Imagine being only 800 meters away from a frozen sea of Ice with its bright colors of white, aqua, and deep blue constantly changing as the sun beats down over its time sealed treasures.
If you want to see one of Earth’s incredible wonders and experience something entirely different, then visit the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. At first glance, you will be mesmerized by the enormous size of this advancing glacier that contains the world’s third-largest supply of fresh water.
Once you see a piece of ice chip off the face of the glacier and fall into the water, you will find yourself craving for more of these dramatic events. I found that my favorite activity to do at the park was to watch and listen to the ice calve off the glacier, but I think that one must have patience in order to fully enjoy these events. It may take 1 or 2 hours for a piece of ice to slowly calve off the glacier. However hearing the thunder-like roar from the cracking of the ice every 10 minutes or so makes the waiting and watching process much more exciting!
When my friend and I arrived at the first viewing platform, we were dumbfounded by how close we could get to the glacier’s face. It was incredible!
When the ice calves off the glacier it makes a huge splash into the water and creates a new iceberg. It is like seeing a 20 story building collapse and almost disappear but leaving a small portion of itself to be seen floating on the surface. Watching for the next piece of the glacier to fall can become a bit of a game. It is a cool way to spend the day.
With all these massive chunks of Ice falling off the glacier into the Lago Argentino, you would think that you were the first witness to the end of humanity. But this glacier is advancing every year, not receding. So relax and enjoy one of natures’ most fascinating theaters!
There is a lot of pressure that is pushing the glacier forward. The glacier eventually gets moved up against the Brazo Rico Arm(the southern arm of the lake) and creates a natural dam. Eventually, a river will form through this barrier and create a tunnel. Over the course of 3 or 4 years, the tunnel will get bigger, start to slowly cave-in, and eventually, it will totally collapse reuniting the two bodies of water at the Brazo Rico Arm. The final collapse of the tunnel is always a very spectacular event, and attracts many spectators!
Things To Do At The Glacier
Walk The Viewing Platform
You can see The Perito Moreno Glacier in just one day. The cheapest way to visit is to get the direct bus from the central bus station in El Calafate for $8USD return, then buy an entry ticket for $15USD(Good for one day) at the park entrance. You can spend 2-3 hours strolling along the metal walkways, and admire the spectacular views of the glacier at the many viewing platforms. The park is wheelchair accessible making it possible for everybody to enjoy. There is an elevator near the center of the catwalks, and some of the viewing platforms have convenient ramps.
Safari Boat Trip
The Safari boat trip lasts about an hour, and tickets can be purchased at the departure point “Bajo de las Sombras” Bay, about 6km before the glacier balconies. The boats depart hourly during peak season. Ask your hostel or bus driver for information on getting to the departure point. The boat trip cost $25USD(Park entry, & the bus from El Calafate cost is separate). Some companies offer a combination package with a guided walk along the platforms and the boat trip.(Your hostel will have information on these tours).
I saw The Perito Moreno Glacier the most economical way and just walked along the platform. But I did talk to some people who went on the boat trip. Some people liked it, while others said that they preferred the platform walk. If you go on the boat tour, you will get much closer to the glacier and most likely get better pictures than what can be taken from the platform.
I spent a lot of money in Argentina so that is why I cheaped out on the boat trip and the glacier walk. Personally, I think that if you have the time and have room in your budget, I would do both the boat trip and the glacier walk.(See Mini Ice Trek).
Mini Ice Trek
From Aug to May you can strap on some crampons and hike on top of the glacier with a bilingual guide to show you the way. This excursion is relatively expensive for the average backpacker $150USD(not including park entry $25USD), but I have only heard good things from the travelers that did it. Everybody said that the hike was worth the money. Your hostel can usually sell you the tickets for the tour and arrange for the tour company to pick you up in the morning and take you to the glacier were the Mini Ice Trek starts. The total length of the journey is approximately 10 hours and finishes in El Calafate.
The Mini Ice Trek tour starts with a 10-minute boat ride across Rio Arm; then you get a safety briefing while the guides explain to you how to use your crampons. The hike on the glacier will last approximately 1.5 hours, and the guides will lead you across an incredible landscape with bright blue ice formations, deep crevasses, gullies, small lagoons, and streams.
