Peninsula Valdés is a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site located in the northern part of Argentina’s Patagonia region. The area is renowned for its unique biodiversity and wildlife.
At Peninsula Valdés, you can experience everything from penguins, sea lions, and elephant seals to orcas and whales! Along the roads, you might also be lucky to see the llama-looking guanaco, a Patagonian cavy, many different kinds of birds, and the Patagonian long-haired armadillo.
Seeing all these animals in their natural habitat is a truly amazing experience. One of my all-time favorite experiences in Argentina was swimming with sea lions. If you get a chance to try it, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
The area is a natural park and a protected natural area, also known as Área Natural Protegida Península Valdés. It is protected precisely because of its importance for conserving marine wildlife.
So, when you visit, please respect the animals! Remember that you are a guest in the penguins’, sea lions’, and all the other wildlife’s homes! There are so many terrible stories of human visitors not respecting the animals on Peninsula Valdés – don’t be one of those!
Let’s dive into all the things you need to know about Peninsula Valdés to get the most out of your visit!
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Where is Peninsula Valdés?
Peninsula Valdés is a small peninsula located in the Patagonia province of Chubut on the east coast of Argentina. The peninsula is located around 618 miles (995 km) south of Buenos Aires. The area is a protected natural park because of its importance to the local wildlife.
On the peninsula itself, there is only one tiny coastal town, Puerto Pirámides. Puerto Pirámides has around 500 inhabitants, most of whom seem to be working in tourism. Throughout the peninsula, there are also a few estancias (e.g., traditional Argentine farms).
The closest bigger city to Peninsula Valdés is Puerto Madryn. Most flights and long-distance buses will go to Puerto Madryn. From Puerto Madryn, you will need to rent a car or catch a bus to Peninsula Valdés.
There is a small charge to enter the Peninsula Valdés National Park. Check the current entrance fee here. If you stay inside the park and want to leave and re-enter, you must show a receipt of accommodation together with your ticket.
Use the map to explore Peninsula Valdés and read more about the most important place to visit below:
What Wildlife Can You Experience at Peninsula Valdés?
- Southern Right Whales – The most popular activity on Peninsula Valdés is whale-watching, and the Southern Right Whales are truly the stars in the area. Even when they aren’t around, the whales can only be seen from June to mid-December when they come to mate and give birth in the waters surrounding the peninsula. This is a top-rated whale-watching tour.
- Magellanic Penguins – The Magellanic Penguins also use the peninsula to breed, lay their eggs, and raise their pups. The area is a unique place to experience penguins in their natural habitat.
- Orca (Killer Whales) – The area around Peninsula Valdés also offers the opportunity to see orcas or killer whales. During the breeding season of the seals and sea lions, the orcas come to hunt using the special technique or behavior called “sand stranding,” where they push themselves up on the beach to catch the pups. The sand stranding can normally only be experienced between February and April.
- Southern Elephant Seal – Peninsula Valdés is also home to one of the largest colonies of Southern Elephant Seals.
- Guanacos – Guanaco is a llama-looking animal with a slimmer body and neck than the llama native to South America. The guanacos can be found in many parts of Argentina’s Patagonia region, including Peninsula Valdés.
- Armadillos – Armadillos can be hard to spot on Peninsula Valdés because of their shy nocturnal nature, but you might be lucky! I saw one right in the middle of a parking lot, so keep your eyes and ears open!
… And much more wildlife! There are so many more wildlife species that you can experience at Peninsula Valdés.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Peninsula Valdés?
The best time to visit Peninsula Valdés is during the whale season from June to mid-December! However, September through December is when most of the wildlife stay on the peninsula to mate and have their pups.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that each species has its own “calendar” of when they are visiting Peninsula Valdés. The best time to visit Peninsula Valdés to watch the penguins is from September to April. And October and November are the times when the penguins have their pups.
The best time to watch the orcas at Peninsula Valdés is from February through April when they come to hunt young sea lion pups in the Northern point of Punta Norte. And then the orcas return in October through November.
For more details on the best time to visit Peninsula Valdés for wildlife, check out the official wildlife calendar.
