Perito Moreno Glacier
This is our ultimate guide to Perito Moreno Glacier with 7 essential must-know tips before you go, including the best time to visit. Weather-wise the most pleasant time is from November to March. Read on for more details including our 7 must-know things: 1) Highlights 2) Avoiding Tourist Crowds 3) Weather 4) Facts 5) Getting to Perito Moreno Glacier 6) How to Visit 7) The Best Itinerary. And a lot more incredibly useful advice as well as stunning photos:
Highlights (Cracking Ice)
To hear more of the deep thunderous sound of the cracking ice you should visit during sunny weather in the late afternoon if possible (see options below). You will hear those sounds even in the morning hours quite often, but they are more frequent and intense in the (late) afternoon when the ice is warmed by the sun. It gets better: To witness a chunk of ice falling off, you might have to wait a while, but it's worth it. Great weather with sunshine really helps here. Regardless, it's a once in a lifetime experience and absolutely worth it. The light to take photos is great at both times: In the morning as well as in the late afternoon, before sunset. Bottom line: In order to see the ice chunks falling off and listening to thunderous sounds, sunny weather drastically increases the chances and frequency. That's why we highly recommend staying 2 full days (spend 3 nights!) in nearby El Calafate: If it rains on one day, you still have at least one other day with a good chance of sunshine. Being there 2-3 full days will maximize your chances of spending a perfect sunny day at the glacier with those amazing phenomena. We added an itinerary suggestion at the end of this article.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
During high season (southern summer, Nov-Mar) it gets crowded between 9:30 AM and 5 PM. Dodge the crowds and you won’t have to fight for the best viewing spots. Even more important: Being able to listen to the cracking sounds of the glacier without other noise distractions from groups of visitors is just magical. Three ways to avoid those large groups of people:
Late Shuttle Bus:
The best way to avoid the crowds while using the public shuttle bus is to take the late one: Departing at 1 PM (or 2 PM) and going back at 7:30 PM. Using the late bus you have about 1-2 hours left later in the early evening at the glacier with significantly fewer tourists, as most of them leave between 4 PM and 5 PM.
Go Early or Late (Rental Car/Taxi):
A rental car offers the highest flexibility to dodge the crowds: You could either get there very early in the morning before any of the crowds arrive. As of 2018 the area is usually quiet until 9:30 A.M. Sometimes the hordes of tourists even arrive later. That means arriving at 8 A.M. gives you about 2 hours of solitude. Alternatively, arrive around 4 PM to stay late and experience a magical sunset after most tourists have already left. You could also pay a taxi, including staying a couple of hours at the site. For the expensive taxi option it only makes economic sense when you are in a group of at least 3 people or money is not an issue.
It usually starts to get busy from mid-October until March. The peak months with the most crowds are December/January/February. Moderate month (still/already slightly busy): October/November, March/April. Late September until mid-October or mid-April until early May are great times with fewer tourists, lower rates and decent weather. However, it's not as warm as in the peak summer months. Monthly weather overview (you can switch between F and C): El Calafate Weather. A travel blogger who visited in late May: Read his article
The glacier is a year-round destination. However, during southern summer (November - March) the weather is more pleasant with the most sunshine but it also gets very crowded. The temperatures are mild, especially in Dec/Jan/Feb: 44-74°F (7-24°C). However, please keep in mind that the weather is unpredictable. Always bring rain gear and dress in layers. Visiting in the Winter (late May-August) means virtually no crowds, but really cold, rough weather (sometimes below 32°F/0°C) and fewer agencies offer tours to the glacier.
A must-visit in Argentina! Before we give you all the details about the glacier, let some quotes from visitors speak for themselves:
‘Stunning! Unbelievably beautiful!’
‘Incredible experience. Just mind blowing!’
‘The views are breathtaking!’
