Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier is easily the crown jewel of Los Glaciares National Park. This was my first time seeing a glacier, so I was determined to experience it from as many perspectives as possible. This included taking a boat up near the face, watching the calving from above on the platforms, and even trekking onto the ice. Perito Moreno Glacier lived up to all the photographic promises I found in my Google searches and is currently at the top of the coolest things I’ve ever seen list.
We made the 80 KM drive from El Calafate out to Perito Moreno Glacier two days in a row to take it all in. On our bus ride we caught epic views of the brilliant turquoise Lago Argentino as well as Brazo Rico, a channel of glacial melt that forms an arm of Lago Argentino. Perito Moreno isn’t the largest glacier in Patagonia, but its close proximity to the tip of Peninsula Magallanes makes it easily accessible for incredible close up views.
Perito Moreno, one of the last few glaciers still advancing, had breached onto land at the time of our visit, forming an ice dam between Lago Argentino and Brazo Rico. This ice dam blocked the flow of water from Brazo Rico and Lago Argentino causing the water level in the Brazo Rico channel to rise 7 KM above the water level of Lago Argentino. We were able to see the gigantic ice dam during our visit, but the water must restore balance and eventually will erode a tunnel through the dam creating an ice bridge that finally gives way in a magnificent rupture. We missed the Perito Moreno 2016 Rupture by about five weeks. Next time.
We first glimpsed Perito Moreno Glacier from a distance after passing through the entrance of Los Glaciares National Park. It’s worth the stop at the vista point to snap some photos of the glacier from a distance. Perito Moreno Glacier advances up to 2 KM per day in some areas, and from this perspective at a distance you can see the path of the glacier moving through the mountains emptying out onto Lago Argentino. A living example of how the glaciers form these magnificent valleys.
Day 1 – First Glacier Experience
On the first day at Perito Moreno Glacier, our tour consisted of a boat ride onto Brazo Rico that took us for an up close view of the face of the glacier. A sheer, ominous wall of ice and jagged peaks rise over 50 KM above the water’s surface, and stretch twice that distance below. Viewing the glacier from a distance is one thing, but getting so close to it’s edge makes you feel incredibly tiny. Watching the calving from the boat deck was exhilarating and everyone would break out in ooh’s and aah’s as gigantic pieces of ice fell into the lake with a resounding boom.
Be mindful when booking your boat tour. They are not all the same. The tour we booked through Viator was great and we highly recommend it. The boat cruised along the face of the glacier giving us thousands of photo and video opportunities. We were able to go outside on the deck of the boat to get spectacular views of the glacier. We heard from other travelers that another tour boasts a luxury experience but does not allow you to go outside on the deck to view the glacier. That would defeat the whole purpose!
After an exhilarating tour of the glacier’s face from the water, we moved on to the viewing platforms that wrap around the perimeter of Peninsula Magallanes. These platforms provide easy walking paths around the hillsides of the peninsula to view Perito Moreno, Lago Argentino and Brazo Rico from several vantage points. We walked all around the platforms to soak in the many perspectives, but our favorite part was simply eating our box lunch on a bench in the sun while watching the calving.
On our way home, our tour stopped at the first vantage point after entering the park again for photos and a taste of liquor made from the local calafate berry. A fun way to end the day!
Day 2 – Trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier!
On our second visit to Perito Moreno we had signed up for a Mini Trekking excursion onto the ice. When I had first made up my mind to see the glacier, I knew instantly that I wanted to walk out onto it. This was a little adventurous for me given I don’t typically do too well with heights or balance, but how could I not see the glacier from this angle if it was available?!
The Mini Trekking offered through Hielo y Aventura is a fantastic experience. The trekking experience took a total of about four hours. Before strapping on our crampons, our knowledgeable guide gave an overview about the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and the glacial activity in the area. It was super interesting to have this understanding and context of El Perito Moreno once we were on the ice.
We hiked along the moraine to access the glacier, then slowly climbed onto the ice with crampons strapped to our boots. Two guides worked in tandem to carve a trail and scout possible changes from movement in the glacier. The trekking trail changes daily as the glacier moves and melts and crevices open and close.
We climbed over mountains of ice and snow, navigating around deep crevices filled with electric blue glacial water. Some of the crevices were so deep that the water would turn from light electric blue to deep, dark blue as the water reached deep into the glacier. We dipped water bottles into the pools to take a drink of the coldest, purest water we’ve ever tasted. Traversing over the glacier felt like we had been transported to another planet.
At the end of our ice trek I was a bit jittery (again, this was adventurous for me!) so I was delighted to see a little table set up with glasses and whiskey! Our guides broke fresh pieces of ice from the glacier to give us a shot of whiskey on glacier ice. Needless to say I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and will never forget the experience of trekking on a glacier! Salud!