The Patagonian coast provides a different but not less attractive landscape. In this case, the big star is sea fauna, abundant both in quantity and diversity of species, including some of the largest colonies of the world. National Route Nº 3 runs parallel to the Atlantic coast, which we take as the axis for the car drive from North to South.
The journeyThe first Patagonian city which you’ll find in your trip through Route Nº 3 going from North to South is Viedma, capital city of the Province of Río Negro. The seaside town of El Cóndor (Balneario El Cóndor) is located at 30 km from Viedma. Its beaches, comprised mainly of low coasts gradually give way when tourists travel west to the first cliffs; there, they can find the largest colony of burrowing parrots in the world. The vast extensions of sand are filled with resorts and areas specifically destined to the practice of water and wind sports. A few miles ahead are located the towns of San Antonio Oeste and Las Grutas. The latter of which thrives within the Natural Protected Area Bahía de San Antonio (Área Natural Protegida Bahía de San Antonio) on the coast of the imposing San Matías gulf. The gulf hosts a rich variety of life that can be seen all year round. This can be witnessed in embarked sightings from Las Grutas and San Antonio Este. According to the sighting schedule, the traveler will be able to sail a sea governed by dolphins. They will also find sea lions, petrels, albatrosses, penguins and, from August to October, the colossal Southern right whale. On top of that, due to its geographical location, the beaches of Las Grutas possess a particularly warm sea, which is why thousands of tourists travel there every summer to enjoy its waters. Going further South, once in the Province of Chubut, we’ll arrive to Puerto Madryn, city with an undisputable touristic attractive being the largest service center of the Patagonian coast and entry to the Valdes Peninsula, World Heritage Site of the UNESCO since 1999. This is the scenery chosen by the southern right whale each year to mate and give birth to its offspring. This natural show can be witnessed between June and mid-December in the town of Puerto Pirámides. Nevertheless, this is not the only species that can be seen on the area, they are joined by dolphins, orcas, sea lions, sea elephants, Magellanic penguins and a great diversity of birds and terrestrial wildlife. Furthermore, the Natural Protected Area Punta Tombo is the greatest continental reserve of Magellanic penguins with over four hundred thousand specimens which can be seen between September and April. A few kilometres further, travelers will find the beginning of the so called “Blue Route” which starts in the city of Comodoro Rivadavia and ends in the capital city of Santa Cruz. It is a new tourist alley which is traversed by Route Nº 3 which has, in over 500 kilometres, several watching locations of sea lions (of one and two hairs), sea elephants, panda dolphins, cormorants, sheathbills, Magellanic penguins and it is even possible to see the only continental colony of Southern Rockhopper penguins. This alley connects over six towns in both provinces to end in Rio Gallegos. Along its way, several natural attractions come to attention, such as the Parque Marino Costero Patagonia Austral (Southern Patagonian Seaside Park) with 600 km2, Penguin Island, and Monte León National Park, Magellanic penguins and sea lion colonies and seaside walkways. As for cultural attractions, there are important museums, historic monuments and buildings, as well as the celebration of two parties that show the true essence of the area: the provincial celebration of the snook (Puerto Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz) and the national celebration of the salmon (Camarones – Chubut). The activities are many: sailing, kayaking, scuba diving, sand yachting, 4×4 rides or bike trips, mountain biking and plane and helicopter flights. This unforgettable adventure on the Patagonian coast covers 1600 km on a trip in which countless attractions related to nature, wildlife and geologic prehistory come one after the other.
Since the main point of this circuit is the observation of sea wildlife, it is very important to take into account the “fauna calendar”, since different species visit the area in different times of the year.