Puerto Madryn on Patagonia’s Atlantic coast offers dramatic landscapes and close-up encounters with the sea’s most majestic marine life.
One of Argentina’s four major cruise ship ports, ‘Madryn’ as locals call it, sits 1,400 km (870 miles) south of Buenos Aires, serving as the gateway to Chubut’s stunning coastal wonders.
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Why Visit Puerto Madryn?
Nearby is the Valdés Peninsula, a Unesco World Heritage site and protected wildlife reserve teeming with whales, orcas, sea lions and nearly 200 species of birds.
Whale watching is the primary attraction, with the serene blue waters serving as a stage for the playful antics of over 2,000 Southern Right Whales.
It’s also hunting ground for the more elusive Killer Whales.
Visiting penguins at Punta Tombo, a little further south down the coast is also a mandatory activity to get the full marine life experience.
This nature reserve is home to an estimated one million Magellanic penguins — the world’s largest colony.
Puerto Madryn is also the birthplace of Argentina’s numerous Welsh colonies, a fascinating chapter in Patagonia’s history that remains largely overlooked.
The pristine ecosystems surrounding Puerto Madryn were relatively undiscovered by international travelers until quite recently.
Since the turn of the last century, the enthusiastic murmurs of travelers have increasingly turned into a chorus singing Puerto Madryn’s praises.
Penguins at Punta Tombo
There are several penguin rookeries on Penisula Valdes but the largest colony of penguins, 170 km south at Punta Tombo can’t be missed.
Visitors can safely traverse the penguin migration path via a boardwalk above and wander the trails amongst thousands of penguins.
Returning from Punta Tombo are the quaint settlements of Gaiman and Trelew, offering cultural exploration and Welsh Tea for those intrigued by the region’s Celtic history.
🐳 — This tour is an incredible value as a semi-customizable four-day package with excursions to see whales, penguins, sea lions and the including airport transfer, hotel and tours.
Best Time to Visit
Each season on the south Atlantic brings with it a unique chapter of life for those passionate about the wonders of the natural world.
This peninsula has earned its reputation as one of the world’s premier locales to witness see Southern Right whales in their natural habitat.
These gentle giants make their annual pilgrimage here from Brazil to mate, birth and rear calves beginning in June.
The dramatic hunting antics of Killer Whales beaching themselves with the tides to feast on sea lion pups takes place from February to May.
Here, travelers can also hang out with the chilled out Magellanic penguins from September to April.
You can even swim with playful sea lions or perhaps glimpse the mysterious orca— both species are around the area all year.
What are the main things that Puerto Madryn is known for?
The town is also known for its scenic coast, outdoor adventure, wildlife viewing opportunities and Welsh heritage.
Puerto Madryn is the jumping off point to visit the wildlife reserve, on Valdes Peninsula, Punta Tombo penguin colony and Welsh villages of Trelew and Gaiman.
When is the best time to see Wildlife in Puerto Madryn?
The best time to visit Puerto Madryn will depend on the wildlife you want to see, as each species has its own life cycle.
• June—August: Whale watching season begins in the winter months.
At this time, visitors can witness unique whale behaviors that can’t be seen anywhere else.
• September—January: In spring and summer the overall population of wildlife is highest but so are the number of tourists.
• October and November: Prime months to see both whales and penguins, but make reservations and you may want to avoid the crowds during Argentina’s long October weekend.
• February — May: Unique beaching activity of Killer Whales can be observed as they hunt baby seal pups on the shores.
Two Easy Way to go Whale Watching in Puerto Madryn:
- ✅ Book a full day tour with lunch that includes transport from Puerto Madryn to Penisula Valdés
2. 🅿️ DIY — rent a car and make your way to Puerto Piramides.
Read more here about ➡ renting a car and driving in Argentina.
Make sure you know how to drive a stick shift because that is usually all that is available.
While traversing the Valdes Penisula on land it’s not uncommon to spot guanacos, armadillos, rhea (South American ostrich), foxes, maras (a large Patagonian hare), and skunks.
Puerto Madryn’s Beachside Promenade
Surrounding areas, including the Valdes Pennisula may be Puerto Madryn’s number one attraction but take some time to enjoy the long rambla, or promenade along the sandy white beach.
Puerto Madryn’s promenade stretches 7.6 km (4.7 mi) along the coast of the Golfo Nuevo from the Piedra Buena pier to the Monument to the Tehuelches, making it ideal for leisurely walks or bike riding.
