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Patagonia is full of bucket list experiences and the Perito Moreno glacier tour is at the top of this list. Dare I say it’s one of those goosebump-forming, chill-inspiring things to do in Patagonia that you won’t be able to forget.
This Patagonia travel guide shares my experience of doing a Perito Moreno tour and what you can expect when you visit this breathtaking Patagonia glacier.
Trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the southern part of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. This glacier is the reason why all Patagonia itineraries must stop in El Calafate, the nearest town (5o miles away) and access point to the glacier.
Leaving at 7:30 a.m. on a bus from El Calafate, the sky was still dark. I was set for a day of mini trekking on Perito Moreno. From the moment I began planning Patagonia, I was sure I wanted to be on this glacier and not just view it from a distance. But, the Big Ice Perito Moreno Tour was more expensive, and I needed to make sure I caught the 6:30 p.m. bus from El Calafate to El Chalten that night. Minitrekking Perito Moreno was just right for my time and budget.
After arriving at the National Park and paying the $500 Argentine Pesos (about $13 USD) park entry fee (not included in day tour fees & cash only), the bus made 1 stop at a viewpoint before dropping us at the shores of Lago Argentina.
Heading out toward Perito Moreno, the sky was overcast, with morning fog still hovering close to the glacier top. The temperature dropped and I was glad I’d worn my fleece under my jacket.
Not worried about the cold, I focused my attention on the breathtaking blue ice. The older and denser the ice, the bluer it appears. Ice can absorb all the colors in the color spectrum except blue, which is what creates the illusion of blue ice. Even Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine National Park didn’t appear as blue as Perito Moreno!
From the pictures, it can be difficult to imagine the glacier’s size. How about some Perito Moreno Glacier facts?! It’s 97 square miles of ice. Seriously, hard to even imagine! It’s 19 miles long, 3 miles wide, and towers 240 feet above the lake’s surface. Part of the Southern Patagonia Icefields, the Perito Moreno is one of the largest freshwater reserves in the world.
Arriving at the shores and completely mesmerized by the southern face of the glacier, we made the short and easy trek to the glacier’s entry point. Before trekking Perito Moreno, I needed a pair of crampons to keep steady on the ice, which the tour company provided. Outfitted with crampons, my excitement and confidence grew…maybe I should be an ice climber!
Within a few minutes of beginning the tour, I was surrounded by deep crevasses filled with blue water and ice mountains sculpted into peaks and tunnels.
Seeing Perito Moreno, first from a distance and then from on the glacier, you are reminded of how small and powerless we all are in the face of nature. Breathtaking might be an overused word in travel blogging, but just look at the photo below and decide for yourself whether it’s accurate.
ProTip: Be sure to dress for glacier weather. Even if the day itself is pleasant, temperatures will be lower and wind will be stronger on the glacier. The warmest ice-trekkers had winter hats and gloves, as well as winter pants to protect against the wind and from getting wet.
An hour and a half of mini trekking Perito Moreno lands you deep into the glacier, to a place where you’re totally surrounded by ice. I honestly could have stayed here for hours…just looking and trying to comprehend what my eyes were seeing! We kept moving a bit more before it was time to turn back. But not before we all had a chance to take photos. (Not sure what I was thinking wearing all black!)
After the Perito Moreno glacier hike finished, I reluctantly gave back my crampons and set myself atop a rock to watch the glacier and eat my bagged lunch. The faces of Perito Moreno are constantly changing. It’s one of the few glaciers still advancing, although thinning at the same time. With loud, booming, thunderous cracking, the glacier face frequently calves off small and large chunks of ice into the lake below. This process continues in a cycle, with the lake water evaporating, more snow falling in the mountains, creating more ice, and pushing older ice to the front face.
If you are lucky (and have a quick trigger finger on your camera), you might catch a chunk of ice calving off.
When lunch was finished, the boat and bus took us to the viewing platforms across from the glacier. From here you can see the front and north faces, which are not visible from the spot where the Perito Moreno mini trekking happens.
I visited in late March, which is the Fall in the Southern Hemisphere. The oranges, reds, and yellows of the foliage surrounded the glacier for an incredible display of nature.
You can also see the north face of Perito Moreno from the viewing platforms. Where trekking Perito Moreno allowed you to see parts of the glacier you’d never see from a distance, the viewing platforms give as close to a birds-eye perspective as you can get to truly understand what a glacier this size looks like.
Having spent over an hour walking the platforms for glacier views, it was time to board the bus back to El Calafate and catch that bus to El Chalten. I was only just starting my Patagonia adventure but I knew then that when I finished up my trip in Ushuaia, this day spent at Perito Moreno would be one of the best of the trip.
Practical Planning for a Day at Perito Moreno Glacier
Since writing this guide, I’ve been asked by several readers if it was necessary to do the ice trekking on Perito Moreno. And the answer is no. You can certainly visit the glacier on your own, although you won’t be able to go onto the glacier, just see it from the viewing platforms.
The biggest question becomes how to get to Perito Moreno glacier if you’re not part of a day tour. There are buses from El Calafate to Perito Moreno glacier which cost about 500 Argentine Pesos + tax. You can buy these tickets at the bus terminal in El Calafate.
The 90-minute bus ride gets you to the entrance of Los Glaciares National Park. You’ll pay the park entrance fee in cash (500 Argentine Pesos) just as I did on my trekking excursion. At this point, you can hike or take a boat to the glacier. Boat tickets were between 300 and 400 Argentine Pesos.
There are also numerous Perito Moreno excursions available besides trekking out onto the glacier. From bus tours to kayaking to boat safaris, you can choose which Perito Moreno experience is right for you.
Whether you choose a Perito Moreno glacier tour like I did or plan to visit this incredible glacier on your own, it’s an absolute can’t miss on your for your Patagonia trip.
Would you like to do a Perito Moreno glacier trek?
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