Perito Moreno Glacier Facts
The glacier is located in a province in the southern part of Argentina in Los Glaciares National Park. It’s probably the most popular tourist spot in Patagonia. The closest town is El Calafate (48 miles away). From there you drive about 1,5 hours to get to Perito Moreno. Some facts you should know about:
- Size: 97 square miles (250 km²) ice formation with a length of 19 miles (30 km)
- Width/Height: The end of the glacier is 240 feet (74 m) tall and 3 miles (5 km) wide
- Growth: Unlike other glaciers which are shrinking, this one is growing. Glaciologist discuss the reasons for this mysterious behavior of an advancing glacier
- Big Ruptures: Every other year, sometimes only once in a decade, spectacular ruptures happen which cause the water level to rise. The last one happened in 2016. In 2012 the water level rose 6 meters due to a big rupture
Small Ruptures: Every day, especially during sunny weather, chunks of ice fall into the water. A must-see! You'll also hear the sound of ice cracking throughout the day.
How to Get to El Calafate
For a visit to the glacier, the town of El Calafate is the 'main base' for all travelers. Traveling to El Calafate itself is quite easy via plane: It has an airport with connections to Buenos Aires, Ushuaia as well as Bariloche. How to get to Perito Moreno Glacier/El Calafate from Buenos Aires? The flight from takes 3 hours. Tip: Check the cheapest flights from Bueones Aires via CheapOnAir. Important: Try to book the flight well in advance if you travel in peak season! Otherwise, the prices will get ridiculously expensive. Another option is to use bus connections from El Chalten (about 3 hours) or Puerto Natales (6 hours). To find the best bus connections to El Calafate can be a little challenging. A good first start is the official website: Plataforma 10, For example, you enter as the origin 'El Chalten (El Chalten - Santa Cruz)' and as the destination 'Terminal Calafate (El Calafate - Santa Cruz)'. For additional help read this TripAdvisor Topic: Buses from El Calafate to El Chalten (2 pages).
How to Get to Perito Moreno Glacier (from El Calafate)
Finally, after you made it to El Calafate it's quite easy to get to Perito Moreno Glacier. The three alternatives are the shuttle bus, taxi/rental car, booked tours:
The bus from El Calafate to Perito Moreno Glacier takes about 1 ½ hours. Tickets can be purchased the same day. However, nowadays it's better to purchase them a day in advance as soon as you arrive in El Calafate, as the demand is high. If you can't buy the tickets the day before, we recommend getting to the bus station half an hour early. The common buses are: Departures at 7:30, 8:15, 9:30 AM or at 1:00, 2:00 PM Driving back: 4:00, 4:30, 7:00, 7:30 PM You have to check the bus schedule for yourself. It may vary depending on the month/season. In case you want to take the last bus back: Be careful and clarify if the bus really drives back at 7:30 PM before getting there. Some visitors report that the late bus didn't drive. Bus ride facts:
- The ride takes about 90 minutes
- Ticket prices are about 500 ARS (about 33 USD)
- Buy our ticket at the bus terminal one day in advance or be 30 minutes early
- Get in at the bus terminal in El Calafate
- First stop after 60 minutes: Park rangers get in here and you pay the fee of 500 ARS (as of 2018) with cash(!) only
- The next stop is the arrival: You get out and enjoy the glacier. Check the schedule and also ask about the departure to make sure that you don't miss the bus.
Rental Car, Taxi, Hitchhiking
An easy way is taking a taxi, which is kind of expensive. But still, for a larger group of people, it's a nice option and affordable. The cheapest way is of course hitchhiking. This is totally doable since almost everyone on the road drives to the glacier. Detailed tips for hitchhiking can be found here: Hitchwiki El Calafate. Finally, the option we highly recommend is hiring a rental car. This has the big advantage to drive to Perito Moreno Glacier anytime you want (read within the first section of this article about 'crowds' and 'ice cracking' and why that is important). You don't have to depend on any bus schedule and spend as long as you like at the glacier. This is definitely a big plus. Another advantage is the freedom to drive to El Chalten with it. We strongly suggest booking a car in advance (cheapest options via Rentalcars — Alamo, Enterprise, Thrifty, Avis), as booking becomes much more expensive when you're already there at the counter.
