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Ultimate Guide to Visiting Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Ultimate Guide to Visiting Puerto Madryn, Argentina

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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 

social club in puerto madryn
The seaside social club in Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Puerto Madryn, Argentina is located in Chubut on the Gulfo Nuevo. It is located within the region os 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 4000kg and as long as 4m! Puerto Madryn also offers the chance to see Penguins, 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:   BEST Areas to Stay in Buenos Aires (for Tourist Attractions and Safety!)

The Best Time to visit Puerto Madryn, Argentina 

penguin in the sand peninsula valdes
You need to time your visit right with the wildlife!!

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:   Ultimate Guide to Seeing Penguins 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 airplane.  

There is a small airport in Puerto Madryn, but flights are not very common and only domestic. 60 kilometers 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! 

Argentina is also a great country to travel 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 

A Southern Right Whale dives with a backdrop of Puerto Madryn Argentina.
That’s Puerto Madryn in the background! Photo Credit: ShortnStocky on Bigstock

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 

A Right Whale in Peninsula Valdes Argentina
A Right Whale in Peninsula Valdes Argentina. Photo credit: Edurivero on Bigstock

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 tonnes and 20 meters 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) 

orca whale near puerto madryn
Just an Orca casually swimming

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 attack! Orcas are usually seen from Penninsula Valdes as opposed to Puerto Madryn town.

Our recommended whale watch tours from Puerto Madryn: 

  • This boat tour is perfect if you have your own transport. Instead of paying for a full-day tour, you drive yourself to Puerto Pyramides and catch a small boat (maximum 15 people) from there.
  • This full-day Penninsula Valdes tour includes an option to add on whale watching! It is a great two-in-one day trip!

10 Amazing Things to do in Puerto Madryn, Argentina  

armadillo at peninsula valdes near puerto madryn
Puerto Madryn is all about wildlife! This is a little armadillo we saw one day! They are such cool animals!

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 Full-day Tour to Penninsula Valdes 

Seals lay on a beach on Peninsular Valdez, Puerto Madryn
Elephant Seals we saw on the Peninsula Valdes day tour!

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 1m 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 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 $100 USD per person without whale watching.

This particular tour is the same as what we did. It is a full day tour with the option to include whale watching!

2. Swimming with the Sea Lions 

sea lion photo bomb in the ocean
Me, photo-bombed by a sea lion!

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 miss out on this incredible activity in Puerto Madryn! 

3. Walk with Penguins in Punta Tombo 

penguin on boardwalk in punta tombo
The boardwalk is generally for people, but that doesn’t mean the penguins don’t get curious!

Punta Tombo is the 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, your 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 and 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.  

Either way, it is a bit of driving, but it’ll sure to 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:   Hitchhiking in Chile: Our First Experience and What We Learned

4. Stay the night in Puerto Pyramides 

the cliffs near puerto pyramides
Me, hanging out at the cliffs near 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 Penninsula 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! So, if you have your transport, why not book yourself a cute lodge and then make the road trip to this amazing little town.  

You can browse all accomodation options in Puerto Pyramides here!

5. Go Scuba Diving

shipwreck scuba diving
Shipwreck driving is so cool!

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:  

1) 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! 

2) 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 9m deep reef!

6. Visit El Pedral 

el pedral historic welsh house just outside of puerto madryn
This historic Welsh home is now a museum and only steps away from a penguin colony. Photo Credit: 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, 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 

commerson's dolphin
These are Commerson’s dolphins. Unique for their black and white coloring!

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 change to see Commerson dolphins (also known as Panda dolphins.) Panda is actually a suitable name for these little guys because instead of being a greyish tingle like most other breeds of dolphins, the Commerson dolphin is actually 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 really 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 

ecocentro puerto madryn whale fossil
A Whale fossil display at 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 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 

beach sunset in puerto madryn
A gorgeous beach sunset in Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

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

A Welsh water wheel in Gaiman Patagonia Argentina.
A Welsh water wheel in Gaiman Patagonia Argentina. Photo Credit: Fotogenix on Bigstock

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 the Trelew’s Paleontological Museum!

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Where to stay in Puerto Madryn, Argentina 

hotel peninsula valdes
Imagine being able to whale watch right from your room! Photo Credit: Peninsula Valdes Hotel

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 choice for every budget for places to stay in Puerto Madryn:

Budget Hostels in Puerto Madryn

La Tosca Hostel

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.

Franca Hostel & Suites

This hostel is a little pricer than La Tosca, but it is new and gorgeous! It is decorated beautifully and offers a garden and fully equipped kitchen. They have dorm beds available as well as private rooms that can sleep up to 4 people. It comes highly rated and the owner is said to be helpful and kind.

Comfortable Guesthouses & Hotels (mid-range budget)

Complejo El Puente

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!

Hotel Tolosa

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 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

Hotel Penninsula Valdes

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.

Hotel Territorio

This hotel is perfect for those looking for a luxury, quiet, getaway. Located 6 kilometers from the city center this hotel is in a relaxing area while still being walking distance to restaurants and only 50m from the beach! There is a bar, gym, and spa in the hotel and breakfast is included in the room rate.

Related Read:   21 Awesome Things to do in El Calafate, Argentina

Before you go…

selfie with a magellanic penguin
Me, taking a selfie with a Magellanic penguin at Peninsula Valdes!

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!

If you’re traveling more, be sure to check out our collection of Argentina blogs as well as Patagonia blogs! We have tons more helpful guides to help plan your trip.

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