Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 04 Jul, 2007
PUERTO MADRYN: WHALES, ORCAS, DOLPHINS, PENGUINS, SEA ELEPHANTS, SEA LIONS, AND WELSH HERITAGEThe Welsh settlers disembarked in Puerto Madryn in the 1800s looking for new horizons, in a land where only the Indian lived. Since they found no fresh water in the area, they…Read More
PUERTO MADRYN: WHALES, ORCAS, DOLPHINS, PENGUINS, SEA ELEPHANTS, SEA LIONS, AND WELSH HERITAGEThe Welsh settlers disembarked in Puerto Madryn in the 1800s looking for new horizons, in a land where only the Indian lived. Since they found no fresh water in the area, they moved first to Rawson, until a flood of the river changed their plans. They later settled in Gaiman, where they still preserve their Welsh heritage nearly completely intact.Part of the settlers moved over to the Andes, where they founded Trevelin (the village of the mill) in 1865. Trevelin also conserved its Welsh heritage nearly intact until some 30 years ago, when the large Futaleufu hydroelectric project was undertaken to supply energy to the only aluminum plant of Argentina, that is located precisely in Puerto Madryn.Puerto Madryn is now an international tourist destination. It receives some 50 cruises every year, or which some bring up to 3,000 passengers from all over the world to enjoy whale-watching, penguin-watching, and other attractions in the area, such as large trout-fishing in the lower Chubut river valley, downstream from the Florentino Amhegino Dam.I visited Puerto Madryn for the first time in 1967. At that time, it had a population of 6,000. Today it is an important city with a population of 80,000, but it still is one of the safest cities in Argentina. Whale-watching can be enjoyed at the nearby sites of El Doradillo and Las Canteras. The tour to Peninsula Valdez stops there for whale-watching, so it is up to you if you wish to spend another $15 to $20 to also enjoy whale-watching from a small ship.The main tours you can enjoy here are:1) PUNTA TOMBO. This tour, which you should not miss, visits the famous Punta Tombo penguin colony, where nearly one million penguins live. They arrive in September and remain in the area until April. The best time of the year to see them is November and December, when you can also see the recently born baby penguins. The tour stops for lunch at a cafeteria in the middle of nowhere, just outside the penguin reserve, but do not eat too much, because the real treat will come at about 5pm. Before you arrive at the Welsh colony of Gaiman, you will have time for a very interesting visit to the Paleontological Museum of Trelew, where you will see the skeletons of huge dinosaurs; some bones are about three feet high, or more.The final stop of the tour is Gaiman, where you will visit Welsh tearooms, and enjoy delicious cakes with coffee, tea, or chocolate. You will have time to walk around, and you will also be taken to a Welsh farm in the irrigated area, and will have the chance to see the irrigated area from a panoramic viewpoint.This is the most complete tour you can take in Puerto Madryn, and definitely the one you should not miss. The cost should be presently around $40 to $50 per person. Two years ago it cost $35, and prices have increased since then.OPTIONAL DOLPHIN-WATCHING. Some tours offer you this tour with the option of doing dolphin-watching. I do not believe that this tour is worth the price, and you certainly will be unable to film or photograph the dolphins, because they are very small (about four feet long) and very fast. I was unable to photograph one after many attempts, asked the captain to take a photo for me, and it took him nearly half an hour to “capture” a dolphin with my photo camera. But that is up to you.2) PENÍNSULA VALDEZ AND PORT PIRÁMIDESThis is another classic, but you can do without the navigation if money is a constraint. Remember that tours are expensive in this part of the country, and that you can use your money better in Bariloche, where they cost less than half the local prices. This is a very long tour, it takes 10 hours or more, and visits El Doradillo for whale-watching from the coast, where you will see them at a distance of some 150 feet; Puerto Pirámides, a small fishermen village with 150 inhabitants, navigation for whale-watching, sea lions and sea elephants colonies, and a museum with its natural sciences interpretation center. This tour should now