This is the hassle-free alternative, because tour operators pick you up from your Hotel in El-Calafate. You don't need to worry about bus schedules or renting a car to get to Perito Moreno Glacier. In general, there are 3 kinds of tours: A) Tours to the viewing platforms B) Tours with boats, often combined with a). C) Trekking/Hiking tours on the ice of the glacier, also combined with a). How to book a tour? On the main street of El Calafate, you'll find many agencies offering tours to the glacier. They take care of everything and you can book a boat tour as well as walks on the ice: In high season most of the tours are quite busy/crowded. You should ask the agencies/tour operators if there are less busy ones at certain times. However, we recommend booking a tour in advance: Perito Moreno Tours (via GetYourGuide, excellent guides and very reliable) or Perito Moreno Glacier - Tours and Tickets (via TripAdvisor. Tip: Bookmark the link). For the Ice Trekking Tour, we have a special tour recommendation which you can read below.
How to Visit the Glacier
In general, you can visit the glacier in 3 ways: The walkways/platforms on your own or via a tour, a boat tour, the ice trek. But still, boat tours and ice trekking also include a visit to the walkways anyway.
Now you might be wondering why we don't recommend the boat tours that much? They're great, but 'Ice Trekking' is even more amazing and definitely the most spectacular way to visit the glacier. Also, the 'normal' visit to the walkways comes very close to the boat tours. If you like it more convenient, please remember that most tour operators arrange a pick-up from your hotel. Also keep in mind, that every tour takes a whole day beginning with your departure in El Calafate until getting back there. Whatever you choose (bus, tour, boat, etc.) it's an amazing once in a lifetime experience and highly recommended:
Platforms (On Your Own and Tour)
- Rating: Amazing
- Type: On your own or via a tour
- Getting There: Via a pre-booked tour with pick-up at your hotel or use the public shuttle bus or a rental car (see above)
- Best Tour: Perito Moreno Glacier Tour (via GetYourGuide)
- Time: 2-5 hours (recommended) on the walkways/platforms
- Price: 500 ARS (about 30 USD) Los Glaciares National Park fee (+ optional tour 50–70 USD)
- Must-Know: Bring some food and beverages. Bring a rain jacket. Remember you have to pay the 500 Pesos entrance fee in cash.
Experience: The glacier is part of Los Glaciares National Park. That means everything is signposted and there are many great interpretive signs along the walkway and viewing platforms. That's why you won't get lost without a map and a guided tour is not necessary as well. It gets better: From the entrance, you can choose between different paths that lead towards Perito Moreno Glacier. Every walkway is color-coded (red, green, blue) and each one provides you with a view of the glacier from various angles. Also, each path/color has another difficulty level and a different length. The first path is the easiest one with only a few steps. The third path for is slightly more difficult with more steps. It leads to the northern edge and the highest point. To experience the glacier from the walkways and viewing platform is truly amazing. You'll have many excellent photo opportunities from here with great angles. On top of that, hearing the thunderous ice cracking or even witnessing a large ice piece calving is priceless and stunning at the same time. It's also unique watching icebergs resurface and floating away. We recommend staying at least for 2 hours, if possible 3-5 hours. It's really worth it. While we suggest bringing snacks and something to drink (some bring a bottle of wine), you're not lost in case you didn't: There is a store now at the visitor center area where you can buy snacks, sandwiches, and coffee. Although quite expensive, it's an option. You can also buy gifts and there are restrooms as well. The store opens at 10 a.m. How to dress? Check our weather section above regarding temperatures. Even in the warmer months, most visitors wear heavy insulated jackets, which is actually not necessary. Thermal underwear and a 'normal' jacket are fine in the summer season. The most important thing: Always bring rain gear, as the weather can change quickly! If you prefer a completely hassle-free visit with a pick-up from your hotel, we recommend the tour we listed above. But still, a visit to the glacier walkways can be totally done on your own.
