When it comes to whale watching, Patagonia has it all. Wannabe whale watchers have numerous options from which to choose. Popular areas include Corcovado Gulf and Francisco Coloane Marine Park, both of which are in Chilean waters. Ask anybody in the know, however, and they’ll invariably recommend one place above all others – the Valdes Peninsula.
Valdes Peninsula: The best place for whale watching in Patagonia?
The Valdes Peninsula is located off the Southern Cone and offers a whale watching experience like virtually nowhere else. The star attraction here is the southern right whale, though some visitors can also be fortunate enough to view orcas hunting.
The southern right whale is large, growing up to 18 metres in length and weighing up to 90 tonnes. They are highly distinctive whales, dark grey with white bellies and unmistakable callosities on their heads, broad-backed and with no dorsal fin. Their behaviour is social and physically active, making them ideal for aspiring whale watchers in Patagonia.
The best places to view whales on the Valdes Peninsula are Puerto Madryn, Playa Doradillo and Puerto Piramides. The creatures are known for a unique behaviour known as “sailing”, whereby they use their tail to catch the wind and glide along the water.
In Puerto Madryn and Playa Doradillo, visitors can only watch whales from the land. Only in Puerto Piramides can visitors view whales by boat, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. The best time of year to go whale watching in the Valdes Peninsula is from August to October when the chances of spotting whales are at their highest.
Not-technically-whale watching: Patagonia has orcas, too
Though southern right whales are the stars of the show, the Valdes Peninsula is also famous for its orca population. Though not technically whales at all, viewing orcas is in high demand among whale watchers. Here, the orcas employ a truly unique hunting technique: They beach themselves so as to catch vulnerable seal pups. This is an elusive sight and requires a lot of patience and good fortune. The best spots to view orca attacks are Caleta Valdes, Punta Delgada and Punta Norte.
Where else to go whale watching in Patagonia
Argentina’s Valdes Peninsula is not the only destination for whale watching in Patagonia. On the Chilean side, two other regions should be on any whale watcher’s radar: Corcovado Gulf and Francisco Coloane Marine Park. Depending on the sort of whales you hope to see, both areas offer an unbelievable experience.
- The Corcovado Gulf is situated to the south of Chiloe Island, off the southern coast of Chile. This is the place to see the majestic blue whale, though sightings can be few and far between. The time of year to visit here is between January and April when the ample food supply is ideal for the whales to nurse their young.
- Francisco Coloane Marine Park is found among the Chilean fjords and is only accessible by boat from Puntes The main attraction here is the humpback whale, and sightings are considerably more frequent than of the blue whale in the Corcovado Gulf. Orcas are a rare but unforgettable sight, too.