Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate
If you are travelling to Patagonia, then the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina is one sight not to be missed!
The glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is shared with the neighboring country of Chile.
It’s the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world. The Perito Moreno Glacier is best reached from the town of El Calafate.
Nowhere else in the world you are able to find a glacier which is as accessible and impressively located!
It doesn’t matter how many photos or films one has seen before, the first real life view of the glacier never fails to astound.
Perito Moreno is one of the most incredible things I have ever seen: A HUGE blue-hued natural beauty.
I wondered why the ice is blue and thought it was temperature related. On the contrary, it is related to age – the bluer the ice, the older the part of the glacier.
Every few minutes you can hear a loud “crack!” and a piece of the glacier would calve off and splash into the water. It’s amazing to see, but almost impossible to capture on pictures. Yet, I was lucky catch the moment via video :).
Ice calving creates endless entertainment, as each deep blue piece that falls, though tiny from afar, ranges in size from a small car to a small building.
Even when small ice cubes plop in to the water, the cracking sound is so loud we can hear it from any part of the viewing platform.
You might think, but isn’t it sad that these ice fields fall apart? Perito Moreno is a different case.
The ice field moves two meters a day and is one of the few glaciers in the world that is actually expanding in size.
Yes that’s right, the glacier is self-sustaining, meaning that rather than retreating due to climate change and other environmental issues, this ice field is expanding and advancing. How rare is that?
There is a series of wooden walkways which are strategically constructed to give visitors the best views from multiple vantage points. You can pick from five different ‘hiking’ trails.
At first I wondered how long you could possibly want walk around and stare at a big chunk of ice, but there is nothing else like it in the world.
Good news – no matter how busy the place gets, you’ll always have a good view of the glacier.
Explore Patagonia’s Natural Wonder
Perito Moreno By Bus (DIY)
This is the option I went for and the least expensive way to see the glacier.
If you just want to go out and see the glacier, and even take a boat tour, you do not need to pay for an entire tour package (and you’ll save about US$ 30 by doing it on your own).
I recommend this option if you’re not bothered about the boat or ice tracking.
The big advantage of the DIY option is that you will have more time at the site (walkways and view points).
Taking the bus isvery easy and straight forward. Simply go to the bus station in El Calafate and buy a bus ticket to the glacier.
The ticket is 450 pesos/USD 30 for the round trip. There is a morning (8 am) and afternoon bus (1 pm). It takes about an hour and a half to get to Los Glaciares National Park.
I took the afternoon trip and it was a great decision. Apparently as the heat of the sun warms up the glacier’s edge, more and more giant blocks of ice fall off splashing into the water.
Either way, I would recommend to sit the left side of the bus on the way to the park for the best views.
The bus will stop at the entrance to the park where a park attendant will get on the bus and you’ll need to pay (in cash) for your entrance to the park (500 Pesos, USD 32).
You can either walk up the boardwalk from the parking lot, getting closer to the glacier as you go, or you can take a free shuttle from there to the “top”.
In hindsight, I recommend taking the free shuttle bus up and wal back down the boardwalks (I did it the other way around. Ermm).
I believe it is more powerful to see the mighty glacier suddenly than to approach it slowly.
At the entrance of trails there is a big cafeteria, gift shop, and bathrooms. Needless to say, way overpriced so really recommend bringing your own food and drinks.
I brought my own lunch and ate it by the lake, right next to the restaurant. Amazing scenery for taking my meal.
The bus leaves Perito Moreno at 7 pm so you really have enough time to enjoy the site.
Perito Moreno By Tour
A standard tour can be booked form any of the numerous tour operator in El Calafate. The prices are about the same, no matter which company you choose.
Tours are standardized, meaning you get the bus trip with a guide and a few hours on my own to explore the site on your pace.
If you decide to go for it you also have the possibility to opt in for a boat trip when you arrive at the park – the downside: you have less time for walking around on the platforms (about 2 hours).
Tours usually don’t include lunch and they also don’t include the entrance fee to the park (500 Pesos, USD 32).
The boat trip up to the face of the glacier gives you a different perspective and allows you to get that much closer to both the icebergs and the glacier itself. The trip is only an hour long and you can book it when you arrive in the park.
You can witness Perito Moreno Glacier from the waters of Lago Argentino on a boat cruise by floating among the ice fragments.
Some tours include the boat trip and if you go for the DIY bus option, you can still do the boat tour and book it separately on-site.
The boat company is Southern Spirit, there is a kiosk right there in the parking lot and the ticket costs 400 pesos/ USD 26.
Important: There are only 5 boat rides a day, the last one leaving at 3.45 pm. So if you go for the afternoon bus trip (no tour), then you should do the boat ride first before hitting the walking trails.
The boat trip up to the face of the glacier gives you a different perspective and allows you to get that much closer to both the icebergs and the glacier itself. The trip is only an hour long
Boats keep their distance from the icy cliff, with good reason.
If you want to have your own incredible ice trekking adventure, then you will need to join a group. You can’t do this part of the experience on your own.
During the trek you will see waterfalls, icy peaks and lagoons.
Ice-Trekking tours are is offered by several tour operators in El Calafate, one of the biggest is Hielo Y Aventura.
In general, ice trekking is conducted in small groups, with two or three guides per group (safety is a big priority!).
You have two options: the Mini Trek and the Big Ice Trek.
The Mini Trek is suitable even for those with lack of previous hiking experience. Cost is USD 117 without transportation, USD 155 with transportation.
The Big Ice Trek includes the same as the Mini Trek, but your actual trek on the ice lasts 4 hours.
No previous trekking experience is required for this tour either, but it is also not for the faint-hearted!
There are age restrictions on this trek: suitable only for travelers between ages 18 and 45.
Cost is at USD 214 without transportation, USD 260 with transportation.
I would have loved to do the Ice-Trekking (I mean how often you’ll get the chance to do that), but it was simply out of my budget.
Where To Stay
There are numerous hotels and a couple of hostels in El Calafate.
I stayed at the Glaciar Perito Moreno Hostel in El Calafate. The hostel is a 15 minute walk away from the town center, but offers great value for money, especially if you are looking for a room with private bathroom rather than a dorm bed.
When To Visit
The best time to go is between November to March when the weather is at its best. I visited Perito Moreno end of March and was lucky to catch a great sunny day.