This two-week road trip leads adventurous travelers down the Atlantic coast of Argentine Patagonia. Along the journey, you'll see whales, penguins, desolate beaches, sheep ranches, petrified trees, and more! After a night in the capital city of Buenos Aires, jet down to Puerto Madryn — offering access to Peninsula Valdés, the top whale-watching destination in the country — and pick up your rental car to start the journey. From there, the itinerary heads south to Puerto Deseado, Petrified Forest National Park, Puerto San Julián. With stops along the way at historic sites and natural attractions, like the natural harbor where Magellan landed with his ships in the 16th century, the trip ends up at the luxurious Bahia Bustamante Lodge, where you'll have free time to explore the rugged coastline and expansive landscapes before heading back to civilization.

Highlights

  • Go on a boat tour off Peninsula Valdés to see whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife
  • Walk around sea caves and rock formations on a desolate stretch of coastline
  • Tour a traditional sheep ranch, Estancia Cerro del Paso, in the Patagonian wilderness
  • Hike around the steppe that inspired Charles Darwin in 1833
  • See some of the oldest petrified trees on the planet

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Buenos Aires & Sightsee Buenos Aires
Day 2 Catch a Flight to Puerto Madryn Puerto Madryn
Day 3 Explore the Valdés Peninsula Puerto Madryn
Day 4 Hit the Road to Comodoro Rivadavia Comodoro Rivadavia
Day 5 Drive to Puerto Deseado  Darwin Camp
Day 6 Tour Darwin Camp Darwin Camp
Day 7 Visit the Monte León Estancia Monte León
Day 8 Spend the Day at Leisure at Monte León Monte León
Day 9 Enjoy a Leisurely Drive to Puerto San Julian Puerto San Julian
Day 10 Drive Through Petrified Forest National Park Puerto San Julian
Day 11 Continue to Bahia Bustamante Bahia Bustamante
Day 12 Relax in Bahia Bustamante Bahia Bustamante
Day 13 Learn About History in Trelew Trelew
Day 14 Depart Argentina - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires & Sightsee

The bustling streets of Buenos Aires
The bustling streets of Buenos Aires

Welcome to Argentina! The capital city of Buenos Aires is known as the "Paris of South America," thanks to its mix of European architecture and Latin American culture. When you arrive at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city center. Buenos Aires is the birthplace of tango, and you'll have the chance to see tango dancers performing to live music as you explore downtown. Head south into the neighborhood of San Telmo, walking along cobblestoned streets — this is a great area to soak up the city's historic charm, stop in a traditional café, browse through the antiques at the elegant Mercado San Telmo marketplace, and sit down for dinner at a classic parrilla (steakhouse).  

Day 2: Catch a Flight to Puerto Madryn

Magellan Penguin
A Magellanic Penguin at Punta Tombo Reserve

Wake up early for breakfast and check-out. You'll go to the airport to catch your flight to Puerto Madryn. When you arrive, you'll pick up your rental car. Take an hour for lunch before visiting Punta Tombo Reserve, home to more than 400,000 Magellanic penguins. The rocky, narrow stretch of land with compacted sand is ideal for penguins' habitats The soft slopes of these beaches help birds to quickly move to the ocean and back, bringing food to their families.

Alternatively, visit Gaiman, a village of Welsh origin that dates back to 1865, when the first group of immigrants arrived. Gaiman still preserves many of its ancestral traditions. Stroll around town and take a relaxing break at one of its traditional teahouses, where you can taste exquisite cakes and pastries. You can even sit in the same spot where Princess Diana enjoyed a cup of tea during her visit to Argentina. 

Day 3: Explore the Valdés Peninsula

Whale-watching off the coast of Peninsula Valdés
Whale-watching off the coast of Peninsula Valdés

Today you'll discover the Valdés Peninsula, declared a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Puerto Pirámides, a picturesque seaside village, is a hub of outdoor activities on the peninsula. Enjoy its beautiful beach, then board a boat cruise to spot whales, sea lions, cormorants, and dolphins, depending on the time of year. You can also take the opportunity to go snorkeling or scuba diving. Continue to Caleta Valdés, where you will visit Punta Delgada and Punta Norte to see elephant seals, sea lions, and a small colony of penguins. You'll have the option to stop at Estancia La Elvira — a traditional ranch — to taste roasted Patagonian lamb. Then head back to Puerto Madryn in the late afternoon, where you can pay a quick visit to El Doradillo Beach. Defined as a “cosmic landscape” by the renowned Argentinian writer Ernesto Sabato, the region is a whale sanctuary for reproduction from June to October. 

Day 4: Hit the Road to Comodoro Rivadavia

Evening lights in Comodoro Rivadavia

Wake up fairly early for breakfast and check-out. The drive to Comodoro Rivadavia from Puerto Madryn takes approximately six hours, so you will want to leave with time to enjoy the day on the road with a few stops. Enjoy lunch at a stop along the way, and enjoy an afternoon coffee at a café. When you arrive in Comodoro Rivadavia, check into your hotel and relax before dinner. Go for a walk on the waterfront if you're up for it! Then get some rest before the road trip continues on day five. 

Day 5: Drive to Puerto Deseado

Rockhopper penguin in Argentina
A rockhopper penguin by the coast

After a good night's rest, hit the road again on the journey to Darwin Camp in Puerto Deseado.This next part of the road trip takes between three and four hours. You'll arrive in the afternoon and check into the camp, receiving a thorough introduction to the place where Charles Darwin camped in 1833 during his expedition to Patagonia. Take some time in the afternoon to hike around the quiet landscape. You'll also be able to visit the old Estancia Cerro del Paso ranch, stopping by the shearing shed and stables before walking on nearby trails. Overnight at Darwin Camp.

