Hiking On Patagonia’s Most Famous Glacier: Perito Moreno

While there are many excellent hiking destinations around the world, not many can hold a candle to the one of the planet’s most picturesque glaciers, Perito Moreno. Famous for its one-of-a-kind forest and mountain views, Perito Moreno is said to be one of the only glaciers in the world that is still growing – about two to six feet per day. And for those who heard about the rare glacial collapse last month at Perito Moreno, don’t worry, you can still trek it.

Recently, I wrote a post on hiking the trails in Los Glaciares Nacional Park. Looking at that gallery, it’s hard to believe this is the same place. However, the park encompasses a variety of landscapes and experiences, all of which are worth exploring during a visit to Patagonia.

There are many striking features about Perito Moreno that pop out during the trek. One is its massive size – 1,740 miles in distance. The glacier has a 3.1-mile front and rises almost 200 feet above sea level. While hiking on it, it seems like an entire town could build a civilization on the ice. Additionally, the milky-turquoise color of the water is majestic and – combined with the crisp cool of the ice and serene silence – instantly puts a feeling of calm over you when you look at it.The area is actually one of the world’s biggest drinking water supplies. Ninety percent of drinking water comes from glacial areas, with Antarctica and Greenland being the main suppliers followed by this particular region of Argentina. Furthermore, every so often you will hear a loud thunder-like sound. This is due to the moving of the glacier as chunks of ice fall into Lake Argentina.

To hike on Perito Moreno for yourself, you can choose a home base in El Calafate. Personally, I booked a Mini Trekking Tour with Hielo & Aventura. The cost was 540 Argentine Pesos (about $123), plus entry fee into Los Glaciares Nacional Park, which is 100 Pesos (about $23). The company will pick you up from your accommodation in the morning as well as drop you back off once the tour is over. A group hike is included and will lead you on a moderately intense trek on the ice for about an hour to an hour and a half. At the end of the tour, participants are given a shot of whiskey and mini dulce de leche alfajor on the ice – excellent for helping you to warm up.

There are a few things I recommend to bring with you on the trek, and to keep in mind during it:

  • Wear layers. On the day of my hike, the morning was rainy and cold, then warmed up, and then drizzled again. Remember, you’re near a glacier, and it is not uncommon for the weather to be wet and unpredictable. If I hadn’t worn long johns under my sweatpants and two pairs of socks, I know I would have been uncomfortable. It’s better to wear too much and be able to take layers off when you get warm.
  • Bring as many waterproof items as you can. For example, your shoes, jacket, pants and camera. Additionally, gloves are required for the hike, as the ice is sharp. While the park supplies them for you, they were soaking wet before we even put them on. Bring your own, and an extra pair in case it rains and they get wet.
  • Follow the guides. They know the safest paths as well as the best lookout points for photos. Likewise, there are many sinkholes that you do not want to fall into.
  • Take some time before trekking to get used to your crampons, which are the spikes they attach to the bottom of your shoes to walk on ice. They are heavy and will feel funny at first, but once on the ice you’ll be happy to be wearing them. Don’t be afraid to use force and stamp into the ice. Also, never walk sideways, and when walking uphill, pretend you’re a duck and turn your feet out a bit. When walking downhill, bend your knees, point your toes forward and lean back just a bit so you don’t fall forward.

The most important thing to remember when doing the trek is to have fun, and take a lot of pictures. Many people consider Perito Moreno to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” due to its unique beauty and picturesque location. Remember how lucky you are to be surrounded by such rare scenery, and no matter what else is going on in your life or with the weather, just enjoy it.