With most of the world’s glaciers retreating, Perito Moreno is one of only 3 Patagonian glaciers which continues to progress, giving global warming the finger in the process.
Expect: A staggeringly big, blue, crumbling glacier with a wall of ice the height of 5 double-decker busses, euphoria.
Pack: Camera, sunglasses and, of course, Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.
El Calafate and Glacier Perito Moreno
“Nothing can prepare you for the glacier; NOTHING”, shouted my hostel owner, putting his glass of wine down in order to emphasise his point with manic shakes of the head and index finger. The rest of the hostel nodded, out of fear or agreement I could not tell.
Glacier Perito Moreno is no doubt one of the top sights in South America. This phenomenal carpet of ice is one of the largest and most accessible glaciers in the world. With most of the world’s glaciers retreating, Perito Moreno is one of only 3 Patagonian glaciers which continue to progress, giving global warming the finger in the process. It is 5 kilometres (3 mi) wide, with an average height of 74 m (240 ft) above the surface of the water of Lake Argentino, in Argentina. It has a total ice depth of 170 metres (558 ft).Over 5 kilometres wide, 70 metres tall (5 double-decker busses) and a total depth of 170 metres it is a truly remarkable feat of nature. The staggering scale combined with the glowing phosphorescent blue of the ice (which turns a pastel mauve at sunset and sunrise) make this one of the iconic images of Patagonia. As if that wasn’t incredible enough, the glacier even cracks and carves right before your eyes, with the impressive sound of huge chunks of ice crashing into the lake echoing around the valley. As you gaze, enraptured on this ice field, the myth of Patagonia as the land of giants, so bizarre when you read it at home, suddenly makes sense. Everything here is slightly bigger, slightly rawer...slightly different.
El Calafate is a nice enough town, although in reality there is no reason to be here except to visit the glacier. Nice cafes and restaurants make it a pleasant stay, but certainly not worthy of a long sojourn. The Anonima supermarket up on the hill sells bargain tents for under $15, which is a fantastic buy if you have left it this late before heading to Torres del Paine or El Charlten. As with so many things in Patagonia, you can’t get to the glacier by public bus; you have to book a tour. Any hostel in town will be able to sort you out, and they all cost the same amount. This tour only includes the journey to and from the park; you will have to pay the park entrance on top of it.
One trick to bear in mind is that if you can get to the park before 7.30am you avoid paying the park entrance fee because the guards have not turned up for work yet. This also means avoiding the crowds and catching the glacier in the fresh, early morning light (when the blue is even more intense). Your best bet is either renting a car with a few mates or asking at your hostel if they know anyone who might drive you for a fee.