cost about $60 per person.3) WHALE WATCHING AT EL DORADILLO / LAS CANTERASIf you do not want to take the Península Valdez tour, either because you are tired or because you want to save money, you can take a three-hour tour to the whale watching are. The cost will be $20 or $25 per person. You might get a better deal if you hire a taxi, but in this case you must bargain the rate with the driver. This place is only 10 to 12 miles away from the downtown.4) SEA LION-WATCHING AT PUNTA LOMA: There is a very nice sea lion colony here, but you must go while the tide is low to get the best view, or you will hardly see sea lions out of the water. The site is located some 14 miles away from the downtown, and the cost of the tour is similar to the one that goes to El Doradillo.5) JOAQUINA BEACH (PLAYA JOAQUINA): This is a very nice bathing area, and sometimes weather is warm enough from October to April, although the “high” beach season is January to March. There is a tide amplitude of over 25 feet, so keep an eye on your clothes if you are too near to the water, because tides go down and come up rapidly. Just in case, avoid staying in the humid area. This beach is fashionable, there are good cafeterias, and it is near the downtown.WHERE TO STAY AND WHERE TO EAT: I always stay at the Hotel Tandil that is eight (short) blocks away from the beach. It is a nice two-star hotel, and has reasonable prices. Unlike other hotels in Puerto Madryn, they do not charge higher rates to foreigners. Have a look at their website. Prices are in Argentine pesos, so divide them by three to have the equivalent in US Dollars. www.hoteltandil.com.arIf you want to be nearer to the beach, the Apart Hotel Patagonia is a nice option, one block away from the beach, half a block away from the best restaurant in town, and one block away from an Internet center.http://www.demadryn.com.ar/hoteles.htmThe following link has classified them by star rating. The hotel Peninsula Valdez faces the sea and has a beautiful view:http://www.welcomeargentina.com/puertomadryn/lodging.htmlWHERE TO EAT: There are no really cheap restaurants in Puerto Madryn, so it is better to look for the best price value:CANTINA EL NÁUTICO has the best price value in Puerto Madryn. Go for any of their executives menus. They are not expensive and include delicacies like vithel thoné, blue cheese (Roquefort) Salmon all (including desert and wine) for some $10 to $12 per person. They also have delivery service. Check their page:www.cantinaelnautico.com.arAnd of course, you can try trout fishing downstream from the Florentino Amhegino Dam on the Chubut river, although getting there is not easy, since bus transportation is limited to that area.Enjoy your stay in Puerto Madryn, the birthplace of Welsh colonization in Argentina. Close
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 14 Apr, 2007
Las Grutas, a beautiful Mediterranean village by the seaside.
The last time I went to Puerto Madryn two years ago, I made a stopover at this beautiful village. It is very small (25 times smaller than Puerto Madryn, 3,500 inhabitants instead of 80,000, but it…Read More
Las Grutas, a beautiful Mediterranean village by the seaside.
The last time I went to Puerto Madryn two years ago, I made a stopover at this beautiful village. It is very small (25 times smaller than Puerto Madryn, 3,500 inhabitants instead of 80,000, but it is really worth a visit. Andesmar buses from Las Grutas to Puerto Madryn run five or six times in the day, and the trip lasts some three hours. Las Grutas (The Caves) is the most important seaside resort of the Province of Río Negro on the Atlantic. I has a beautiful Mediterranean style, is very quiet, and there is very little to do there. However, it is beautiful. You can walk the whole town in a matter of half a day, and local travel agencies are not always successful in setting up the local tours, due to lack of potential passengers. So I recommend that you make all your tours from Puerto Madryn. There is however a fishing cruise that leaves in the morning and returns some eight hours later, that costs some 40 to 50 dollars per passenger. However, you do not need to get on a boat to do good fishing. There are natural pools in the rock that are filled up when the tide is high (there is a difference of some 25 feet between the low tide and the high tide) and many fish get trapped there, so you can try your luck.
