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Thinking about joining the Perito Moreno Mini Trekking tour? Well, I recently did the tour, and here is everything I wish I know before I went including what to expect, how to prepare, and my general review of the tour from start to finish!
Having been to El Calafate and Perito Moreno once before and missing out on the infamous Perito Moreno glacier trekking, this time I just HAD to do it!
Skipping this amazing tour was one of Daniel and I’s biggest regrets from our last trip to Patagonia.
So this time it was a no-brainer, we were going to go trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier – no questions asked!
But when I went to book, it was all very confusing. There are dozens of “tour providers” online, there are different tours on offer, some longer than others, some with transfers from El Calafate, and it was just hard to know what to book and what to expect from a tour.
Well, after going on the Mini Trekking tour on Perito Moreno for myself, I’ve found out all of the answers – and I’m going to share them with you here!
That way, you will know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. I’ll also answer the question on everyone’s mind, is it worth it?!
What is glacier trekking on Perito Moreno?
Glacier trekking is an activity where you can actually walk on top of a glacier.
Although generally a dangerous activity, in the right places with the right equipment and experienced guide it is extremely safe. in fact, it is one of the most popular Perito Moreno Glacier tours.
Glacier trekking is a way to touch the glacier, see Perito Moreno Glacier from a whole new viewpoint, as well as get close to massive crevasses. I mean, what could be cooler than walking on a massive chunk of ancient ice, right?!
Why is Perito Moreno Glacier Trekking special?
You can go glacier trekking on many glaciers all over the world and throughout Patagonia. However, Perito Moreno is a special glacier for glacier trekking as it is one of the most famous glaciers in the world!
Stretching over 250 square kilometers, standing up over 74 meters (243 ft) above the water’s surface, Perito Moreno is an impressive sight. This massive glacier is very active as loses massive chunks of ice every few minutes putting on a show for spectators.
But what makes Perito Moreno unique is that the glacier actually grows just as fast as it recedes, meaning it isn’t shrinking overall (unlike most glaciers currently in the world.)
And while most visitors only see Perito Moreno from the front boardwalk, those who choose to go out trekking on the glacier get a whole new perspective and actually get to walk on top of this amazing natural wonder!
Perito Moreno Mini Trekking vs. Big Ice Tours
Both tours are operated by the same company (the ONLY company that operates Perito Moreno glacier trekking tours.)
The biggest difference between the two tours is the time spent on the actual glacier. Mini Trekking allows for 1.5 hours of walking on the glacier while the Big Ice tour allows for 3.5 hours. This makes the Big Ice tour also more physically demanding.
Mini Trekking on Perito Moreno is the most common tour people choose. It is cheaper, still a full-day activity, and suitable for almost all fitness levels offering a leisurely walk on the ice. People aged 10-65 can participate in glacier mini trekking as long as they have a moderate level of fitness.
Big Ice is more suited for those who don’t mind walking longer and on harder routes. It would be for those who want more of a thorough experience with better views.
For us, it was the novelty of actually trekking on Perito Moreno that we were really after. So for that reason (and the cheaper price), we opted for the more popular Mini Trekking glacier tour.
Here is a visual comparison of the two tours:
- Fitness level required: Moderate
- Price: $300 USD +
- Time on the glacier: 1.5 hours
- Time of the year the tour operates: September-June
- Fitness level required: High
- Price: $500 USD +
- Time on the glacier: 3.5 hours
- Time of the year the tour operates: September-May
Related Read: Seeing the marble caves in Patagonia is one of the best hidden gems you can do in Chile
Who is the Perito Moreno Mini Trekking experience for?
Everybody! Okay, not really, but the tour is recommended for anybody between the ages of 10-65 with decent fitness levels. You will need to walk for 1.5 hours at a leisurely pace. There are some hills as well, but most people will find the experience very easy and enjoyable.
On our tour, there were children as well as older people. Everyone had a smile on their face from beginning to end.
What to Expect on the Perito Moreno Mini Trekking Tour – A Breakdown of the Day
Here is exactly what you can expect based on what happened on our Mini Trekking Perito Moreno full-day tour:
Hotel Pick-Up in El Calafate (around 7-8am)
You will get picked up right from your hotel in El Calafate first thing in the morning. From El Calafate, you will drive a total of about 1.5 hours making a couple of stops along the way. First, you will stop at a viewpoint over Lago Argentino before entering Los Glaciares National Park.
At the Los Glaciares National Park, the bus will stop briefly and everyone will be asked to pay the park entrance fee (not included in the tour price.) The entrance fee is 4000 ARS (Argentine Pesos) or $23.50 USD per person.
