Perito Moreno Glacier was on our bucket list as it is one of the most amazing places on Earth. We were fortunate to find an opportunity to do a short trek on the glacier and we were blown away. The blue color of the thousand-year-old-ice and the lake below is awesome. The glacier is everything we had dreamed it to be and more. El Calafate was our home base where we enjoyed local Argentine foods and beers. From there we traveled about an hour and a half each day to visit Perito Moreno. When we first arrived at the glacier, we couldn’t believe how large it was. To be able to walk on it proved to be one of the most memorable moments of our lives.
Arriving in El Calafate
El Calafate is the main town near Perito Moreno Glacier, which is about an hour and a half drive away. It is a charming town that is geared towards tourism with its many shops and restaurants. We stayed in an Airbnb close to the center of town, which gave us access to just about anything we wanted within walking distance. We enjoyed trying the local beers and sampling some Argentine cuisine. This is one of our favorite towns in Patagonia with all it offers. As an added bonus we had our dad join us for the Patagonia leg of our world trip. With an extra person, this felt like more of a vacation than our typical lower budget travel. That didn’t help our waistline.
First Look: Perito Moreno Glacier
Upon arriving in El Calafate, we were interested in how to tour the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is the main attraction in the area. It is easy to visit as you just pay a park entry fee of 500 Argentine pesos ($8 USD) per person and drive to the viewing platforms (check the website for updated rates). Make sure you bring cash as they do not take credit cards. If you do not have a car, there are also plenty of buses and other options available to get you to the glacier. As we approached by car, we got small glimpses of the glacier. It was massive! Upon arrival, we walked along the boardwalk and took many photos of the glacier close-up. If there is a word beyond epic, this place is it.
We made our way closer and closer, watching the ice fall from the front of the glacier. The process is called calving, where bits of ice start dropping off the front of the glacier and then a small section above weakens and falls down. This can create some large waves depending on how much drops. These larger chunks of ice then become icebergs. It was very exciting to see, and I even have one in my time-lapse in the video below. We couldn’t believe how massive this glacier is at 96.53 mi², which is larger than Buenos Aires.
Booking the Perito Moreno Ice Trekking Tour
We wanted to do some kind of boat ride or another tour while we were there. So we stopped by the office at Hielo y Aventura as we saw an advertisement for an ice trekking tour. We always wanted to do something like this, especially after missing out on it in Norway two years ago. The least expensive option was the Mini Ice Trek, which was still 8000 Argentine pesos ($125 USD) each (as of this writing). They also had the Big Ice Trek that was longer and covered more ground. It was also considerably more expensive at 15,000 ARS ($230 USD), but looked more epic. We decided to do the Mini-Trekking package to keep our costs down and still enjoy walking on the glacier.
We worked our way through the booking process and found they only allow people between the ages of 10 and 65 with no exceptions. This made us question the decision as our dad just turned 66 a few months before and would not be able to join us. What do we do now? After thinking about it long and hard, we ended up booking the ice trek and our dad found a kayaking tour instead. We were all pretty upset, and it made him feel old when he was in better shape than we were. We sought out some pisco sours back in town to numb our frustrations.
The Ice Trek
The day started early as we arrived at the dock to catch our boat. We waited with anticipation as fellow passengers slowly arrived. Then the boat came, and we cruised across the glacial waters to the base of the glacier. The trip was quick and offered views of Perito Moreno that we didn’t get from the boardwalks. It was fantastic!
When we landed, we separated into two groups and then proceeded to hike towards the glacier along the lake. It was a lovely walk through some woods and along a beach with some killer views along the way. Once we arrived at the ice, we suited up with ice crampons and helmets, which they provided.
Then we lined up in single-file and followed our guide on to the ice. It was a gentle climb up and definitely not too difficult. Some parts felt a bit more slick and I feared falling down. I kept imagining the ground opening up and swallowing us, but it was fine. I stamped my crampons into the ice one after the other and was ecstatic with the surrounding views around me. Our guide instructed us to follow him for our own safety and not to leave the line. Some of the guides were way ahead of us with chainsaws carving out the trail for us and scoping out ahead to make sure our route was safe.
We were not allowed to take photos when walking, but had designated safety zones where we could. The stops never seemed long enough and we were frustrated that we didn’t have enough time to take photos. There were some small glacial pools where we could dip our water bottles in to get fresh water along the trail. The water was so pure.
About an hour into the trek our guide went ahead of us stating that he would meet us again at the bar. We laughed thinking he was joking. Then we arrived with the rest of the group and found him standing there with a cart of glasses full of glacier ice and a bottle of whisky. Heck yeah! They weren’t skimpy about it either and I had two solid glasses. Even our travel kitty Holee approves.
After getting slightly inebriated, we proceeded back down the glacier and hiked to our boat. We enjoyed the late afternoon light as we passed by the glacier one last time on our way to the dock. Here is our route from the dock to and from the glacier including where we walked on the ice. The Big Ice Trek would have a similar route with a larger circle on the Ice.
We met up with our dad after his ice kayaking excursion. After our experience, we were convinced he enjoyed the kayaking more than he would have enjoyed our ice trek. He is not a fan of larger crowds and had already hiked a glacier in Greenland on his own. So overall it was a win-win, and we had a new reason to tease him about his age. We headed back to the Airbnb and enjoyed another evening of good food and drink in town. Did I already mention that I love El Calafate?
Watch our video and get a feel for what it is like to walk on a glacier and imagine stepping onto the ice yourself!
- Total Trip Time: 4 Hours (excludes travel time to and from El Calafate)
- Time on Ice: 1.5 Hours
- Cost: 8000 Argentine pesos ($125 USD) per person as of February 2020
- Clothing Needed: Basic warm layers with a coat, hat, and gloves, and sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
- Food: None provided, bring your own
- Age Restrictions: Ages 10 to 65
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Where you can book
- The glacier grows an average of seven feet per day, but loses an equivalent amount of mass to keep the glacier the same size overall year-round. This is one of a few non-receding glaciers in the world.
- The glacier rises about 240 feet from the surface of Lago Argentino but also has a depth of 558 feet below the surface.
- This glacier is fed by a huge ice cap that is the third largest behind Antarctica and Greenland.
- The best time to see glacier calving is in the late afternoon when the sun hits the glacier and large shards of ice fall off every half-hour or so.
- As the glacier expands each year it creates a dam between two lakes and then ruptures every few years.
The trek was incredible and we hope to do a more extensive one at one of the other edges of the world. We loved visiting glaciers in Norway and Patagonia, but this was the first time we ever walked on one. I thought it would be a lot scarier than it was, but most of the risk was that we could slip and fall.The ground wasn’t going to open up and swallow me whole as I feared. It was hard to believe I was finally walking on a glacier. It was such a special and magical place unlike anything I’ve ever seen. If you end up in El Calafate, I definitely recommend doing an ice trek and knocking this off your own bucket list. It was worth every penny.
What was the most memorable place you have ever visited?
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