Ultimate Guide to Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier
In this post, we will cover all the things you should know before visiting Perito Moreno Glacier. Read our guide to know how to travel to the glacier from El Calafate, how much things cost and where to stay.
The biggest national park of Argentina, Los Glaciares National Park is not significant only because of its size.
It is home to three shining stars of Argentinian Patagonia - Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre near El Chalten and Perito Moreno Glacier close to El Calafate.
We won't lie to you, visiting Perito Moreno Glacier doesn't come cheap, it was actually the most expensive day we had in Argentina, but investing in this day trip was so worth it.
Although we are traveling on a budget, and we've seen quite a lot of outstanding glaciers in Patagonia such as Hanging Glacier in Queulat National Park the possibility of not visiting Perito Moreno did not cross our minds for even a second.
PERITO MORENO GLACIER
It is impossible to fully appreciate Perito Moreno Glacier until you will physically stand in front of its face overlooking it across Lago Argentino as in this case all the photos don't do justice.
Perito Moreno covers an area of 250 square meters, is 5 kilometers wide, 30 kilometers long and when the highest point of the glacier reaches more than 70 meters, two-thirds are still below the water level and cannot be seen!
The glacier is also part of Southern Patagonian Icefield, and it is the third world's largest reserve of fresh water.
All those facts, although impressive enough, cannot prepare you for the intense experience when watching the immense glacier while listening to ubiquitous and deafening cracking sounds of the breaking ice.
When visiting Perito Moreno Glacier, you will also get a unique possibility to see one of the world's very few advancing glaciers. When global warming and other environmental issues cause that the majority of all glaciers are retreating fast as we could see with our own eyes on an example of Pastoruri Glacier in Peru, not even glaciologists can explain why Perito Moreno is expanding.
PRICES IN ARGENTINA AND HOW MUCH IT COST TO VISIT PERITO MORENO
For the past several years, Argentina's economy has been experiencing ups and downs, but mostly there were downs, and we don't even know how to politely express the state where the country's shitty economy is at the moment.
Argentinian Pesos are one of those currencies no one (not even locals) want to keep as it fluctuates wildly and the money loses their value every day. As of 2019, inflation comes up to 47%, only to give you an idea of how bad it is (the only country in South America with worse inflation is Venezuela - not very comforting).
When looking for the current information on how much things cost in Argentina, you will find many 'updated' blog posts even from well-known travel blogs saying that prices in Argentina as of 2019 are this and that.
But unfortunately, in most cases, when arriving in El Calafate or any other place in Argentina, you will soon find out that information is incorrect as the prices fluctuate insanely and most of the bloggers only change the heading to rank high on Google.
We can share with you how much cost us visiting Perito Moreno Glacier in January 2019, but those prices are only tentative as they can change anytime, so please always check less than a month before your arrival so you won't be unpleasantly surprised by the price increase.
The bus from El Calafate to Perito Moreno Glacier cost 800 ARS ($21) while the national park entrance fee cost 700 ARS ($18.5).
Our Tip: A general rule of thumb when it comes to prices in Argentina is to compare the Argentinian pesos to USD. If the bus ticket costs now 1000 ARS, that's an equivalent to 26 USD. But in a few months, the price might be around 1500 ARS for the same bus ticket, which most probably will still be around 26 USD.
HOW TO GET TO PERITO MORENO GLACIER
At the moment, the south part of Los Glaciares National Park is not served by public transport, so you have four options on how to get near the glacier.
Car | The most convenient way how to get to the park is without a doubt with your own car. You can rent a car only for this occasion in El Calafate which will give you the freedom to arrive and leave whenever you want, but the most common way is to travel Patagonia for longer (it is once in a lifetime experience, right?). If you are looking for an idea, you can read our post about Carretera Austral, one of the most scenic roads in the world and you can incorporate visiting Perito Moreno and overall the whole Argentinian Patagonia in it.
Hitchhiking | The least expensive, but also the least guaranteed way how to visit Perito Moreno is hitchhiking. Unless you are a real broke backpacker, we don't recommend this option as most of the cars we saw were full (Argentinians and overall people of South America usually use the car's capacity to the fullest). In case you decide on this option, we recommend you to have camping equipment in case you won't hitch a ride back.
Tour | In case you prefer to have everything arranged, you can book a tour from El Calafate, and you don't need to take care of anything (transport, guide, and a boat tour are usually included). You can reserve your Perito Moreno Tour here.
Bus | As we said before, there is no public bus transport to the park, but several companies run a daily service to and from Perito Moreno. It is better to make a reservation at least one day in advance to secure your spot. You can book the return ticket on the bus terminal right after your arrival (there are several companies) or in one of the offices in the center of El Calafate. No matter who you choose, the price and the schedule will be the same. We took the bus with Cal Tur, and everything went smoothly. If you can't wait to see the glacier, sit on the left side so you'll get the first glimpse of it from the bus. Usually, buses leave at 8 AM and return at 4 PM, or you can opt for the less popular version and visit the glacier in the afternoon. In this case, the bus leaves at 1 PM and returns at 7 PM. The drive to the glacier takes around two hours, and it includes the waiting time because at the checkpoint everyone on the bus must pay the entrance fee.
Our Tip: When buying your bus tickets to Perito Moreno Glacier, do not forget to say that you want to see specifically the glacier. Although it might seem obvious to you, there is Perito Moreno village in Argentina, but seven hours drive away, and we believe you don't want to end up there.
You will pay your entrance fee at the checkpoint on the way to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Every bus stops there, and the cashier enters every bus one by one and collects money. At the moment, you can pay with cash only.
THE VISIT OF PERITO MORENO GLACIER
We were pleasantly surprised by how well-maintained the site is. You will arrive at the big parking lot where are also situated boat ticket booths, visitors center and a restaurant with toilet facilities. The restaurant is pretty expensive, so bring water and a snack with you unless you want to splurge.
Once you enter the boardwalk, you will get amazing views of Perito Moreno Glacier from all possible angles. The boardwalks are wide, and although this place is touristy, we did not have a feeling that it is crowded at all (not unlike when walking the narrow paths of Iguazu Falls), and we had plenty of space on the viewing platforms as well.
Walking on the walkway is fun, there are several trails (you can easily do all of them in a day) and platforms where you can just hang out, try to take your best photo and wait for the ice to crack and fall. It is a truly spectacular sight.
WHAT TO DO AT PERITO MORENO
We were perfectly fine with walking on boardwalks, but if this experience is not enough and you want to get even a closer look of the glacier from a different perspective, there are several activities you can choose from.
The most popular and the least demanding activity is a boat tour which will take you right under the glacier (from the safe distance).
Those, who want to admire the glacier from the lake's surface and want to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere can try kayaking. Do not forget to wear layers and bring clothes for a change.
Another activity, during which you'll get the closest to the glacier as you can is Perito Moreno Glacier Ice Trekking. This is physically the most demanding activity, so make sure you are fit enough to enjoy it rather than to suffer later.
HOW MUCH TIME YOU NEED TO VISIT PERITO MORENO GLACIER
Because we arrived on a bus, we had approximately six hours on the site and actually used up every single minute of it. It might seem like a really long time to watch a glacier, but thanks to an extensive system of walkways and differently positioned viewpoints, we didn't have time to be bored.
In case you are in a rush, you might make the visit in three or four hours minimum.
WHEN TO VISIT PERITO MORENO GLACIER
Weather in Patagonia can be unpredictable, and it is not unknown to experience all four seasons within one day.
Generally, the best time to visit is during summer from December to March when the weather is usually more stable - you have a chance to enjoy more sunny days and temperatures are higher, only be prepared for very strong wind gusts.
Late spring and early are also fine periods to visit the glacier, especially the contrast of colored leaves with the white giant during the autumn is spectacular. In the winter the strong winds cease, but it gets really cold in this part of the world and snowstorms are not uncommon.
WHAT TO WEAR
In Patagonia, it can get cold and windy any time of the year, so when visiting Perito Moreno Glacier, wear layers.
Boardwalks are easy to walk on, and hiking boots are not necessary here.
If you plan on traveling long-term around South America, you might find useful our article What to Pack for South America.
El Calafate is an unattractive town which most of the time serves as a base to all people who want to visit Perito Moreno Glacier. We heard about travelers visiting the glacier from famous El Chalten, but it is a very long day, at least five hours on the bus one way, so unless not necessary, it is much better to spend at least one night in El Calafate.
You'll find everything you might think of in El Calafate. Reasonably priced grocery shops, several ATMs, restaurants, hotels, clothes and souvenir shops or gas stations, everything to be easily found along the main drag.
WHERE TO STAY IN EL CALAFATE
El Calafate is a town where everything revolves around tourism. The good news is that you won't have a problem to find accommodation here (although it is advised to make a reservation in the season at least one week in advance), the bad news is that prices are often steep even at the shabby looking places, so select your hotel or hostel carefully.
BUDGET: Bla Lodge - This hostel offers both, beds in dormitories or private rooms. The highlights are breakfast and a great view from the common room.
MID-RANGE: Hotel Michelangelo - The very well-located hotel offers free wifi, delicious breakfast and is probably your best choice if you are looking for a nice looking hotel for a reasonable price.
LUXURY: Hotel Posada Los Alamos - Beautifully set hotel with well-decorated rooms and an indoor pool.
HOW TO GET TO EL CALAFATE
It takes approximately 3 hours to get from El Chalten to El Calafate by bus. There are several bus companies, and we recommend you to book the bus right after your arrival in El Chalten to make sure seats will be available. In January 2019 the bus cost 800 ARS per person.
When we tried to get from El Calafate to Puerto Natales, Chile, home to the famous Torres del Paine National Park, it happened to us for the first time in Patagonia that all buses were sold out on the date we wanted to travel, even though we tried to buy them two days in advance, so in case you are on a tight schedule it is better to buy tickets online well ahead of time.
It seems that during the summer, this route from El Calafate to Puerto Natales is too busy as it connects two astonishing national parks. The bus ride takes 6 hours, including border crossing procedures and costs 850 ARS.
El Calafate also has an airport in case you are short on time and you can take a flight from there to Ushuaia, the End of the World or to other destinations. The flight tickets will be pricey though.
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