Peninsula Valdés, Chubut
Concierge.com's insider take:
Peninsula Valdés, in the northeast of the southern Chubut Province, appears at first to be a near desert, a sliver of windswept Patagonian steppe that juts out into the choppy Atlantic waters. Patience reveals much more: Large populations of guanaco, rhea, gray fox, and mara, a large Patagonian hare, thrive among the thorny, parched scrub. The peninsula's real strength, however, lies beneath the waves and along the rocky, cliff-lined shore, where bottlenose dolphins, elephant and leopard seals, Magellanic penguins, and Southern Right whales live, breed, and hunt in large pods. Day trips depart from the Welsh-populated settlements of Trelew and Puerto Madryn (Argentina Vision; 54-2965-455888; www.argentinavision.com; or Flamenco Tour; 54-2965-455505; www.flamencotour.com). Up-close contact is maximized by staying on the peninsula itself, though, either at Puerto Pirámides (the peninsula's only village and the departure point for June–December whale-watching tours), or at isolated estancias along the coast, such as El Pedral Lodge. Punta Delgado, the peninsula's southernmost point, and Caleta Valdés, a sheltered cove farther north, are popular spots for observing penguins, elephant seals, and sea lions, while Punta Norte, at the peninsula's northern end, is renowned for killer whales, which launch dramatic beach raids on slow-moving seal pups in October and November.