The small but historic city of Puerto Madryn is an important base for exploring this ruggedly stunning part of Argentine Patagonia. The port settlement was founded by 153 Welsh immigrants in 1865, all of whom arrived after a challenging two-month voyage on the clipper ship Mimosa.
Welsh culture still exists in this part of Patagonia. From Puerto Madryn, you can easily visit towns like Gaiman and Trelew, where traditional Welsh teahouses — with Welsh-speaking owners — serve tea and cakes to hungry visitors. It’s estimated that anywhere between 1,500 and 5,000 people still speak Patagonian Welsh.
Beyond Puerto Madryn’s historic importance lies a vast swathe of wind-swept and starkly beautiful landscapes. Wildlife spotters and outdoor enthusiasts come to Puerto Madryn to explore the Valdes Peninsula, a nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site that juts out into the Atlantic less than 40 miles to the northeast of Puerto Madryn. The reserve is home to a wide range of fauna, including marine mammals such as sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals. Birdwatchers have more than 180 species to look for (including penguins), while further inland roam rheas (emu-like flightless birds), guanacos (small camelids) and maras (large, almost rabbit-like, rodents).
The coast just off Puerto Madryn and the Valdes Peninsula is also whale territory. Southern right whales come to these waters to mate and give birth, typically between May and December. Orcas also swim here and have been known to beach themselves to catch sea lions and elephant seals — an incredible spectacle if you have the fortune to see it. Whale watching trips can be arranged locally; at the right time of year, you can also spot whales from the city’s pier.
The city itself is a mix of industry and tourism. And despite its continued growth, Puerto Madryn retains a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, providing a pleasant base for exploring the wider region.
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