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It will take you far out of the way, but visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier in the deep south of Argentina will mean you are viewing one of the most phenomenal natural occurrences on the planet. Knowing a few important pieces of information will both give you a sense of appreciation as to what you are looking at, and will also impress the people you travel with, or bystanders who might overhear you blurting out these interesting facts to yourself.
This will not impress anyone when you are actually at the glacier, obviously, but is a vital piece of information as you plan your trip, considering the town of Perito Moreno is nowhere near the glacier itself. Yes, as confusing as it is, the town of Perito Moreno is over 600 kilometres north of the glacier bearing the same name.
The closest neighbouring town to the massive glacier is that of El Calafate, roughly 78 kilometres to the west. This quaint little village has been the subject of a large influx of tourists coming to visit the glacier, and do multi-day treks through the mountains and valleys through the endless nature that surrounds it.
A spectacle at the glacier is being able to hear the cracking and booming of the chunks of ice caving off the main glacier and plunging into the frigid water. Most people think it is due to global warming, however, Perito Moreno Glacier is actually one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, so as the size increases, the front of the glacier gains large cracks and crevasses that eventually cave off creating an exciting natural show.
Most people will elect to do the easy route and book a tour to the glacier. Most hostels or hotels will have connections that allow you to book a tour, which is essentially a pick up, transportation, drop off, and a guide, right from the reception of where you’re staying. Or if you feel like seeing what other options are available, the main street in El Calafate is lined with tour operators.
Due to the distance away from town, you will not be walking to the glacier, but there are other ways of getting there from El Calafate without doing an organised tour. Obviously, if you have your own vehicle, you will only need to pay the entrance to the glacier, but if you don’t, hitchhiking is a common way of getting around in these parts and many people choose this as a form of transport to get to the glacier and save on the pricey bus.
As mentioned, the bus to visit the glacier is not the going rate of a cheap local bus, as the companies take advantage of the touristic desire to visit, and round trips will cost you about US$20 each way. Also, for non-residents of Argentina, the current price is $500 Argentinian Pesos (US$35) to enter the park, so it is not a cheap day out, but on a clear day will not disappoint.
So, how big is this thing? It is hard to judge the size from photos, but to get a grasp on the size of the glacier, it is currently approximately 252 square kilometres – 30 kilometers in length, about five kilometres wide, and from the water to the top of the glacier the average height is a staggering 73 metres!
To put things in perspective of the enormity of the Perito Moreno Glacier, it currently holds the third position on the podium in the competition for World’s Largest Freshwater Reserve. That is one enormous ice cube!
Now, with a town named after him, and an incredible spectacle and tourist attraction as well, you might be asking, who is Francisco Moreno? Nicknamed Perito, which refers to a specialist, Francisco Moreno was a scholar who spent years studying Patagonia and was a prominent figure in Argentina’s defence towards keeping their region of Patagonia during the border dispute against Chile.