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Getting Here and Around
About 60 km (37 mi) northeast along the coast on Ruta 2 from Puerto Madryn, the land narrows to form an isthmus. A ranger's station here marks the entrance to the Península Valdés Area Natural Protegida (Protected Natural Area), where you pay a park entry fee of 45 pesos. A further 22 km (14 mi) down the road is the newly remodeled Centro de Visitantes Istmo Ameghino (Ameghino Isthmus Visitor Center). A series of rather dry displays provide a basic introduction to the marine, coastal, and continental flora and fauna ahead of you. More exciting is the complete skeleton of a southern right whale and the views over the isthmus from the lookout tower.
From the visitor center it's another 24 km (15 mi) to the junction leading to Puerto Pirámides, 2 km (1.2 mi) to the south. By following the road 5 km (3 mi) east you reach the start of the circuit of the interconnected 32- to 64-km (20- to 40-mi) dirt roads around the peninsula.
There are different ways to explore the peninsula. If you prefer natural surroundings to cityscapes and really want to see all the area has to offer, plan on spending at least a night or two here rather than using Puerto Madryn as your base. The accommodations in Puerto Pirámides easily rival those in town, and when the tour parties leave you get the rugged, windswept coastal landscape all to yourself. Hearing whales splashing offshore at night is a particularly magical experience. By staying you also have time to do an additional whale-watching trip at sunset, and to go hiking, kayaking, or snorkeling with sea lions.
However, if your schedule is tight, consider one of the many organized day trips that operate out of Puerto Madryn. A minibus typically picks you up at your hotel around 8 "AM," stops briefly at the visitor center, then continues to Puerto Pirámides for whale-watching (June-December only) and lunch. During the afternoon you visit two other spots on the peninsula before returning to Puerto Madryn by about 7 pm. These tours are reasonably priced (at this writing, prices ranged from AR$240-AR$300 pesos per person) and pack a lot in. However, you spend most of the day crammed in the minibus, don't get to visit the entire peninsula, and have little time to linger at wildlife spots.
To visit the peninsula more extensively at your own pace, you need to rent a car and stay overnight. Having your own wheels also gives you the freedom to stay in the beautiful but remote lodgings at Punta Delgada and Punta Norte. Bear in mind, though, that you'll have to drive several hundred kilometers on dirt and gravel roads in varying states of repair. Stock your vehicle well with drinks, snacks, and gas (the only station is at Puerto Pirámides), and don't try to overtake the tour buses: cars are much lighter, and flipping is an unfortunately common accident here. Economy vehicle rental starts at about 280 pesos per day; the nearest place to rent from is Puerto Madryn.
If all you want to do is whale-watch, you can reach Puerto Pirámides on one of the two to three daily public bus services from Puerto Madryn run by Mar y Valle. Tickets cost 16.50 pesos each way.
For the freedom of your own car without the responsibility of driving, arrange for a remis and private driver. You can do this as a day trip from Puerto Madryn through most local tour operators (prices vary), or from Puerto Pirámides, if you're staying there, with El Gauchito. Expect to pay about 600 pesos for a full day exploring the peninsula.
Finally, you can combine some of the above approaches and get an overview of the peninsula on a tour, but then get off at Puerto Pirámides on the way back and stay overnight, do other excursions, and then return on the public bus.
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