit of driving, but it’ll sure be a day to remember nonetheless!
Tip: If you still want to see Magellanic penguins but don’t want to drive so far, keep reading and check out #6. It is a closer alternative option!
Related Read: If you’re curious about hitchhiking in South America read about our first experience hitchhiking in Chile, we definitely learned a few things that might help you!
4. Stay the night in Puerto Pyramides
So this one is a little unique, but it is awesome and something you should do if you can manage! Puerto Pyramides is a small town of about 700 people on the Peninsula Valdes. It is actually the only town on the peninsula and it sits right on the edge of a gorgeous beach with amazing cliffs.
This is the ultimate place to spot wildlife and where day tours to the Peninsula Valdes generally go for whale-watching boat tours.
If you have wheels and time, consider driving yourself to Puerto Pyramides and spending a night or two. This way, you have all the time in the world to whale watch and speak to the friendly locals in this tiny town.
In all honesty, it isn’t something I did (I went on the full-day Peninsula Valdes tour from Puerto Madryn instead) but I’m sure I would’ve loved it! So, if you have your transport, why not book yourself a cute lodge and then make the road trip to this amazing little town.
5. Go Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is another water activity in Puerto Madryn. And the best part? It is very unique!
There are two types of dives you can choose from in Puerto Madryn:
- A shipwreck dive – For those who are experienced in diving, you can explore an actual real shipwreck not far off the coast of Puerto Madryn. A really neat thing to do especially if you’ve dived a shipwreck before!
- Scuba dive for the first time – If you’ve never scuba-dived before you can do it for the first time with an experienced instructor on a 9 m (30 feet) deep reef!
6. Visit El Pedral
El Pedral is a historic Patagonian Ranch that today is actually a museum! Here, you can learn about the history of the region and the estancia before seeing penguins!
Yes, this is a historic experience combined with wildlife! At El Pedral there is a penguin colony of approximately 5,000 Magellanic penguins. Sure, it isn’t one million like Punta Tombo, but they are still awesome to see!
The good thing about El Pedral is that it is only 75 kilometers (47 miles), about an hour’s drive from Puerto Madryn. This means less time driving and more time exploring!
You can actually book a day trip from Puerto Madryn to El Pedral that includes a stop at the Elephant seal colony, lunch, tea, the penguin tour, and use of the pool at the Estancia. It is a much more relaxed type of day tour than those of Punta Tombo or Peninsula Valdes while still showcasing awesome wildlife with a touch of history.
7. Spot Commerson’s dolphins
Whales, seals, sea lions, penguins, and now…dolphins! When I said Puerto Madryn was all about wildlife I wasn’t lying.
Dolphin watching from Puerto Madryn is special because you actually get the chance to see Commerson dolphins (also known as Panda dolphins.) Panda is such a suitable name for these little guys because instead of being a greyish tinge like most other breeds of dolphins, the Commerson dolphin are black and white!
These little guys are so playful and are most commonly spotted playing in the wake of boats and ships.
When I saw them, I couldn’t believe how long they stuck around for! They just kept swimming alongside the boat for what felt like forever. Everybody on board got the chance to watch them and it was amazing.
You can actually spot Commerson dolphins any time of the year. And as I said, they like to play in the wake of boats, so going out on a dolphin-watching tour is the best way to catch a glimpse of these incredible animals.
During whale season, you will likely see dolphins on your whale-watching boat tour, but from December to March there are specific dolphin-watching tours available too!
8. Go to the Ecocentro
Now that you’ve seen all the wildlife, it’s time to learn about them! At the Ecocentro in Puerto Madryn, you will get to know the most interesting facts about the wildlife both on land and in the sea, that call this area home.
Ecocentro is a museum about wildlife and it is both interactive and interesting. It has tons to look at, and is highly rated even for children.
Admission for international visitors is 600 ARS ($4 USD) and the museum is located a 5-minute drive from the city center. It is open most days, however, hours do differ so it’s best to check the Ecocentro’s website for the current hours!
9. Enjoy a beach sunset
The sunsets at the beach in Puerto Madryn are gorgeous. After a nice meal, go for a stroll along the sandy beach and enjoy the glowing sky!
Just be warned, in the summer months, the sun doesn’t set until late!
10. Visit the town of Gaiman
Gaiman is a cute little town that was originally a Welsh settlement. Today, the Welsh architecture is reflected throughout the town and it’s beautiful. A trip here will have you strolling along quaint streets and stopping at one of the cafes for a Welsh tea.
Gaiman is located about an hour from Puerto Madryn. So, you can either drive there yourself if you have a car or go on an organized tour.
This particular tour not only visits Gaiman but also Trelew where you’ll visit Trelew’s Paleontological Museum!
Where to stay in Puerto Madryn, Argentina
There are tons of options when it comes to where to stay in Puerto Madryn. Right in town, there is everything for vibrant hostels, to quaint guest houses, to luxury hotels! So, no matter what you’re budget and travel style, you’re bound to find the perfect accommodation in Puerto Madryn!
Here are some amazing choices for every budget for places to stay in Puerto Madryn:
Budget Hostels in Puerto Madryn – $
This is where we stayed! It is one of the cheapest in all of Puerto Madryn but actually is very comfortable and highly rated. They have both dorm rooms and privates as well as a large garden and courtyard for hanging out. They also have two large kitchens for cooking! It’s a great place for meeting other travelers. You can book La Tosca Hostel on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.
This hostel is less pricey than La Tosca, but it is still a decent place to sleep! This hostel has lots of places to hang out and socialize and there is even a pool table and a fully equipped kitchen. They have dorm beds available as well as single and double rooms some with shared bathrooms and some with private. For between $18-$40 USD it’s of really good value.
Comfortable Guesthouses & Hotels (mid-range budget) – $$
This place offers fully equipped apartments. That means, for about $65 USD a night you can get a studio apartment with a full kitchen! There are also larger apartments available for larger groups. This place is super clean and located right in the town center only 100m from the beach!
This hotel is modern and fresh. It has beautiful decor and an amazing price at about $80 USD per night. The location is only 250 meters (820 feet) from the beach right in the center of town. There is even a bar in the hotel to enjoy a late-night glass of wine after a day of exploring Puerto Madryn!
Luxury Hotels in Puerto Madryn – $$$
This hotel is located right in town and offers views of the ocean. Imagine, whale watching from your room! they also have a gym, a wellness spa, and a bar. All rooms include a full American breakfast.
This hotel is perfect for those looking for a luxury, quiet, getaway. Located 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) from the city center this hotel is in a relaxing area while still being within walking distance to restaurants and only 50 m (160 ft) from the beach! There is a bar, gym, and spa in the hotel, and breakfast is included in the room rate.
Related Read: There are tons of awesome things to do in El Calafate, Argentina that you won’t want to miss!
Planning your Trip to Patagonia
Accommodation in Patagonia
Booking accommodation is one of the biggest aspects of your trip, and we should know as we stay in a new hotel up to 40 times per year! Funny enough, we make 99% of these bookings on one website and that’s Booking.com – and there are a few reasons why we use this site!
Number one is the website is easy to use and sorts accommodation options. That takes the stress out of planning which honestly still affects us and we do it more than not.
Second, is the price guarantee. We have literally booked a hotel months before and then 1 week out found it cheaper (we always do a quick search), and they’ll match that price from anyone’s website including the hotels!
And third, is the Genius loyalty program. If you make a certain amount of bookings per year you get a Genius discount. We are level-two geniuses because we make more than 5 a year. At participating hotels, we get things like free breakfast included, early check-in, and up to 15% off.
You can check out all their accommodation options throughout Patagonia!
Renting a car in Patagonia
We enjoyed a rental car for our second trip to Patagonia – and wow, what a way to travel! But the best part was that we only paid $40 USD per day for a 5-person sedan!
But how? Well if you’re renting a car the cheapest company is Discover Cars. We often get questions from readers asking us if the website is fake because it seems too cheap! The truth is, they are a great company that we actually used for our own rental car.
If you do want to compare prices (and you should) do a quick search on Airport Car Rentals too. They’re another big competitor and each company often has its own deals to offer!
Tours in Patagonia
Tours are a tricky one. We love booking online because we can check reviews of that exact tour but they can be pricier than booking directly in person. So for this, we often do it 50/50 – half of the time in person and the other half of the time we book tours online in advance.
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading our blog! I hoped you are excited to visit Puerto Madryn, Argentina, and have a few ideas on how to have an excellent time!
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out or comment below – we’re more than happy to help!
Some of our favorite articles are: