The Perito Moreno is not to be missed if you are in Argentina. But why exactly is this glacier a must-see? Because you can get so close, we think. What’s more, you can walk along it using boardwalks (or constructed hiking trails). At the same time, you realise what an enormous mass of ice it is. Moreover, it cracks regularly and is an enormous deep blue colour in some places. That regular cracking makes you want to leave. Since everyone wants to photograph the breaking off of a piece of ice. Don’t worry: this glacier is still increasing in size. Whereas most glaciers decrease in size every year, the Perito Moreno is fortunately still growing.
And even if only a small piece breaks off, it makes an enormous “noise”. Walking on the footpaths, stairs and balconies, you will find yourself face to face with the glacier at different heights. It is a spectacular sight to behold.
Few facts about the Perito Moreno glacier
The Perito Moreno is one of the many glaciers that originate from the El Campo Hielo Sur ice field. This field is one of the three largest ice fields in the world. The two larger ice fields are Antarctica and Greenland.
The glacier flows into a lake. Every day, the glacier moves forward about 2 metres. So, it is always moving. The Perito Moreno glacier is enormous: it sticks out about 60 metres above the water, is about 5 km wide and no less than 20 km long. When you stand in front of it, it is terribly imposing. The glacier is still one of the few glaciers in the world that is growing.
Since 1981, the Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glacieres National Park have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The glacier is named after Francisco Moreno, an Argentine explorer. He explored this area in the 19th century. He also made sure it did not fall into Chilean hands.
How to get to the Perito Moreno Glacier?
From El Calafate, day excursions are offered that go to the glacier. If you are travelling with a campervan or hire car, you can simply drive there yourself. By now, the whole road of about 100 kilometres has been asphalted. In total, it will take you about 1.5 hours to reach the glacier from Calafate. At the beginning of the Los Glaciares National Park, you have to pay an entrance fee. This can only be done in cash. Expect to pay USD 15 per person. Then the road becomes unpaved and you drive through beautiful Nothofagus forests further. At one point, you get a view of the entire glacier. That’s a sight to behold!
There is a large central car park where you can park your car/camper. From here, shuttle buses take you to a point where the hiking trails start. That is right in front of the glacier. You can also walk from the central car park along the lake in the direction of the glacier. Near the parking there is a restaurant for a snack or drink. You can also book a boat trip along the glacier here.
What can you do at the Perito Moreno Glacier?
You can undertake a number of fun activities at the Perito Moreno Glacier. These are the most special ones:
What you can do is take a day trip to the Upsala Glacier, among other places. This is one of almost 50 glaciers in the National Park. You will then be on the road for a whole day. A large catamaran will take you close to the spur of the glacier. On the way on the lake, you will already see large ice floes floating by.
A shorter boat trip takes you only along the Perito Moreno Glacier. From the water, you have a beautiful view of the natural phenomenon. It is only then that you realise how high the glacier is.
But the most special thing to do is to do a mini-trek across the glacier. We will tell you more about it below.
Mini-Trekking Perito Moreno Glacier
The mini trekking starts at the jetty. If you come by car or camper, you can park it here. If you don’t have a car or campervan you can also take a tour that starts from El Calafate. Most organizers are not so used to guests with their own transport. They are happy to sell you a day tour from El Calafate with transport to the National Park. Don’t let them talk you out of it, however, because using your own transport is fine. It gives you much more freedom before and after the mini-trekking. You can decide how much time you want to spend on the trails. In the organised tours, this is often a bit too short.
On the boat, you sail across the lake. You come very close to the glacier, which is an impressive experience. The guide gives you a detailed explanation of the glacier. Then you will be given crampons. You will also be given clear instructions on what you can and cannot do on the glacier.
And then you will be taken on a guided walk across the glacier. This is really very special. The beauty of it is that you can look into the crevasses. Underneath you can see the impressive blue ice. An unprecedented experience! The walk takes about 1.5 hours. At the end, you get a glass of whisky containing some ice from the glacier itself.
It is a truly unique experience. You do need to be lucky with the weather. It is always cold on the glacier. Also, the weather is often not very nice. So it is important to dress warmly for this mini-trekking. All in all, this excursion lasts a few hours. We found it, despite the hefty price, completely worthwhile. A disadvantage is that the maximum age limit is 65 years. If you want to do this, book this mini-trekking in advance. Perito Moreno is a major tourist attraction. So, to avoid disappointment, it is better to book in advance.
Beautiful camping in Los Glaciares
If you’re on the road with a camper you can sometimes end up at the most beautiful (wild) camping spots. As a tip we had been given that you could beautiful wild camping at Lago Roca. That is not very far from the glacier. We drove there and the place is indeed very special to stand.
When we were there, there were only two or three other campers on a huge terrain. And they could not be seen because of the many bushes on the site. You cannot see the glacier from here. But the fantastic view of the surrounding mountains and the lake made up for that.
The next day we drove back to El Calafate over the RN15. This is a beautiful route over an unpaved road. The big advantage is that you take a different route than on the way out.
Base of departure for El Calafate
El Calafate is a small city that lives from tourism. In recent years, the city has experienced explosive growth. El Calafate owes its name to the (edible) fruit of a berberis species. The fruit is called Calafate and is very common in this area. If you eat from this plant, you will certainly return!
The nice thing about this rather busy little town is that there are many restaurants and bars. There is something for every taste. We certainly had some delicious meals there. There are also many shops where you can buy souvenirs and knick-knacks. However, if you look carefully, you will also find beautiful things among them. El Calafate is the starting point for excursions in the region such as to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
If you have seen enough of the glacier, you can take a short walk to Laguna Nimez. The glaciers themselves can be very busy. But here you will experience the tranquillity. It is also an ideal place to spot special birds. You will undoubtedly see flamingos.
It can be busy in El Calafate in the high season. Therefore, book your accommodation in El Calafate well in advance if you are travelling in the period from November to the beginning of March.
Other highlights in Los Glaciares National Park
The National Park is vast. El Calafate in the south is mainly the base for a visit to the mighty glaciers. In the northern part of the park lies the village of El Chalten. This village is particularly popular with hikers and climbers. The highlights in this area are:
Cerro Fitz Roy visit
This is one of the most famous mountains in Patagonia. The walk to it is spectacular. You will see the mighty mountain peaks sticking out above the blue lagoon Laguna de los Tres. An unforgettable experience is a two-day hike to the Fitz Roy. You can then experience a fantastic sunrise over the mountain.
Hiking tour to Cerro Torre
Just like the Fitz Roy, the Cerro Torre is not to be missed. It is an enormous pointed granite rock. The homonymous lagoon at the foot of the mountain provides a beautiful reflection in the water. The walk is long and challenging. Therefore, it is best to do it in two days. You then spend the night at a campsite nearby.
Laguna de los Tres
The Laguna de los Tres is a beautiful piece of nature. But in addition, you have here a fantastic view of Cerro Fitz Roy. From El Chalten you can make a day hike to Laguna de los Tres. On the way, you will enjoy beautiful landscapes. The cherry on the cake is the view of the imposing Fitz Roy.
It is also wise to book your accommodation in advance for El Chalten. Especially if you visit Patagonia in the high season.