When you visit Peninsula Valdés, you should also keep in mind that the peninsula is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean down towards Antarctica. Even in the summer months (December-February), the weather can be chilly and the wind cold. So, remember to bring a jacket or a sweater even for visiting in the summer.
If you plan to visit during the winter months (June-July), bring plenty of warm clothes! Keep in mind that during the winter, there are fewer animals in the area too.
How to Get to Peninsula Valdés?
To get from Buenos Aires to Peninsula Valdés, you need to first take a plane or a long-distance bus to Puerto Madryn or Trelew.
Long-Distance Bus to Puerto Madryn or Trelew
The long-distance bus from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn or Trelew takes around 20 to 21 hours.
You can also reach Peninsula Valdés by a long-distance bus from other destinations in Argentina, such as Mendoza.
Check the schedule and ticket prices for long-distance buses in Argentina on BusBud.
Flight to Puerto Madryn or Trelew
The flight from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn takes around 2 hours. The airport in Puerto Madryn is located around 62 miles (100 km) from Peninsula Valdés.
You can also reach Peninsula Valdés with a flight from Buenos Aires to Trelew. The airport in Trelew is located a little bit further from Peninsula Valdés, around 99 miles (160 km). But sometimes there are better frequencies to Trelew, and car rentals from Trelew can be cheaper.
The local low-cost airline Flybondi flies once a day from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn.
Bus from Puerto Madryn to Peninsula Valdés
From Puerto Madryn, the bus company Mar y Valle runs buses to Puerto Pirámides on Peninsula Valdés.
The bus to Puerto Pirámides leaves three times a day during weekdays and once a day on weekends. The ride from Puerto Madryn to Peninsula Valdés takes around 1.5 hours.
If you plan on staying in Puerto Madryn, you might book a guided tour and transportation to Peninsula Valdés. This will normally be quicker than the bus.
Car from Puerto Madryn or Trelew to Peninsula Valdés
You can also rent a car in Puerto Madryn or Trelew and drive to Peninsula Valdés yourself.
Check the prices for car rentals in Puerto Madryn and Trelew.
Where to Stay in Peninsula Valdés?
You can choose to stay either in Puerto Madryn or in Puerto Pirámides on Peninsula Valdés. It is not ideal to stay in Trelew as it is a 2-hour drive to Peninsula Valdés.
Accommodation in Puerto Madryn
In Puerto Madryn, there are more lodging options and restaurants. The prices also tend to be more accessible. There are many day trips to Peninsula Valdés leaving from Puerto Madryn.
However, you need to calculate at least an hour to get to Peninsula Valdés from Puerto Madryn – and then the time to drive around the peninsula.
On the other hand, there are also other wildlife experiences close to Puerto Madryn that you can easily get to (see more below).
Accommodation on Peninsula Valdés
In Puerto Pirámides, there are fewer lodging options and places to eat. And the places there tend to be a bit more expensive compared to Puerto Madryn.
In Puerto Pirámides, you can choose between some hotels, hostels, a camping area, and some estancias.
Estancias are traditional Argentina farms that offer lodging. It is a great opportunity to experience rural life in Argentina. Most estancias offer different activities such as horseback riding and homemade meals.
If your budget allows it, staying on an estancia on Peninsula Valdés might also offer additional access to private beaches with penguins and sea lions:
- La Ernestina is a traditional estancia located right by the popular viewpoint on Punta Norte.
- Estancia San Lorenzo offers accommodations, a restaurant, and organized tours of their property, including a penguin trail tour. The estancia is located close to Punta Norte.
- Estancia Rincon Chico is located in the Southern part of the peninsula close to Puerta Delgada and close to the coastline. The estancia is around 42 miles (70 km) from Puerto Pirámides.
The benefit of staying on Peninsula Valdés is that you are closer to the wildlife experiences, and it saves you time commuting back and forth to Puerto Madryn.
Also, if you are not renting a car, keep in mind that not all tour providers offer to pick you up in Puerto Pirámides.
How to Get Around on Peninsula Valdés?
Peninsula Valdés is just a small part of Argentine Patagonia, and everything can seem to be “just around the corner”. However, like everywhere else in Argentina, the distances are huge at Peninsula Valdés.
