Dazzle your senses with a trip to Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier

Travels with Deb
May 20, 2024 at 6:00 a.m.
Photo by Debbie Stone
Photo by Debbie Stone


I’ve seen my share of glaciers over the years and whether they’ve been in Alaska, Greenland, Switzerland, New Zealand or Antarctica, they’ve never failed to amaze me. With many of them in stages of recession, however, I’ve begun to feel an urgency to visit more of these impressive masses of ice.

Photo by Debbie Stone

Recently, on a trip to Argentina, I went to Perito Moreno Glacier. Located in Argentine Patagonia, within Los Glaciares National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the glacier is one of the natural wonders of the world, offering an awe-inspiring, magnificent landscape.

Though not the largest glacier in  the country, Perito Moreno is still remarkable in size, covering an area of 98 square miles – slightly larger than the city of Buenos Aires. It spans 19 miles in length and is 3.1 miles wide at the terminus. As for height, the terminus averages 243 feet above the surface of Lago Argentino, the lake it flows into. And at the center point of the glacier, the ice thickness measures 2296 feet.

The glacier was named after Argentine explorer, Francisco Moreno, or Perito Moreno as he is known in Argentina (“Perito” means “expert”). Moreno studied Patagonia in the 19th century and surveyed the area. His findings contributed to the Boundary Treaty of 1881 that precisely defined the borderline between Argentina and its neighbor Chile. In honor of this important work, the glacier was named after him.

Photo by Debbie Stone

While exploring the Perito Moreno, I learned it is one of the few glaciers in the world that is actually advancing and growing instead of shrinking. Scientists suspect that the glacier’s steep angle makes it more resilient to recession.

Photo by Debbie Stone

Perito Moreno’s astounding beauty is at the core of its popularity, and as such, it has become a well-known tourist attraction. Unlike a number of “hot” spots that may end up losing their appeal due to the sheer number of travelers that descend on them, this glacier is definitely worth the buzz, even with the masses. That’s because the mind-boggling scale of it and its impact on everyone that views it is enough to make the hordes gradually fade into the background. Plus, there’s plenty of viewing space and an assortment of activities when it comes to experiencing this iconic destination.

The main way to see this phenomenon is via the Perito Moreno Glacier Trails, a network of elevated paths across from the eastern face of the glacier terminus. You have your choice of five different walkways that provide great unobstructed vistas. The trails vary in length, but because they’re all connected, you can create longer routes if desired. A color-coded trail map is posted onsite and the paths are marked with corresponding-colored circles along the route, making it easy to follow.

Photo by Debbie Stone

For another perspective, opt to take a one-hour sightseeing boat tour, which takes you to the north face of the glacier. You’ll get a front row seat with an up-close view of the wall of blue ice that increases in size the closer you approach. And you’ll actually be able to see the vertical cracks on its surface. It’s breathtaking and thankfully, the boat spends ample time in key spots, ensuring you’re able to fully marvel this mesmerizing sight.  

A more adventurous way to experience Perito Moreno is on a guided ice trek. You’ll don a pair of crampons and walk right onto the surface of the glacier, where you can see the formation of deep crevasses. Short and long treks are offered, but you’ll need to book early, as they sellout far in advance.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The final mode of exploration is kayaking. During this tour, you’ll paddle in front of the north side of the glacier, where you can get a real sense of its scale, and even hear the ice creaking.

Whatever means you choose to experience Perito Moreno will be memorable. The glacier’s vivid colors and unique shapes will be imprinted upon you, as well as the sounds of its cracks and booms from the advancing ice sheets underneath. And if you’re lucky, you might witness a calving event where you’ll see big blocks of ice break off from the glacier and dramatically crash into the water in explosive fashion.  

When visiting Perito Moreno, people usually stay in El Calafate, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, which is about 1.5 hours away. You can either take a bus, book a tour that includes transportation or use your rental car to reach the glacier. Strolling the streets of this charming small town may make you feel like you’ve been transported to Switzerland. The sparkling lake (Lago Argentino) and snow-capped mountains in the background are reminiscent of the Alps. Add the colorful flora and double pitched roofs to complete this enchanting scene.

The city is named after a berry that grows in the region, which is said that once eaten will guarantee your return to Patagonia. Of course, as soon as I heard this, I set out to find this berry in whatever edible form available. My search led me to an ice cream shop, where I was able to taste Calafate ice cream. Yummy!

Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries spanning all seven continents, and her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications.
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