How to Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate
If you go to El Calafate, it is essential to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. This glacier has 250 km2 of surface and 30 km of extension, being the third largest reserve of freshwater in the world. Its name was given in honor of the explorer Francisco Moreno, who studied the region in the 19th century.
How to get?
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located within the Los Glaciares National Park and 80 km from El Calafate. You can arrive on your own by rental car or public transport. If you prefer, you can hire service at one of the tourist agencies in the city which was the option I chose.
Regardless of the way you choose to arrive, the path to the glacier is the same and you will follow a road that borders Lake Argentino, which is the largest and most southern of the Patagonian lakes.
How to visit?
Visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier is a unique experience that can be done in different ways depending on your objective:
Walkways: the walkways of the Perito Moreno Glacier have different viewing angles of the glacier and it is a basic tour to better see its grandeur.
Catamaran Tour: in this option, you get on board a catamaran to get a little closer to the south face of the Perito Moreno Glacier and lasts approximately one hour.
Mini Trekking: mini trekking is an option for people who really want to be in contact with the glacier. You board the Catamaran and descend at a specific point to start your hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier. The walking time is one and a half hours, the difficulty is medium and you must be between 10 and 65 years old.
Big Ice: while the mini trekking difficulty is considered average, Big Ice has a high difficulty and the walking time is three and a half hours. Because of this, the age restriction is also greater: between 18 and 50 years.
Important: If you want to do the Mini Trekking or Big Ice, you must hire the service of the agency Hielo y Aventura that has the monopoly of these activities. In addition, in the peak of winter, these activities are not available to be carried out: the Mini Trekking operates from August to May and the Big Ice operates from September to April.
The above options can be combined. For example, if you do the Mini Trekking or Big Ice you will already have the opportunity to stay on the catwalks and take the catamaran ride. However, the time spent on these tours will be shorter than if you did them without trekking. Now if you don’t do the Mini Trekking or Big Ice, you can only do the walkways or catwalks + catamaran.
Walkways of the Perito Moreno Glacier
I wanted to do Big Ice, but as this option was not available for the time of year I went, I decided to just walk down the catwalks and hired the service of a travel agency at the hostel itself. Arriving at Los Glaciares National Park, I had the option to include the catamaran ride or go straight to the catwalks. I decided to go straight for a reason: I was going to take the catamaran ride the next day to Todos Los Glaciares that leads to the north wall of Perito Moreno and I wanted to stay longer on the catwalks.
Arriving at the National Park, the first sight you will have of the glacier is at Mirador de Los Suspiros, a name totally faithful to the reaction of all the people who were seeing that landscape.
After passing through the Mirador, you will continue on your way towards the Perito Moreno walkways that give you different glacier viewing angles. The walkways have 7 observation points, located at different heights and distances, connected to each other and which can be walked as you wish.
The walkways are very well signposted and structured, being a very peaceful walk and accessible to everyone. According to the photos, it is not possible to measure the height of the glacier, however, it has a height of 74m above the water level and a depth of 170m.
The walkway is great and is practically mandatory for anyone going to the city of El Calafate. It was certainly one of the highlights on my trip to Patagonia Argentina.