For foreigners and many Argentines, Puerto Madryn is the gateway to coastal Patagonia’s wealth of wildlife; the Golfo Nuevo’s sheltered waters and sandy shoreline have also made it a premier beach resort. In January and February, sunbathers, cyclists, in-line skaters, joggers, and windsurfers irrupt onto the balnearios along the Costanera Avenida Brown, while divers seek out reefs and wrecks as the shallow waters warm with the season.
Madryn’s tourist season only weakens after Semana Santa until July, when Península Valdés’s great right whales help fill hotels and restaurants. Conscious of its ecological birthright, Madryn promotes itself as an ecofriendly destination; its Ecocentro complex, focused on maritime conservation, is a positive development. Meanwhile, though, souvenir stores and chocolate shops have turned parts of the waterfront into tourist traps, and bright green suburban lawns have worsened the water deficit.
Stimulated by the Muelle Storni (commercial pier), the Aluar aluminum plant, and the fishing fleet, three decades of rapid growth have almost obliterated Madryn’s Welsh heritage (though it still has a sister city in Nefyn, Gwynedd). On the positive side, cultural life has blossomed with a university campus, a theater, and a cinema. Since the 2002 devaluation, many visitors have been Chileans, especially during that country’s mid-September patriotic holidays.
Puerto Madryn is 1,308 kilometers south of Buenos Aires and 1,219 kilometers north of Río Gallegos via RN 3. It is 673 kilometers east of Esquel via RN 3, RN 25, and RN 40; 719 kilometers southeast of Neuquén; and 896 kilometers from Bariloche. It is 65 kilometers north of Trelew. By the census of 2002, the population is 57,571, but it may now be approaching 100,000.
Most services are within a few blocks of the waterfront Avenida Roca and Avenida Brown, with their sandy beaches and balnearios, which are the main points of interest in the city itself.
Getting to Puerto Madryn
Commercial flights traditionally land at Trelew, 65 kilometers south, but Puerto Madryn’s Aeródromo El Tehuelche (tel. 02965/45-6774) gets some commercial flights. Andes Líneas Aéreas (Avenida Roca 624, tel. 02965/45-2355, www.andesonline.com) flies to and from Buenos Aires’s Aeroparque with connections to Córdoba, Puerto Iguazú, Salta, and Jujuy. LADE (Avenida Roca 119, tel. 02965/45-2355) has sporadic southbound flights to Comodoro Rivadavia and northbound flights to Neuquén and to Aeroparque.
Madryn’s bus terminal, Terminal 12 de Julio (Dr. Avila s/n, tel. 02965/45-1789), stands directly behind the old terminal (and former railroad station). It has frequent service to Trelew with Línea 28 de Julio (tel. 02965/47-2056) plus extensive regional and long-distance connections. Mar y Valle (tel. 02965/45-0600) goes to Puerto Pirámides at 8:55 a.m. daily; in summer and during whale-watching season it adds departures at 5 and 6:45 p.m.
Sample destinations, times, and fares include Trelew (1 hour, US$2.50), Puerto Pirámides (1.5 hours, US$4.50), Comodoro Rivadavia (6 hours, US$20–24), Esquel (10 hours, US$29–40), Neuquén (10 hours, US$27–37), Bariloche (12 hours, US$43–51), Río Gallegos (18 hours, US$51–65), and Buenos Aires (20 hours, US$60–91).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition