The main reason why national and foreign tourists come to El Calafate is to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the best known attractions in Argentine Patagonia. We will give you all the details to plan your visit.
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How to get to Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate?
To visit the Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate, take Route 11 and travel the 80 km totally paved that separate these two points. The visit can be done either:
- in your own car or for rent,
- hiring an excursion with an agency of El Calafate that includes the transfer from the city to the glacier, or
- in the public busesthat leave from the Bus Terminal of El Calafate.
If you are going to travel by bus from the El Calafate Bus Station to the glacier, the trip to the glacier starts around 8-9 am in the morning.
If you visit the Perito Moreno glacier in winter with your own car or for rent, it is obligatory to use chains in the tires due to the presence of snow.
Check here if you want to rent a car in El Calafate.
What is the best time to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier?
The best time to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier is during spring, summer and early fall in Argentina (from September to April). At this time, you can do the glacier trekking, walk through the National Park area and also the weather is not extremely cold.
In winter, from May to September, you must register at the Park’s Information Center in case you want to walk the trails or camp.
If you are lucky, you can see the natural break of the Perito Moreno Glacier, an impressive spectacle that nature offers us. It is necessary to bear in mind that this event occurs on average every four years, normally in March, but lately the frequency of the event has increased.
Why visit the Perito Moreno Glacier?
This glacier impresses with its 5-km-long forehead and 60-meter-high ice walls. Due to the fact that the glacier is constant advancing, the ice generates a natural dam on the southern arm of Lake Argentino, which produces a great unevenness in the water level on both sides of the glacier, reaching a difference of 30 meters.
Although the glacier works as a natural dam, the water generates a great pressure on the ice mass, which causes leaks in the glacier. The great spectacle takes place when the great tunnel or bridge is generated where the water of the lake begins to pass from one side to the other, culminating in a thunderous collapse of the ice mass of the bridge and enormous icebergs that float adrift on the lake.
Details of the visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier
To visit the Perito Moreno glacier you must pay the entrance fee to Los Glaciares National Park (details of the value of the tickets are below), whether you arrive in your own car or for rent, by bus or through an excursion.
To observe the glacier, there are wooden footbridges (pasarelas) with viewpoints. The footbridges have many ascents and descents, although they don’t require great physical effort. The most frequented viewpoint is that of Perito Moreno, to observe the whole front of the glacier at a very short distance.
There are also restaurants and bars to eat or drink something, although the prices are very high. There is also parking for vehicles.
Los Glaciares National Park has hiking trails.
Check here the Perito Moreno private bus trip. Included: Bus Transport to Glacier Perito Moreno. Not included: Entrance fee to the park, guide.
Navigation Nautical Safari
There are two options for those interested in seeing the glacier on board a catamaran:
- Navigate from Puerto Moreno through the Tempanos Channel to see the north face of the glacier. Here you can combine the visit to the wooden footbridges with navigation. The price is AR$ 850 (US$ 19).
Check here the Perito Moreno Glacier Tour. Included: Pick up and drop off at hotel, English speaking guide (it’s exclusively in English), boat trip (optional). Not included: Entrace Fee.
If you have your own mobility to reach the Glacier and only want to do the navigation, look here the Perito Moreno boat trip from Puerto Moreno. Included: Hotel pick up and drop off, English speaking guide, ..
- Navigate from Puerto Bajo las Sombras, located on Route 11, Km 70.9, an hour and a half from El Calafate, to see the front of the glacier from the Rico arm. In this case, you have to go on your own from El Calafate to Puerto Bajo las Sombras or hire the excursion with transfers. The price of the excursion is 800 pesos (USD 18) without transfers and approximately 900 pesos (USD 20) with transfers.
In both cases, the price of navigation is not included in the entrance to Los Glaciares National Park and must be paid separately. The navigation lasts approximately one hour, and in that time, the catamaran stops several times to observe the high walls of the Perito Moreno glacier and the thunderous landslides of the ice mass.
Another fun option is to kayak on the lake in front of Perito Moreno.
Check here the tour to kayak in Perito Moreno. Included: Hotel pick up and drop off (optional), bus or car transport (optional), English and Spanish speaking instructor, kayak rental and all the necessary materials: oars and life jackets, dry suit and boots, picnic lunch, hot drinks and photos of the activity. Not included: Entrance fee to the Park.
Walk on the Perito Moreno Glacier
There are two options for walking on the Perito Moreno Glacier:
- Doing a minitrekking: Although the total excursion lasts about 10 hours (with the transfer from El Calafate and the boat to cross Lake Rico), the walk on the glacier is an hour and a half. This tour can be done from August to May inclusive.
- Doing Big Ice: It’s the more complete option. Unlike the minitrekking, the walk on the glacier lasts three and a half hours, with half an hour for lunch on top of the glacier. This tour can be done from September 15 to April 30.
Staying near the Perito Moreno Glacier
As it is located within Los Glaciares National Park, a protected area, there is no hotel to stay in, but there are camping sites. In the park there are the camping Lago Roca, that is organized, and the camping El Huala, of free camping. There is also the picnic area Mitre, on the way to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
If you are going to do some trekking in the area, free camping is allowed in the trails of the northern area.
In winter, from May to September, if you are camping, you must register at the Park Information Center.
The best thing is to look for accommodation in El Calafate and from there travel all over the region. Below, you will find a map with all the places to sleep in El Calafate with their prices:
Recommendations to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier
- Use footwear suitable for trekking, both for walking the trails and the footbridges of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
- Wear warm and waterproof clothing. It doesn’t matter the time of the year, in the zone it is cold and the changes of temperature are very abrupt.
- Wear sunglasses and sunscreen for the reflection produced by the masses of ice.
- In high season, especially from December to March, it is advisable to book tickets and excursions in advance due to the high influx of tourists.
Opening hours to visit Perito Moreno Glacier
According to the time of year, the opening hours of Los Glaciares National Park vary:
- From September to Easter: 8 am to 6 pm.
- After Easter until August: from 9 am to 4 pm.
Admission fee to visit the Glaciers National Park
- Foreigners (adults): AR$ 800 (US$ 15)
- Argentines (adults): AR$ 410
- Children from 6 to 12 years: AR$ 200 (US$ 4)
- Residents in the Province of Santa Cruz: AR$ 80
- Tertiary or university students from Argentina: AR$ 80
- Residents in El Calafate, Argentine retirees and pensioners, children from 0 to 5 years old and disabled: free of charge.
Due to high inflation in the country, prices may increase. To see the updated prices, go to the official National Parks webpage.