Like the thousands of others who visit Puerto Madryn every year, you probably want to see the region's amazing marine fauna. You will undoubtedly have a unique experience on the coasts of the Southern Atlantic. Puerto Madryn, which is located in Chubut province, is one of the most attractive cities in Argentine Patagonia. Perhaps its most outstanding attribute is its proximity to Península Valdés (declared a World Heritage Site in 1999), where you can get an up-close look at whales, penguins, sea lions, elephant seals, and other species that inhabit the coasts of Patagonia.
While this may be the main attraction, in recent decades a number of other interesting activities have sprouted up around Puerto Madryn, all of which promise to make your trip south even more interesting: adventure tourism, fishing trips, and even culinary festivals have made Puerto Madryn one of the top tourist destinations in Argentina.
Imagine a whale swimming in the ocean just a few yards away. During this trip, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy that unique experience. From June through December, the southern white whale population comes to this region to mate. You can watch them swimming next to their offspring (calves) from natural viewing points or from boats that sail close to the animals. In either case, you can reserve excursions that will take you to Puerto Pirámides to enjoy the whales from the beach or the sea. But, again, it is not absolutely necessary to take the boat trip. Remember that some eight miles from Puerto Madryn is El Doradillo beach, where you can watch as the enormous cetaceans and their calves swim just a few yards from the shore. The beach is public and, hence, access is free of charge.
If you want to take to the sea but you get seasick on small boats, there's a brand new option: the Yellow Submarine, a sort of submarine from which to watch the whales from under the sea. Another choice is the Regina Australe cruiser, which makes a number of stops as it travels down the coast, though it is not specifically for whale watching.
"Look but don't touch" are the words to keep in mind when you visit Punta Tombo, some 110 miles from Puerto Madryn and one of the highlights of a visit to the area. While there, you'll have the chance to spend a few hours with the largest colony of Magellanic penguins anywhere in the world and to see how they live as hundreds of thousands of these birds parade by your side. Depending on when you schedule your visit, you can watch their arrival on the beaches (August and September), their incubation period (October), the birth of their chicks (November and December), their first incursions into the sea and their taking of the shore (January and February), or their slow migration back north (March and April).
Just ten miles from the city is Punta Loma reserve, where you can see sea lions resting on the sand year round, as well as gulls, cormorants, and other birds and sea reptiles. This is another must in your voyage through the fauna.
Another way to experience Patagonia's natural ecosystem without leaving the city is by visiting the Ecocentro Puerto Madryn, a cultural space that explores sea ecosystems from the perspective of science, art, and education. Just a few yards from the shore, the eco-center has a great ocean view and a wide selection of exhibitions, concerts, and events.
Did you know that Puerto Madryn is considered the diving capital of Argentina? That's because its crystalline waters and the variety of fish visible in the depths of the sea attract a great many divers. But you don't need to be an expert to swim amongst the fish and sea lions: on the Avenida Costanera you will find a number of diving schools where they will teach you the basics , outfit you in a diving suit, and take you to the water to discover the world under the sea.
Another activity that draws many visitors to Madryn is sports fishing, which can be enjoyed from the shore or a boat. Though you can go fishing year round, the warmest months (from November to March) are the best time to go hunting for dogfish, grouper, bream, and other species that swim these shores. As with diving, a number of different companies organize fishing trips that last either half a day or a whole day.
Further outside the city (almost 125 miles away), you'll find a place coveted by lovers of adventure tourism: Dique Ameghino, with its beautiful landscapes of red rock, is a perfect place to go camping and rafting, fishing and mountain climbing, or to engage in other outdoor activities.
Patagonian food has gained recognition around the country thanks to some of its stellar products like lamb, trout, and spider crab. This is so much the case that, since 2008, one of the most important culinary festivals in Argentina has been held in Puerto Madryn every year: Madryn al Plato, an event that includes tastings and master classes given by some of the country's most famous chefs. During the festival, over forty restaurants participate in a gastronomical circuit, offering regional specialties at promotional prices. The event usually takes place during the winter months.
When it comes to restaurants, if you want delicious signature-cuisine food with a lovely sea view, try Coirón, located in Hotel Dazzler Puerto Madryn. Its varied menu includes dishes like cod en croute with blue cheese, pilaf with marinated fennel, braised lamb gigot, grilled polenta, cherry confit, and eggplant caviar. This is without a doubt one of the highlights on the city's culinary circuit.
One dependable classic is Cantina El Náutico, which has been opened since 1963. The restaurant's concept is what they call a "sea bistro," that is, a menu based on fish and seafood. Another must visit is Yoaquina, not only because of its excellent traditional fare, but also because of its location on the beach.
If you're looking for something more intimate, we have two recommendations. One is El Almendro, a small restaurant with a pretty courtyard that serves Mediterranean food. The spinach risotto with bacon is a must. If you want a gourmet experience, learn the name Gustavo Rapretti, the organizer of Madryn al Plato and a point of reference in eating in Madryn. Each weekend, Rapretti opens the doors to his home and prepares a meal of various courses based on local products: salicornia, prawn, lamb, and merken—a sort of smoked chili pepper. The event is called En los Fuegos de mi Casa and reservations are required.
If you want to go out for a drink, try Margarita, where they serve beer and classic drinks like daiquiris and caipiroskas, as well as a wide range of pizzas .
Finally, the traditional confection in Puerto Madryn is Welsh cake, a sort of sweet bread with raisins and orange peel. "What does Wales have to do with Puerto Madryn?," you wonder. During the 19th century, Chubut province received a large number of Welsh immigrants who left their mark on the names of places and local customs. In fact, one widely observed tradition is Welsh tea, with a large variety of cakes and pastries. The best place to try it is the town of Gaiman (located some forty-five miles from Madryn), the center of the Welsh community.