The Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia
One of the highlights, when you visit Argentina, is Patagonia. It´s an amazing region, visited by tourists from around the world. And a must-see in Patagonia is, no doubt, the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier. It´s a real icon of the country, with Buenos Aires and the incredible Iguazu Falls, the three more amazing destinations in the country.
Perito Moreno Glacier: Basic Information
The Perito Moreno glacier is a thick mass of ice located in the Lago Argentino department of the Santa Cruz province, in southwestern Argentina, in the Patagonia region. It is part of Los Glaciares National Park that can be visited from El Calafate. This glacier originates from the South Patagonian ice field. On its descent, it reaches the southern arm of Lake Argentino, with a front of 5 km in length, emerging above the water with a height of about 60 meters.
Thanks to its constant advance, it forms a dam with the waters of the Rico arm of said lake, which generates a difference in level with respect to the rest of the lake of up to 30 m. Due to the pressure of this liquid mass, leaks are produced in the ice that creates a tunnel with a dome more than 50 m high. The collapse of this vault constitutes an unusual natural spectacle and is one of the park's greatest attractions. The name of the glacier honors Francisco Pascasio Moreno, director of the museum of the Argentine Scientific Society and active explorer of the southern part of that country.
Perito Moreno Glacier: The visit
The excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the typical activities when you visit El Calafate. Departure is usually 8.30 to 9 am, from your hotel. You will run along 80 km until arriving to the area of footbridges in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Starting the tour, to the right of the road you can see Lake Argentino as well as its Redonda Bay. During he first 50 km the Patagonian steppe dominates the landscape. Then, once you enter to Los Glaciares National Park, the arboreal vegetation predominates, mostly belonging to the Nothofagus family (Lengas, Ñires, Coihues de Magallanes). During the remaining 30 km, stops will be made to take panoramic photos and the first views of the Moreno Glacier. Once in the footbridges, the guide will explain the options of circuits. The walk through the catwalks is free. The footbridges have an extension of 5 km and are made up of stairs that descend until they approach about 300 meters from the front of the glacier.
150 meters from the access of the footbridges is the Main Balcony, from where you can see an impressive view. You can see the north and south walls, in addition to the glacier enduring area.
The majesty of this ice giant can be appreciated from each of the remaining balconies along the steps. The show is amazing. You can see enormous blocks of ice falling into the lake with a thounderous crash! Free time to enjoy this incredible show of nature until return to the bus for your transfer back to the hotel in El Calafate.
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Activities in the Perito Moreno Glacier
There are some great activities you can do once you visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. Of course the footpaths, but also some adventure activities that are amazing.
The Minitrekking: Ice Trek over the Perito Moreno Glacier
It´s a must-do if you´re an adventurous person. The tour begins from your hotel in El Calafate, with a transfer in comfortable buses to Los Glaciares National Park. Once you arrive at Bajo de las Sombras port, a ship will be waiting for you to cross the Lago Rico and arrive at the opposite shore after approximately a 20-minute boat navigation in front of the southern wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier. After disembarkation, local guides will assist you to be prepared for the experience. There is a brief walk along the shore of the lake, which includes a talk on glaciology in general and the Perito Moreno Glacier in particular. Upon reaching the edge of the glacier, the guides will form subgroups of a maximum of twenty people each and will fit you with crampons and helmets. Once on the ice, you will receive a brief safety talk and will begin the walk.
The trekking difficulty is moderate and has many ascends and descends. It´s a one and a half hours walk where you will be able to appreciate a variety of typical formations of a glacier: cracks, sumps, seracs, lagoons, for example. At the end of the walk, you’ll return to the base crossing the Patagonian Andean forest. Shortly afterward, you’ll board the boat to return to the port and see the glacier walls. After the mini trekking, the tour includes a one-hour guided visit to the walkways of the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is 7 km from the port. So you have the chance to relax watching the incredible walls of ice from the footpaths. There are some restrictions to do the activity. Take a look at the information in the activities area.
Minitrekking over Perito Moreno Glacier: details
This is an amazing program. The tour begins with the pick-up from the meeting point agreed in El Calafate. In our comfortable buses, we will provide information through audio guides available in Spanish, English, and Portuguese about the place, the glacier, and the tour.
Once at “Bajo de las Sombras” port (Ruta 11, km 70.9) you board on a boat to cross the Lago Rico and arrive at the opposite shore after approximately a 20-minute navigation in front of the southern wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
Once you disembark, you will be greeted by mountain guides, who will lead you to a shelter with sanitary facilities. From there, you will begin a brief walk along the shore of the lake, which includes a talk on glaciology in general and the Perito Moreno Glacier in particular. Upon reaching the edge of the glacier, the guides will form subgroups of a maximum 20 people each and will fit you with crampons and helmets. Once on the ice, you will receive a brief safety talk and will begin the walk.
