Trelew is a Welsh town in Patagonia that’s filled with history, even if it’s not exactly picturesque or packed with tourist attractions. With a population of around 100,000, it’s the largest city in the Chubut region and the center of the wool industry in Argentina. Within the town you’ll find a few museums, fantastic birdwatching, and reminders of Trelew’s Welsh heritage, but outside is where the action is.
It makes a great base for visiting the tea houses of Gaiman and the rural Welsh chapels of the countryside. And it’s close enough for a day trip to destinations like the massive penguin colony at Punta Tombo and the wildlife-filled Peninsula Valdés near Puerto Madryn. You can take it easy and sip tea in between your excursions to the seaside for whale watching, or hit the casino before heading out to the petrified forest and reservoir just a short drive outside of town.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Trelew:
1. Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio
One of the city’s biggest attractions, visitors can see huge dinosaur skeletons at the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (MEF). Journey into the past with exhibits ranging from the Big Bang to early paleo-man, with a lot of dinosaur fossils in between.
There are replicas of the original environments from ages long ago, documentaries to watch in the auditorium, and scientists working on fossils in the preparatory laboratory who you can observe.
The most impressive exhibit is the set of giant dinosaur bones found right here in the Patagonia dating back to the Mesozoic Era.
Admission to this small yet modern museum is 150 pesos for adults and 130 pesos for children.
You can also buy souvenirs at the Dinoshop or stop for coffee at the museum’s Feruglio Café.
2. Florentino Ameghino Dam and Petrified Forest
Make the drive or sign up for a tour to visit a brilliant oasis created by the Chubut River and this impressive hydroelectric dam.
Travel through dry, dusty landscapes and stop to learn a little about the petrified trees in the area, taking a little hike to see them up close.
Then you’ll arrive at the brilliant emerald green waters of the reservoir shimmering in sharp contrast to the red, rocky cliffs around them.
Wander the concrete tunnels of the dam and walk to the top of its concrete wall for the best views.
Then head down to enjoy lunch along the riverbanks where you’ll find a campsite with tables and grills.
You can also hike around the trails in the area for glimpses of guanacos and hares, or go fishing for large trout and silverside.
3. Casino Club Trelew
Whether you’re a gambler or not, the casino in Trelew is one of the most fun nightlife spots in the city for entertainment, dining, and a great place to hang out.
There are live shows, plays, and concerts on the stage here (especially on the weekends), as well as a range of food options, bars, and nightclubs.
One of the largest casinos in the Patagonia, it’s spacious, modern, and clean, with electronic games, card tables, craps tables, and roulette wheels.
The restaurant offers upscale dining, often accompanied by live music, and there’s an impressive fountain outside.
4. Museo Pueblo de Luis
Get a glimpse of old Welsh artifacts and a feel for how the original immigrants to this area lived at an old railway station which has been converted into a museum.
Walk through the exhibition halls dedicated to the Chubut River Valley, the indigenous Tehuelche and Mapuche groups, and the Welsh colonization that was led and promoted by Lewis Jones, the namesake of this museum and the town.
The station itself was built in 1887 to complete the railroad from Puerto Madryn.
Check out the old train outside, have a look at the farm equipment and musical instruments of the Welsh settlers, and read accounts of the explorers who came to this region between the 1500s and 1800s.
5. Visit Gaiman for Welsh Tea Time
Just a few miles away, take the day off from Trelew to experience the little Welsh village of Gaiman.
With its picturesque surroundings and concentration of Welsh tea shops, you’ll have your pick of traditional cakes, pastries, and of course, tea.
Try the homemade delicacies at the most famous tea shop of them all, Ty Gwyn, where the ladies dress in traditional garb and you’ll feel like you’re at your (hypothetical) Welsh grandma’s house.
Try the scones, homemade jams, bread and butter, and tiny sandwiches with a pot of black tea.
And don’t forget the cakes, both the dainty ones and the torta negra (black cake), a dense and rich spiced fruit cake.
Another option is the touristy Ty Te Caerdydd, famous for its giant teapot and Princess Diana’s stop here during her trip through the Patagonia.
6. Bryn Gwyn Geopark
If you’re into geology and fossils, check out Bryn Gwyn, a natural reserve and outdoor park where you can feel just a little bit like a paleontologist.
Operated by the MEF, explore the past 40 million years of Patagonian terrain by taking a self-guided tour to see partially uncovered fossils here.
The exposed specimens range from the Tertiary period until now, with protective covers and explanatory signage describing both the organism and the geological evolution that led to its existence and discovery.
At the Field Station, start down a path that’ll lead you to the fossils and other evidence of how the land and climate here has changed since the rise of the Andes.
Around 20 to 40 million years ago this area was an extensive savannah, and around 15 million years ago, the ocean swept across the land (as shown by the marine fossils of whales, dolphins, and oysters).
7. Museo de Artes Visuales
Another little treasure of the town, the Visual Arts Museum in Trelew is located in an attractive old house attached to the tourist office.
With works loaned by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires to relics from the period of Welsh colonization, it’s located in the center of town and worth a quick wander.
