The city of Puerto Mdryn is located in the eastern region of the Province of Chubut on the Atlantic coast. It is 995 miles south from Buenos Aires, linked by RN3 (Interstate 3). Puerto Madryn does not have a commercial airport, however, the nearest one is only 35 miles south, in Trelew city, with daily flights to Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. However, Puerto Madryn has in important pier where, during the summer, international cruise ships dock.
It was founded on July 28 of 1865, upon the arrival of the Mimosa vessel with 150 Welsh immigrants, looking for their promised land with freedom of religion. They called this natural harbor Puerto Madryn after Loves Jones Parry, who was the Baron of Madryn in beloved Wales. The settlement experienced a significant growth with the arrival of Italian and Spanish immigrants and the complexion of the railroad from Madryn to Trelew primarily to transport goods form the "city to the port." The Railway Station was built in 1889 and stopped functioning in 1961. Once closed, the building was remodeled, maintaining the original structure for the new Bus Terminal.
When arriving in Puerto Madryn, this city amazes the tourist with a first glimpse Madryn is one of the fastest growing cities in Patagonia with a population of 50,000 inhabitants. The city is crossed by a beautiful coast avenue, the Almirante Brown Boulevard, the residential area where the houses have an unbeatable view of the Atlantic Ocean, constituted by the Nuevo Gulf. On the south edge, its port has with deep waters, and is one of the best in Argentina. But Madryn is also an industrial city, mainly focused on aluminum production, fishing and tourism.
From the port to the end of the bay, take a stroll along this long coastal avenue up to the end, where to your left on the beach, there are lots of services: windsurfing, submarine baptisms, scuba diving, and of course rental of sun umbrellas, tents and all you need in order to enjoy a perfect day at the beach. To your right, you will find lots of hotels (1- to 4-star), and beautiful rental houses.
At the South end, there is a cliff accessible on foot or by car. The main attraction is the monument to the Tehuelche natives, with a perfect vantage point of the whole city and the Nuevo Gulf. You are now at Punta Cuevas, the place where the first Welsh settlers disembarked. It is possible to observe the caves that constituted these people's first modern houses.
Down the road, you will spot the modern Ecocenter. This sort of museum and research institute enables the discovery of the mysteries and marvels of the Patagonian sea wildlife, in a venue intended for the interpretation of ocean ecosystems. Environmental education and scientific research programs take place here, as well as artistic expressions. Please check opening hours with our concierge since it varies with the season.
Undoubtedly, Madryn's main attraction is being 30 miles away from the Peninsula de Valdés, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1999, a natural sanctuary with a great variety of marine fauna and where whalewatching is one of the greatest attractions. Every year between May and December, thousands of southern right "Franca Austral" species comes to these coasts in order to mate, give birth and breed.
There are several natural reserves with various species of marine fauna along the Patagonian coast, but none of them offers such a spectacular concentration of wildlife as the Peninsula Valdés. The gate or isthmus (Itsmo Ameghino) to the peninsula is located 35 miles north of Puerto Madryn. The isthmus is this natural bridge that connects the continent with the heart of the peninsula. On the isthmus Ameghino, you have the toll entrance to the State Park and an interpretation center with a great exhibition of Peninsula de Valdes best features. There is also a view point with binoculars for observation of the "Bird's Island" (cormorants, gulls, terns and herons) on Gulf San Jose's waters, right across the Isthmus. This natural reserve was created in 1967 to protect a wide variety of sea birds and its fragile ecosystem.
The peninsula projects into the sea forming two gulfs of sheltered waters, and it is a meeting point for the southern right whales (Franca Austral), which arrives here to complete their breeding cycle between May and December. Trips to watch the southern right whales depart from Puerto Pirámides and last about an hour navigation for the best approaches to these friendly creatures.
Whales are mammals perfectly adapted to sea life. They belong to the cetacean's species and, within this group, to the species of mysticetous, which are the ones with no teeth but baleens, which are rigid keratin plates and allows them to filter sea water in order to obtain their food (tiny shrimp-like creatures called krill). Usually whales have belly furrows and a flipper on their back, but southern whales have none of that. Among the features that make them different from the others are the shape and size of their heads; their jaw being long and narrow occupies almost a quarter of their whole bodies. Another feature typical of this species is the fact that when exhaling they blow out V-shaped water stream that can be seen from many miles away. The southern whale was declared a natural monument and protected to the full extent of the law. Nowadays about 7,000 specimens inhabit the ocean in the south hemisphere, in lukewarm and pre-Antarctic waters. About 2,500 are counted every year in the Peninsula de Valdes area. Between May and December, about 600 of them get to Gulf Nuevo and Gulf San José in order to breed. This kind can have an offspring every three years. The pregnancy lasts twelve months and the baby whales are suckled for two years. At birth they are between 4.6 and 5.5 meters long and about three tons heavy. It's important to know that, thanks to the protection policies carried on, every year the number of whales approaching our coasts increases and so does the time they stay here. In the days of the first watching expeditions, in 1971/72, they were only seen between the months of October and November. There have been years where they were first seen as early as April and as late as January. If this progression goes on we would probably have whales all year long in a near future. Furthermore, the population grows an average 8% annually.
Continuing onto another place in Peninsula de Valdez, about 45 miles further east, we reach Punta Delgada, and old military base abandoned several decades ago with a lonely lighthouse still working now a days. At present, the buildings are opened only for tourism (lodging and dining). Next to the lighthouse you may start the walk for observation of sea lions and elephant seals. It is the only place in the peninsula where you approach the beach and could go very close to this huge animals accompanied by local guides.