Whales are so numerous in these waters, that it’s not uncommon to spot them while strolling the promenade.
The city expanded the pier in 2022 and a new shopping center with boutique fashion outlets was built to appeal to cruisers with money to spend.
Puerto Madryn’s Beaches
By late summer when the New Year rolls around, the whales are mostly gone, but tourists aren’t.
Puerto Madryn receives more domestic tourists looking for a spot in the sun during Argentina’s summer holidays.
The town boasts seven beaches total, spreading out consecutively from the along the Golfo Nuevo.
Playa Paraná is an expansive rocky beach with one of many shipwrecks along this coast resting in its grave on the shoreline.
Playa Kaiser is the first beach heading south of the city where you may see gauchos on horseback along the shore, people kite surfing, and even people parked in RVs, living the #vanlife in Argentina.
These shoreline is vast, and when the tide is low, there can be several blocks of sandy stretch before reaching the water’s edge.
If visiting Madryn, during the summer months, the beach is the hot spot for playing in waves, paddle ball, volley ball or sipping yerba mate and socializing.
The Atlantic waters can be cold, but Puerto Madryn’s shallow bay warms up the water by a few degrees.
It’s still not as balmy as Argentina’s ‘most beautiful beach,’ Las Grutas, three hours south though, so many just take a quick dip between sunbathing and and round of mate on the beach.
Given the chilly embrace of the water, you might just thank yourself for rocking a wetsuit if playing in the waves for any length of time.
Around sunset in summertime, it seems like the whole town congregates on the beach, lending Puerto Madryn a friendly, small-town vibe.
The center of Puerto Madryn branches out from the white sandy beachfront, bookended by the Patagonian steppe.
Straightforward neighborhood names such as ‘Inmigrantes‘ (Immigrants), “Los Galeses‘ (The Welsh) and ‘Conquista del Desierto‘ (Desert Conquest) evoke the the city’s early colonial and settlement history.
A laid-back town where conversations about school recitals take place across the bakery counter, it regularly receives surges of bewildered tourists from cruises trying to figure out why a cafe latte costs thousands of pesos.
Where to Get Coffee
Visitors in search of coffee will find the national coffee chain Havanna only two blocks from the pier.
Coffee connoisseur may want to walk three blocks further along the promenade to find Casa Hulpe, one of Madryn’s best — and only — speciality coffee houses.
(See our handy coffee chart to figure out which coffee you want.)
What to Eat: Savoring Flavors of Patagonia
Puerto Madryn’s low key culinary scene is influenced by both its seaside location and the Welsh influence here.
Between 2020-2022 and many small businesses here closed down but travelers are back and new restaurants are opening all the time.
Given its location by the Atlantic Ocean, Puerto Madryn offers a variety of fresh seafood dishes such as squid rings, mussels, and king crab.
A chilled Shrimp Cocktail is not to be missed — the Southern Atlantic prawns are huge, fresh and abundant.
Cazuela de mariscos is another local favorite — flavorful seafood casserole baked in a clay pot.
A non-seafood speciality of the region is Cordero Patagónico: Patagonian lamb slow roasted over an open flame on a spit.
Undoubtable the berries are delicious in Patagonia, and if you go in summer you will find wild berry bushes with fruit just waiting to be picked.
Where to Eat
Foodtruck: Nuestros Maricos (Our Seafood) is a popular food truck that appears along the frontage road, Alte. Brown, near Punta Cuevas, on the south side of town.
They specialize in seafood dishes such as squid rings, fried prawns and seafood casserole.
Cantina el Náutico is a classic in Madryn. Opened in 1963, the cozy bistro is now run by the third generation.
The menu features shrimp cocktail, paella, seafood casserole, Basque-style grilled hake, and hand cut french fries.
If you dine here, you will be in good company, as demonstrated by all the pictures of Argentine celebrities on the walls.
Nicanor Cocinero probably the best restaurant in town.
This memorable restaurant is a whole experience. You may end up sharing a table, or even a bottle of wine.
Meals will have several courses of fresh homemade food. The menu depends on what’s in season and what Nico feels like cooking.
Tea Houses: A tradition of Welsh settlers, local tea houses serving cakes, scones, and ‘Torta Galesa,’ Welsh fruitcake made with a healthy amount of whiskey.
The teahouses are open during the merienda, especially in Trelew and Gaiman.
