Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia, in the beautiful southern wilderness of Argentina. It is widely acknowledged as being one of the natural wonders of the world, and is an essential part of any visit to Southern South America.
Named after the legendary Argentinian explorer, Dr Francisco P Moreno, the glacier begins its journey high in the Southern Patagonian Icefield in the Andes. It descends for over 50 miles, travelling through spectacular valleys and reaching depths of 170m, until it reaches its destination in the milky blue waters of Lago Argentina. At over 250 square kilometres in size. it is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia that is not retreating, and the ice field is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water.
Although the sheer size and scale of the Perito Moreno glacier is impressive, it is the terminal face of the glacier that draws visitors from all over the world. Huge chunks of ice regularly shear off the face of the glacier, and this is a spectacular sight as the ice groans and creaks before finally crashing into the lake. The terminal face is over 5 kilometres wide and nearly 80 metres high, so it is fun to try and find a spot where you think that the next chunk of ice will fall!
The Perito Moreno glacier is also famous for the ‘rupturing’, which occurs when the glacier advances all the way across the lake to the opposite shore, creating a natural dam that cuts off the southern arm of the lake and preventing the water from circulating properly. This causes water levels in this part of the lake to build up, creating huge pressure on the ice until it ruptures in spectacular fashion. This event occurs every few years, with the last rupture occurring in January 2013. It only happens every few years, so you will be very lucky to be there and see it occur in person!
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most important tourist attractions of the Argentine Patagonia, and the town of El Calafate is the gateway to the glacier and the whole of the Los Glaciares National Park. El Calafate is located 78 kilometres from the glacier on the shores of Lago Argentina and there is a wide range of accommodation options that will suit all budgets. Although it is still a small town, it has grown up around the popularity of the glacier so there are a number of good quality shops and restaurants available.
Patagonia has a very temperate climate, so the best time of year to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier is during the summer months between December and March. You should enjoy some warm and sunny days at this time of the year, and tours will run from El Calafate between October and April. However, the Perito Moreno Glacier weather patterns can be very unpredictable, and you should be prepared for all weathers at any time of the year!
There are a number of ways to see the Perito Moreno Glacier, and there is a very good visitor centre at the site. This should be the starting point of your visit, and there is also a walking circuit which provides superb views of the southern and eastern edges of the glacier. You should be able to get some fantastic panoramic shots of the ice from here!
If you would like to get closer to the action, then there are various scenic boat cruises and ice walks available. These are generally known as ‘mini trekking’ tours, and you will spend some time on the ice with a guide to explore the crevasses and ice caves. These tours provide fantastic vantage points and there is no better way to learn about glaciation while exploring one of the most famous glaciers in the world!