Whales only appear occasionally at Las Grutas, it is not a breeding area, and the nearest seal colony is near the San Antonio, some 20 miles away (San Antonio Oeste is nearer, but I have not seen any seals there, although there could be some). The cliffs surrounding the sea, and the natural caves, give this area a very special taste. It is a good place for staying if you only want to relax and unwind, but not if you want some activity. There is practically nothing to do. In between Las Grutas and Puerto Madryn, there is a small fishermen’s village and beach called Playas Doradas (Golden Beaches), but no bus will take you there, you will need to go on a taxi (expensive) or drive a car. It is a sixty-inhabitant fishermen’s village with quartz sand beaches, very nice, by what I have been told. To get there on a taxi was out of my budget, so it was out of the question. And if you are interested in salt flats, Salinas del Gualicho, about half way between Las Grutas and Puerto Madryn, is another place you might want to visit.
Las Grutas is more expensive than Puerto Madryn: one hour of Internet will cost one dollar, compared to 35 or 50 cents in Córdoba or Mar del Plata, and a good hotel (there is a very nice 3-star hotel facing the sea) would cost some 60 to 80 dollars per night. A plate of Roquefort salmon could cost some ten dollars. So I would only stay one day and then continue south to Puerto Madryn. If you are coming on the bus from Buenos Aires, Córdoba or Bariloche, you might want to get off here, stay one day and then continue to Puerto Madryn. And if you have gone to El Calafate on the bus, this is a stop about half way from Río Gallegos to Buenos Aires. Andesmar covers most of these routes. Check their website: www.andesmar.com.ar. Remember that Buenos Aires figures in their menu as Retiro (the Buenos Aires bus station). And remember that their Primera Clase is Premium bed service (available only during the high season), Cama is the regular bed service and semi-cama is the semi-bed service. They do not feature standard buses on this route. You can buy your tickets over the Internet.
The beach at Las Grutas is small, but has an advantage. When the tide comes up it wets most of the sand, so even if the wind is strong, you will never see the sand blowing around. Puerto Madryn has far larger beaches, with the same advantage: When the tide is low, the beach is half a mile wide, but most of the sand is damp, so wind is no problem. Keep an eye on the tide at Las Grutas, or you could be surrounded by the water. The tide comes in pretty fast: 25 feet in 6 hours… Las Grutas is beautiful, and I recommend a one-day stay. If you stay longer, your pocket wallet will start to shrink… Welcome to Central Patagonia.
It is important to know when to go to Puerto Madryn. For example, if you go between April and May, you will not find any whales, or any penguins, that are the two main attractions in the area. The area near to Puerto Madryn is…Read More
It is important to know when to go to Puerto Madryn. For example, if you go between April and May, you will not find any whales, or any penguins, that are the two main attractions in the area. The area near to Puerto Madryn is desert, and if we ignore these facts, we can spoil our stay. Whales arrive in June and leave in December, and penguins arrive in September and leave in March/April. You may find two or three penguins that were unable to do their trip, but in summer you may see about one million penguins… It is not the same. True, you will find seals and sea elephants all year round, but I believe that penguins steal the show by far. To see those recently-born little "cuddle toy" penguins, you need to go in November or December. The color of their skin is completely different, because they have never been in the sea. Their father and mother, alternatively, feed them mouth to mouth from the food they have gathered in the sea. Their skin is not black, it has a lighter color, somewhere between light brown and light grey.
The tour that leaves Puerto Madryn towards Punta Tombo goes along National Highway 3 to Trelew, but at this time it does not stop at the city. It continues along a mostly gravel road. We will pass in front of a couple of important ranches, or "estancias", and after traveling nearly two hours we will arrive at the Reserve. We will start seeing penguins some 3 miles before we arrive at our first destination. You maybe thought that penguins are always at the seaside. This will be your first surprise. You will see them standing at the side of the road, walking through the parking lot, sharing the meadow with lamb and guanacos, an animal of the llama family. I had always thought that guanacos only lived in Northwestern Argentina, but discovered that they also are in this mild climate, and even near the Andes, in Esquel. To see them "disembark" is a real show. I have not had that privilege, there are certain times of the day when they arrive by hundreds, in a sort of squad, and have been told that it is something really worthwhile filming. I have seen them marching in small groups towards the sea. Actually their "homes" are sometimes as much as half a mile away from the sea, they always return to the same nest, and it takes them hours to arrive to the beach to go and look for their food, but something that surprises me is that they always arrive at the sea during the high tide, when the sea is nearer.