Day 6: Tour Darwin Camp

Landscape of Patagonian steppe in Argentina
The Patagonian steppe inspired Charles Darwin

Wake up for an early breakfast before your excursion through the immense steppe around the camp. These desolate landscapes, according to the famous biologist's notes and records, dazzled Darwin on his visit. You'll tour the area today, spotting rock formations and a wide array of birds. Continue onward to canyons with painted rocks and stone formations. You'll spend another night at Darwin Camp, enjoying an open fire under the stars before getting some rest.

Day 7: Visit the Monte León Estancia

Coast of the Atlantic ocean with groups of penguins on it in Park Monte Leon, Argentina
Groups of penguins on the shore in Park Monte Leon, Argentina

Depart Puerto Deseado in the morning and set out for Monte León National Park. Just 22 miles (35 km) from Puerto Santa Cruz, you'll reach Estancia Monte León, a ranch and estate known for its archaeological sites and well-protected flora and fauna, including sea lions and Magellanic penguins. This area is also home to sea birds like the imperial cormorants and austral seagulls. By the coast, caves house reminders — including arrows — of the indigenous groups that once lived here. Go for a walk on the beach past cliffs and rock formations, then visit the homestead and ranch buildings, originally built to produce wool.  

Day 8: Spend the Day at Leisure at Monte León

Patagonian Coast in Argentina
Argentina's Patagonian coast

Spend another day in Monte León National Park. You could take more time exploring the ranch itself, learning about its history, or walk along the coast, keeping your eyes open for seabirds and other wildlife. Explore the otherworldly beaches around the park and enjoy an al fresco picnic lunch. Get some rest before the itinerary continues south on day nine. 

Day 9: Enjoy a Leisurely Drive to Puerto San Julián

Route 40 Sign - Santa Cruz, Argentina
A Route 40 sign near Santa Cruz, Argentina

After a hearty breakfast, you'll take to the open road once more, this time heading south on a two-hour drive to Puerto San Julian. There's no rush to get anywhere — you'll have plenty of time to stop for photos, break for coffee at a local café, or linger over a leisurely lunch. When you arrive at your destination, you'll check into your hotel. Then get out and stretch your legs on a walk around the quaint port town. You'll see colorful tin houses and fishing boats bobbing in the harbor. If you're interested in learning more about the town's impressive history, ranging from Magellan's ships arriving here in the 16th century to the scientific discoveries Darwin made hundreds of years later, stop into one of several small museums in town. 

Day 10: Drive Through Petrified Forest National Park

The entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park in Argentina
The entrance of Petrified Forest National Park in Argentina

Depart for Caleta Olivia after breakfast. Today's highlight is a visit to Petrified Forest National Park, which you'll reach after an approximately four-hour drive. This forest originated in unique climatic conditions — before the existence of the Andes Mountains, in fact — when winds from the Pacific Ocean caused copious rains to fall over the region. The rainfall prompted exuberant vegetation, including towering trees up to 328 feet (100 m). Later, intense volcanic activity and the rise of the Andes caused the death of natural life, and the forest ended up buried under ashes. Today, it's a national park. This incredible place, far away from any populated area, offers an unforgettable chance to see some of the largest petrified trees on our planet. After your visit to the park, you'll overnight in Caleta Olivia. 

Day 11: Continue to Bahia Bustamante

Layered sedimentary rocks in Chubut, Argentina
Layered sedimentary rocks in Chubut, Argentina

The road trip continues today to Bahia Bustamante, a coastal town by the Atlantic Ocean. After a four-hour drive, check into Bahia Bustamante Lodge, surrounded by nature. The area, home to a large number of seabirds and marine mammals, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. And the lodge property is a destination in itself, featuring sandy beaches and a petrified forest that dates back 60 million years. Learn about the lifestyle of the first pioneers who arrived here, the seaweed industry, and sustainable wool production. You'll even have the chance to participate in farming activities with resident sheep. 

Day 12: Relax in Bahia Bustamante

Elephant seals on beach, Patagonia, Argentina
Elephant seals on the beach in Patagonia, Argentina

With so much to see and do at the Bahia Bustamante Lodge, enjoy a day at leisure. Bahia Bustamante is perfect for biking, trekking, horseback riding, archeological exploration, and much more. As the trip nears its end, take advantage of some free time to get out and explore. Or just relax — the lodge is also known for its gourmet cuisine, so you'll dine well between outdoor activities. 

Day 13: Learn About History in Trelew

A lake in Chubut, Argentina

Enjoy breakfast at the lodge before checking out. Then you'll head off on the last leg of the road trip, a four-hour drive to the city of Trelew. There's not a lot for tourists to do here — if you're especially interested in the region's spectacular archaeological history, which includes discoveries of dinosaur bones, you could stop into the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio. Another way to soak up some history is to stop into Touring Club, a 1920s-era hotel and café-bar that's barely changed in the past century. It's a wonderfully atmospheric spot for a coffee or a beer.

Day 14: Depart Argentina - End of Trip

Goodbye, Argentina!

A nighttime view over Buenos Aires

The tour comes to an end today. Transfer to the airport to catch a flight to Buenos Aires and make your connection out. Safe travels! 

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Map

Map of Road Trip Along Argentine Patagonia's Atlantic Coast - 14 Days
Map of Road Trip Along Argentine Patagonia's Atlantic Coast - 14 Days