Perito Moreno Glacier: The Best Day Trip from El Calafate
Glacier Perito Moreno was one of my biggest highlights during my time in Patagonia and Argentina. It is regarded as one of the must-see places in Argentina’s Patagonia and it is only two hours away from El Calafate.
Before visiting Glacier Perito Moreno, I traveled a month in Patagonia and saw some stunning places, as well as took a boat trip inside Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. However, few places in the world can beat the natural beauty of Glacier Perito Moreno.
For me, Glacier Perito Moreno is a wonderful place to admire the natural wonder of the crystalline glaciers, glacial lakes, and snow-capped mountains and forest. Despite the increasing amount of tourists, it allowed me to unplug and escape the stress of daily life.
Overview of Glacier Perito Moreno
Glacier Perito Moreno was formed 18,000 years ago during the Ice Age and covers a total area of 97 square miles and stands 250 feet above the surface of Lago Argentino. The name ‘Glacier Perito Moreno’ created to pay homage to the Argentinian pioneer explorer Francisco Moreno who has played a major role in defending Argentina’s territory during the conflict with Chile.
As part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, Glacier Perito Moreno contains the third largest freshwater reserve in the world. Unlike other glaciers that are retreating, Glacier Perito Moreno is still growing. Its main location, Los Glaciares National Park, became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981. Inside the park, visitors can see this giant glacier at Los Glaciares National Park from different perspectives and even have an opportunity to walk on it.
How to get to Glacier Perito Moreno
Glacier Perito Moreno is located in the province of Santa Cruz in Patagonia and is two hours away from El Calafate. You need to arrive in El Calafate first by airplane or bus. The road trip from El Calafate is 1.5 hours to two hours, depending on the traffic.
There are two buses leaving every day during the peak season at 1pm and return to El Calafate between 6 and 7pm. It arrives at the visitor center and from there you can take a few minutes to get to the observation platform. The bus ticket is $600 pesos and the park entrance fee is $500 pesos. You can pay the bus tickets by credit card but must pay the entrance fee in cash.
The viewing platform
Once you get dropped off by the bus, you will walk a few hundred feet on a paved road and then arrive at the viewing platform where you can stroll around for an hour or two.
At the viewing platform, you can see the brilliant cold blue-colored glacier rising over the turquoise glacial water as countless ice cliffs. The sheer size of it is dense and brings up a cold feeling under the chilly Patagonia summer. The glacier stretches side to side and extends over the mountain tops mixed with thick snow. The front glacier has some jagged points and, from there, I saw the crevasses displaying the color of deep sapphire blue.
I spent some time at different lookouts looking at the glacier. The best moment for me was seeing the glacier calving when a large chunk of blue ice detached from the glacier, fell into the water, and produced an explosive sound like thunder. The level of the water on the Brazo Rio side of the lake increased and the iceberg floated around. This activity took place every few minutes when I was there, and it was absolutely astonishing to watch.
Around the glacier, it is amazing to see the mountainous forest and the ice-capped peaks next to it. Added to the walk on the platform, there are boat trips and glacier trek activities that allow you to explore more of this natural wonder of the world.
The coast of Glacier Perito Moreno
If you want to get away from the tourist crowds, you can go to the coastal trail that leads you in front of Lago Argentino. There, you can see the detachment of the ice blocks becoming icebergs and floating on the glacial water, as well as the Perito Moreno Glacier far away. When I was there in the late afternoon, the area was relatively quiet and had only a few people playing around and sitting on the rocks to relax.
However, I do not recommend that you stay too close to the coast as the water level rises when the glacier starts calving. The water is cold, and you will get wet if you are near the lake and not on a high ground.
Where to stay in El Calafate
I stayed at the Glaciar Perito Moreno Hostel, which is located right across from the El Calafate bus station and is 15 minutes walking distance from the downtown. The hostel has free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and a fully-equipped kitchen. I did not book the room ahead. I showed up and checked myself into a four-bed dorm.
Things to know about visiting
-Unless you want to trek the glacier, it is unnecessary to book a tour with the agent. The loop of the observation platform is well-marked and has a signpost, so it is impossible to get lost.
-There is a cafeteria inside the park for coffee and snacks, and you can bring your own food and drinks as well.
-The best time to visit the Perito Moreno glacier is the shoulder season between November and early December and March.
-The weather there is unpredictable so be sure to dress warm and in layers.
-If you plan to trek this glacier but are held back by the price, an alternative is to take a Glaciar Exploradores tour in Puerto Rio Tranquilo on Chile’s side. It is almost the half price and you will spend three hours walking on the glacier and inside the ice caves. Meals and trekking equipment are provided as well.
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