Although penguins are nearly always standing up, when they swim, they seem like ducks in the water. I really enjoyed seeing them bathing in the sea. You will be a couple of hours at the penguin reserve, and then the tour will stop for a snack just outside the penguin reserve. Food may seem rather expensive, but prices are not outrageous. And the empanadas, sandwiches, and soft drinks are not expensive. After this lunch, or snack, we will continue towards the city of Trelew. There you will have a chance in a lifetime of visiting a Paleontological museum, Florentino Amhegino, where you will see huge dinosaurs. True, they are not the original ones that are kept elsewhere, but exact replicas of the original ones. Some are maybe 40 feet long. Some bones are about 3 feet tall. I had a photo taken where I matched about one bone and a half tall.
The final part of the tour is the Welsh colony of Gaiman. We will enjoy seeing the lower valley of the Chubut River, an irrigated area, from a panoramic viewpoint. Then we will visit the tearoom that Lady D visited shortly before she died in Europe, and they will either take us there for tea, or to another tearoom, to enjoy Welsh tea, that can be either an all-you-can-eat option, or a previously served abundant assorted variety of sandwiches, scones, and cakes. It will be rather expensive, about 6 or 7 dollars, but you will really enjoy it. You will also have a chance to walk around Gaiman, the only village on the Patagonian coast that has conserved intact its Welsh heritage. Its population is about 3,000 inhabitants. Either while going in or coming out, you will have the chance of visiting a Welsh farm, where you may buy regional preserves and other products. I know you are really going to enjoy this tour. The distance covered by this tour is long, maybe over 250 miles, mostly on earth roads, so I do not recommend driving a car, unless if you are familiar with driving on gravel roads. Enjoy your stay at Puerto Madryn.
Written by Robert Raymond Ingledew on 20 Sep, 2006
If you go to Puerto Madryn from January to May, you will find very little to see: Whales leave in December and penguins leave in March/April. However, it does have lovely beaches, that you can enjoy until Easter, more or less, but the main attraction…Read More
If you go to Puerto Madryn from January to May, you will find very little to see: Whales leave in December and penguins leave in March/April. However, it does have lovely beaches, that you can enjoy until Easter, more or less, but the main attraction of the area is wildlife. It is also the place where Welsh colonizers disembarked around 1885. It is a modern city with 80,000 inhabitants, many cruises stop here on their way to the Antarctic, and it is a pretty safe city. Hotels tend to charge more to foreigners. You might avoid this staying at one or two-star hotels. If you are looking for budget accommodation, I would recommend the hotel Tandil (2 stars) (firstname.lastname@example.org). Close
Punta Loma: some 14 miles away from the downtown towards the south, Punta Loma is a very interesting colony of seals. There are cliffs over the sea, and cormorants have their nests in the banks, watching out for fish. The color of the area is…Read More
Punta Loma: some 14 miles away from the downtown towards the south, Punta Loma is a very interesting colony of seals. There are cliffs over the sea, and cormorants have their nests in the banks, watching out for fish. The color of the area is very pleasant, and a taxi to get there will cost you some 20 dollars, including the waiting time. There are also organized tours, but they charge more or less the same price, per passenger, not per vehicle… The tide needs to be low to have an optimal view, or you will only see a few seals swimming in the water. Keep this in mind.
El Doradillo/Las Canteras. At the same distance, but towards the east, this is an excellent viewpoint for watching whales, since it is a breeding area. Maybe the regular bus service to Puerto Pirámides will take you there. Otherwise, you will have to take a tour or go on a taxi, for some 20 dollars. The beach here is not sand, but pebble stones. If you stay for an hour or more, you will normally see 3 or 4 whales. They are large, over 40 feet long, so you will have no problem in taking excellent photos, or in filming them with their babies (small whales that are some ten feet long). The advantage of going on an organized tour is that they will continue along the coast until the find the whales; the taxi driver might want to charge you more in this case.
