When to visit Argentina’s incredible Peninsula Valdes
Peninsula Valdes, on Argentina’s desolate southern coast, is famous for its fascinating marine wildlife, which includes sea lions, penguins, walruses and elephant seals. But it is perhaps best known for being the spot where orcas (killer whales) willfully beach themselves while hunting sea lions at Playa Norte.
“It was as if the peninsula and its narrow isthmus was a cul-de-sac into which all the wildlife of Chubut had drained and from which it could not escape,” wrote Gerald Durrell in his 1961 classic The Whispering Land. And he was right. The anvil-shaped peninsula’s 250-mile coastline encompasses enough bays, lagoons, and beaches to harbor all manner of creatures; big and small, marine and terrestrial.
In recognition of its importance as a safe haven and breeding ground for marine animals, Peninsula Valdes was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Make the most of your time in one of the world’s most incredible marine wildlife reserves by indulging in a spot of snorkeling, scuba diving, or kayaking while you’re there.
The mesmerizing sight of Southern Right Whales is a special experience that you’ll never forget. While you can see these majestic marine animals between June and December, the best month for whale watching is October. Whales can be spotted from the shore, boat or kayak. Two natural inlets provide whales with a respite from the tumultuous Atlantic, which attracts these gentle creatures to the region for breeding. It’s very hard to beat a sunset whale-watching cruise…
These huge marine predators make the Peninsula their home from September to April. Their erratic behavior patterns mean you can’t bank on seeing an Orca during your trip. That said, the best place to find them is on the shore of Punta Norte, near the sea lion colony, where you even may be fortunate enough to see an orca beach itself to hunt. You can also come across them elsewhere on the peninsula.
Wildlife fans won’t want to miss the opportunity to witness hundreds of thousands of breeding Magellanic Penguins between September and March. The largest breeding site, numbering some half a million birds, is at Punta Tombo, about three hours’ drive from Peninsula Valdes (day trips can easily be arranged and come highly recommended). Punta Norte, on the peninsula itself, hosts a mere 270,000 birds every year.
You can expect to spot curious sea lions frolicking off the coastline of Peninsula Valdes all year round. Kayaking from Puerto Madryn or Puerto Piramides is an awesome opportunity to see these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat. The Peninsula is a valuable breeding site for sea lions and the breeding season extends from December to March.
The Peninsula is home to thousands of elephant seals, which can be spotted all year round. At peak times, there are over 20 000 seals along the coastline. The region is an important breeding area for these marine mammals and breeding season starts in December and ends in March.
You can spot Commerson’s dolphins frolicking off the coastline of Peninsula Valdes all year round. It’s worth taking a trip to Playa Union as this is one of their favorite haunts. The calving season starts in the middle of November, an exciting time to see baby dolphins. Smaller, dusky dolphins can be found off the Peninsula from December to March, especially between Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San Jose.
Peninsula Valdes is a haven for bird watchers all year round. Over 181 bird species call the Peninsula home. The best place to spot a diverse range of species is the imaginatively-named Bird Island, situated in the southern section of the Golfo San Jose. Look out for Royal Cormorants, ostrich-like rheas and migratory bird species, such as the Antarctic Pigeon. You might even come across flamingos and burrowing owls.
Season by season
- January to March. Expect to see birds, penguins, sea lions, elephant seals and - if you're lucky - orcas. You are also likely to spot dolphins during this period. Temperatures range from an average high of around 72 °F to an average low of about 54°F.
- April to June. You can expect to see birds, sea lions, elephant seals and dolphins during this chillier period. In April it’s possible to see orcas while June marks the start of whale season. Temperatures range from an average high of around 60°F to an average low of between 50°F and 40°F.
- July – September. You can spot birds, sea lions, whales, elephant seals and dolphins off the coastline of Peninsula Valdes from July to September. September is also a good time to see penguins and orcas. Temperatures range from an average high of 54°F to an average low of around 41°F.
- October to December is a busy period for the wildlife of Peninsula Valdes. You can expect to see birds, penguins, sea lions, elephant seals, whales, orcas and dolphins. These warmer months have temperatures that range between average highs of between 63°F and 71°F and average lows of about 50°F.
Also worth visiting
- Antarctica boasts a plethora of memorizing wildlife and thrilling activities. From sea kayaking to hiking, there is plenty to keep you busy during this one in a lifetime trip.
- Buenos Aires is a shopper’s paradise with fine wine and an abundance of fascinating antiques. There is something for everyone in this vibrant city that’s captivated the hearts of locals and tourists alike.
The spectacular wildlife of Peninsula Valdes makes it a real bucket list destination. If you want to experience the wonder of penguins, whales, dolphins and other fascinating marine mammals, contact one of our Destination Experts for the customized adventure of a lifetime.
Credit to Flickr user David for the title image of this blog.