Note: Your first entrance fee is always 4000 ARS (Argentine Pesos) or $23.50 USD and the second time (if you decide to come back) 2000 ARS ($11.80 USD)! So, if you entered Los Glaciares National Park the day before and already paid the fee, be sure to tell the park ranger and provide your previous ticket as proof. Your second entrance fee will then be reduced to only 2000 pesos ($11.80)!
Arrival at Puerto Bajo Sombras (the dock)
The bus will drop you off at the port just before 9 am. Here, you will have a few minutes to look around or use the bathroom before boarding your ferry!
Note: If you have your own car, you can drive yourself to the port and get a discount on the tour price! This is what we did and it worked just fine and allowed us to hang out at the boardwalk longer than the tour buses once the glacier trekking was over.
Scenic Ferry Ride
This was one of my personal favorite parts of the whole Mini Trekking tour!
Well, it was so beautiful! The boat takes you across the lake Brazo Rico and you cruise right next to the glacier. To be honest, I had no idea a scenic boat cruise was included in this tour – and it was amazing!
Although technically only a “ferry” the boat ride felt like a scenic cruise and lasted about half an hour. In fact, after having this ride I didn’t feel it was necessary to also book a scenic boat cruise!
We had incredible views of the glacier. Specifically, we saw the side of the Perito Moreno that you can’t actually see from the boardwalk which was really neat.
Tip: When you board the boat, sit on the right side. This is the side that offers views of the glacier. Alternatively, as soon as the boat departs, you are allowed to stand up and go to the outside viewing deck. My advice is to jump up and get outside along the right-hand-side railing straight away. I’m sure you’ll be blown away!
Arrival at the Lodge
Once off the ferry, we arrived at a small lodge. Here, there were cubbies where we could leave our packed lunches and anything we weren’t going to need out on the ice. There are also bathrooms that the guides advised us to use.
We were then dived into groups based on the languages we spoke. Our English-speaking group had about 20 people and we had two guides.
Next, we walked about ten minutes to reach the edge of the glacier where we got geared up and ready to hit the ice!
First, we were given helmets. We were also asked if we had gloves and anybody who didn’t was provided a pair. The gloves aren’t for the cold, but rather protection from the ice if you were to fall which can easily scrape up your skin.
Finally, it was the fun part – crampons! Crampons are metal frames you strap to your hiking boots or runners. They have metal spikes on the bottom that dig into the glacier ice allowing you to have grip! Without crampons, the glacier would be nearly impossible to walk on.
Dan and I have used crampons before, but many people on our tour never had. The guides actually strapped all of our crampons on for us and gave us a brief lesson before heading out onto the ice!
Glacier Trekking Time!
Now, it was time for the fun part. We followed one guide in a single file line onto the glacier. The glacier meets the land in one section and here you can easily walk onto it.
I don’t want to give away all of it, but you will see deep blue crevasses (breaks in the glacier ice), deep pools of water, a small ice cave, and amazing views!
We also were instructed to drink the water straight from the pools on the glacier, which I happily did!
There were a few places that were dedicated “photo stops” where each of us took turns getting pictures. For the most part though, we moved pretty steadily along.
The first guide always led the group while the second guide stayed at the back. The front guide provided information about the glacier as we went along.
The walk was fairly easy and felt safe. There were a couple of areas where we were instructed to be careful and a guide would help us step over a crevasse, but overall it felt 100% safe.
Whiskey on glacier ice, anyone?!
When our glacier trek was over, it was time to celebrate! There was a table with glasses set up on right the glacier for us. Our guide went and collected a bowl of ice straight from the glacier and poured us each a rather large glass of whiskey over the Perito Moreno Glacier ice – it was a great way to end the glacier trekking.
Lunch Break at the lodge
After finishing our whiskey, we headed back off the glacier and took all of our gear off. Then, we walked back to the lodge where we had just over an hour to eat our lunch and explore.
They do not provide lunch on this tour, it is very important that you pack your own as there is nowhere to buy it at this lunch stop.
There are tables both inside and outside of the lodge where you can eat your lunch with a view of the incredible Perito Moreno.
After I finished my lunch, I did a bit of exploring up on top of a large rock and watched Perito Moreno Glacier and all of its movements (ice chunks falling) until the boat arrived. We then jumped on the ferry to return to the original port across the lake.
Related Read: Find out when the best time to visit Perito Moreno Glacier is to avoid the crowds and get great weather!
