Visiting The Perito Moreno Glacier
After hours of waiting at the base of the Perito Moreno Glacier amongst hoards of other tourists; I was about to give in. My feet were tired and my patience exhausted. Then; just as I was about to pack up; a deafening crack filled the air. Could this be it? Was it finally happening?
It was mid-January and summer was in full swing in the southern hemisphere. My brother, his girlfriend, and I were traveling through Chile and Argentina for the month in hopes of capturing some of the best moments and landscapes South America had to offer.
We were based out of the city of El Calafate in Argentina for the week and had just a few things on our bucket list that needed checking off. One being an afternoon with some flamingos in the lagoons just outside of town; done; and the other; the one that we had been looking forward to since our plane landed in Santiago; the Perito Moreno Glacier. But the thought of spending such an exorbitant amount of money to see this natural wonder; went utterly against my Froogle nature.
The Perito Moreno Glacier
Forty-eight miles outside of El Calafate in Los Glaciares National park at the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field; lies the Perito Moreno Glacier. With 240 foot high walls and stretching just over 3 miles across, it is one of Argentina’s most popular attractions and rightfully so.
Being a tourist hotspot; there are quite a few options when visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier. I’ll explain the many transportation options and tours later, but for now, here are some pictures to get you stoked for the trip.
The First View Of Perito Moreno Glacier
Upon arriving at the visitors center, you will immediately be able to see the massive river of ice. I looked at a few pictures before going and let me tell you; there is no comparison between an image and when your entire field of view is just mountains, trees, and ice.
Speaking of ice; do you remember that part about the Perito Moreno Glacier lying on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field?
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field
I can remember watching National Geographic explorers as a kid; where the hosts were always off on some incredible adventure in some far away land. I never really imagined myself being anywhere like that. So it took me a minute to come to grips with the fact that I was now standing in front of the third largest ice field in the world; only narrowly outmatched by the ones in Antartica and Greenland.
Walking through the park around Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the easiest I’ve encountered during my travels. Well constructed boardwalks of wood and steel grate whisk you through the mossy trees above the forest floor.
The Boardwalk Through The Forest
The Lower Balconies
As you make your way along the boardwalk, the general rule is always to turn left. You can obviously decide for yourself, but the easiest way to see the glacier in its entirety is by going left at every intersection. It will lead you through the forest, out around the left side of the lake and to the first lower balcony overlooking the base of the glacier that often forms an ice bridge separating the lake.
Overlooking Balcony #1
From the lower balconies, you get an up close and personal look at the Perito Moreno Glacier. The frosty white ice that was visible from afar gives way to deep rich blues and dark sediment layers crisscrossing the face.
Up Close And Personal
Look Out Below!
One of the main reasons the Perito Moreno Glacier is so famous is that it is one of the most active in the world. The glacier is constantly calving (chunks of ice breaking off from the face). Depending on the day, the glacier should calve every 10-20 minutes. While we were there, it was cold and cloudy which I assume made the ice stay put. However, for a brief moment; just as I was about to pack up my camera; the sun showed its face, and this happened.
The Glacier Calving
I know it doesn’t seem like that much ice, but remember that the face is 240 feet high and it’s about half of that. That’s over 100 feet of ice breaking off into a lake. The sound was deafening, and everyone along the edge of the lake was screaming with excitement.
It was quite comical to see the tour boats hit full throttle moving away from the berg even though the ice surrounding it dampened the effects. Which in hindsight was probably smart because the tsunami that follows a glacier calving can sometimes be massive enough to capsize a boat.
The Northern Wall
So now that you have seen how amazing the Perito Moreno Glacier is; I think it’s time to ask the question.
Is it worth it?
Undoubtedly; YES! Even with the high prices; which I will soon dive into; experiencing this natural wonder is one of the coolest things that we did on our month long trip through Patagonia. It is something that with today’s environmental concerns; might not be around too much longer and is something I know you would not soon forget.
Getting To Perito Moreno Glacier
So now for the nitty-gritty details of how much it costs to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier as well as the many options of getting there. When figuring out the price, it all comes down to what mode of transportation you choose.
Going By Bus:
- *Go to the bus terminal in El Calafate.
- You can purchase your ticket the day of, just make sure to be there at least 20 minutes beforehand.
- Most companies have routes to Perito Moreno Glacier at 8:30, 9:30 am, and 1 in the afternoon.
- The cost is 600 ARS or roughly $30 USD depending on the current rate.