Always with the help of our mountain guides, you’ll enjoy this natural ice paradise. The trekking difficulty is moderate, the route on the glacier lasts approximately one and a half hours, and in its course, you will be able to appreciate a variety of typical formations of a glacier-like cracks, sumps, seracs, lagoons, etc.
At the end of the walk, you’ll
This tour includes a one-hour guided visit to the walkways of the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is 7 km from the port. There, you’ll enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of the glacier and walk along some of the self-guided paths. return to the shelter along a walkway crossing the lush Patagonian Andean forest. Shortly afterward, you’ll board the boat to return to the port and see the glacier walls.
*Groups: We have several daily departures at different hours. In case you travel with a group, or in the company of a partner, please let us know beforehand, so we can arrange for you to take the service in the same group. is oriented for people who enjoy nature, adventure and who want to live the experience of walking on the ice of the most beautiful glacier of the world.
Due to the level of effort and difficulty present in this activity, is not suitable for persons with the following conditions:
- A physical or mental disability that affects attention, march or coordination.
- Peripheral or Central Cardiovascular diseases, use of stent, by-pass, pace-maker or another prosthesis.
- Use of anticoagulants or varicose veins degree III (tick and multiples).
- Respiratory diseases (COPD, asthma, emphysema).
Not included: National Park’s entrance fee, garment, and personal equipment.
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ICE TREKKING OVER PERITO MORENO GLACIER: BIG ICE
Big ice is a bit more difficult, for people interested in walk the glacier with more difficulty.
The tour begins with the pick-up from the meeting point agreed in El Calafate. In our comfortable buses, a bilingual tourist guide will give you information of the landscape you are about to discover.
includes a guided visit to the walkways of Los Glaciares National Park. There, you will be able to enjoy the spectacular panoramic landscape of the glacier and walk some of the self-guided trails.
Once in “Bajo de las Sombras” Port, located just 7km from the Glacier, you board a boat to cross the Brazo Rico, and you disembark 20 minutes later on the opposite shore.
Small groups of up to 10 people are organized, and the hike begins from the southern moraine of the glacier in just over an hour you will reach a spectacular viewpoint where you will access on to the ice. There, the mountain guides will explain basic security rules and put the necessary crampons, harnesses and helmets to begin the journey.
Once on the glacier and with the crampons on, the world takes another perspective: blue ponds, deep cracks, huge glacier mills, magic caves and the unique feeling of being in the heart of the glacier.
Always accompanied by our mountain guides, for approximately three hours and a half you will explore the corners of the most special glacier of the world. During the walk, the guides will help you learn more about the ice, its surroundings and you will be able to size the dimension of the glacier and enjoy the view of the nearby mountains, such as Cerro Dos Picos, Cerro Pietrobelli and Cerro Cervantes. In addition, you will have half an hour lunch on the white blanket and be amazed in a place of unique beauty.
Back on the moraine, we will begin another one-hour walk back and embark once again to return to the port, navigating very close to the southern wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier before returning to “civilization” after having enjoyed one of the most spectacular ice trekk in the world!
Difficulty: High (7 hours of walking)
Duration: Approximately 12 hours (Full day)
Availability: From September 15th to April 30th
LIMITATION: Suitable for people between 18 and 50 years old, no exception.
NOT PERMITTED: People with cardiovascular diseases, COPD, emphysema, asthma or recent surgeries.
NOT SUITABLE FOR: People with a physical or mental disability, overweight people and pregnant women.
DIFFICULTY: High physical demand (7hs of walking).
TRANSFER: Optional land transfer with bilingual guide and a one-hour visit to the walkways.
LANGUAGES: Our mountain guides speak Spanish and English.
CANCELATION: Online purchases can be canceled without penalty 48 hours previous to the tour.
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Perito Moreno Glacier: The Rupture
One of the most fascinating shows of nature is the rupture of the Perito Moreno Glacier. The Moreno is an equilibrium glacier that sometimes forms a natural ice dam, preventing the passage of the water from the Brazo Rico / South to the Argentinian Lake through the Canal de Los Témpanos. The process continues as follows: The Rich Arm is endorsed (enclosed) and its level goes up until by the Archimedes buoyancy principle the pushing force exerted by the water on the dike equals its weight.
When the ice takes off at some point in the rocky support, the water begins to filter and the breaking process begins, which is irreversible.
This is not due to mechanical ice fracture but to the development of a sub-glacial canal. At the beginning, the water is filtered through a small subglacial canal, which is enlarged by the melting of the tunnel walls and the basal ice in floating. Water pressure continues to erode the tunnel, which is rapidly enlarged by the spectacular falls of huge ice flakes detached from its vault and the water begins to pass like a torrent from Lake Rico to the Canal de Los Témpanos.
The final collapse occurs when the arch collapses and the dike disappears. The waters are equalized and a channel communicates again the Rich Arm with the Channel of the Icebergs.
Although the process has begun, the findings that the dike has formed do not mean that the “beginning of the Rupture” but the first of these and the duration of this will depend on different variables. It can last several months until reaching the final stage of rupture.