The Perito Moreno Glacier can be found within the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina’s Santa Cruz province. This is part of the Patagonia region and is now one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions. The glacier is an ice formation which covers more than 250 square kilometres and is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which covers land in both Argentina and Chile. The ice field has the distinction of being one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world.
The nearest town is El Calafate, although this is nearly 80 kilometres away and the glacier is rare as it is one of the few in the region that is actually growing. You can reach it from El Calafate by bus and there are several companies in the region which offer daily trips. There is a visitor centre on-site and there is a walking tour which offers great views of the southern side of the glacier. You can also take a trekking tour onto the ice, the longest one takes around five hours to complete and any equipment needed is usually provided by the tour company. It is a good idea to make sure that you have wet weather gear with you as well as sunscreen. The good news is that you do not need to take along bottled water, many people simply drink the water from the glacier.
If you want to get a good look at the front of the glacier, you will need to go by boat on Lago Argentino. There are some tours that include the boat trip and these are worth taking. The lake has a number of icebergs floating in it and these are an amazing sight to see. The trip to the glacier means that you get to take in all the sights and sounds that are unique to the region, you may even get to see part of the glacier breaking off. One tip when visiting the glacier is to take a picnic lunch, as there is a restaurant on-site but the food is considered to be fairly expensive and not that good, but there are plenty of different places where you can sit and enjoy your own food.
Within the region you are also able to visit ranches where you can enjoy a meal and even stay overnight if you prefer. There are tour companies that can arrange these trips for you and, if you prefer, they can arrange for you to spend some time exploring the area on horseback. This is a great way to meet some of the local people and see firsthand how they live.
In El Calafate there is a museum which has been dedicated to the region’s glaciers and it is worth a trip for anyone interested in the area’s natural history. In the town there are also several other excursions that are worth consideration. You can go by 4×4 into the local mountains and enjoy amazing views of the lake and other natural wonders. During the winter months you can go skating on the bay.
Foreign visitors will need to pay more than the locals to enter the national park to see the glacier. The fee covers the visitor for just one day and the cost for tours will vary depending upon the type of tour and the activities that have been included.
The airport at El Calafate deals with domestic air traffic to all the country’s major airports, but you can also travel to the region by car and bus, although buses generally only run during the summer months. If you are flying to the region, make sure that your flight is booked in advance as these fill very quickly at peak times. Travelling by bus is a good option as the views are great when the weather is good.
Accommodation is best found in El Calafate. This is a relatively small town but the influx of tourists means that it is growing all the time. As the region is a great favourite with backpackers there are plenty of hostels for those who do not mind their accommodation being a little more basic, although there are more luxurious options for travellers who want to spend a little more. In the vast majority of hotels you can be sure of a warm welcome and most will offer internet access and other extras. Some will arrange excursions for you and offer advice on some of the region’s best attractions.