When you think of penguins the first thing you probably imagine is a group of comical birds waddling around on the ice in Antarctica. But South America is actually home to a number of different species and they can be spotted in various colonies up and down the continent, including as far north as the Galápagos Islands.

Here's a list of what penguins you can see where:

Galápagos penguin

Endemic to the western isles of the Galápagos Islands, this is the only penguin living north of the equator. A cruise around the islands is the most comfortable way to see them, as well as the rest of the Galapagos' wildlife. However, land-based trips are also possible - just be sure to include Isla Isabela into your itinerary, the most accessible island where these penguins are found.

Humboldt penguin

Named after the cold-water current it swims in off the coast of Peru and Chile, the Humboldt penguin is listed as a vulnerable species.

A boat trip to the Ballestas Islands is the best way to see a colony of these penguins, since their proximity to Lima means they can be combined with Machu Picchu and other Peruvian highlights.

Fun fact: Humboldt penguin colonies produce so many droppings that a harvest industry has sprung up around it. Known as guano, the material has been used as fertiliser since the Inca times.

Magellanic penguin

Closely related to the Galápagos and Humboldt penguins, the Magellanic penguin breeds in coastal Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. You can visit large colonies of this bird near Punta Arenas in Chile and Punta Tombo, Peninsula Valdes and the Beagle Channel in Argentina. However, some have been seen as far north as Rio!

Fun fact: On Ilha Grande, Brazil, a Magellanic penguin has formed a friendship with a local man. Named Din Din, he returns every year after spending the summer in Patagonia.

Macaroni penguin

Macaroni was a term used in the 18th century for persons who dressed and acted flamboyantly; so when English sailors came across a penguin with a bright yellow crest, they named it as such. These days they can be found in southern Chile, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Rockhopper penguin

Another crested penguin, the rockhopper penguin is one of the smallest species of penguin in the world. They can be seen around Cape Horn, the Falklands and South Georgia.

Fun fact: rockhopper penguins use their crests to identify each other, attract mates and express how they’re feeling.

Gentoo penguin

The breeding colonies of gentoo penguins are on ice-free surfaces and can travel quite far inland to nest. They can be seen primarily  on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and in the Antarctic Peninsula. A small number also live in the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia.

King penguin

The king penguin is the second largest species of penguin in the world and can be seen in Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Fun fact: Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin at Edinburgh Zoo who has received a knighthood and holds the rank of Brigadier in the Norwegian Kings’ Guard.

Only found in Antarctica:

Patagonia's proximity to the Antarctic Peninsula makes it a popular launchpad for Antarctic cruises,

Adélie penguin

The Adélie penguin lives only along the Antarctic coast and is named after the wife of the French explorer who discovered these penguins in 1840.

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Chinstrap penguin

Its name derives from the black line which crosses its chin making it look as though it is wearing a hat. Easily identifiable, it can be seen in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Emperor penguin

The largest penguin on earth, the emperor penguin is endemic to Antarctica.This penguin species is tough: it will trek between 50 and 120km to breeding colonies during the Antarctic winter, and incubate its eggs during this harsh period.

Take a look at these excursions and holidays to find out how you can see these penguins with Journey Latin America:

Wildlife watching in Antarctica
Antarctica: In search of the Emperor penguin
Visit a penguin colony
Visit Chiloe's penguins


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Meet our team

Real Latin american experts

  • Sophie
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Kathryn
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Sallly
    Sally Dodge - Travel Expert

    A former Journey Latin America tour leader, Sally spent 7 years working, travelling and living throughout Latin America before returning to the UK to help people arrange their own adventures to this wonderful destination.

  • Juliet
    Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert

    After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!

  • Heloise
    Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert

    Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

  • Ben
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

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