Perito Moreno is a glacier located in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentinian Patagonia. It’s less than 50 miles from El Calafate so while we were there the glacier was really a must-see.
It’s not difficult to understand why the glacier is so popular with tourists from around the world when you begin to understand the size of it. Perito Moreno is 250km2. To give you an idea, Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires is 203km2, 47km2 smaller than the glacier.
The 250 km2 (97 sq mi) ice formation, and 30 km (19 mi) in length, is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field located in the Andes system shared with Chile. This icefield is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water.
The Perito Moreno glacier, located 78 kilometres (48 mi) from El Calafate, was named after the explorer Francisco Moreno, a pioneer who studied the region in the 19th century and played a major role in defending the territory of Argentina in the conflict surrounding the international border dispute with Chile.
For our visit, our options were quite limited due to it being low-season. We were able to take a boat tour to see the South face, a bus to the viewing platform to see the North Face or a trip which included both as well as trekking on the glacier itself.
The tour was referred to as the mini-trekking package. We booked through the hostel in El Calafate and we were picked up the next morning at 7am.
The first leg of the trip is the boat ride in front of the South face. Once you get up close, the 40 meter high face of the glacier is pretty impressive:
Despite the icy winds on the top of the boat we were able to take a few snaps and run back inside for the rest of the boat trip to the refuge. Once there, we took a 10 minute walk through the woods to ‘base camp’. We met our guide (there were only 3 English speakers so we had him almost to ourselves) and were strapped into our crampons:
After some basic tuition on walking on ice with crampons (basically a John Wayne Impression – keep your feet apart, pilgrims) we were on our way up the glacier!
There were a lot of crevices and small pools of icy water for us to fall into, but at no point did it feel unsafe. The guides were great and offered a hand whenever we needed one. The guides talked us through each of the ice formations as we went, explaining the science behind glaciers and the way they impact the environment.
90 minutes on the ice was enough to experience plenty of different features of the glacier whilst admiring the views of the surrounding mountains. The tour even ended with a whiskey and a snack in the ice bar!
Once we left the ice and took off our crampons – still amazed by how blue to ice looks – we headed back to the refuge for our packed lunch. Once re-fueled and warmed up we were back on the bus and heading to the main viewing platform to see the North face.
Although nothing compared to the immersive experience of walking on the ice, the size of the North face was impressive enough. Combining the view with the thunderous cracking noise the glacier continued to make – we were lucky enough to see a piece break off – makes the viewing platform a completely different experience and one I’m glad we didn’t miss out!