- Rating: Great - Excellent (applies to pre-booked tours, the boat tours you buy tickets for on the spot are mostly crowded)
- Type: Via tours only
- Getting There: Boat tours are available via pre-booked tours or in El Calafate. Pick-up at your hotel is usually organized. Alternatively, you can also book a boat tour after arriving directly at the glacier.
- Best Tour: Full Day Tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier + Boat Tour (via GetYourGuide)
- Time: 1 hour on the boat
- Price: 500 ARS park fee + 500 ARS boat ride
- Must-Know: If you pre-booked, you get off at the first bus stop (ask first to make sure). Otherwise, you may also book a boat tour right at the glacier. There is a booth with a sign, where you can book the next available tour on the same day. Bring snacks and something to drink, as well as rain gear. Clothing: Wear an extra layer as it's a lot colder on the boat compared to the balcony and walkways.
Experience: Some visitors say the boat tours can be ignored, as you can't get closer the ice than from the closest viewpoint on the platforms/walkways. Others love this kind of tour and say the views are even better from water level. The downside: In high season the boats you book on the spot(!) get heavily crowded. Especially on the top deck gets really busy as it provides the best viewing angles for photography. What's the bottom line? The views from the boat are as stunning as those from the walkways but not any more spectacular. However, it's still a great experience. Just keep in mind, when you purchase the ticket on the spot at the glacier, the boats get really crowded. On the other hand, visitors report that a pre-booked boat tour was more relaxed and less crowded.
Ice Trekking/Hiking (Tour)
- Rating: Spectacular
- Type: Via tours only. Two options: Mini Trekking or Big Ice Trek
- Getting There: The tours are only available via pre-booked tours or via reservation in El Calafate. Pick-up at your hotel in El Calafate is arranged by the tour operator.
- Best Tour: Mini-Ice Trekking (this is the famous original Hielo & Aventura trek, safely booked via GetYourGuide. H&A is by far the best tour operator for ice hikes on Perito Moreno Glacier.). Book in advance if you travel in peak season! If you'd like to do the Big Ice Hike we recommend to book it directly via their website: Big Ice Trekking (direct booking).
- Time (On Glacier): Mini Trekking: 1:30-2:00 hours, Big Ice: 3:00-3:30 hours. However, both are full day tours including transports, 1 hour of balcony/platform viewing, etc.
- Price: MiniTrek 4500 ARS ( 298 USD) + 500 ARS park fee. Big Trek 7900 ARS + 500 ARS park fee (you can book it for a reduced price without the shuttle from El Calafate, in case you have a rental car)
- Season: July - May (Mini Trek), September - April (Big Ice)
- Age & Restrictions: 10-65 years (Mini Trek), 18-50 (Big Ice). Not allowed are pregnant women or visitors with health issues.
- Must-Know: Bring snacks and something to drink. Wear sturdy boots, dress in layers (you'll sweat), waterproof clothes, sunblock, sunglasses, gloves and don't forget your camera.
- Good to Know: Everything is taken care of: Pick-up at your hotel and return. Ice crampons are provided. The ice surface is firm and safe. The difficulty level is between easy and moderate for the mini-trek. The big ice hike is more strenuous and although you don't need any climbing experience at all, you need to be physically fit for a hiking a couple of hours (part of it being very strenuous). If you don't feel you can do that, choose the min trek.
