Reasons to visit Welsh Patagonia
- The distinct fusion of Wales and Argentina is seen in the landscape, marked with windmills and chapels, the culture, with tea houses and festivals celebrating the Welsh heritage, and even the sport, exemplifying a particular appreciation of rugby
- Around 5,000 locals continue to claim the Welsh language and there are still many towns and villages that have Welsh names, the main ones being Trelew, Trevelin, Gaiman, Esquel and Puerto Madryn
- Unravel the history of the Welsh pioneers at the Historical Museum in Gaiman, or delve into a different aspect of the heritage at the Palaeontology Museum in Trelew
- You can explore the region independently as part of a Ruta 40 self-drive, and it's also possible to arrange guided tours of the area which will often focus on both the Welsh connections and the spectacular regional wildlife
Why are there Welsh people in Patagonia?
Fuelled by the hope of starting a new colony in Patagonia in which they could preserve and develop their culture and language, a group of Welsh set out from Liverpool in 1865, arriving in what is now Puerto Madryn. They went on to establish the first Welsh Argentine settlement, 'Y Wladfa', in the Chubut Valley. It was headed by the congregationalist minister, Michael D. Jones, who, after witnessing the difficulties faced by newly emigrated Welsh communities in America, championed an independent Welsh settlement free from English influence
In many ways the early settlers were not prepared for the reality of the environment that they were to discover, however, they worked the land and through successful irrigation were able to create fertile wheat fields; that, incredibly, remain so today. After a gradual flow of more settlers who further developed the irrigation, the official granting of the land by the Argentinean government in 1875 prompted another key flow of Welsh migrants. In transforming the area through farming, the Welsh changed this previously uninhabitable land beyond recognition.
The Welsh Today
Visiting the area today you'll still hear the Welsh language spoken by around 5,000 locals, as you navigate streets, villages and towns with bearing distinctly Welsh names. Each year, a number of Welsh events have an important place in the local calendar. The Trevelin Eisteddfod and Plebiscite Anniversary is held at the nearest weekend to 30 April, consisting of competitions Thursday through Saturday, town dinner on Saturday night, and Cymanfa Gunu, the Welsh hymn singing festival, on Sunday.
At the end of July, events commemorating the Gŵyl y Gland, the landing of the first Welsh in Argentina, are held in Gaiman, Trelew and Esquel. Shows and concerts take place, traditional tea is served in the Welsh chapels, and, on 28 July, the landing is recreated by the harbour of Puerto Madryn. At the same time, the winter brings with it opportunities to ski, snowboard and snowshoe in Esquel. Later in mid-September, Gaiman hosts another Eisteddfod, before the biggest Welsh cultural festival in Patagonia, 'Chubut Eisteddfod', in the third week of October – a bilingual (Welsh and Spanish) event with international competitors.
In recent years there have been increased efforts to promote Welsh, such as the official visit to Patagonia by the Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan in 2001, and a special section of the BBC's website, which has helped forge links between Welsh and Patagonian schools.
Although I'm not Welsh, nor have any Welsh heritage, I find the story of the Welsh settlement and survival in Patagonia so interesting. The whole Chubut region is also geologically fascinating; there is wonderful bird life and it is so little visited – definitely worth spending a few days exploring.
Sally Dodge Patagonia Specialist
Best places to experience Welsh Patagonia
We recommend incorporating visits to a few of the towns in the valley with the nearby wildlife and marine life highlights. Take a walking tour of Gaiman, visiting the oldest tea shop in Welsh Patagonia and witnessing the lush, fertile land starkly contrasting the sterility of the desert – the continued manifestation of the first settler's hard work. You'll find the mark of the Welsh printed throughout the culture of Trelew, where you can walk through the region's past both at the regional museum at Paleontological Museum.
Seek out the incredible ecological diversity of Puerto Madryn and head to Peninsula de Valdés for encounters with penguins, seals, dolphins, orcas and whales. Paddle alongside sea lions kayaking around Puerto Pyramides, walk among Magellanic Penguins at Estancia San Lorenzo, and see Southern Right Whales give birth (August–December) and teach their young to swim in El Doradillo.
Tucked in a valley beneath the mountains, the provincial capital of Esquel is alpine-like in style and has an inviting, creative energy. Spending a day here in between wildlife watching excursions, you can wander around the independent shops and check out the local cultural centre, which hosts all number of things from live music, to theatre performances, fairs and workshops. Esquel is also the gateway to Los Alerces National Park, is close to the giant Piedra Parada, some top fly fishing spots, and the ski slopes of La Hoya.
Around 20 minutes drive away you'll find the charming Welsh village of Trevelin. A great day trip here might see you visit the Old Mill Museum, Welsh Chapels and the home of John Daniel Evans, and enjoy the rose gardens and Welsh tea houses, all the while getting to know the local community.
Our Top Trips in Welsh Patagonia
Spend two days exploring the rarely visited region of Chubut in central Patagonia filled with dramatic volcanic landscapes, deserts, and the meandering Chubut river. Inch your way into deep canyons, admire ancient art, search for petrified forests, and see tortured…
When to visit
Of course, the best time to visit will depend on what you're most eager to see and do. Spring time, from October to December, is the busiest period for wildlife and also the time of the year in which the important Welsh festival takes place. Spring paints the landscapes in rich shades of green, emerging amidst the still snow-covered mountains, while warmer temperatures make their way in.
Southern Right Whales can be seen from June to December, with October the best month for sightings, and orcas from September to April. Therefore, outside of the Spring there are many opportunities for wildlife encounters in the Valdés – particularly with sea lions, elephant seals, Commerson's dolphins and many bird species all being year-round members of the community.
Like all places in Patagonia, hiring a local guide will really help you to get under the skin of the region and see more than meets the eye, giving you a deep insight. Even if just for 1 or 2 days, we'd encourage you to do it.
Explore more of Welsh Patagonia
One of the longest highways in the world, travelling along the Ruta 40 is renowned as a classic road trip. Beginning at the Bolivian border, it runs parallel to the Andes straight …
The Valdes Peninsula is a unique land formation and global conservation site, home to an abundance of marine life as well as countless weird and wonderful land mammals and birds. …
Patagonia is home to incredibly beautiful & diverse wildlife, including many endangered species. We work with a selection of hand picked local wildlife specialists in Patagonia…
Patagonia Road Trips
Perhaps the best way, perhaps even the only way, to fully appreciate the vastness of the Patagonian wilderness is to go on a classic road trip. You, your friends, and …
Where to Visit
With a distance of over 1,000 miles from North to South, Patagonia is a vast region spanning two countries. This is one of the reasons Patagonia remains Earth's Secret Paradise; you could spend years exploring the area.
So where should you go? What are the best regions? Swoop can help you make the most of your short time in Patagonia.