Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most incredible sights in Argentine Patagonia, and one of the top places to visit in South America. Located in Los Glaciares National Park, this is likely the most famous glacier in the world, and for many good reasons.
Is Perito Moreno Glacier Worth Visiting?
Perito Moreno is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Argentina, and for a good reason. Unless you are obsessed about staying out of the tourist trail, I wholeheartedly recommend you visit as it is simply magnificent – indeed a must-see! In fact, I honestly think you should visit in any case and include it in your Argentina itinerary.
The area of Perito Moreno is so vast, there are so many view points and balconies, that even on a very busy day you’ll hardly feel it is crowded. Chances are you’ll be too concentrated admiring the glacier, listening to its ice walls cracking and crushing into the lake, producing a thunder-like noise, and trying to keep warm.
Yes, visiting Perito Moreno Glacier (Glaciar Perito Moreno, as it is called locally) can actually be costly. As of right now, the entry fee to Los Glaciares National Park is 800 ARS (Argentinian Pesos), which at the current exchange rate is around $12 USD. To that, you’ll likely have to add the cost of transportation and of other activities – unless you go on a Perito Moreno Glacier tour that covers all the costs.
These are some of the best guided tours of Perito Moreno and the National Park – they are best pre-booked a bit in advance, and usually include hotel pick-up and drop-off:
- Perito Moreno Glacier day trip – a great, budget friendly tour that allows free cancellation up to 24 hours before.
- Full day trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier – a fantastic option sold on GetYourGuide for a very reasonable price. The boat cruise is optional.
- Perito Moreno Glacier minitrekking experience – this tour – which allows free cancellation up to 2 days before it takes place – includes a full visit to the balconies and a trek on the actual glacier.
- Perito Moreno Glacier with optional nautical safari – by far the most budget friendly option.
- Big ice trek on Perito Moreno Glacier – the most adventurous option which includes an all day trek for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another really cool glacier to visit is Viedma, which is more easily reached from Chaltén. Visiting usually implies a boat trip, ice-climbing, and impressive views of Cerro Huemul.
GOOD TO KNOW: From El Calafate you can also reach Spegazzini and Upsala glaciers. The latter one can be seen during visits of Estancia Cristina, if you opt for the hike.
Some Background Information On Perito Moreno Glacier
Let me start by sharing some Perito Moreno glacier facts!
Perito Moreno is named after Francisco Moreno, who played a vital role in protecting Argentina’s interests during the endless border disputes with Chile.
It is located at around 80 km, and at around one and a half hour drive from El Calafate, and at 74 meters above the Lago Argentino. Make sure not to confuse it with Perito Moreno town, which is a 12 hours drive north!
The area is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice field (Campo de Hielo Sur), known to be the third largest frozen body of freshwater in the world. In fact, the glacier is huge: 30 km in length, 5 km in width and a whopping surface of 250 square km.
Los Glaciares National Park, of which this natural wonder is part, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. This is a truly unique place: it’s one of the most active glaciers in the world. Thought to be one of the very few growing glaciers in the world (as opposed to the majority, which are receding), in fact Perito Moreno is stable: every day it grows a bit, but loses a bit as well. In other words, the glacier’s size is pretty much stable.
Every 4 to 5 years, the glacier reaches the other side of Lago Argentino, where there’s a small peninsula known as “Magallanes Peninsula,” thus forming a natural dam that separates the two parts of the lake. As a result, the level of the water on the part of the lake known as Brazo Rico raises up to 30 meters, with an increased pressure on the ice wall, which causes the breaking and dropping of massive icebers in the Canal de Los Tempanos.
What’s certain is that this is one of the most unique places in the world, and a must for anybody traveling to Argentina.
TIP: Make sure to visit the Glaciarium in El Calafate before your trip to the glaciar. It will give you lots of good background information on the dynamics of Patagonian glaciers.
Check out my post “A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina.”
Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier
When to visit Perito Moreno
The best time of year to visit Perito Moreno and the National Park is in the summer, between November and March – that will be high season in Argentina, and that’s when you’ll have the highest chances of a sunny day. Sunny days are thought to be the best to experience the ice cracking and falling into the lake with its thundering noise.
Having said so, fall in the area is splendid, with the red leaves striking against the white and blue of the glacier, giving it a special glow. The fall is also significantly less crowded, so you may have a more solitary experience than if you visit in the summer.
