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. So in case you are wondering whether Perito Moreno is worth visiting, the short answer is yes!
Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier is not only a visual experience – the views are incredible indeed; but also an auditory one – as the ice walls crack and crush into the lake they produce a thunder-like noise that is like no other; and a very physical one, for you will spend most of your time chattering your teeth against the cold and trying to keep warm.
If you are curious to find out more about this beautiful place and are looking for tips on how to visit Perito Moreno Glacier and information on the best Perito Moreno Glacier tours, you are in the right place. I have been there a bunch of times, tried out pretty much all the activities in the area and the tours on offer, and I am happy to share all my knowledge so that you can better plan your time there and make the most of it.
Some Background Information On Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno is named after Francisco Moreno, a prominent Argentine explorer and academic (hence why he was referred to as “perito,” or “expert”) who played a vital role in protecting Argentina’s interests during the endless border disputes with Chile.
The glacier is part of Los Glaciares National Park and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Part of the Southern Patagonian Ice field (Campo de Hielo Sur), this is the third largest frozen body of freshwater in the world, measuring 30 km in length, 5 km in width and has a whopping surface of 250 square km.
The easiest access point to visit Perito Moreno is El Calafate, a small town in Argentine Patagonia on the shores of Lake Argentina, and which is at about 80 km, or 1.5 hours drive from the glacier by car.
GOOD TO KNOW: Don’t confuse the glacier with Perito Moreno town, which is a 12 hours drive north!
What makes Perito Moreno Glacier such a famous place is that it is 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 it is actually 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 icebergs in the Canal de Los Tempanos.
Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier
The cost of visiting Perito Moreno
As of right now, the entry fee to Los Glaciares National Park for foreign visitors is 1800 ARS (Argentinian Pesos), which at the current exchange rate is around $21 USD. Tickets must be paid in cash, or you can get them online on the official website of Argentina National Parks. 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.
The basic ticket will allow you to walk around the many balconies and view points to admire the glacier – pick up a map at the information desk and follow one (or all) of the trails to reach the various viewpoints.
Optional activities include a boat ride that takes you right under the glacier and an ice trek on Perito Moreno Glacier. 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 on visiting Perito Moreno independently and want to keep the costs down, bring your own lunch which you can eat while sitting in one of the benches at the viewpoints – the only restaurant in the park is very expensive. Chances are you will go in at some point anyways to get a hot drink and use the only toilets in the park.
TIP: Make sure to visit the Glaciarium in El Calafate before your trip to the glacier. It will give you lots of good background information on the dynamics of Patagonian glaciers.
When to visit Perito Moreno
The best time of year to visit Perito Moreno is in the southern hemisphere summer, between November and March – that will be high season in Argentina. That’s when you’ll have the highest chances of a sunny day – though to be honest you should hardly count on it!
I have been to Perito Moreno twice on two different trips to Argentina, and both times it 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.
Fall in the area is also meant to be splendid, with the color of the red leaves in contrast with 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.
Whether you visit on a sunny or rainy day, keep in mind that Patagonian weather can be quite unpredictable and you will need to be appropriately geared – more info on what to wear when visiting Perito Moreno Glacier below.
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 with an airport that connects it to the rest of the country.
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 by bus to El Chaltén (best known as Argentina hiking capital), 3 hours north; 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, you have a few options to get to Los Glaciares National Park.
Independently, by car, bus or shuttle bus
Various companies (CalTur is just one of them) run bus rides to the National Park leaving at 8:00 and 9:00 am and at 1:00 pm from the bus station located in Jean Marmoz 104. You can get tickets on the same day but make sure to get to the bus station well in advance for that.
Buses going back to El Calafate leave at 4:00 and 7:30 pm from the same spot where they drop people off.
Finally, you can opt for a shuttle bus with pick up from your hotel. Book it here.
On a guided tour
Perito Moreno Glacier tours are the easiest way to visit, but keep in mind that none of the guided tours is inclusive of the entrance fee to the park, so make sure to carry enough cash for that.
Basic tours will take you to the Curva de los Suspiros – the first and furthest viewpoint coming from El Calafate; the balconies and will typically include a packed lunch. You will have a guide too but don’t expect to be showered with information.
The best Perito Moreno Glacier tours are those that include a boat ride and / or take you for an ice trek. You will have to book them in advance, especially during the peak season. The following ones are all good options that can be booked online and includehotel 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 Perito Moreno Glacier trek.
- 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.
Lake Argentino and Perito Moreno Glacier boat tours
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. 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:
- Full day tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier – one of the most all inclusive options.
- Perito Moreno Glacier footbridge and optional boat tour – the boat tour is actually an add on.
If you are after a more adventurous experience and aren’t bothered by the cold, you can even kayak on the lake – for more information, click here.
Perito Moreno Glacier Hike
This is honestly the best way of experiencing the glacier. Tours usually start from the southern banks of the lake, where you’ll take a 20 minutes boat ride to the base camp – it’s a great occasion to take 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, 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. You can book it here.
For a more complete experience, and if you are not afraid to freeze, you can opt for the big ice trek.
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.
What to wear for your Perito Moreno Glacier tour
As you can easily imagine, it is cold at Perito Moreno. You may have better luck on a sunny day, but in any case it’s best to layer up and to carry an extra layer of warm clothes and rain proof gear just in case. One interesting thing to note is that it is colder on the balconies overviewing the glacier than on the glacier itself.
These are some essential items to wear for your Perito Moreno Glacier tour:
- 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) – you will also need them for the ice trek.
- A good pair of waterproof hiking boots – a must for the ice trek.
- Sunglasses – necessary on a sunny day.
- You may also want to take some hand warmers (I even put them in my shoes at times!).
Don’t forget your camera!
GOOD TO KNOW: Keep in mind that if you don’t have enough warm clothes, several shops in El Calafate rent out jackets and pants for a very reasonable price.
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 you may be better off joining a guided group tour of Argentina that includes a visit of Perito Moreno. G Adventures has several great 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.
Other useful information
To be completely honest, El Calafate isn’t that interesting of a town – it’s more about the surroundings. Having said that, it will give you access to a bunch of incredible places such as Spegazzini and Uppsala glaciers – the latter one can be seen during visits of Estancia Cristina, if you opt for the hike.
I have written more extensively about El Calafate in a separate post that you can find here.
For the best accommodation options in El Calafate, click here.
Have you ever visited Perito Moreno? How was your experience?
Further readings about Argentina
Are you planning a trip to Argentina? Make sure to check out my posts:
- 15 Amazing National Parks In Argentina
- A Perfect Argentina Itinerary
- A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina
- Everything You Need To Know About Ushuaia Patagonia
- Hiking In Patagonia: 16 Incredible Trails
- A Guide To Hiking Around Fitz Roy, In El Chalten
- A Complete Guide To Hiking To Laguna Torre
- 30 Things You Should Consider Before Traveling To Patagonia
- Hiking Gear And More: The Perfect Patagonia Packing List
- A Complete Guide To El Calafate, Argentina