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Patagonia is full of incredible natural attractions to see. From epic hikes through the mountains to stunning lakes and glaciers, the possibilities for outdoor adventures are endless here. If there’s any attraction to add to your Patagonia bucket list, it’s Perito Moreno glacier. This stunning 250 km2 glacier is impressive, to say the least.
What makes Perito Moreno even more special is that you can actually go trekking on the glacier! This unique tour was one of the best activities I did while traveling through Argentina.
How to Visit Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier is located just outside of El Calafate, inside Los Glaciares National Park. The park was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981. There is an entrance fee of 800 Argentinan Pesos as of June 1st, 2019.
The park is about a 40-minute drive from El Calafate. Patagonia is a great place to rent a car, but if you can’t, there are also busses that provide round-trip transport from El Calafate to the park. Alternatively, you could book a taxi there and ask them to wait for you while you explore the park. Split with a few people, it’s more or less the same price as a bus but much more convenient as you aren’t stuck to one schedule. Hitchhiking to the national park is also an option and relatively common here.
The glacier is huge, and there are quite a few viewing platforms, so you’ll want to give yourself at least a few hours here to properly explore the park. The park is open from 8 am until 6 pm in the summer (September to April) and from 9 am to 4 pm in the winter (April to August). There are bathrooms at the park as well as a restaurant.
Perito Moreno glacier is a popular spot so I recommend getting here early in the morning to avoid the crowds or sticking around late in the afternoon. During the middle of the day, the viewing platforms will be packed!
You can also do boat cruises in the park which will bring you closer to the glacier. You can either book this at the entrance of the park or arrange it beforehand. The benefit of booking a tour before is that you won’t have to worry about finding your own transportation to the park.
There are also kayaking tours, which look like an incredible way to explore Perito Moreno glacier!
What makes Perito Moreno Glacier so fun to watch is that the pieces of ice are constantly falling into the green water below. It makes a very loud sound when one crashes into the water!
Perito Moreno Mini-Trekking
One of the best ways to explore Perito Moreno Glacier is to do a trekking tour. There are two options available: the mini-trekking, and the big ice trek. All equipment including crampons and axes will be provided.
I opted to do the mini-trekking tour which was an incredible experience!
The tour starts with pick you up at your accommodation in El Calafate for a 40-minute drive to Los Glaciers National Park. Once you arrive at the park, you continue a stunning 20-minute drive through gorgeous scenery to the boat dock. From the dock, you take a 20-minute boat ride towards El Calafate glacier.
There you meet your guides for the trek, put on the crampons and head on to the glacier. You trek in total for about 1 1/2 hours through the glacier.
On the trek, the guides will stop for photo ops and to introduce you to the fascinating landscape of the glaciers: streams, small lagoons, gullies, crevasses and plenty of ice formations of the most incredible blues. The guides will provide an explanation about flora, fauna and general glaciology of the region.
The car/boat ride to the glacier is with a large group but before the hike, they divide everyone into smaller groups of no more than 15. Somehow I ended up in a group of very excited Uruguayan men which was a hilarious experience. I’ve never seen so many grown men taking selfies of themselves! At the end of the tour, they give you a glass of scotch on the glacier which is a really nice touch.
As a bonus, at the end of the tour, we got to go inside an ice cave that was carved by a river that flowed through the glacier. It was so magical inside, with blue natural fluorescent light and ice formations that looked like pieces of art.
The ice caves are not always there, and the guides can only bring you inside when it’s safe, so this is not a guaranteed part of the tour. Hopefully, luck will be on your side as it was for me, as this was one of my favorite parts of the day.
After the trek is over, the guide will take you a spot for lunch near the ferry dock. There, you can safely admire the glacier from a distance. It is incredible to watch pieces break off from it. As the large chunks fall off it creates a huge wave through the water!
After lunch, you take the boat back and head to the balcony section which provides some impressive views of all sides of the glacier. Since the trekking tours include the balconies and a boat ride in the park, I didn’t feel the need to visit the park on my own after doing this tour.
The entire Perito Moreno mini trekking tour takes about 8 hours. It’s a wonderful way to spend a day in El Calafate!
Where to stay in El Calafate
Budget: I stayed at America Del Sur Hostel which is one of the best hostels I stayed in all of Patagonia. The staff are great and they have a tour booking center at the hostel. America Del Sur hostel has a social vibe, beautiful views of the lake, and a delicious onsite restaurant and bar. The steak and wine dinner is amazing!
Mid-range: Hotel Kosten Aike is set in a beautiful alpine-style building with a spa and fitness center. It offers affordable, clean, and spacious rooms with an impressive 9.0 rating and over 500 reviews.
Luxury: EOLO Patagonia Spirit is a stunning, high-end hotel in El Calafate. With huge glass windows, each room promises impressive views of the scenery. Plus they have an in-house spa and swimming pool!
What Else to Do in El Calafate
The main attraction in El Calafate is Perito Moreno glacier, but there are a few other things to do here. There are actually two other glaciers here, Upsala and Spegazzini. They are smaller then Perito Moreno but still impressive. The best way to see the glaciers is to go on a full-day boat tour which will take you around Lago Argentino.
Laguna Nimez is the lake in El Calafate which is just a short 15-minute hike away from the center of town. It’s an ecological reserve so you can see many birds there including the Chilean Flamingo. There is a self-guided boardwalk around the lake.
You could also take a day trip to El Chalten, which is just a couple of hours away. This is one of the best places for hiking in Patagonia, so I would advise just going here afterward and spending a few days.
During my time in El Calafate, it was St. Patricks day so me and some fellow travelers decided we had to drink in celebration. The night started off at a local restaurant called La Zaina (highly recommend) where we all shared a (few) delicious bottles of red wine and lamb dinner. Afterward, we headed to La Zorra where they were selling green beer (yay!) but not playing any Irish music. We requested that they put on shipping out to Boston which you’d think would get any bar in the world stoked on St. Patrick’s day, but instead, it was just the four of us getting pumped and everyone else in the bar staring at us. It was the least Irish st. Patrick’s day I’ve ever had, but we had a good time!
Traveling in Patagonia? Don’t miss these posts!
- The Best Day Hikes in Ushuaia
- Walking with Penguins at the End of the World in Ushuaia, Argentina
- The Best Hikes in El Chalten, Argentina
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