One of the most popular destinations in Patagonia is the Perito Moreno Glacier. Located in the south-west of the region, it’s one of the most popular attractions in Patagonia, and for good reason. Perito Moreno Glacier is both impressive and stunning to look at, either from a distance or up close. It’s over 5km at its widest point and an incredible 30km in length. The glacier is actually growing too. Unlike the majority of glaciers around the world, Perito Moreno is still advancing.
How to get to Perito Moreno Glacier
There are three main ways to see the glacier for yourself. Either as part of a tour, using public transport or renting a car and driving yourself. The closest town, El Calafate, is around 80km away, which you can reach by either long distance coach (which could take up to 24 hours if travelling from Bariloche, Puerto Madryn or Puerto Natales for example) or via direct flight from Buenos Aires.
Where is Perito Moreno Glacier?
Confusingly there is also a town named Perito Moreno in Patagonia, but it’s some 700km north of the glacier. I met an Irish girl who was working in the town as part of a placement for her university degree. Apparently there is nothing in the town, so make sure you’re definitely going to the right place when you set off.
What to do in El Calafate
El Calafate however is a large town with picturesque views over Lago Argentino. There are plenty of supermarkets, restaurants and a good nightlife. However, most people visit just to see the glacier, so the majority of places are aimed towards tourists. One of my favourite parts of the town is La Aldea de los Gnomos. A little area just off the main street (Avenida del Libertador) with various craft and souvenir shops plus quirky gnome figures for you to meet. They also have a few bars and restaurants on the alley, with many more options just outside on the main street.
There is not much in town to keep you occupied beyond a day at the most, so two nights is the standard amount of time to spend in El Calafate with the trip to Perito Moreno Glacier taking a full day. There are other things to see near El Calafate, so if you have time spend an extra day or two to check them out.
Getting to Perito Moreno Glacier
I booked a tour and, as happened in Pucon, I was the only non-native Spanish speaker in the group. It gave me an opportunity to practice my Spanish and meet some locals. I made friends with the eight year-old sat behind and his family as he shared his sweets and we bonded over our mutual appreciation of Batman.
Joining a tour does make things a little easier and includes plenty of information. Plus, if you’re travelling alone you’ll probably meet others, so you don’t have to spend the whole day alone. Some of whom might even be your own age. The cheaper option is to take the bus. It takes around an hour and a half to reach the national park with buses leaving at 8:30am and 9:00am. Return bus tickets cost 800 ARS (about £15) and an extra 700 ARS (a little over £13) for the park entrance fee.
Buses and tours stop just outside the national park, giving you your first view of the glacier. This will be followed by the ranger station where they provide you with plenty of information as well as maps of the walkways, etc. Upon arrival at the site you have three ways to see the glacier regardless of how you travelled there.
How to see Perito Moreno Glacier
The cheapest option is to walk around the pathways, viewing the glacier from the shore. Second is to take the boat up to the face of the glacier. This is more expensive, but you get a much greater appreciation for the size of the face of Perito Moreno and feel the waves created as huge chunks of ice come crashing down next to the boat. The third and by far the most expensive option is to do the glacier hike on the top of Perito Moreno. If you have the money to spare then this is definitely the best option. As I’d already had a similar experience in New Zealand with the heli-hike at Franz Josef I decided to save my money and just take the walkways.
The views from here are in no way inferior. Everywhere you look the massive glacier dominates the scenery and you really begin to see why Perito Moreno is so popular. One advantage you have from here over the glacier hike is you can better appreciate the glacier. It’s like going up the Empire State building. It’s cool, but you can’t actually see the building.
Once you’ve finished admiring the natural beauty of the area you’ll find restaurants and the obligatory gift shops while you wait for the return buses. Tours will give you a time to meet at the same place they dropped you off and the public buses leave around 4pm. On the way back you can admire your photos while gazing out the window at more stunning Patagonian scenery. Ready to see more on your next stop in this incredible part of the world.