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Guide To Perito Moreno Glacier: Facts, Tours, Hikes And Directions

This is one glacier you can't possibly miss out on!

Written on
October 11, 2016
Travel

A Complete Guide Based On Our Trip To The Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier lies just 48 miles from El Calafate in Argentina; luckily this was our next stop in Patagonia. This is one place you can't miss!
Panoramic view of Perito Moreno glacier

Here’s some Interesting facts about Perito Moreno glacier

  • The glacier was formed back during the last ice age, so in a way it’s around 18,000 years old!
  • The Southern Patagonian Ice Field covers a whopping 4,800 square miles and is made up by 48 glaciers. The Perito Moreno Glacier amounts to 100 square miles of that; making it the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water.
  • In 1981 the Los Glaciares National Park, of which Perito Moreno Glacier is a part, was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
  • The glacier remains roughly the same mass all year round. It grows at a rate of 2 meters per day, however this is offset by the amount of ice that breaks off and falls into the surrounding Lake Argentino. This continual growth is actually very rare, and it’s one of only 3 glaciers in the world known to be advancing rather than retreating. Pretty cool eh?
  • On average the ice rises to 74m above the surface of Lago Argentino, and at the deepest part of the glacier’s vast expanse has a depth of 700m!
  • This impressive Patagonian glacier was named after the famous Francisco Moreno. He put much time into studying the glacier but most importantly was pivotal in protecting the nation’s interest in the area during border disputes with Chile.
  • As signs warn you when viewing the glacier, it is wise to not cross any closer past the barriers due to the risk of death. In fact, between 1968 and 1988, 32 people were killed by large shards of ice that broke off and flew towards them.
Southern side of Perito Moreno glacier

How to get to Perito Moreno Glacier

Being just 48 miles from El Calafate in Argentina, it’s best to stay in town there and get a bus to the Los Glaciares National Park which is home to the glacier. The journey takes about an hour and a half each way and is 560 Argentinean pesos for a return ticket.

Just head to the bus station in town and buy a ticket; plenty of companies offer it and they all cost the same.

When we went in October, the tourist season wasn’t fully underway yet so the companies offer a bus in at 9am and then the return is at 4pm. Later in the season, busses run more frequently and you have more choice.

There is also a 330 pesos entrance fee to the park. It isn’t the cheapest day out, especially if you are on a tight budget like us, however it is well worth doing for something you’ll likely never see anywhere else.

Los glaciares national park entrance ticket

Accommodation in El Calafate is quite varied in price and quality so there’s somewhere for everyone. Personally we stayed in Calafate Hostel. It was reasonably priced and was spacious and comfortable (with good Wi-Fi most importantly!)

I’d recommend using booking.com as they have the best prices and options for hostels and hotels near to Perito Moreno

When you arrive, the bus drops you at the top of a hill and from there you are taken aback by the sheer size of the block of ice in front of you. 250km² of crushed ice that’s interlaced with warm blue crevices makes for a view that you don’t exactly see every day.

There are metal walkways that offer a guided trail to see the glacier from every angle.

We started left and eventually worked our way across; with the glacier growing in size and impressiveness the further we went.

We spent around 2 hours walking around taking pictures before heading down along the final blue walkway that leads you to a restaurant they have.

Perito Moreno glacier from walkway

Perito Moreno glacier rupture

One of the things that the glacier is most famous for and what draws in so many tourists is the impressive noises that come from the vast mass of glacial ice. All day chunks of ice intermittently fall from the edge of the glacier into the water below making an impressive roar.

The best time to experience the magnificence from the glacier rupturing is in the afternoon once the weather has started to warm up and larger chunks of ice fall off.

When we were there it was a clear day and by the afternoon the weather starting turning warmer, making it a good day to watch the ice rupture. Unfortunately for us we missed this opportunity as our bus had to leave!

If you’re thinking of visiting the glacier soon then here’s the weather forecast for the next few days

Over time the glacier naturally moves closer and closer to the shore until every few years a dam of ice is formed between the glacier and the land (just behind which tourists stand). This in time becomes a bridge and eventually the pressure builds so much that the bridge rupture and bursts and vast chunks of ice fall almost 70 metres into the Lago Argentino below.

The last time the damn ruptured was March 10 2016 (so we missed it unfortunately by about 7 months). Here’s a video that one lucky person caught from that day.

 

Start at 02:30 for the action!

Perito Moreno glacier tours and prices

Another opportunity you have, which we chose not to do, is to take a boat tour that lasts about an hour and sails all along the border of the glacier.

You can get much closer and I imagine the pictures and atmosphere is all the more spectacular. It costs 350 Pesos per person to do this and runs at regular intervals throughout the day.

If our budget wasn’t an issue then we would have done it I’m sure, and based on what other people said, would recommend it if you have the money.

If you don’t fancy making your way there as described above, then you can get a tour to the glacier. You can buy day trips to the park, with or without the boat tour that takes you up close.

Many tours pick you up from your hostel or hotel in El Calafate as well. Here are a couple of tours, with their prices as well:

Perito Moreno Glacier day tour

Perito Moreno Glacier day tour with included boat tour 

Close up view of Perito Moreno glacier

Trekking Perito Moreno glacier

For those of you looking to experience the glacier a bit more up close then the “Big Ice” trek is probably for you. A guide will provide you with crampons and all the necessary equipment and then lead you across the glacier and give you the chance to see up close the turquoise blue cracks in the ice, ice peaks, caverns in the ice and lagoons.

This “mini-trek” across Perito Moreno Glacier lasts up to about 5 hours and is suitable for all ages.

If you fancy learning a bit more then I’ve provided links below to some tour operators. For a better idea of how amazing this hike can be then check out this article.

View near Perito Moreno glacier

Southern Argentina is a spectacular landscape to witness and for me nothing compared to our time spent hiking in Patagonia. The Los Glaciares National Park is the epitome of the beauty that this region has to offer and the park offers plenty of other opportunities for hiking.

My recommendation, if you are serious about experiencing everything this area has to offer, is to base yourself in El Chaltén.

This is a small village at the Northern end of the park that offers some cosy hotels and hostels for people looking to trek the surrounding mountains; including  Mount Fitz Roy (or Cerro El Chaltén), Laguna Torre, the Viedma Glacier, Laguna de Los Tres, Lago Roca, Loma del Pliegue Tumbado and Piedra del Fraile.

There are plenty of different routes available; this article by Swoop Patagonia summarise it all nicely

In front of Perito Moreno Glacier
Excuse the Jimmy Neutron hair

All in all we absolutely loved our journey through Patagonia and we were not let down on our visit to Perito Moreno . In fact we ended up spending over a week in El Calafate. Partly because it was cheaper to wait for a bus in a few days back down to Punta Arenas, but mostly because we fell in love with this little town and its abundance of hot chocolate stores all through the town centre!

If you’ve been here and experienced the Los Glaciares National Park then let me know below.

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