I have been to Perito Moreno twice on two different trips to Argentina, and both times I experienced it the weather was overcast and it rained most of the time. Though seeing Perito Moreno glow in all its glory under the sun would definitely add to the experience, I recommend going even if the weather broadcast isn’t the best. I can assure you the sight is going to be breathtaking all the same – and you will be able to see and hear the ice cracking – though perhaps not as often.
Whether you visit on a sunny or rainy day, keep in mind that Patagonian weather can be quite unpredictable: I recommend layering up and carrying rain proof gear.
How To Get To Perito Moreno
The best access point to Perito Moreno is El Calafate, a small town of around 25000 people in the Santa Cruz province, that is connected to Buenos Aires, Bariloche in Patagonia, and Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, via direct flights with Aerolinas Argentina and a few other companies.
You can also travel to El Calafate by bus from Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales, in Chile – it’s a scenic 3 hours drive from Torres del Paine, and a smooth 6 hours drive from Puerto Natales.
El Calafate is also connected to El Chaltén, which is just 3 hours north (by the way, this is the best access point to hike around Mount Fitz Roy); to San Carlos de Bariloche – but it’s a 24 hour bus ride; and to Puerto Madryn – which is 20 hours away.
Once in El Calafate, accessing Perito Moreno and Los Glaciares is actually very easy, and you have several options, depending on your budget and your travel style.
Independently, by car or bus
Buses to the National Park leave regularly from the bus station located in Jean Marmoz 104. The ticket costs around 800 ARS (around $20 USD). Buses leave at 8:30 or 9:00 am, depending on the company, and if you make it to the terminal well in advance you can buy tickets on the same day.
Buses going back to El Calafate leave at 4:00 pm from the same spot where they drop people off. CalTur also has buses that leave from town at 1:00 pm and go back at 7:30 pm.
Once at the entrance, cars, buses and even private tours have to stop to get tickets to the park.
As I have said previously, the entrance fee for Los Glaciares National Park is of 800 ARS. Make sure to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted. This ticket will allow you to walk around the many balconies and view points to admire Perito Moreno. Make sure to pick a map of the area, as there are several trails to follow, all of them well marked.
Optional activities include a boat ride that takes you right under the glacier and even an ice hike on Perito Moreno itself. You can opt to do the boat trip and just show up for the boat, but you have to join a guided expedition if you intend to go on the ice trek. More about the boat ride and the ice trek later.
If you plan to visit Perito Moreno independently make sure to bring your own lunch, unless you plan to eat at the rather expensive cafeteria on the site. Keep in mind that outside food is not allowed in the cafeteria – there are a few benches on the viewpoints, but if it’s a rainy, cold day eating out isn’t exactly a good idea.
On a guided tour
The main benefit of joining a tour of Perito Moreno is that it is easy: you’ll only have to worry to make it back to the same shuttle that dropped you off. Pretty much none of the guided tours is inclusive of the entrance fee to the park, so make sure to carry enough cash for that even if you have already paid.
Tours vary in length and quality: most cover just the basic, taking you to Curva de los Suspiros for the best distant views of the glacier, the balconies and, at most, including a packed lunch of sort. You’ll have a guide, but to be fair the information you get on the boards is enough to get by.
The best Perito Moreno tours are those that include a boat ride and / or take you for an ice trek. Make sure to pre-book them, especially if you are traveling in the peak-season.
Guided tours of Patagonia that also go to Perito Moreno:
If you prefer to take the edge off organizing a trip to this part of the world and would like to leave this task to the experts, you can even join a guided group tour of Argentina that includes a visit of Perito Moreno. Here are some of the best tours:
- Patagonia Hiking: perfect for active travelers who enjoy nature, this 9 days tour includes stops at El Calafate with visit of Perito Moreno Glacier, and at El Chalten, to hike Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
- Argentina Multisport: the best tour if you are looking for adventure. It includes activities such as rafting, cycling and trekking, and obviously a visit to Perito Moreno.
- Hike Patagonia In Depth: if hiking is your thing, this is the trip for you. You may be camping on some nights – no better way to experience this part of the country!
- Best of Patagonia: a 13 days trip that takes you to all the best places to visit.
- 6 Day tour of Patagonia: a good compromise if you have limited time in the region.
- Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego: a fantastic hiking trip that also takes you to the end of the world, between Argentina and Chile. You’ll be hiking Perito Moreno and even Laguna Esmeralda.
Boat tours on Lake Argentino and Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno boat tours are probably as touristy as it gets – picture a guide almost robotically giving facts about the glacier to a less than interested audience, a photographer on board ready to snap photos of passengers with the glacier in the background, for a hefty fee, and so on. But honestly, the view is so beautiful that it is worth putting up with everything.