The Big Ice Trek
This tours is very similar to The Mini Ice Trek. However, the cost is more $250USD(not including park entry $25USD), and you spend more time on the glacier hike(3.5 hours). The extra time walking on the glacier will give you more opportunity to see more incredible things and take more pictures. The length of The Big Ice Trek tour takes approximately 12 hours and finishes in El Calafate.
How To Get To El Calafate
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located 78km(48mi, about 2 hours from the town of El Calafate). El Calafate is the where most people stay the night in order to see the glacier. If you are in Buenas Aires, it would be faster and possibly cheaper to fly to El Calafate instead of taking the bus. Distances in Argentian are far so if you choose to take the bus expect to be on it for days! I took the bus everywhere during the five weeks that I was in Argentina. Most bus rides that I took were 12 – 24 hours and they were all very expensive!
If you come from El Chalten(220km) to El Calafate, it will take approximately 3 hours and will cost about $45USD. If you fly into El Calafate and have 3 or 4 days to spare it is worth going to El Chalten by bus to hike the famous Mount Fitz Roy trail and some of the other beautiful treks that Glaciers National Park has to offer. Unlike Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park, the hikes in Glaciers National Park do not require reservations, and they are 100% free to visit!
You can check the airfare prices of Argentina’s national carrier Aerolineas Argentina, or try one of the airline search engines like Skyscanner.com or Cheapflights.com. If you choose to take the bus, you will most likely need to buy your ticket at the local bus station. It was a hit and miss with buying tickets online for me. However, if you want to look online to compare prices, you can try OmniLíneas.com for bus prices.
Around El Calafate
If you have an extra day and like museums, The Glaciarium is one the world’s most modern museums. The museum explains how the glaciers were formed and how the evolved over time. The Glaciarium is a very modern museum that includes lots of visual, and sound effects that will enhance your overall experience at the center. Entry cost $20USD for a foreigner.
If you go to the museum, you should check out The Glaciobar for a truly unique experience. The Glaciobar is a functional bar that is made entirely of glacier ice. The walls, the bar, the furniture, shot glasses and beer mugs are all made of glacier ice. The Glaciobar is located in the basement of the Glaciarium Museum and entry cost about $12USD for thirty minutes in the bar including Argentinian alcoholic drinks mixed by a superstar bartender.
The temperature in the bar is -10C, therefore the excursion that we did included some funky looking clothes that we had to put on before we entered the Glaciobar. These clothes made everybody look equally ridiculous.(All in fun!)
There were only a few people at the Glaciobar the day I visited the museum. The English speaking barman was very generous that day. We each had several different Argentinian alcoholic beverages at no additional cost. It was a great way to end a visit to the museum, and a great confidence booster for practicing Spanish with the local guests! I liked this bar; it was very cool! After having a few drinks, you can get some pictures with your ice mug of Alcohol, and sit on the Ice furniture.
How To Get To The Museum & Icebar
The museum is 7km from the city, but there is a free shuttle that frequently runs from the center of town and runs every hour during the day. The shuttle in El Calafate is little tricky to find, I got directions from my hostel. But I kept asking the locals and they pointed me in the right direction.
Is Visiting The Perito Moreno Glacier Worth It?
During the time of my visit to The Perito Moreno Glacier, I was very impressed, however with all the incredible things to see in South America, I didn’t think it would become a favorite memory. But after traveling for three more months in South America, I have to say that now I feel that The Perito Moreno Glacier was indeed the number one highlight of my trip. Every time I look at a photo of the glacier I realize how much I enjoyed that day!
A lot of people skip this attraction because they are short on time. If you are in Puerto Natales(Chile) and plan to head to El Chalten or vice verse, I strongly recommend that you do not skip the glacier! If thought out correctly you could make a quick visit to the glacier along the way to El Chalten. As for visiting the Glaciobar and the Glaciarium Museum, I would only go if you have extra time and money. It would be a great thing to do on a rainy day.
If you have any further question on El Calafate, The Perito Moreno Glacier, Glaciobar, or The Glaciarium Museum then feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com or leave a comment below. If you would like some more free travel information then you can check out my website. travelcanbecheap.com