To get around on Peninsula Valdés, you can rent a car or go on a guided day trip.
Check the prices for car rentals in Puerto Madryn.
The roads on the peninsula are mainly sand and dirt tracks, which automatically makes you need to slow down a bit if you are driving. Therefore, it takes a good amount of time to get around on Peninsula Valdés.
There are also some shorter trekking trails you can do in the area around Puerto Pirámides (read more below). If you also want to have time to do those or explore some other parts of the area, plan to spend more than one day on Peninsula Valdés.
The Best Places to Experience Wildlife at Peninsula Valdes
It can be difficult to plan exactly where to experience the best wildlife at Peninsula Valdés as you might just stumble into them. For example, suddenly seeing orcas in the water or an armadillo running across the street.
However, here are some of the places best known for offering amazing wildlife experiences on Peninsula Valdés.
Whale watching at Puerto Piramides
Peninsula Valdés’ only town is also the most popular spot for whale watching during the whale season (June to mid-December). The whale-watching boat tours leave from Puerto Piramides.
From Puerto Piramides, you can also do a short trek and get to Punta Pirámides to watch sea lions.
This tour is one of the top-rated whale-watching tours on Viator – and it also includes a visit to the rest of the peninsula!
Elephant Seals at Punta Cantor
At Punta Cantor, you can experience a colony of elephant seals sunbathing on the beach.
Punta Cantor is located around 50 miles (81 km) from Puerto Piramides.
Penguins at Caleta Valdés
Caleta Valdés is a long bay area, located around 3 miles (5 km) north of Punta Cantor.
At Caleta Valdés, you will find a small colony of penguins. I was amazed at how used to humans the penguins were, and how relatively close you can get to them.
Caleta Valdés is also home to a colony of elephant seals. There is a viewpoint to get the best views of the elephant seals; look for a sign saying Mirador Elefantes Marinos (Elephant Seal Viewpoint).
This day trip from Viator takes you to Caleta Valdés.
Orcas, Sea Lions, and Elephant at Punta Norte
Punta Norte, translated as The Northern Point, is the northern tip of Peninsula Valdés. Punta Norte is about 52 miles (85 km) from Puerto Piramides.
At Punta Norte, there are colonies of sea lions and elephant seals living side by side. The sea lions and elephant seals were far down on the beach away from the viewpoints.
During the spring (February to April), Punta Norte is also known to be a good place for watching orcas. The orcas will come to hunt sea lions and seal pups off the beach.
At Punta Norte, there is also a research center for orcas, Punta Norte Orca Research Center. Read more about their best tips for watching orcas.
This day trip from Viator takes you to Punta Norte.
Elephant Seals at Punta Delgada
Punta Delgada, translated as The Slim Point, is the peninsula’s southern point.
Bird watching at Isla de los Pájaros
Isla de los Pajaros, translated as the Birds Island, is located around 800 meters off the coast of Peninsula Valdés.
The island was created as a natural reserve in 1967. You can experience all kinds of different bird species, including penguins and flamingos.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit Bird Island, but if you are interested in bird watching, this is an interesting place to visit.
What to Do in Peninsula Valdés?
Whale watching on Peninsula Valdés
On Peninsula Valdés, the main attraction is whale watching! From June to mid-December, the magnificent Southern Right Whales come to the calm waters in the gulfs surrounding Peninsula Valdés.
Unfortunately, I visited at the end of December when the whales had already left the area. So, I don’t have much to say about whale-watching other than definitely trying to aim for visiting Peninsula Valdés during the whale season.
Despite being unable to see the whales, it was an outstanding experience to visit Peninsula Valdés and its amazing wildlife.
If you visit during the whale season, here is one of the best-rated whale-watching trips on Viator!
Swim with sea lions at Peninsula Valdés
Swimming with sea lions was the highlight of my trip to Peninsula Valdés!
We booked the tour from Goos Ballenas in Puerto Pirámides. The guide spoke decent English. Goos Ballenas was the only tour operator that offered swimming with sea lions from a boat. With a boat, you are getting closer to the sea lions and can swim with them. The other tour operators offered only tours over land.