Small and quaint, the building was constructed in Welsh style by the military and later used as police and military offices.
Today it houses paintings, drawings, sculptures, and loom weavings, but it’s also an important cultural space where shows, workshops, and exhibitions are held.
8. Valle de Los Altares
Head west from Trelew until you reach this rugged plateau that dates all the way back to the Jurassic period.
Follow the routes that the Welsh might’ve followed while they were settling the land as you pass the villages of Gaiman, Dolavon, and then the Valle de los Mártires (the Valley of the Martyrs). Route 25 links the coast with the mountains, with impressive red rock formations along the way.
Seek out cave paintings, arrowheads, handicrafts, and the famous jamón crudo sandwich on homemade bread from the Automovil Club here.
There’s outstanding trekking and camping, and of course the giant layered rock formation resembling altars that gives the valley its name.
9. Agritourism and Birdwatching in the Chubut River Valley
The fertile river valley along the banks of the Chubut was part of the reason the Welsh settled here in the first place.
Today the area attracts visitors interested in agritourism, birdwatching, and nature.
Educational farms teach people about organic farming, livestock breeding, and fruit production, and you can often pick up some homemade cheeses, preserves, sweets, wines, and liquors directly from the source.
For birdwatching, there are some great walks and cycling paths through the green forests and system of four lagoons, appropriately named the Lagunas del Ornitólogo, where over 100 species of birds live.
Bring binoculars and observe the range of aquatic, terrestrial, seasonal, and local birds that reside here.
You can see pink flamingos, ducks, coots, cormorants, swans, and more.
10. Explore Puerto Madryn
Trelew is situated just 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of Puerto Madryn, the Argentine hotspot for wildlife watching and seaside excursions.
Make the trip for some whale watching if the time is right – from June to December is peak season.
The legendary Peninsula Valdés is a favorite of those looking to see whales from the shores, but you can also take a boat tour out to find them, or kayak through the bays where they live.
And even if the timing isn’t right for whales, you can go dolphin spotting, snorkel or dive with sea lions, roam amongst penguin colonies, or pay a visit to the elephant seals.
11. Visit the Welsh Chapels
The Welsh left their mark in the Chubut valley with a trail of chapels through its rural landscape.
They began building them when they arrived to establish a settlement around 1865, and today you can visit a few to get a feel for the Celtic religious fervor of that time.
There are a handful of chapels are in Trelew, including the Moriah Chapel and its adjoining cemetery that’s home to important Welsh settlers like Lewis Jones (for whom the city is named). Stop by the Salon San David too – it’s a meeting place for the Welsh community, built to resemble the St.
David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.
The Trelew tourism office distributes maps of all the Welsh chapels in the area, so you can make the drive to find the ones located amongst picturesque orchards outside of town.
12. Make a Trip to Rawson for a Day at the Beach
Just a short drive away from Trelew, the port town of Rawson lies right on the ocean and provides the perfect place for a laid back day at the beach.
Playa Unión is a great spot for dolphin watching, fishing, and watersports like surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, and kitesurfing.
Boats leave from the pier in Rawson year-round to take visitors out to spot the iconic black and white Commerson’s dolphins.
There are also plenty of other peaceful beaches where you can relax in the first town settled by the Welsh in Patagonia.
You’ll even be able to watch the sea lions that gather around local fishermen hoping for scraps of fish to come their way.
13. Punta Tombo
This is the largest permanent penguin colony and reserve in South America and the biggest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world.
You can see the little guys (which number up to one million) if you’re here between the months of April and September.
This is when they come to shore to hatch their eggs, care for their chicks, and hunt for food.
About 68 miles (110 kilometers) south of Trelew, roam the trails and boardwalks along the coastal reserve to see where they nest and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of penguins and baby chicks waddling around without a care in the world.
They’re curious and unafraid of people, so be careful not to disturb them as you’re taking what will undoubtedly be amazing photos.
14. Laguna Cacique Chiquichano and Plaza Centenario
Located in the center of Trelew, locals come here to relax and get active along the water and the bike paths here.
Plaza Centenario is a spacious green area that’s convenient to many tourist attractions and a shady spot to sip mate or browse the collections of local artisans who occasionally set up shop here.
Nearby the Laguna Cacique Chiquichano is home to ducks, swans, and migratory flocks which arrive in huge numbers.
This lagoon is the start of the series of popular birdwatching lagoons in the area, so you can combine a visit here with a trip to those outside of town by cycling along the banks of the water.
15. Taste the Local Food at Traditional Restaurants
After you’ve had your fill of afternoon tea and torta galesa, seek out regional Argentine favorites like (more) homemade sweets, local honey, preserves, cold cured meats, and of course, the famous Patagonian lamb.
Sugar is probably the nicest place in town, and you can grab a meat and cheese board before diving into some grilled lamb or other meaty specials from the parilla (barbecue). They’ve also got seafood options like fish filets, ceviche, and octopus.
La Stanza is great for steaks, pastas, and Patagonian microbrews.
And if you just want to check out the historic restaurant and hotel where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once stayed, visit the Touring Club with its tile ceiling, tuxedoed servers, and old school grandeur.