Peninsula Valdes

This idyllic UNESCO World Heritage site is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts from around the globe, due to it's abundance of nature's largest and most diverse marine wildlife. The Valdes Peninsula itself is a unique formation stretching some 1,400 square miles along the Atlantic coast of Argentina. A global conservation site for some of the largest marine mammals, who take advantage of it's two unique sheltered inlets.

The Valdes Peninsula is home to some of the ocean's largest mammals, including the Southern Right Whale, the Orca, and the Southern Elephant Seal. It is also home to an array of other marine life including dolphins and sea lions, as well as some interesting land dwellers such as guanacos, foxes, hares and armadillos, and a vast selection of bird species.

Swoop can help you work out the best way to travel in, out of, and around the region, whilst ensuring you make the best use of your time and budget by getting you to the right wildlife spots at the right time.

When to Visit

Unlike many regions of Patagonia, the Valdes Peninsula is an exciting wildlife spotting destination all year round. The time of year to visit depends on what you're most keen to see and do during your stay. Generally, the best all round time to visit is from September through to the end of March, and the table below shows the times of year during which each of the main fauna are in residence!

How to Get There

There is a small airport in nearby Puerto Madryn (1 hour from the Peninsula), although flights here are limited due to it's proximity to the Peninsula. Most people therefore tend to get one of the regular flights from Buenos Aires or Ushuaia to Trelew Airport, which is approximately 2 hours away. You can then either hire a car from the airport, or take a bus or transfer on to your chosen destination. Generally we recommend hiring a car to explore the Peninsula, and you can read some ideas on how best to do this below.



Hiring a car to explore the Valdes Peninsula and surrounding area allows you to cover a lot of ground in a shorter space of time, meaning that you can fit in more of, and spend more time enjoying your top wildlife spotting destinations. You'll also notice some of the land based wildlife as you drive, including the many guanacos that inhabit the grasslands, and perhaps even an elusive hairy armadillo!

Driving on the Peninsula, as in many parts of Patagonia, can be complicated by the rather inadequately paved roads, which are covered in 'ripo' or 'gravel'. The speed limit is therefore limited to 60km per hour, and it is worth adhering to these rules rather than dealing with the repercussions of a cracked windscreen or flat tyre! We therefore recommend hiring a 4x4 vehicle in order to minimise your chances of a mishap, and maximise your comfort levels.

Alternatively, if you'd rather not drive yourself, there are ways of getting around via private transfer, and occasionally bus.

Self-Drive Trips in Valdes

Where to Stay?

Las Restingas - Valdes

When it comes to planning your accommodation there are two options, either stay in the bigger, industrial city of Puerto Madryn and take day trips to the Peninsula, or stay in the smaller, seaside town of Puerto Piramides within the Peninsula Reserve itself.

One of the most enjoyable and peaceful places to stay in Puerto Piramides is Eco Nomade, an eco-friendly hotel which although simple and modern in style, is a really welcoming place run by Laura and Lala, with homemade yoghurts, cookies and cakes for breakfast.

Refugio de los angeles is a more basic option, with self-catered accommodation options amongst the sand dunes.

If you're looking for some luxury during your time on the Peninsula, the fantastic position of Las Restingas on the beach is the best location in Puerto Piramides.


We recommend that you explore Valdes' coves and beaches by sea kayaking over 1-3 days, cycling its sand dunes and heading out in a small boat to get within a few metres of a giant whale and its calf. From there take a couple of days to drive around the Peninsula and walk amongst a Magellanic penguin colony and see a beach full of basking Elephant seals.


Expect to get up close to groups of inquisitive seals whilst kayaking by a sea lion colony in Golfo Nuevo and even with in 50 metres of a Southern Right Whale mother and baby, which is an altogether awe inspiring experience.


Mountain Biking

See the best of the Peninsula, mountain biking through spectacular sand dunes, following the trail of a herd of guanacos or exploring fossils from millions of years ago.

Whale Watching

Lasting a couple of hours at a time, whale watching trips depart from Puerto Piramides and take you out into the bay and beyond to see Southern Right Whales (and Orca whales at certain times of year) with their babies.


Explore Peninsula Valdes


These natural harbours are home to the endangered Southern Right Whale who come to breed and rear their calves. Whale lovers are also drawn to the area by the unique hunting strategy displayed by the Orcas. A whole host of other wildlife can also be spotted on the coast of the Peninsula and in the surrounding area. From southern elephant & fur seals and southern sea lions, to magellanic penguins, dolphins, guanacos, an estimated 181 different bird species, and even the odd hairy armadillo, Peninsula Valdes has the lot!