Boats depart from Bajo de las Sombras and go well under the glacier, on the northern side, keeping a distance of around 100 meters from the wall itself, and you’ll get an incredible view of it from below: you’ll see the ice crack and fall into the lake, you’ll get close up photos. Tours typically last around 90 minutes and usually include a snack and a drink (can be anything, but whiskey on glacier rocks is probably the best option on this occasion).
The following tours include a boat ride to the glacier. They must be pre
If you are after a more adventurous experience and aren’t bothered by the cold, you can even go on a Perito Moreno kayak experience.
Perito Moreno Glacier Hike
I didn’t go on an ice trek of Perito Moreno on my first trip to Argentina, but I did last time I visited and I am glad, as it actually was a lot of fun. It hardly is a private experience, with several people on the tour. But it’s fun, and you’ll be so concentrated on walking with the crampons and on admiring the glacier that you’ll hardly realize there are others around.
The Perito Moreno mini trekking tour usually start from the southern banks of the lake, where you’ll take a 20 minutes boat ride to the base camp – that’s in an of itself a treat, as you’ll get very close to the glacier, for incredible photos.
Once at the camp, you’ll join a group for a short walk through the forest until a small stand where the tour guide will help you wear the crampons, which are necessary to walk on the ice.
The mini trekking lasts around 90 minutes (unless you go on the Big Ice, which goes on for several hours). It is a very easy walk during which you’ll see the many cracks, seracs, the small caves and you’ll even have a chance to taste the freezing cold but delicious glacier water. At the end of the tour, you’ll be offered a whiskey on the (Perito Moreno Glacier) rocks.
The overall mini trekking experience is incredible, and the views (and photos) you’ll get absolutely jaw-dropping. It’s an expensive thing to do, but honestly worth every penny.
The Big ice trek on Perito Moreno Glacier is a must-do for adventure lovers. It’s a full-day trip that will let you get up-close and personal with the glacier, for a truly unique experience. You can book it here.
Planning to hike more while in Argentina? Check out my posts:
- Hiking In Patagonia: 16 Incredible Trails
- A Guide To Hiking Around Fitz Roy, In El Chalten
- A Complete Guide To Hiking To Laguna Torre
What to wear for your Perito Moreno Glacier tour
I can’t talk for others, really, but both times I have visited Perito Moreno Glacier I found it to be incredibly cold. Perhaps, on a sunny day, it is not nearly as cold. Anyways, my advice is to make sure to layer up and to carry an extra layer of warm clothes and rain proof gear just in case.
Interestingly enough, it is colder on the balconies overviewing the glacier than on an actual Perito Moreno Glacier ice trek.
These are some essential items to wear when visiting Perito Moreno:
- A snow jacket– make sure it is also rain proof
- A thermal shirt and thermal underwear.
- Thick hiking socks.
- A good t-shirt and a nice thick fleece.
- Hiking pants, best if waterproof.
- A beanie, a scarf and gloves (best if ski gloves.) Gloves will be needed for the Perito Moreno Glacier ice trek as well.
- A good pair of waterproof hiking boots – these will be required if you intend to do the ice trek, as you’ll need some footwear where the crampons can be tied up.
- Sunglasses – necessary on a sunny day.
- You may also want to take some hand warmers (I even put them in my shoes at times!).
Keep in mind that if you don’t have enough warm clothes for your visit to Perito Moreno, several shops in El Calafate rent out jackets and pants for a very reasonable price (around $10 USD per piece per day).
Make sure to read my posts:
- 30 Things You Should Consider Before Traveling To Patagonia
- Hiking Gear And More: The Perfect Patagonia Packing List
Where to stay in El Calafate
Calafate is packed with excellent accommodation options. These are some of the best places to stay in El Calafate:
- America del Sur Calafate is an excellent hostel with good dorms and nice private rooms. The common areas are nice, spacious and cozy and the view from the dining room incredible. There is a tour desk. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Esplendor is a fantastic boutique hotel with gorgeous, spacious room and views that span all the way to Laguna Nimez (which is actually a 20 minutes walk). There is an onsite spa, a pool and a fantastic restaurant. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Boutique Hotel La Cantera has lovely, homey feeling rooms and is close to the center of El Calafate. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
For more information about El Calafate, check out my post “A Complete Guide To El Calafate, Argentina.”
Other practical information
I always recommend buying a good travel insurance on any trip. Make sure to get one even for your trip to South America. Check out the prices of travel insurance here.
Have you ever visited Perito Moreno? How was your experience? Do you have any other facts to add to this ultimate guide?