Diana, Princess of Wales enjoyed a traditional Welsh teatime with Chubutense locals in 1995, only a year-and-a-half before her untimely demise.
Puerto Madryn Cruise Port
Puerto Madryn is among the ports of call for cruises navigating the Patagonian channels through the Tierra del Fuego region of Argentina.
• Luis Piedra Buena Pier, Argentina’s first dedicated cruise ship pier, debuting in 1910 is where cruise ships moor. It’s only a short 200 meter walk along the pier to downtown.
• If there are more than two cruise liners at the above pier, ships will dock at Almirante Storni Pier 4.5 km outside of town. Shuttle buses to town are provided to passengers.
Changing Money/Money Transfer
Dealing with money in Argentina, and especially in smaller cities like Puerto Madryn can be a bit of an ordeal, so be prepared, to make things go smoother.
To get the best exchange rate bring USD cash to exchange at the ‘Blue Rate.’
Where to Change Cash
An official money exchange house is open on the Luis Piedra Buena Pier when cruises land, which may be the most convenient option.
Check our Blue Dollar & Western Union Currency Convertor which has live rates, just to make sure you get somewhere close to the blue rate.
Locations for money change come and go, since it is technically illegal, so ask around to be pointed to the nearest money exchange.
Dollars are hard to come by for locals in the area, so rates given for U.S. dollars are typically higher all over Patagonia than in Buenos Aires.
If you casually mention you want to change money, many small business owners will be willing to take the precious dollars off your hands.
Usually taking out the middle man this way is a win-win, just check the rate.
• There are several Western Union locations nestled in downtown Puerto Madryn.
Beware they often will not have enough cash to pay out.
If you need to pickup a Western Union transfer here, don’t transfer a large amount and go on a weekday morning for your best chance for success. Also be aware that many businesses here close for the siesta, from about 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Credit Cards and ATMs
As with everywhere in Argentina, businesses don’t love accepting credit cards.
Additionally the rate you will receive on your card or at the ATM is up to 10-15% less than the Blue Rate.
Again in Patagonia carry USD cash to cut down on hassles which you should always have as a backup anyway.
Hotels with Ocean Views
Hotel Territorio on the south side of town at Punta Cuevas, Territorio has rooms with sweeping views of the Patagonian Sea and it gets wifi.
It only two kilometers from the city center so it’s a pleasant walk along the beach to get into town.
Hotel Península Valdés in one of the tallest buildings in Puerto Madryn, right downtwn near the pier, this hotel isn’t luxurious but it has views of the sea and costs under $100 most of the year.
Chepatagonia Hostel & Coworking offers dorms for those on a budget and reasonable cozy apartments complete with kitchens in the middle of the beach.
A great option for those traveling alone or who are in the area to work.
Puerto Piramides, Penisula Valdés — stay on the nature reserve itself for a couple of days, if possible.
There is a small fee <$10 to enter the reserve, check prices on the official webpage.
This tiny pueblo on the Peninsula is where the whale watching boats excursions depart.
It’s the only place on the Peninsula that has a phone signal.
Make sure to make reservations far in advance, or else you can’t be picky about where you stay as housing and accommodation is severely limited in the small village.
Travel: Getting to Puerto Madryn from Buenos Aires
- Puerto Madryn is 800 miles south of Buenos Aires and most flights originate from Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery (AEP).
- There are a few flights directly to El Tehuelche Airport (PMY) in Puerto Madryn per week.
- If coming from Buenos Aires, most direct (and less expensive) flights arrive in Trelew, situated roughly 60 km from Puerto Madryn.
- Long distance buses connect Puerto Madryn with numerous Argentine cities while flights from cities other than Buenos Aires are scarce.
- You may have to plan carefully to work Puerto Madryn into a multi-destination trip although there are flights from here to Ushuaia and El Calafate in high season.
Puerto Madryn from the Airport
- Taxis are usually waiting right outside both the Puerto Madryn and Trelew Airports.
- Shared Transfers: For a more budget friendly option pre-book a shared transfer from Trelew directly to your chosen accommodation Puerto Madryn.
- Car Rentals: Renting a car upon arrival in Trelew (check prices in pesos here) serves the dual purpose as transport from the airport and a means to explore its surrounding areas.
- Read about car rental requirements and driving in Argentina. Your mileage may vary 🙂 but it seems renting a car in pesos is a good way to save money.