You go to Puerto Madryn for one reason and one reason only – the wildlife. Whales, dolphins sea lions, penguins, elephant seals, they all flock around the region’s Atlantic coast at one point or another in the year. The thing with Madryn, and it’s a big thing, is that it is horribly pricey. Here’s how we navigated its choppy fiscal waters:
- First thing to note is that we made a big mistake with Madryn and went out of whale season. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t rock up there and think “shit, there’s no whales,” but it is a long way from anywhere and if you’re going to make the trip, do it at the right time of year. Whale season is from June-December, but November is also a brilliant month for orcas, penguins and dolphins.
- Tours are pricey and subject to massive inflation. In early 2016 a tour to Punto Tombo or the Valdes peninsula, not including park entry, set you back ARG$500-600 (approx £25-£30). Current price is ARG$1200, and the entry price for each park – which you pay for in addition to the tour – has also increased, from ARG$150 last summer, to ARG$250 (£11.50). We budgeted £70 all in, so when our friendly hostel informed us, with a shrug, that the price was now £150 for us both, we died a bit inside. Considering the tour didn’t provide food or any additional extras, you are literally paying £60 per person for a car ride. We tried shopping around to no avail. Given Argentina’s economic instability, this will in all likelihood continue to rise in price.
- Punta Tombo is specifically for penguins – and you are guaranteed to see them there. The Valdes Peninsula is a little more hit and miss, but it is there you want to go to see the majority of marine life.
- Your other option to do the tours is to rent a car and drive yourself. Current rentals are around ARG$1500 a day, which for two of you is pretty similar to the cost of a tour, but with more freedom. The downside – you have the added fun of driving on the many gravel roads which surround Puerto Madryn. Enjoy the bouncing.
- Car share! If you are lucky enough to be travelling as a group of 4/5, you have life pretty much made. Otherwise, get your social butterfly wings on and find yourself a couple of people to share with. We suggest arriving a day before and hunting down other fellow new arrivals.
- Despite being a lovely – and otherwise fairly inexpensive – little town, most people only stay for a few days in this neck of the woods. We would suggest the following itinerary:
Day 1: Stay in P.Madryn and find some fellow car-sharers/organise the rental.
Day 2: Leave early and drive up to Peninsula Valdes and explore at your hearts content. Expect to return around 8/9pm.
NOTE: Happy campers can pitch their tents in Puerto Piramides and either drive back in the morning, or spend two full days touring the peninsula. There’s plenty to see.
Day 3: Drive down to the Punto Tombo to see the amazing penguin colony. On your way back, stop in at Isla Escondida. If you’re lucky you’ll have uninterrupted access to the elephant seals that hang out there.
- In season, there are countless boat tours in P.Madryn to go and see the southern right whales, which at the right time of year are almost a guaranteed sighting. The boat tours at the time of writing are about ARG$850 per person.
Overview of costs, February 2017:
Punto Tombo Colony tour: ARG$1200
Peninsula Valdes tourL ARG$1200
Individual park entry: ARG$250
Daily car rental: Approx ARG$1500
Petrol: Approx ARG$15 per litre
Now you’ve swallowed that pricey pill, here are some visual treats to motivate you.