The main reason to visit El Calafate in the south of Argentina is Perito Moreno Glacier, the country’s most famous attraction. Part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, one of the world’s biggest citadels of ice, Perito Moreno is just one of the glaciers in the Los Glaciares National Park. However, it is the most astonishing because its location makes it easy to view and because it is possible to trek across the ice itself.
The best way to see this impressive glacier is with a Mini-trekking Perito Moreno Tour. More exciting than a standard tour to the glacier which takes you to the walkways overlooking the ice, or the more challenging Big Ice Trekking Tour, this Mini-trekking adventure is the perfect option to see all the best aspects of Perito Moreno in one day.
Perito Moreno sits in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field / Photo by Daytours4u
VIEWING PERITO MORENO GLACIER
After being picked up at our hotel, the bus took us west of El Calafate to the Los Glaciares National Park, a journey of about one hour. Along the way, the guide explained how the tour will work and gave us plenty of information about the park and the glaciers, as well as the history and environment of the region. The lovely tour guide spoke in both Spanish and English. I was pleased to note (as a Spanish and English speaker) that the information conveyed in both languages was the same.
While the tour itinerary may vary depending on the day, our tour started at the viewing trails of the glacier. After stopping at the first lookout point along the road to catch our initial glimpse of the glacier, we were dropped off at the trails. The guide explained the different routes and gave us her recommendations and 2 hours of free time to explore.
The trails and decks give you views of the glacier from multiple angles / Photo by Daytours4u
The park is impressively laid out with trails and decks consisting of four distinct paths, allowing visitors to see the glacier from a number of angles and ranges. We walked the main yellow path as well as the red path, taking us to the glacier’s north face. There are no words or pictures that can truly do justice to the experience of seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier in person. More than just seeing its immense size and beauty, what really makes the experience is hearing the sounds it makes.
The glacier moves an average of 2 metres per day, meaning it is in constant motion. As it slides forward, moving and melting, chunks of the glacier are always breaking off; a process known as calving. You can hear the glacier making thunderous noises as it moves, and if you’re lucky, you can see a front piece break off into the water with a crashing splash.
The glacier’s unique positioning also means that when it moves forward, it meets the land mass on which the viewing decks are situated. This effectively closes off the channel between Lake Argentino and its southern branch. After a period of time, this closed off section will break through in what is called a rupture, a phenomenon that happens every three or four years.
The front wall of the glacier is one of the intoxicating vistas in the world / Photo by Daytours4u
MINI-TREKKING PERITO MORENO
After two hours on the decks, we headed back to the bus which took us to a port on the southern branch of the lake. We boarded a boat which took us past the southern wall of the glacier to the other side of the lake.
We were then broken up into smaller groups according to language. After getting a chance to drop off unnecessary belongings in a secure cabin and picking up some gloves (an essential), we started walking through the forest. At a clearing, the guide stopped to give us more information about the glacier. After the talk, it was onwards to have our crampons fitted and a short safety briefing and a demonstration of how to walk using the crampons. Then the mini-trekking adventure began.
Strapping on crampons and traversing the glacier is an amazing experience / Photo by Daytours4u
It was a bit nerve wrecking walking on the ice at first as we learnt to trust the crampons. Besides our main guide, a second guide walked alongside to check that everyone was walking correctly and to see if any help was needed. After ascending the first icy hill and judging the group’s level, we were taken on an alternative path, traversing the ice with its crevices and rivers.
After about one and a half hours of adventuring across the huge white and blue mass, we descended a bit to a great surprise: whiskey and alfajores on the ice! We were served the whiskey on the rocks, using ice from the glacier. It was a special way to end the trek, topping off a great day.
The sapphire-tinted Perito Moreno / Photo by Daytours4u
Leaving the ice, we removed our crampons and went back along the trail through the forest. After a short wait, and a chance to take some more photos of the glacier, we were back on the boat, where the bus was waiting on the other side to take us back to our hotel.
TOP TIPS FOR THIS TOUR:
Bring your own food. There is an opportunity to eat in the snack bar in the park, but it is not cheap.
Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses! The ice is extremely bright and you will need both.
Dress appropriately – the wind on the glacier is cold. A warm jacket, hat, and gloves are essential.
You don’t have to be particularly fit to do this tour, although it is tiring walking with the crampons. The walk on the glacier is between 1 and a half and 2 hours and traverses many small hills and valleys on the glacier.
After the trek and boat ride, you’ll truly appreciate the size of Perito Moreno / Photo by Daytours4u
The Mini-trekking Perito Moreno Tour truly is the best way to fully appreciate the immensity of the glacier. It combines ample time on the viewing decks, a boat ride and a trek across the glacier. It was the certainly the highlight of my travels in Patagonia!
By: Nicole Eberhard, travel writer and avid explorer, with a Masters in English Literature.