Reasons to go
- Whale-watching: The only place in the world where orcas (killer whales) beach themselves to hunt sea lion pups. Southern right whales also gather just metres from the shore, close enough be seen from your hotel balcony.
- Wildlife: Walk among huge colonies of southern elephant seals and Magellanic penguins, kayak or snorkel with sea lions. Time to spare? Look out for dolphins, guanacos, maras and hairy armadillos.
- Bird-watching: Tick up to 181 different bird species off your list, including flamingos, burrowing owls and rheas.
- Scenery: Valdes has a stunning coastline. Long shingle beaches that appear to go on forever, dramatic sandy cliffs that drop perilously into the ocean, and crystal clear blue waters for wildlife watching.
Top 5 ways to see Valdes’ wildlife and scenery
Throughout the year you can expect to get up close and personal with groups of inquisitive sea lions whilst kayaking in the calm waters of the Golfo Nuevo from either Puerto Madryn or Puerto Piramides.
Southern Right Whales
Between June and December you'll also have the chance to kayak within 50 metres of a southern right whale: often a mother with a calf in tow. Both are incredibly special experiences not to be missed by marine wildlife fans!
2. Whale watching
You can spot whales right from the shoreline, but to get up close it's best to take a trip out by boat or kayak, both of which are easy to do around the peninsula. You can even step the adventure up a notch and go whale-watching by plane or submarine!
Depending on which whale you want to see, you can base yourself from Puerto Madryn, Puerto Piramides, or one of the estancias on the peninsula. They each offer incredible sightings, but you'll need to make sure you travel at the right time of year for the whales you want to see, and allow enough time to travel between different areas.
3. Stay at an estancia
Escape the crowds, switch off and allow yourself to relax into the wilderness of the Valdes region. Rustic, restored estancias are dotted along the peninsula, and a few nights stay is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the scenery.
With vast swathes of private land to themselves, most of the estancias have private colonies of sea lions, elephant seals, and/or magellanic penguins that you can visit at your leisure.
Some of the ranches are also very unique spots for whale sightings, offering you the best chances of wildlife spotting in the region.
The people of Valdes will greet you with big smiles and warm hugs and go out of their way to help you. I took several long journeys along flooded and pothole ridden dirt roads, and there was always someone waiting at the end of the phone to know that I arrived safely.
Chloe O'Keeffe Patagonia Specialist
4. Self drive trips
Explore the Valdes peninsula under your own steam, with the freedom to drive yourself whenever and wherever you please.
You’ll need to be comfortable with some long drives on remote and poorly maintained dirt roads, but the freedom, flexibility and privacy of self driving around this stunning region make the adventure worthwhile!
5. Peninsula fly-over
See the Valdes Peninsula from a totally different perspective, and take some incredible photos of the whales and wildlife along the coastline. The flight takes one hour and the main goal is to see the geography, topography and the whales from the air.
The Cessna 182 (or similar) can take three passengers plus the pilot. Big windows next to the back seats provide incredible views during the flight. The journey takes you to the southern shores of Golfo Nuevo (New Gulf) and continues towards the north, for up close sightings of the southern right whales in the San Jose Gulf.
Our top trips in Valdes
Plan your trip to Peninsula Valdes
How to get to Valdes
The Valdes peninsula and surrounding areas can be complicated to get to and navigate around. You need to be organised and allow enough time for travel in order to make the most of your time in the area.
Where to stay in Valdes
A variety of accommodations are on offer, from friendly eco-lodges and contemporary hotels, to remote ranches and authentic farm houses.
Puerto Madryn lies just outside of the Península Valdés and is the largest town in the area. Founded by Welsh settlers, it has unique origins, but today is known as the entrance to the Valdés. You can take a 2 hour flight from Buenos Aires, base yourself here, and then book a day tour into the reserve. There's a selection of accommodation, interesting restaurants, and sightings of distant whales during whale season.
Puerto Piramides is the only town on the Valdés, a seaside spot which is rather more like a village in size. The hotels and hostels are dotted along one main road and restaurants and some shops on the other. You'll be a few moments walk from the beach, from where you can watch the whales and sea lions playing.
For some even more secluded options, there are some special lodges and hotels nestled in the Valdes itself or situated further out, along the Southern coast.
When to go
- Southern right whales are present from June to December only.
- Orcas are present all year round, but tend only to be seen beaching in March and April.
- Magellanic penguins are present from September to April.
- Sea lions & elephant seals are present all year round, but in varying numbers depending on where and when you go.
- Dolphins are present from December to March.
- Numerous birds and land mammals can be found throughout the year.
Plan the timing of your trip carefully to be sure to see everything that you want to, allowing sufficient time to travel between areas – distances are long and many of the roads are in poor condition.
FAQs about Valdes
Depending on how long you have and what you want to do, we’d recommend a few nights in Puerto Madryn, and a few nights on the peninsula itself at either a remote estancia or in the town of Puerto Piramides. If you have time, venturing to one of the estancias along the Southern Atlantic Coast is a wonderful experience.
If you’re keen to see a variety of wildlife, a minimum of four days/five nights would be recommended.
If you plan your trip carefully you can time it so that you see all/most of the wildlife you’re interested in. Generally, if you’re there at the right time of year, and have good guides, the chances of sightings are very good indeed.
Self driving is a great way to explore with freedom and flexibility, but people often prefer to avoid the perilous roads and take guided excursions with transfers from place to place.
Puerto Madryn and Trelew are just a few hours by plane from Buenos Aires, which connects you to the rest of Argentina. People often like to combine a visit to Valdes with some time in Southern Patagonia, for example some hiking in Los Glaciares National Park, combined with some puma spotting Torres del Paine, humpback whales in the Chilean Fjords, or King penguins in Tierra del Fuego.
Images (c) Carlos Passera
Discover Peninsula Valdes
Wildlife in Valdes
The Valdes region is the number one destination for wildlife in Patagonia. The peninsula is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the most important areas for marine mammals …
How to get to Valdes
Getting around Valdes takes a little planning. Despite being served by two airports, all the best bits of the region are tucked away down long dirt roads or hidden at the end of …
Kayaking in Valdes
The shores of Valdes provide visitors with a unique opportunity to kayak among the world's largest population of southern right whales, as well as sea lions, penguins, elephant …
Whale Watching in Valdes
The unique geography of the Valdes Peninsula has made it a haven for whales, and this is now one of the best places in Patagonia to see them. Rarely do whales make it quite so easy…
Patagonia is a vast and varied region, with a wealth of things to see and do, a range of places to stay and a limited transport network.
Why not let us do the hard work for you? Our team of experts will work with you to design a 2–3 week adventure to your exact requirements, from hiking and horse-riding trips to wine-tasting tours and undiscovered lodges.
We’ll work around your budget and arrange flights, transfers and buses, to create your perfect trip.