- The bus ride will take around an hour and a half; stopping at the entrance to Los Glaciares National Park.
- Park rangers will come on-board and request an entrance fee of 500 ARS or roughly $25 USD depending on current rate. Warning! They only accept cash at the park entrance.
- Once you arrive, you will have the option to purchase an additional boat ride at 500 ARS or roughly $25 USD. Details Below
- Depending on if you took the 8:30 or 9:30 bus, you should expect to be picked back up at 2:30 or 3:30 pm respectively.
- If you take the 1 pm bus, you can expect to be picked back up at 7:30 pm.
* Warning: The omnibus terminal is brand new, and the old one that used to be in town is now closed. You want to make sure you are headed to the right one. Click the link above or download offline maps that have the updated location.
This is always the more exciting way to go, but it can also be a pain in the ass. While I have heard that it is quite easy to hitch a ride to the Perito Moreno Glacier, returning seems to be the more difficult part.
I would highly recommend leaving early in the day so that you have time to see the glacier and if and when you do get a ride to ask if they can also take you back to El Calafate. Otherwise, you will be watching all of the people who bought roundtrip bus tickets leave while you sit there twiddling your thumbs or thumb.
Should You Go With A Tour?
If you’ve read any of my posts or met me in person, then you will know that I am not a huge fan of tours. They often drain the life out of adventures and leave you huddled in a group to be herded around from place to place with no real time to enjoy what you’re looking at.
In the case of tours to the Perito Moreno Glacier, I would say the situation is the same. You pay more for a private van or bus to take you into Los Glaciares National Park, you still have to pay the same entrance fee, and you aren’t allowed to walk around the glacier as you would like. Some tours do provide a free lunch though, so that’s a plus.
On The Other Hand…
Now that I’ve just spent the last few paragraphs bashing organized tours, I would be remiss not to mention two separate tours that I think can be entirely worth your time and money.
The Boat Tour
The boat tours provided at the Perito Moreno Glacier are your way of getting even closer to this massive sheet of ice. As mentioned earlier, once you arrive at the visitor center you can make your way over to a small wooden shack that sells tickets for the boat tour. At 500 ARS or $25 USD; the tour includes a couple of hours down on the lake much closer to the base of the glacier, a small snack and a glass of wine. It’s not a bad deal for a unique perspective of the ice.
The Glacier Trekking Tour
This tour should be considered an adventure completely separate from a typical trip to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s precisely what you would expect from the name. You start the tour off in El Calafate where you take private transport to the lake where you’ll board a boat and head towards the glacier.
Once there you will be given crampons, and ice axes and lead out onto the ice. There are two separate trekking packages “the mini-trek” and the “big ice trek.” The latter last a few hours and involves some ice caves, weather permitting.
In total, the tours are pretty steep at 6,000 ARS or $315 USD for the mini-trek and 7,600 ARS or $380 USD for the big ice trek. Both of these tours do NOT include the park entry fee or lunch. There is also a two-person minimum for each trek.
We met a few people along the way who had done the trek and said that they would do it again. “It was the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” one guy told us.
That’s All Folks
And that is what visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier can look like. Yes, I . know it’s expensive; but what adventure in Argentinian Patagonia isn’t?
Our grand total per person was 1395 ARS or $70 USD. With 600 ARS or $30 USD for bus fare, 500 ARS or $25 USD for the park entry fee and about 295 ARS or $15 USD for lunch.
All in all, it was a budget-busting day, but I would do it again no questions asked. After all, it’s not every day that you get to visit arguably one of the most fascinating things on this planet.
Have you been to the Perito Moreno Glacier?
If so what was your favorite Part?
If you did the glacier trekking tour, leave a comment; I want to know all about it!
I desperately want to go there. Thank you for the insight.
I always wanted to go to see the Perito Moreno Glaciar!!! I was born in Mendoza, Argentina but grew up in U.S.A. So finally I am planning a trip to Argentina, we will land in Bs. As. And get a flight to Calafate, plan to stay in Calafate for 3 to 4 days…..want to see as much as I can……..I AM SOOO EXCITED!!!!!!
That’s awesome Liliana! I hope it turns out to be all that you hoped ot would.
Wonderful story. I just did the conversion based on the current rate of the ARS, and the difference is dramatic. I’m assuming this is due to the devaluation of the Argentine peso and not that there were different rates for foreigners than for locals; is that true? Today, it looks like the ice tour, if it’s still being offered at the same price, would cost about $53.