It was like walking on a giant snow cone.
The virgin ice crunched underfoot as my crampons gripped at the glacier. With a constantly changing landscape there was no path in sight; instead, our group navigated around wind-swept crevasses, digging into the divots with our spiky shoes. Towering peaks enveloped us, their snowy tips framed by wispy clouds that danced across a blue-bird sky. It was like we were on another planet, with the untouched formations creating a new vantage point at every turn.
We slowly made our way up to higher ground, often pausing to stare in wonder at the awe-inspiring scenery all around us, a juxtaposition of bright turquoise pools popping out of the milky-white landscape. The water inside each one was so pure that I crouched down and filled up my water bottle, embracing the chill as the fresh water hit the back of my throat. Aside from the quiet chatter amongst ourselves, the only other sound was a low rumble in the distance as massive chunks of ice fell off the side of the larger-than-life glacier we stood on, creating a roar as they tumbled into the aqua-marine lake below.
Nature rarely fails to impress, but it really outdoes itself when it comes to Patagonia’s Perito Moreno Glacier.
Found in Los Glaciares National Park, the majestic glacier is one of Argentina’s top sights for good reason. At 30 kilometres wide and taking up 254 square kilometres, the glacier is larger than the entire city of Buenos Aires. Nestled in the Andes mountain range, Perito Moreno is interestingly one of only a few glaciers in the world that’s advancing, rather than retreating.
Our group organized by Walk Patagonia had departed from the charming tourist town of El Calafate early that morning, pulling up to the Bajo de Las Sombras port on the shores of shimmering Lago Argentino to board the boat that would sail us to the glacier. Despite the comfortable seats inside, most of us opted for the open-air deck, angling for the best view of what was sure to be epic scenery.
Perito Moreno came into view straight away, jutting out of the dark waves with the peaks of the Andes serving as an unforgettable backdrop. I’d underestimated its size—its sheer magnitude quickly became apparent as our large boat began to feel insignificant as we got closer and closer. Every time the glacier would calve it sounded like a cannon going off, causing shrieks of excitement to ring out from our boat. The sheer force and beauty of it never ceased to amaze me.
Despite the glacier looking like a winter wonderland, spring had arrived on shore making for a landscape of contrasts. The first orange buds were beginning to appear on the trees, and a green canopy of foliage lined the wooden boardwalk we followed along the shoreline after disembarking the boat, heading up to the spot where we’d start our ice-trekking adventure.
At the base of the icefield sat a trio of wooden huts and a dome used for storage, perched in a field of boulders which looked like a scene straight out of Star Wars. I hopped onto one of the ledges inside a hut, where a guide from Hielo Y Aventura which runs the tours fastened me into a pair of crampons. Quick instructions followed about how to walk in them, and just like that our group of a dozen wide-eyed adventurers set off.
Over the next couple hours, we traversed up and down the glacier, feeling like mountain goats as we scampered around posing for photo-ops. Despite the trails changing literally every day depending on the weather, our guides always managed to find a path that everyone could navigate without any issues. While drinking pure glacier water and ducking into snow caves should have been memorable enough, the real highlight came at the end of a couple hours of exploring, when we rounded a corner to randomly find a bar cart stocked with whiskey and glasses—for whiskey on the glacier rocks, as you do.
After heading back down to the base for lunch, we sailed back to the mainland for the second half of our adventure—as if the day hadn’t already been unforgettable enough. Now, we were going to see Perito Moreno as most tourists do, which is from a series of wooden platforms in Parque National Los Glaciares.
There’s really no way one can completely describe the overwhelming beauty that is seeing the glacier from this vantage point: it truly has to be seen to be believed. Imagine huge sheaths of ice sparkling as they catch the sun rays, framed by a towering mountain range and vibrant foliage, surrounded by water so turquoise it could have come straight from the Caribbean Sea. Puffy white clouds floated overhead, and there was a sense of stillness only broken by the occasional rumble as the glacier calved, sending ice plummeting 60 metres down into the lake. It is a sight that leaves you truly in awe of this incredible planet.
Our day ended with a four-kilometre loop around the boardwalk, with its multiple levels granting different vantage points of the frontal and lateral moraines which gave us a better sense of just how massive Perito Mereno is. Sediment changed the hue of the pristine lake depending on where we stood, creating a kaleidoscope of blues ranging from azure to sapphire.
It was no easy feat to tear ourselves away from the sight when it finally came time to head back to El Calafate, but the once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk on a giant glacier, sip its pure water, and soak in one of the world’s most magnificent landscapes made for a day none of us will ever forget.
How to get there: The Perito Moreno Glacier is 80 kilometres from El Calafate, Argentina. Driving yourself in a rental car provides the most flexibility, but there are also daily buses from El Calafate to Glaciar Perito Moreno which cost about $30 USD return and take approximately 90 minutes.
To walk on the glacier, visitors must book a tour through Hielo Y Aventura, which costs about $170 USD per person. It’s a popular trip, so be sure to reserve a spot well in advance. If possible, get on one of the morning tours as there will be less tourists and better light for photography.
Fees: All visitors are required to bring an additional 450 ARS (about $30 USD) in cash to pay the entrance fee to the park.
When to go: The park is open year-round, with high season being November through February.
Globe Guide explored the Perito Moreno Glacier as a guest of Walk Patagonia, which runs incredible one and two week tours throughout Patagonia. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles
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