“Perito Moreno is the coolest glacier ever! You’ll see soo many pieces of ice fall into the water!”
“The edge of the glacier calves frequently, we saw tons of ice falling!”
After hearing our fellow travellers and online articles describe Perito Moreno as the most amazing glacier, we couldn’t wait to witness this natural phenomenon ourselves.
Armed with our camera and numerous fully charged batteries, we hopped on the local bus to take us to Glacier Perito Moreno in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares just outside of the city of El Calafate in Argentina’s Patagonia.
The drive there was spectacular, but the best was yet to come. There was excitement in the air as everyone on the bus anxiously awaited for the door to open. When it did, a flood of tourists descended on the park, eagerly searching for the path to lead us to the glacier.
Funnily enough, there were no signs for this major attraction and we had a hard time finding the 250 km² glacier! Eventually, we saw the entrance and made our way along the easy to follow metal path.
There it was, an expansive, brilliant blue mass of ice.
This glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is shared with the neighbouring country of Chile. It’s the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world. But, the best part is that this glacier is self-sustaining, meaning that rather than retreating due to climate change and other environmental issues (as many in the world are), Perito Moreno is expanding and advancing.
We dubbed this the “guilt-free glacier” because we could watch it crack, calve and melt without feeling like it was mankind’s fault.
Wanting to get as many video clips and photos as possible, we brought our own lunch and ate it on the viewing platform, rather than dining in the on site restaurant. We didn’t want to miss a thing. Nick took up residence at the edge of the viewing area, turned on the camera, hit the record button and held it steady – ready for anything and everything.
Within minutes, a deep rumbling came from beneath the glacier as it shifted. Creaking, moaning and groaning sounds filled the silent air. This was it, the moment we were waiting for!
The glacier was taunting us.
Again and again it bellowed and groaned, and each time we held our breath excited for the crash, but nothing happened. Nick held the camera for 4 hours straight and literally sunburnt his hands while doing so.
Eventually, our efforts were rewarded, as a chunk of ice slid off the enormous frozen mass at the opposite end of where we were standing. It was quite the spectacle and the sound was deafening, but still, this was not what we were expecting – what was everyone talking about?!
After about 4 hours, it was time to catch the bus back to the city of El Calafate. We were defeated by Mother Nature and Perito Moreno decided to be subdued on this day, but regardless, being just meters away from this vast glacier was an experience that we’ll never forget.
The City of El Calafate
Just across the border from Chile, a three-hour drive from Puerto Natales, is the city of El Calafate. This small town is most notable for being the jumping off point to Perito Moreno Glacier, but there is plenty to do around this funky little trekking town.
Here you’ll come across numerous Gore-Tex clad travellers, most of which we found to be much older than those visiting nearby El Chalten. There are many tour groups all eager to visit Perito Moreno – which is a simple day trip and one that you don’t need to be physically fit for.
Lining the streets are boutique chocolate shops, cafes and artisan stores. Stray dogs befriend anyone who passes by, while full lamb carcasses are roasted over open fires behind large glass window in many of the restaurants.
There is a lake, some quiet back streets, good restaurants and friendly people. Most tourists use El Calafate as a jumping-off point for the Perito Moreno National Park.
Where to Stay in El Calafate
There are numerous hotels and a couple of hostels in the city. We stayed at Hotel Kosten Aike, which had a beautifully decorated interior and an alpine-style exterior. The common area offered a ping-pong table, pool table, seating areas and a bar. If crocheting is your thing, you could also knit a “square of love”, which is then added to other squares to make a blanket for someone in need. We loved this program!
Our room was large with a king-sized bed and a bathroom with a big tub. Included in the room rate is a large buffet-style breakfast with everything from scrambled eggs to fresh fruit salad. And of course, dulce de leche sweets (it’s Argentina after all!)
The staff here are very friendly and helpful, and they’ll even give you a welcome drink when you arrive. Rooms are very affordable at around $115 / night.
Click here to get the latest rates for Hotel Kosten Aike.
For those on a tighter budget, check out hostels in El Calafate here.
Where to Eat in El Calafate
There are numerous restaurants and cafes in the city, most of which are quite pricey. Here are a couple that we recommend:
Perilla Mi Viejo
This restaurant enticed us in with a full lamb roasting over the open fire. Patagonian lamb is a specialty in this region, and the one here does not disappoint. For 280 pesos ($18), you can have a massive plate filled with pieces of perfectly grilled meat. Sides of pumpkin, potato and salad are extra at around 70 pesos ($4.50) each. The grilled chicken breast is also very good and costs 160 pesos ($10.50).
This little corner cafe offers daily specials. We ordered the meatballs in sauce with a side of rice. For two people with coffees, we spent 430 pesos ($28).
If you’ve eaten way too much meat and just want a salad, head into this little shop. They have ready-made salads to go, empanadas and other baked goods. Salads are about 125 pesos ($8) and empanadas are 30 pesos ($2) each.
Getting to Perito Moreno Glacier
Visiting the glacier independently is very simple. All you need to do is head to the bus station and purchase your ticket – preferably the day before. There are two buses per day, one in the morning at 9:30 and one in the afternoon. Tickets cost 450 pesos return ($30), and this allows you about 4 hours at the glacier itself.
Don’t Miss It!
Although we didn’t have as much luck with falling ice as our fellow travellers, visiting this famous glacier is still a magical memory. Being out in nature, surrounded by mountains, a crystal-clear lake and the enormous ice mass was an experience we’ll never forget. A trip to Patagonia isn’t complete without checking out El Calafate and the nearby natural wonder of Perito Moreno.
Check out our Travel Video from El Calafate!
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