This colony stays here year-round. They immerse in water only for feeding. They feed on fish, squid, and octopus, and they can dive up to 200 meters in search of a prey and then return off shore. Elephant seals live in ahrens, large groups with only one male and hundreds of females. The male is the only one who would mate with the females, until displaced by a "peripherycal" male that would challenged him for the power of the colony. It is not difficult to witness the niosy battle for ownership.
Elephant seals are the largest creatures in the seal family. They are called elephants due to the characteristic trunk of the males and to their huge massive body. Adult males reach a length of 6 meters and a weight of 5500 pounds, while females are five times smaller. They give birth during springtime (September & October). There are also many sea lion colonies and a rich variety of birds that can all be observed in this walk.
The scenery through the Peninsula should be quite harmonious— the characteristic tones of brownish green and gray, and the green-blue of the sea seen at the base of the giant cliffs, showing the last of the steps of the valley. From there on, beaches of soft sand and gravel slopes get gently into the sea. Inland the whole peninsula is teeming with other animals such as ñandúes (rheas, from the ostrich family), maras (Patagonian hares) and guanacos (South American llama).
Caleta Valdés is further north. It is a narrow promontory separating the open sea from a marine lagoon, and is inhabited by seals, sea elephants, and Magellanic penguins, as well as guanacos, maras and ñandúes, which arrive at the islands at low tide for feeding. Along the coast it is possible to observe Commerson's dolphins. The largest colony of this species, also known as killer whales, is in Punta Norte, the northern edge of the Peninsula, and only available on private tours.
The Commerson's dolphins are marine mammals just like whales, belonging to the cetaceans' family but to the odontocetous species, meaning they do have teeth. They are distinguished by the contrast of black and white they have on their bodies: head, tail and flippers are black and the rest of the body is white. On their belly there is a black spot that is different according to the sex of the animal: drop-shaped in the males and horseshoe-shaped in the females. Though they look strong, perhaps for their short snout, they do not weigh more than one hundred pounds, and are not larger than 1.5 meters. They are coast dolphins; they can be seen "surfing" on the seashore waves, or after the trail of some ship.
Punta Tombo is the most important Magellan Penguins colony within Patagonia. It is 2 hours south of Puerto Madryn with half way on gravel roads through typical Patagonian farms. The scenery is surrounded by the typical lonesome and arid landscapes of the Patagonia Plateau. But its emptiness is just an illusion; if you learn to observe in detail, you will discover all the life wealth hidden in its bushes and under the endless looking sky. Of course, there are also lambs, as well as guanacos, choiques, maras, foxes, and martinetas.
Punta Tombo was created in 1977 to protect this species. It is carefully design to assure observation and a very close approach without affecting their environment. Once in the paths area, you will see that the zone open for public access is clearly delimited by a wire netting. The penguin families are generally under the bushes and also walk around everywhere going to and coming from the sea, in order to get the food and nourish their babies, who wait in the nests. The walk path has signs in both Spanish and English with descriptions and warnings. The first penguins arrive in September and stay here up to mid March but the best season to see them is after November, once the babies are born.
The Magellan penguins are migratory sea birds that arrive in this area in the spring. During the cold months they travel more than 3000 km up to the Brazilian coasts in search of warmer waters. They build their nests near the coast and under the bushes because the soil is easier to be handled there. Many times, the same family returns to the same nest left behind the year before.
Males and females share all the tasks: they build their nest together; they look after and defend it, as well as they incubate the eggs in collaboration. The same happens at the moment of feeding, taking turns to do each task.
The period of courtship and hatch is exhausting for the penguins: they remain in land without eating and they only go to the sea in order to drink. Each female puts generally two eggs that are incubated during forty days, starting the first days of October. The baby penguins are born during November, covered by a layer of very smooth gray feathers, which they change later in February. They acquire their definitive plumage only a year after that.
They feed mainly with small fish and squid. Their habitat is the water, where they are expert swimmers, able to get as far as 7 to 8 kilometers in an hour, using their fins to gain momentum and the feet as a rudder. The males weigh about 10 pounds and are bigger than the females. Penguins' natural enemies are the petrels and orcas. Nonetheless, their biggest predator is the man with the fishing nets and fuel or petrol that is spilled from ships. The petrol brings the isolating effect of the feathers useless, thus making the animal unable to swim in cold waters. The penguin, then forced to remain outside the waters, dies by starvation and suffocation.
While you are on the walkway, you must never touch them. Besides being dangerous for humans (although penguins are not aggressive, if they feel threatened they will defend themselves with their strong, sharp beak), you might remove the oil from their feathers, causing possible danger to them. The tour is offered in combination with another half-day sightseeing, and can be taken with or without the penguin rockery.
This little village is famous for is colony of Welsh immigrants. It is located 10 miles west from Trelew. Trelew means "Louis Town" in Welsh and is further evidence of the Welsh culture in the area. The Welsh colony settled all along the Chubut river valley.
This cute little village offers Welsh-style constructions from the beginning of the 19th century, and it offers the chance to taste some delicious "Welsh Tea" at some of its traditional tea shops. The Welsh Tea is ceremony that the people of the Chubut Valley have incorporated to their identity. The story behind the Welsh tea has its root in this area and it was not brought from Wales. The first settlers lived in communities and would share tea time with its neighbors. For that occasion, every neighbor would bring some dish and people would have a family style tea time with lot of pastries, cakes and tea sandwiches. It is now served on a very elegant china, family style, and includes the aromatic infusions followed by typical welsh cakes, apple pie, lemon pie, nut and chocolate cakes, homemade bread and scones, local butter and delicious regional jams and jellies. Tea shops are opened daily, and can only be found along the Chubut river valley and the average price is $10 USD per cover.