- Experience: A hike on the glacier is by far the most spectacular thing you can do at Perito Moreno Glacier! You can choose between the 'Mini Trek' and the 'Big Ice'. For both types, you'll be picked up at hour hotel by a private shuttle. Heading to the national park you stop about 6 km before the walkways and get on to a boat. On this 20 minutes ride, you'll already experience the stunning views of Perito Moreno's front wall. You'll get off the boat and start your hike on the glacier. Now comes the breathtaking part: With assistance, you'll put on the ice crampons and continue walking directly on the ice surface! The guide takes you to magical spots like crevasses, small lagoons, and even to an ice cave. Finally, you'll rest and the guides serve your whiskey on the rocks with ice from the glacier which is a few hundred years old. What's the main difference between the Mini Trek and the Big Ice Trek? On the 'big ice' you spend more time on the glacier, you venture farther, it's even more stunning, the group is even smaller and of course, it's more expensive. Regardless of the trek, you're on, at the end of the day they take you back to your hotel from an unforgettable adventure. Hopefully, you took a lot of photos.
From our own experience, from talking to hundreds of visitors and to so many destination and local experts, we drafted the 'perfect' itinerary for El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier (more itineraries will follow). Check the hotel deals and tips above for your reservations in El Calafate.
- Day One – Arrival in El Calafate and Short Tour: If you arrive early enough, we highly recommend the scenic El Calafate Balconies Big Jeep Tour (book in advance). The later one starts at 4:00 p.m. each day and lasts 3 hours. You'll be picked up at your hotel. If you arrive later and can't make this tour, just enjoy dinner in one of the many good restaurants. Tip: If you plan to take the shuttle bus to the glacier on the next day, buy your ticket now.
Day Two (Alternative A) — Glacier Platforms Trip: For a visit to the glacier, you need a whole day. Regardless if you go own your own with a car, with the bus or if you book a tour (check the link in the section above for our tour suggestion and more tips). Even if you do the ice trek on the next day, a longer time (3-5 hours) on a separate day like this one, is highly recommended. Another advantage: If there is bad weather on one day, sunshine is more likely on the other day.
Day Two (Alternative B) — Glaciers Boat Tour (this is not the standard Perito Moreno Boat Tour). If you'd rather do something different on this day, there is one must-do boat tour: Rios De Hielo Boat Tour (full day). Even destination experts on TripAdvisor highly recommend this boat trip: 3-4 Day Itinerary TripAdvisor. This is your chance to take in the spectacular scenery of Los Glaciares National Park, while navigating through icebergs and spotting Glacier Spegazzini, with a stunning height of 100 m.
- Day Three — Ice Trek: This is your once in a lifetime chance to hike on one of the most amazing glaciers on our planet. Choose the mini trek or the longer one. Read the full details in the section above. Remember to book in advance.
- Day Four - Departure: This is the day of your departure and the end of one truly magical glacier adventure.
Must-Know Facts and Tips
- Park closes at 10 PM
- No smoking, no pets allowed
- No drones allowed. You'll have to pay a fine if caught using a drone!
- Fully accessible by wheelchair
- Visiting with kids: Perfect for children of all ages. However, for the ice trekking tour on the glacier the minimum age is 10 years.
- There is always a fee per person, per day at the entrance to the park/glacier or collected by rangers in the bus: 500 Argentinian Pesos, only cash. (children under 15 years are free). This fee is not included in any pre-bookings/tours.
- Bring your own food/water for a day trip
- There are no toilets/restrooms directly at the viewing platforms, the closest are at the shop/entrance area.
- Never confuse Perito Moreno Glacier with the town of Perito Moreno. This is somewhere else in Patagonia and takes a full day to drive there.
Where to Stay (bookmark hotel links with low rates)
- EOLO - Patagonia Spirit (between El Calafate and the Glacier): Close to Perito Moreno, unique location with a breathtaking view. Luxurious, comfortable rooms, very clean, exquisite food, friendly staff.
- America Del Sur Hostel (El Calafate): Budget Tip! This hostel is recommended by most guidebooks. They are right: The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful, the rooms are very clean, good breakfast and all-you-can-eat BBQ. Private rooms available. Small downside: About 15-20 walking minutes from the bus station.
Place created by Stefan Bonne. Updated (2018) and extended by WHEN to be WHERE