The Perito Moreno Glacier is located less than an hour’s drive from El Calafate in the Southern Argentine region better known as Patagonia.
I didn’t know much about Patagonia before my recent trip to Argentina, but what did know was that there was a glacier and a glacier trek tour available. With that information alone, I knew it was opportunity I couldn't pass up.
El Calafate is essentially base camp for a variety of excursions and outdoor activities. Most of those activities, including the Perito Moreno Glacier Trek, are things you want to book at least a few days ahead of time. For us, we made calls while in Buenos Aires and it worked out well, but we were definitely cutting it a little close. It’s also worth knowing that these excursions are going to cost a lot of money because of everything that goes into making them happen: tour guides, buses for travel, supplies, etc.
The good news is that they make it as easy as possible for tourists with pickup available at almost all local hotels.
So after a travel day that took us from Iguazu Falls to El Calafate (with a long layover in Buenos Aires), we woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready for our adventure. Fortunately our pickup time wasn't too early, allowing us to enjoy a complimentary breakfast at our hotel, Las Dunas.
We picked up a few other couples around town and made our way to the glacier, which was less than an hour away.
That first glimpse of the glacier is something to behold. It doesn't seem quite real as you make your approach, first by car, then by boat. The time on the boat was by far the coldest part of the entire trip. I feared I would freeze on the glacier itself, but it was actually quite warm in the sun. But the breeze coming off the glacier, now that was frosty.
After a brief twenty minute boat ride we made it to the dock located on the other side of the river and just to the left of the front of the glacier. It’s an amazing site to see this huge wall of ice in front of us and definitely had me thinking about the wall from Game of Thrones.
Once off the boat we broke into two groups: the English speaking group and the Spanish speaking group. We were all given time to have lunch, use the restroom and stow away our belongings before beginning the official trek. We sat with a view of the glacier, eating our sandwiches and snacks that we packed the night before. What surprised me the most was the fact that glacier is a living, breathing entity making noises slowly moving forward. We watched the ice on the edge closely, as chunks of it would crack and drop into the water below. At first I thought this was sad, and a sign of global warming. But as soon as our official hike started our guide told us that this is one of the only glaciers in the world that is actually in balance, meaning it is not receding.
So after the lunch we took a short hike to the start of the glacier, where we were outfitted with krampons. Krampons are a device that strap to your shoe and its spikes allows you to walk on the ice without slipping. They are uncomfortable at first, especially on land, but they are easy to maneuver when you are on the ice.
Before we even stepped onto the ice we had a tutorial about how to walk up and down the ice without getting hurt. While the group paid attention, it was obvious everyone was eager to get on the ice.
Hike a few minutes. Wait for the whole group to arrive. And then learn something about the glacier. This is how our tour proceeded as took in the powerful ice beneath us and all around us. The scariest parts were when the ice appeared thin below us, like a frozen over lake beginning to thaw. But our guides assured us we would be safe, so we hiked on.
For an hour we trekked on the ice, taking in little waterfalls, filling up our water bottles with fresh glacier water (50 year old fresh glacier to water that was the best thing I’ve ever tasted) and climbed steep hills before concluding the tour with a shot of whiskey, chilled by the glacier ice.
The views were so incredible on the glacier itself, but I didn’t get to appreciate the sheer size of the block of ice until after we crossed back over the river to where our van had dropped us off. It was then we were taken up to a viewpoint that stood above the top of the glacier giving us a sense of how massive it actually was as it carved through the mountains around it.
The power of the block of ice rivaled that of Iguazu Falls. Where one was in constant motion, the other seemed still, but still full of life. It was fun to see everyone take in the power and vastness that was the Perito Moreno Glacier. And it's definitely not something I'll ever forget, the trek itself or the views from above.