If you only visit one glacier in your life, Perito Moreno would be a good one to pick. It towers above the turquoise glacial water of Patagonia’s Los Glaciares National Park, beaming a blinding white and exuding cold blue hues. Unlike most of earth’s other glaciers, Perito Moreno is still growing.
The Perito Moreno Glacier, named for a 19th-century explorer, is currently 19 miles long and rises an average height of 240 feet above the water. Altogether, the glacier covers about 121 square miles. It is part of an ice field located in both Argentina and Chile that is the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world. Part of an area known as Argentina’s Austral Andes, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981.
There are viewing platforms a safe distance from the glacier, overlooking Lake Argentino, the glacier’s terminus. You can get pretty close—to the point that you can basically feeling the glacier breathing cold air on your face.
If you wait for a while, you’ll likely witness huge chunks of the ice mass fracture off and crash into the water, creating a massive, reverberating roar. There are walking paths that allow you to check out the glacier from a few different vantage points, as well as a boat that takes you on a 45-minute trip around the base. There are also trekking tours that take you out to walk on parts of the glacier itself, surrounded by the beautiful Patagonian scenery of forests and mountains.
The Perito-Moreno glacier retreats during the Argentine summer, that is, from December to March (although it may begin to melt earlier), and begins to freeze after the third month.
Know Before You Go
If you're arriving via your own car, you'll need to take Provincial Route No. 15 from El Calafate, which is 80km (50 miles) and will take about an hour and a half. There are also four bus companies based in El Calafate running daily round trips for about 15 USD.