We went out in a small boat with a small group of other visitors. At first, there was nothing else to see than the crystal-clear blue water. But then suddenly, behind a curve on the coastline, a colony of sea lions.
We were sent out into the water. At first, the sea lions kept their distance. But after a while, they got used to us being around. The sea lions got quicker used to us than I got to them. A couple of times they scared the hell out of me by popping up right by my side. The guide said that we could touch the sea lions if they got close enough. But I was a bit afraid to interrupt these huge animals.
In Spanish, it is called snorkeling with sea lions is called buceo con lobos marinos.
Goos Ballenas is located on the street 2da bajada al mar (the last street in town if you enter from Puerto Madryn). You can find their contact details on their Instagram account.
If you want to book beforehand or you are short on time, there is a similar activity for snorkeling with sea lions from Puerto Madryn.
Tour Wildlife Highlights on Peninsula Valdés
You can either drive around the Peninsula Valdés yourself if you rent a car in Puerto Madryn or Trelew. Or you can sign up for a tour to take you around to the wildlife highlights on Peninsula Valdés:
- Punta Cantor
- Caleta Valdés
- Punta Norte
- Punta Delgada
Get all the highlights of Peninsula Valdés with this tour!
Visit the Sea Lion Colony at Punta Pirámides
Punta Pirámides is a viewpoint above a small part of the coast inhabited by sea lions. In Spanish, a sea lion colony is called lobería.
Punta Pirámides is located not so far from Puerto Pirámides. The trail to get there offers a beautiful walk through the landscape of Peninsula Valdés.
The vegetation on Peninsula Valdés is generally dry grass and low bushes that never get higher than your legs. This makes it super easy to orientate and not get lost.
The trek to Punta Pirámides takes around an hour. The Lobería at Punta Pirámides seems like a less touristic place. While we visited, only a few others passed by.
How to Get to Punta Pirámides
From Puerto Pirámides, head to the main road (Avenida de la Ballenas) heading out of town in the direction of Puerto Madryn.
Shortly after the main road crosses the street Primera Bajada al Mar (translated as the first street down to the sea). On your left-hand side, you have a hotel, and by the side, a small house. By the side of the house, there is a path leading up the hill. Follow the path.
You will meet a sign saying “Lobería” pointing upwards. Follow the smaller natural path further up the hill.
Follow this path for around 20 minutes until you meet a bigger road. This road is called “Acceso a Lobería” (translated as the access to the sea lion colony).
This road is connected to the main road and can be used to access the sea lion colony by car if you are not up for walking.
Follow the road for around 40 minutes. You will get to an area with a small house, a lighthouse, and a public toilet.
A little bit further down the road ends, and you have the entrance to the viewpoint over the sea lion colony.
Enjoy the beach in Puerto Pirámides
Take a break and enjoy a beautiful sunset in Puerto Pirámides. The beach at Puerto Pirámides is pretty clean, and it has lifeguards most of the time during the day.
So, if the weather allows it, grab a towel and your swimsuit, and go for a swim!
Day Trips from Puerto Madryn
Peninsula Valdés is not the only place in the area that offers a great wildlife experience.
Penguin at Punta Tombo Natural Reserve
The Natural Reserve Punta Tombo is famous for having the largest colony of Magellanic Penguins.
Punta Tombo is located around 200 kilometers from Puerto Madryn or a 3-hour drive from the city. It is recommended to sign up for a tour to go to Punta Tombo.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit Punta Tombo, but you can read more about Punta Tombo from Tales from the Lens.
Here are two tours to Punta Tombo:
Whales at Playa Doradillo
Playa Doradillo is a beach area located outside the Nature Reserve of Peninsula Valdés and only a couple of kilometers from Puerto Madryn.
During the whale season (June to mid-December), it is known for being a great place to observe Southern Right Whales swim by.
You can stand on the shore of the beach and watch the whales swim by! Since we happened to visit outside the whale season, we didn’t see any point in visiting Playa Doradillo.
Are you planning a trip to Peninsula Valdés? Or have you already visited? Share your experience or questions in the comments below!
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