Paleontological Museum in Trelew: this museum is included in the tour to Punta Tombo, but if you want to go back with enough time to see it thoroughly, there are bus services from Puerto Madryn to Trelew that run about every hour, that take some 45 minutes to get there. Then at the bus station take a taxi to the Museo Paleontológico. Puerto Madryn is a very safe city, but Trelew is not. Avoid taking any risks. Keep an eye on your valuables, and avoid walking in solitary areas. Do not show your photo camera or camcorder while you are not using them.
Gaiman: if you want to walk through this live testimony of Welsh colonization, take the bus to Trelew and then another bus to Gaiman (as far as I know there is no direct bus service from Puerto Madryn to Gaiman, but just in case, check it out at the bus station). If you go to Gaiman, I am sure you will want to taste delicious Welsh cakes, and walk through the town to explore the testimonies of Welsh civilization, the first low school that existed there, the Welsh chapels, and also to see some of the farms in the irrigated area. The contrast between the irrigated area and the Patagonian desert is impressive, and many times you will be able to capture that contrast with your photo camera.
Florentino Amhegino Dam and Lake: this dam is located in the Lower Chubut River valley, and is a very interesting place to visit. If you are fond of fishing, try fishing in the river downstream from the dam. Large trout are being fished in this area (I have seen photos of 8-pound trout and even larger) , and the fishing tour that goes there from Buenos Aires is one of the most expensive fishing tours featured. Check this site: www.tumejorpesca.com.ar.
Sierra Grande: an important iron mine existed there (Hierro Patagónico de Sierra Grande) that was closed. There are tours to the mine, and there you can go down using ropes and explore the mine inside. Take the necessary steps to protect your photo camera or camcorder to avoid it from hitting the mine walls or from getting wet. As you see, Puerto Madryn offers you many different options: penguins at Punta Tombo, sea elephants and birds at Península Valdez, whale-watching either navigating from Puerto Pirámides or from the coast at El Doradillo or Las Canteras, seals at Punta Loma, a guided tour to the Aluminum plant (ALUAR), Welsh tearooms at Gaiman, the cliffs and caves at Las Grutas, the tour inside the iron mine at Sierra Grande, the Florentino Amhegino Paleontological Museum, the Florentino Amhegino dam and lake, fishing in the Chubut river… and more. Enjoy your stay in Central Patagonia.
The tour to Península Valdez.
This is probably the longest tour we will take, and is also the most expensive one: over 40 dollars for the land section, plus some 20 dollars more for a whale-watching tour at Puerto Pirámides. It all depends on how…Read More
The tour to Península Valdez.
This is probably the longest tour we will take, and is also the most expensive one: over 40 dollars for the land section, plus some 20 dollars more for a whale-watching tour at Puerto Pirámides. It all depends on how much you want to spend. On the way towards Puerto Pirámides here will be a stop at El Doradillo or Las Canteras, wherever the whales are breeding, and you will see them at a distance of some 150 feet from the shore, quiet in the sea, in most cases with their little whales. Did I say little? A newly born whale is some ten feet long…and they remain fairly quiet in the sea, so you will take beautiful photos. When you try to take photos from the motorboat, well…the boat moves and when whales come near, everyone want to take a photo and someone might stand up just in front of you camera. I had that frustrating experience, until finally I was able to take a good photo. But it will be far more difficult to film the whale from the boat, because people will be walking in front of you. In any case, the motorboat tour is very interesting, because you will see many birds, mostly cormorants, on the cliffs that surround the gulf. After this they will take you to a sea elephant colony; they are so huge that they weigh up to five tons, and they nearly always seem to be sleeping.
