A massive white monster stood just metres in front of us, shedding pieces of its face into the icy water below. That monster was Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the few glaciers left in the world that is actually still growing. It’s one of the highlights of any trip to Patagonia — here’s how we saw it without breaking the bank.
Taking the bus to Perito Moreno Glacier
The sun was shining as we boarded the bus — it was looking like our run of good luck with the weather was going to continue. We had booked a bus ticket the previous day for around 400 pesos (it was part of a deal that also included our return ticket to El Chalten) after deciding not to take one of the expensive tours. We had been informed a few days earlier by some fellow travellers that there isn’t much point taking a boat ride either, as the boats don’t get you as close as the viewing platforms do.
The bus stopped at the national park office where we had to buy an entrance ticket for 260 pesos. Don’t pay with US dollars — they’ll give you the terrible “official” rate.
Getting close to the glacier
One of the best things about visiting Perito Moreno Glacier is the fact that you can get so close to it. The walking tracks snake around the small hill, interrupted by several viewing platforms. These viewing platforms can get pretty busy, but wait around for a while and the numbers will slowly dwindle, before another big tour group comes to disturb the peace.
Waiting for the ice to crack
You’ll hear plenty of loud cracking sounds while visiting Perito Moreno Glacier, but you might have to be patient if you want to see huge chunks of ice breaking off the face. It’s an incredible sight (and sound) and it reminds you how powerful nature can be. Some of the pieces we saw fall off were huge (easily the size of a car), and we also saw a big cave completely collapse. We sat for a few hours at the last platform, just watching and listening (and also eating lunch). If you look to the right you can get a good view of the lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Should you go on a tour or take the bus?
It depends on your budget. The ice trekking would be pretty awesome but it’s well over $100. Patagonia is already expensive for long term travellers (especially after travelling through the rest of South America), but if you’ve got the money you should do the ice trek (and then tell me what it was like). If you’re just planning to walk around the boardwalks there isn’t much point taking a tour — it’s impossible to get lost and it’s nice to be able to sit around on your own for a while, just looking at the massive glacier.
If you’re visiting Perito Moreno Glacier you’ll probably end up staying a night or two in El Calafate. It’s not a bad little town and there are plenty of accommodation options, nice restaurants and places to shop. If you’re arriving from Puerto Natales in Chile, make sure you change your US dollars straight away – we searched for about half an hour before settling on a rate of 14 pesos for 1 dollar. There are some cafes across the road from the supermarket, they seemed to have the best blue dollar rate in El Calafate. Don’t change too much money though, the rate is a lot better in Buenos Aires (and most other places in Argentina, I imagine).
Have you seen a glacier before? Where was it? Let me know!
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