Hey there, just wanted to add my two cents about Peninsula de Valdes. I went there on the 19th July, stayed for a week at Puerto Pirámides which is not far from Puerto Madryn.
Travel time: (from Mar del plata) a 15 hour drive ( add 5 - 6 hrs if driving from BA )
Weather: really really cold, a constant wind from the ocean at this time of the year.
Activities: Whale watching. Went on an amazing excursion where I got to see pods of right whales up close. July is the mating season so thats when you see all the young male Right whales jumping to impress the females. You get to see babies too. We had a Mother and a baby come nosing around the ship.
Puerto Madryn has the most amazing dinosaur exhibit I have ever seen. The Patagonia is one of the riches places on earth when it comes to dinosaur fossils....RARE dino fossils. Alot of the species in the museum youve never seen or heard of which I found incredible.
If you want to see Killer whales and seals I was told to go around February. Thats when the seals have their babies. Thats when the Orcas throw themselves onto the beach to catch them ( one of the only places on earth this happens).
I've added an album on my profile with a few of the photos I took there. Feel free to check it out!
I've travelled all over Argentina and spent 3 months doing a tour down the east coast and then up through the west to Mendoza, then east back to BA. All by Bus and it was a long trip. I came back saying to myself that if I ever gave advise about going south I'd say.... fly. Do not take ruta 40. Do not travel south of Puerto Madryn in the east by Bus. There's little to see other than wasteland.
Having said that, I highly recommend the glaciers of Perito Moreno and the hiking at El Chaltén (sister town of El Calafate). Just look these up on the internet and you'll get lots of photos and reviews. El Chaltén was a bit of a torture but I think that's part of the charm. By the time you get to the top you want to die and then when you see the view you want to live again.
Do not go up ruta 40. Go back east by Bus and then north or better yet, fly. Ruta 40 was an expensive painful trip for me. Someday I'll look back and laugh but so far, that day hasn't come yet. I've never felt so much like cattle than on that trip. It's all tourists on the Bus by the way. No locals would take that Bus or at least, that's what Argentines have told me.
Bariloche is nice and extremely popular with Argentines, so if you want to see Argentine tourists, this is the next best place other than Mar de Plata. Buy some jam and chocolates. If you've ever been near the Gulf Islands in B.C., this town will remind you of that. At least it did for me. Lots of good Hostels to stay at but one of the few towns where you might have to make reservations. DO NOT go during the graduation time of young Argentines. Or any kind of holiday. Lots to see and do.
My favorite spot was Mendoza. I also like the small welsh town near Puerto Madryn (Trelew) where you can go have traditional tea and eat cakes until you want to vomit. They just keep asking if you want more and I'm too polite to say no. Read the history of the place before you go or it won't be special. Go early in the morning and get out by afternoon. A very unusual Argentine experience.
Seriously though.... if you have a bit of time an money, you could make a nice trip for yourself. If I did it again, I'd try set up a multiple one-way flight schedule stopping in following places. Puerto Madryn, El Calafate, Bariloche. Then Bus up to Mendoza and back east. If you've got more time or the flight doesn't work, I'd buy a round-trip flight between Puerto Madryn (or Viedma) and El Calafate. I liked Viedma by the way and also most of the upper east coast. I even like the deep south like Rio Gallegos because it's not like mainstream Argentina.
Regarding Ushuaia, I've got to ask you why you want to go there. Or maybe ask yourself in an objective way. That's what I did and decided not to bother. Of course I had help from people that had just been there and convinced me not to spend the time and money just so I could say I went there. If you do go, fly there since the Bus travels through Chile territory each way and service is expensive and limited.
I stayed at Hostels everywhere I went other than Viedma and Puerto Madryn, which doesn't seem to have any. Look up hostels on various sites like www.hostelworld.com or www.hostelz.com to check out what's available.
Bill, the small welsh town near Puerto Madryn its called "Gaiman", if my memory is not bad. I think that there is a little museum where you can see how they used to live (welsh people I mean) when they first established there. Definetively worth the visit.
I actually just returned from the two trips I decided to take and was thrilled with both of them: Misiones and Iguazú to the north and Puerto Madryn and Puerto Pirámides to the south. I want to live in Patagonia on that little beach and I definitely want to go back and see the rest of it some day. Thanks again for all your insights! (p.s. I flew to the south and wouldn't have done it any other way, but the bus ride north was lovely.)
Did you see the baby penguins? They're pretty darn cute.
Yeah, the Welsh town is called Gaimen and yes, I went to museum before stuffing myself with cakes and tea. The old lady at the museum speaks all kinds of languages and is actually more interesting than the museum if you get her talking.
having traveled a lot, i have to admit there are many world class places to visit in argentina saying that, visiting the several glaciers that are a couple of hours from el calafate really was one of the highlights of any place i have seen the boat trip to upsala glacier and the bus trip to perito moreno simply outstanding the town one can forget or could skip but you cant because you head out from the town for everything visit my photo website www.conpassion.blogspot.com and on the right side index look up el calafate bariloche (beautiful but not the same awe inspiring feeling from the glaciers ) etc take a look there are some good pics to give you a feeling for whats around i also think iguazu falls are a must see too but then money and time prevents one from seeing/doing all david