Finally, you will be taken to an Interpretation Center and Museum where you will learn more about all these mammals and birds. This tour leaves early in the morning and arrives back late in the evening. You will have time for having lunch at Puerto Pirámides, a small village with some 200 inhabitants that lives mostly from tourism. You can also rent a motorboat for sea salmon fishing, but there are two things you will not like: the price for renting a motorboat, and the fact that once you have fished the salmon some seals may decide to eat it before you take it out of the water… If you only have time for one tour, I would definitely take the tour to Punta Tombo to see the penguins. You can take a half day tour to El Doradillo/Las Canteras to film whales at half the price. These two places are only 15 miles away from the city. You will also enjoy walking around the coastal avenue, and if you go after October, you can even enjoy some time at the beach at Playa Joaquina (Joaquina beach). You can also visit the only aluminum plant that Argentina has (ALUAR), or walk the half-mile long pier, where international cruises moor. Of course, if there are cruises in port, you will not be allowed onto the pier. If there are none, you can test your fishing skills on the pier, mostly for silverside, but you may also fish sea bass and other fish, even sitting on a bench!!!
And by now you will be ready for a real nice dinner. I have gone to different places, but prefer the Cantina El Náutico, where an executive menu including vital toné (roast beef in sardine sauce), Roquefort Salmon, dessert and half a bottle of wine will cost you less than 10 dollars per person. It is on Avenue Roca, is a fashionable place that has been visited by many presidents, artists, and musicians… Let’s see if I remember their website, here it is: www.cantinaelnautico.com.ar. I know you will enjoy it. And if you get up early in the morning, don’t miss the sunrise in Puerto Madryn. Water in the gulf is very quiet, sky is generally cloudy, and the clouds take a beautiful reddish color, and when the sun rises, apart from seeing seagulls flying over you (I have filmed some beautiful scenes with them) the whole gulf will take a reddish color that will allow you to take some lovely photos. I got up early once, the view was really fantastic, and I would do it again, and again… Enjoy your stay at Puerto Madryn.
Written by WitlessWanderer on 02 Dec, 2005
Only a short 45-minute bus ride ($2) from Trelew is the village of Gaimen, a Welsh cultural centre (it holds their annual Eistedfodd).The Museo Histó²©£o Regional Gales ($1) is pleasantly set in the old railway station, but you'll be delayed waiting for trains back home.…Read More
Only a short 45-minute bus ride ($2) from Trelew is the village of Gaimen, a Welsh cultural centre (it holds their annual Eistedfodd).The Museo Histó²©£o Regional Gales ($1) is pleasantly set in the old railway station, but you'll be delayed waiting for trains back home. The only knowledge I gleaned from this exhibition of pioneer relics was that my home city of Bristol is called Caerodor, in Welsh.More interesting was Mary, the museum's curator, a sprite old lady in her 70s with roots in Gwent. She was keen to try and teach the ignorant tourist (i.e. me) a few word of God's own language. I'm afraid the only one that really stuck was thank you, <i>diolch,</i> with the "ch" pronounced as like in the Scottish "loch."Next was the Parque El Desafio, hailed by Guinness as the World's Largest Recycled Park. Dear me, are they that desperate to fill that book these days? This is a prime example of the Lonely Planet raving over something quirky while failing to mention the fact that it's (literally and metaphorically) rubbish. Crude displays from painted bottles that wouldn't be out of place in a primary school art class are adorned by short plaques containing the wisdom of the exhibit's creator, JoaquÃn Alonso. It's, ahem, "wittingly mocking of today's values," or stomach-churningly trite, meaningless whimsy. Exhibit A: "There are two kinds of paupers: those who have no money and those who have no ideas" (pictured).But most disappointing was the traditional Welsh tea. Billed as an artery-stopping cavalcade of cakes, I skipped lunch to make room. With hunger gnawing my insides, I headed to Ty Nain (Yrigoyen 283), a pretty white cottage lost in ivy. Initial signs were good, with the walls covered in memorabilia and cheesy Welsh folk music tinkling in the background.But then the main event arrived--seven meagre slices of stodgy cake and a few of bread and butter, all washed down my a pot of weak tea. It barely took the edge off my hunger, let alone provoke life-threatening bloatedness. And it's $20 ($7) for the privilege, roughly equal to a night's accommodation or six cups of decent coffee. In keeping with the Welsh theme, I'd been fleeced.You could easily visit Gaimen in an afternoon. But who knows why you'd want to do such a thing. Surely you can find something better to do in Patagonia? Close