Our second post following a family holiday in Argentina. Read on for a visit to ultra-wild Peninsula Valdes – favourite of wildlife photographers – and sightseeing in Buenos Aires
Who went, where and when: Caroline, Sam and their children Sarah 18, Oliver 17 and Victor 15 flew from London Heathrow on BA/Iberia in December 2014. Latin Odyssey organised their trip
For Part 1: lakes and mountains in Bariloche and iceberg spotting and glacier walking in Los Glaciares click here
Coastal wildlife in Peninsula Valdes
Caroline: “For the final leg of our trip we flew to Peninsula Valdes. We landed at Trelew and were taken by coach to our hotel.
The peninsula is very flat, barren and isolated. This is the part of the trip that we’d have done differently with hindsight as we weren’t there at the best time of year. When we visited there wasn’t a great deal to see apart from herds of sheep which are commercially farmed
and the guanaco which are wild ancestors of llamas. We also spotted big rodents called maras that are like a cross between a deer and a rabbit…
and hop like a kangaroo. But it was hard to get up close to them!
We stayed at Hotel Faro Punta Delgada de Campo which is set on a cliff beside a lighthouse. What makes it special is the rare colony of elephant seals right on its doorstep. We could see them basking at the water’s edge below us.
Sadly the fact of the matter is…
…elephant seals can be very boring! They weigh around 800 kg – some of the males are over a ton – maybe they get tired quickly. Anyway, in December at least they don’t appear to do anything much apart from sleep. We were allowed to go down onto the beach if we went with a guide and we were able to get quite close to them.
This one raised its head so I took a picture quickly. Along with the guide we spent a couple of hours looking at the seals – and got sunburnt. In the breeding season there is more action from the seals and you can also spot southern right whales and orcas from May to December. But, at the end of December, we were a little too late for them. One interesting thing we did learn was that they shed their skin – we found big pieces of it on the beach.
The peninsula is like a desert and, shockingly at first, there are bones everywhere in the sand – it’s a crime scene!
This was the huge skeleton of a whale. The peninsula is quite big and the sights are very spread out – I would have liked to have visited the salt lake and the big colony of penguins and to see more of the wild guanaco. But you need a car for this, ideally a 4 x 4 as the roads aren’t good and it’s very sandy and pothole’y. We would have done better to hire a car in Trelew and then spend just one day at the lighthouse. As it was we contacted our travel rep and asked if the coach could pick us up a little earlier and take us on a short tour. We stopped off to see some penguins about 20 minutes away from the lighthouse.
They had six month old babies with them but we were still able to get very close.
Apparently some locals take them as pets although it is strictly illegal. After this we went on to the airport and flew back to Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires – highlights
We did a lot of walking in Buenos Aires! Sarah had been living there for three months so was able to suggest where to go and what to see. These were our favourites:
Casa Rosada: the presidential office and museum in Plaza de Mayo – with a Christmas tree of course.
La Recoleta: we visited two very different memorials to Eva Peron – her grave at the beautiful Recoleta Cemetery and later Peron Peron, a restaurant bar in Palermo Hollywood that celebrates all things Peronist.
Tigre Delta: It was very hot when we arrived in BA from Peninsula Valdes so Sarah suggested we go on the river. We took a train to the Tigre Delta about 45 minutes away. From here we took a boat trip through the canals of the delta. Homes are built on stilts to allow for the tide and everyone who lives there uses boats – even the supermarket was in a boat. There’s a good market to visit and lots of restaurants.
San Telmo: This is the historic centre of Buenos Aires. We didn’t book a hotel here as we thought it would be too touristy. Instead we came for lunch and watched the tango dancers in the street.
Museum of Contemporary Art: MACBA in San Telmo
Puerto Madero: the newly regenerated waterfront has a beautiful museum ship and lots of restaurants, all with wi-fi!
Floralis Generica: a stainless steel flower sculpture in Naciones Unidas Square. The petals open during the day and close at night.
La Boca: very colourful and fun to wander around, though you have to beware of pickpockets. The boys combined this with a visit to La Bombonera football stadium, home of Boca Juniors.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid: once a famous tango theatre, now a wonderful bookshop and cafe
We didn’t have time to:
There was so much we couldn’t do in Patagonia because of the long distances. I’d have loved to see the granite peaks of the Torres del Paine national park in Chile but it would have taken four hours each way to get there. We’d have liked to spend time in Chilean Patagonia too as it is a very different climate, but that would have added several days to our trip. Another time?
The ‘What went wrong’ bit:
Peninsula Valdes – as we said earlier, we didn’t visit the Peninsula at the best time of year. With hindsight we would have done that leg of the trip differently.
Money can be a problem! The peso was weak and there were two parallel rates of exchange when we visited – the official rate and the ‘blue dollar’ – a more favourable local rate. We found that dollars were best – many shops and businesses will accept them. My advice is to research the current currency situation before you go so that you are well prepared. We got really critically stuck for cash at one point.”
Argentina Family Holiday
For Part 1: alpine-style living in Bariloche and iceberg spotting and glacier walking in Los Glaciares click here
Photos by Caroline and family, all rights reserved. Photos may not be reproduced without prior written consent.