All you need to know before visiting Perito Moreno Glacier: What, when, how and how much
This article has been updated on December 28, 2020
I guess, instead of bombing you with the Perito Moreno-matching superlatives such as magnificent, breathtaking or spectacular “river of ice” to start this piece with, I just say that if you’re heading that way, you’re in for a special treat, especially if this was to be your first time seeing a glacier. Perito is not only about the visuals, it’s also about the majestic cracking sounds it makes. And then there are the ruptures, the spectators are sometimes rewarded to witness.
The pressure from the weight of the ice slowly pushes “the river of ice” down it’s “stream”. As a result of that, tourists often witness the ruptured pieces falling off the end of glacier’s tongue into southern arm of Lago Argentino that’s also called Brasco River.
If you look at my video below, it almost appears like being played in small motion. But if think that the height of Perito‘s tongue is 80 meters tall, than I’d say that the chunk that falls of there is approximately 50-60 metres, which equals to a 12-14 storey building falling down, am I correct?
Some facts about Perito Moreno
Perito Moreno Glaciar (not to be mistaken by a small Argentinian town of the same name about 12 hours drive northwards), is one of the main tourist attractions in Argentina. It is located in Los Glaciares National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981) in Santa Cruz province, approximately 80km from El Calafate.
The glacier itself is 259 km2 large, 30 km in length and around 5km wide at its front and 700m deep at its thickest point. As mentioned above, the height of the tongue reaches up to 80 meters, which is 12m higher than Obelisco in Buenos Aires or 23m higher than the Tower of Pisa to give you some perspective. From 1947 to 1996, the glacier gained about 4 metres, however we now know that as off 2006, it’s only retreating.
More info about the glacier, together with a cool picture taken from ISS could be found here on NASA’s website.
How to get to the park from El Calafate and how much will it cost you
The bus from El Calafate‘s Bus Terminal or its stops on the city’s main street, the return bus to Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares will cost you an equivalent of €18-20 (due to the unfortunate economic climate, peso’s value unfortunately fluctuates a lot, but the value of the attractions stays pretty much the same, if stated in more stabile currency).
The buses start running at about 7am. I’d recommend taking the early option in order to avoid the crowds. Please make sure to remember which company you have arrived with as upon your return, the amount of buses waiting at the park’s car park could be rather overwhelming. Btw, bring some rain gear – you will be in the mountains and weather can change fast.
FYI, you could also take one of the much more expensive tours from El Calafate in case this was your preference. I’m positive that you’ll hear many interesting things from the guide, plus you might even stop at one of the spectacular higher up view points on your way to the glacier.
Park entrance fee: unlike when entering the Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares in El Chaltén, here you will be asked to pay an entrance fee worth around €14.
How to get around Perito Moreno Glacier park
Orientation in the park is very easy. The infrastructure build for tourists is amazing as one walks on solid metal paths along the river and the forest that surrounds the area. It might get a little slippery when raining but it’s nothing a normal precautions wouldn’t deal with.
Hiking, or shall I say walking, because I found each path to be very easy and pleasant walk, is only allowed in the designated routes. The hiking trails are colour-coded and the general difference is the time taken to complete the trail and difficulty level.
- The Central Route (yellow): 1 hour; low difficulty; accessible for a wheelchair users
- The Inferior Route (red): 1 hour 15 minutes; medium-high difficulty ; circle loop
- Accessible Route (white): 30 minutes; very low difficulty; accessible for a wheelchair users
- Del Bosque Route (green): 45 minutes; medium difficulty; leads to the red loop
- De la Costa (blue): 1 hour 30 minutes; medium difficulty; leads to the cruise and café
Boat Cruises and Ice Hikes
Other options to enhance your experience with Perito Moreno could be taking a Boat Cruise, which could take one closer to the glacier. Another option was to walk on the glacier itself with guides. They start at about $50, depending on length and/or the service picked.
There were two different kinds of ice hiking tours. The 100 minutes Mini Ice Hike for visitors from 10 to 65yrs of age and was operational between August and June. The 3,5hrs Big Ice Hike was for 18 to 50 yrs of age. This route is open from September to April. Ice picks and crampons were apparently included in price.
How to get to El Calafate
- From Chile’s Puerto Natales (Torres del Paine), the bus journey takes about 5 hours, it’s a pretty ride for an equivalent of €23. Before boarding, make sure that you have the immigration slip of paper that looks like a receipt you have received upon entering Chile.
- From Buenos Aires, you could fly from about €30, if you book the flight in advance. The usual suspects like Skyscanner should help you deciding about the flights. Return shuttle from the airport to the city costs an equivalent of about €6, while taxis go at about 300% of that price.
When to go?
The park is pretty much an all year destination, however, November to February, during the Austral summer, you might get the warmest weather, naturally.
El Calafate is a rather nice town. IMHO it’s prettier and more developed than the “neighbouring” Chilean counterpart Puerto Natales. Most social life appears to occur around the main road strip in town. It’s filled with plenty of restaurants and joints to enjoy the tasty Argentinian cuisine and wines. FYI, at the time of my visit, Airbnb appeared to be the cheaper option to find an accommodation.
There’s no need to be concerned by crime as El Calafate is very safe. Tourism plays a major part of the local economy and the locals are well aware of that.
Other popular destinations near by
Tip: the links highlighted in red are Google Maps locations to give you an idea about where we're talking about. If you save the locations you're interested in into "want to go", once you arrive to the destination, it could make things easier for you to orientate yourself in the area, not to mention the (sometimes) helpful and informative reviews or the fact that it might also help you to determine your itinerary ;)
Travelling about 3 hours from El Calafate would bring you to a cute little town El Chaltén and take upon some of the stunning treks, such as Laguna de Los Tres near the iconic Mount Fitz Roy. FYI, it’s located in the same Los Glaciares Parque Nacional as Perito Moreno Glacier. More details, with logistics, popular treks and so on could be found here.
Torres del Paine
Only 5-6 hours drive over to Chilean Patagonia, there’s Puerto Natales, a gateway to the iconic Torres del Paine National Park. More details, including logistics, popular treks and other practical tips could be found here.
End of the World
If you have time on your hands, I’d definitely recommend visiting the southernmost city in the world AKA “El Fin del Mundo” Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. From Punta Arenas, you’d be only about 15hrs of bus ride away. In case you were tempted, find more details here 😉
Traveller’s Guides to Chile and Argentina
For more complex information about both countries that are home to Patagonia, please click here, respectively here. Expect learning about basic history, cuisine, general tourism info and safety, popular as well as off the beaten path places to visit and more.
Featured image by Adam Derewecki from Pixabay