Southern Right Whales

The natural harbours of Peninsula Valdes are home to an important breeding population of the endangered Southern Right Whale who, from June to November, choose to breed in these calm waters, sheltered from the rough Atlantic seas, en route down to their Antarctic feeding grounds.


Orcas ('Killer Whales')

Another magnificent spectacle that draws many whale fanatics to the area is the unique hunting strategy displayed by the Orcas of Valdes. The resident pod are believed to be one of only two in the world who, by tuning into the sea lion breeding cycles and adapting to the local coastal conditions, have learned to beach themselves in order to hunt! Not only that, but they have cleverly passed down their knowledge from generation to generation!


Southern Elephant Seals


The Southern Elephant Seal is the largest of all seal species, and is known for exhibiting the greatest sexual dimorphism of all mammals. During the breeding season a male may gather over 50 females with whom he can mate.There are approximately 500 Southern Elephant Seal hareems along the Valdes Peninsula's 200km of coastline, with 2-130 females in each. The dominant males make up just 14% of the population, and can mate as many as 50 times in one day!

The adult males have a large and peculiar looking proboscis or trunk that he uses to defy competitors with hearty roaring and belching sounds! They can reach incredible size of up to 6.2 metres, weighing up to 4 tons (8 times more than sea lions)! They can also make deep, prolonged free dives up to 1,500 metres deep, and have been tracked covering over 11,500km in one year.

The first males arrive in Valdes at the end of August, to mark their territory and gather their hareems of females. The pregnant females give birth just days after arrival on the peninsula, relying only on their fat reserves before heading back out to sea for 2 months after a short period of nursing and mating.

South American Sea Lions

These fierce yet fragile creatures are on of the largest inhabitant species of the Valdes Peninsula's coast, reaching up to 3 metres long, and weighing up to 350kg.

Groups of males (who can be recognised by the thick mane covering their neck and chest) begin to colonise the area from December, and they defend their territory aggressively (beware!), whilst awaiting arrival of the females. Each male has a hareem of up to 10 females, who give birth to their young a few days after arrival on the Peninsula, ready to mate again a week after birth!

There are two major Sea Lion colonies on the peninsula, one at Punta Piramedes, and another at Punta Norte.

Magellanic Penguins

These clumsy looking creatures are incredibly agile, and visit Valdes in their thousands each year. Males weigh up to 5kg, and are 45cm tall, reaching sexual maturity at 4-5 years old.

They can be observed up close from Punta Tombo, about 3 hours south of Puerto Madryn between September and March. The males start to arrive in late August to early September to renovate their nests from the previous year before the arrival of the females, who lay 2 eggs in October, which usually hatch in December. The young spend two weeks taking shelter from the sun in the bushes from late January to the end of February, when they moult for the first time, and become independent.

Magellanic Penguins have vertically flattened beaks that are strong, long, and curved at the end, creating a fantastic tool for foraging for food, and regurgitating food for their young. Their wings are short, flat and strong, and although flightless, they are very good swimmers, reaching up to 28mph! They have strong sternums to withstand the impact of diving into the water from significant heights.

Whilst Magellanic Penguins do not fear humans, they are not always particularly sociable, and will aggressively defend their nests with a painful peck!


Dusky Dolphin

These lively and energetic cetaceans (also known as the FitzRoy Dolphin) add a splash of mischief and charm to the waters around the Peninsula. They can be recognised by their short, dark beak, black dorsal fin with grey crescent, dark pectoral fins and dark pointed tail which has a deep central notch.  They are incredibly acrobatic dolphins, jumping high out of the water, making pirouettes and somersaults both forwards and backwards!


Commerson's Dolphin

The fast-paced Commerson's Dolphin is considered a coastal mammal, found along the Argentine Coast from San Matias Gulf to Tierra del Fuego. They can be spotted in groups of 2-10 dolphins, but live in pods of up to 100! They are fast and active swimmers, often seen diving and jumping, swimming upside down, and surfing the waves and wakes of boats or even whales!

Dolphin watching usually takes place at Playa Union, about 6km from Rawson, which is 150km from Puerto Piramedes. The first calves are seen in mid November, and often lasts throughout the summer, when you'll often see mothers and their offspring swimming together with the pod.


Birds can be seen all year round on the peninsula, there are many interesting species for you to see, with an estimated 181 different species. These include:

  • Choique (Darwin's Rhea)
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Flamingo
  • Kelp Gull
  • South Ameican Tern
  • Imperial Cormorant
  • Rock Shag
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Crested Duck
  • Variable Hawk
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Patagonian Mockingbird

Landmarks in Peninsula Valdes

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