A 2019 guide to Perito Moreno Glaciar: what, when, how and how much
I guess, instead of bombing you with superlatives like breathtaking, spectacular to start this piece with, I just say that I haven’t thought I could be so blown away by a place like at this level at the age of 43. The last time I’ve experienced such a massive sensation was when I visited the various temples of Angor in Cambodia and before that, only when I was much younger and many things were new for me, many of which I was trying for the first time 😉
Being all blown away by the visual element of the first glacier (Perito is very beautiful and proud, like a proper Argentinian), I’ve ever seen, upon getting closer I then heard the cracking Sci Fi sounds it was making. Those ruptures are caused by the pressure from the weight of the ice slowly pushes the glacier over the Lago Argentino, or its southern arm Brasco River.
When it happens at the edge of the glacier, the tourists are rewarded by an impressive spectacle of seeing the ruptured pieces falling off. I kept missing the fall offs that were always followed by happy human vocal approvals I almost grew envious about but I knew that things come to those who… 😉
First, I wanted to tell everyone off for cheering the Global Warming as well as ruining the soundtrack to my video 😀 According to a local inspirational Airbnb host Sandra, I was apparently lucky to witness an exceptionally huge chunk falling off – and no – I don’t think she says it to every guest. It appears like slow motion but if you think that the height is 80 meters, than this could in fact be a chunk equal to a 12-13 storey building falling down, right?
And now let’s have some facts
Well, having my personal opinion about Perito Moreno out of the way, let’s go into some facts. 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 Santa Cruz province, approximately 80km from El Calafate.
The glacier itself is 250 km2 large, 30 km in length and around 5km wide at its front, with height reaching 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. What is unusual about this glacier is that it is advancing as opposed to the most glaciers worldwide.
How to get there and how much it will cost you
From Chile’s Puerto Natales (Torres del Paine), the bus journey takes about 5 hours, it’s a pretty ride for 17000,-CLP (€22,50). 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 is about 250,-ARS (€6), while taxis go at about 300% of that price.
From El Calafate‘s Bus Terminal or the main street, the return bus to Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares will cost you 800,-ARS (€18,60). The buses start running at about 7am. Please make sure to remember which company you have taken as upon your return, the amount of buses at the park could be rather overwhelming. Oh yeah – and 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 style.
Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares. Unlike when entering the park in the near by El Chaltén, here you will be asked to pay an entrance fee of 600,-ARS (€14).
In the 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, in the forest, etc. It might get a little slippery when raining but it’s nothing a normal precautions wouldn’t deal with. The difficulty of the particular treks are all easy – I’ve seen old pensioners in all of the treks – so you don’t have to be mega fit to get around 😉
Hiking, or shall I say walking because I found all paths to be very easy and pleasant walk, is only allowed on these paths. To beat the crowds, I took the earliest bus possible. The hiking trails are colour-coded and the general difference is the time taken to complete the trail and difficulty level.
Every trail is clearly marked and you can find color markers throughout the park. Bellow, there’s all routes one can take. I personally found the timings as well as the difficulty levels a bit stretched as I was able to cut it by 30-50%.
- The Central Route (Yellow): 1 hour; Low difficulty – accessible for a wheelchair users
- The Inferior Route (Red): 1 hour 15 minutes; 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 cafe.
Boat Cruises and Ice Hikes
Other options to enhance your experience are taking a Boat Cruise, which could take one closer to the glacier. Another option was to walk on the glacier itself with guides. Both were a bit out of my budget, but when researching, 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.
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.
I’ve personally picked a cheap Airbnb place called Habitación privada with a super-friendly host Sandra near the bus station but El Calafate is a rather nice (IMHO it’s prettier than Puerto Natales) and developed tourist town with numerous hotels available. FYI, at the time of my visit, Airbnb appeared to be the cheaper option.
As for dinning, the main strip in town is filled with plenty of restaurants and joints to enjoy the tasty Argentinian cuisine and wines. There are various fancy tourist joints such as Yeti Ice Bar or Glaciobar Blanca but as those are not exactly my cuppa tea, I’ve picked the one with the sunny terrace at the entrance to the market. If you like to people watch, it’s a good spot 😉
Other popular destinations near by
- If you have time on your hands, I’d definitely recommend visiting the southernmost city in the world Ushuaia and its nearby Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego
- Only a few hours drive over to Chilean Patagonia, there’s the town of Puerto Natales, a gateway to the iconic Torres del Paine National Park
- Travelling few hours north would bring you to the cute little town El Chaltén and take upon some of the stunning treks in the Los Glaciares National Park it is located within