Exploring the Perito Moreno Boardwalk
Once back at the bus, it is a short 10-minute drive to the famous Perito Moreno boardwalk. These boardwalks are how most people view Perito Moreno. There are over 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) of boardwalk stretching out over different viewpoints to see Perito Moreno.
It is spectacular.
Literally, you could find yourself on a bench and sit here for hours just watching massive chunks of ice break off the glacier face and splash into the water.
So, on this Mini Trekking tour, it is great that they also include a stop for just over an hour at the boardwalk! This way, you don’t need to make a second trip out this way to check it out another day!
Once at the boardwalk, you can choose a specific route to walk, or just wander aimlessly (like I did) until it is time to leave on the bus again.
Expect to be back in El Calafate around 5 pm.
What does the Mini Trekking tour include (and not include?)
There are a few things included in the Perito Moreno Mini Trekking tour, and a few things that aren’t.
Included in the tour price are:
- Equipment – Crampons, gloves, and helmets.
- Guide – Bilingual, Spanish or English
- Boat ride – to cross Brazo Rico lake to the glacier trekking starting point and return
- Transport (optional) – Most tours include transport in the booking price, but a discount is offered if you don’t need to take the bus and drive yourself.
- Lunch – it is a long day so be sure to pack a lunch. There is nowhere to buy lunch at the lunch stop.
- Water – You can drink the water on the glacier but be sure to bring a bottle for before and after the glacier trekking.
- Tip – If your guide is awesome, be sure to tip! It is customary in Argentina.
- National Park Entrance Fee – 4000 ARS per person or about $23.50 USD (as of September 2022). Tip: save your ticket stub if you plan to come back for a second consecutive day because your fee will be reduced to 2000 ARS ($11.80 USD).
- Travel Insurance – For all of your travels you should have adequate travel insurance just in case of the unlikely event something happens. We personally use Safety Wing because of their amazing long-term pricing.
What should you pack for glacier Mini Trekking?
There are a few things you should be sure to bring with you when going glacier trekking on Perito Moreno, including:
- Sunglasses – these are a must! Even on a cloudy day, the ice can get bright and the weather changes very quickly in Patagonia.
- Rain jacket – in case it rains – duh! Even if it isn’t forecasted, it is better to be prepared.
- Layers of clothing – it can be very cold out on the glacier so be sure to wear layers to stay warm.
- Hat – a warm hat or ear covers to keep our ears warm as well as a sun hat to protect you from the sun.
- Lunch – lunch is not included so be sure to pack one.
- Hiking boots or runners – True story, there was a girl on my tour wearing UGG boots. She still managed to get crampons on them, but it definitely isn’t recommended. Hiking boots or runners are preferred.
- Sunscreen – the sun is harsh, especially when reflecting off of the ice, so sunscreen is a must.
- Gloves – they will provide you with gloves if you need them but you might as well wear your own if you have them.
- Camera – You can bring your camera out on the ice so you can remember all of the best moments.
How much does a Perito Moreno Mini Trekking tour cost?
Ah, the question that’s on everyone’s mind…
Prices do vary depending on the time of year and who you choose to book though (read below to book with the cheapest provider.) However, expect to pay around $350 USD per person during peak season for the Mini Trekking. The Big Ice tour costs more at about $550 USD.
As I said before, if you don’t need a transfer out to the port and back to El Calafate (have your own car) then you can expect to save about $40 USD per person off this price.
How to book and which company to choose?
While you can book in person at a tour office when you arrive in El Calafate, I don’t recommend it. Tours often sell out. To avoid missing out you really do need to book online in advance to secure your spot. You can book the exact same tour as us here with Viator, a trusted company operated by TripAdvisor.
Related Read: We have a guide that cover all the different ways on how to get to Perito Moreno Glacier.
Is it worth it? (My overall honest opinion and review)
In short, yes.
Sure, it is a lot of money for a one-day tour. But as I said, I missed out the last time I was in Patagonia and immediately regretted it. And now that I’ve actually experienced Mini Trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier, I would highly recommend it.
The truth is, it is a touristy activity. There will be a boatload of people doing the same tour as you and the tour groups aren’t exactly small. But with that said, it is still an amazing experience.
The day is very structured and organized. The guides were friendly and informative and in terms of the overall operation of the tour, it was great.
If you’ve never walked on a glacier before, then you need to. And in all honesty, there is no better glacier to experience glacier trekking than Perito Moreno (in my opinion anyway!)
It was truly a day I will remember for the rest of my life.
Related Read: Glacier trekking is definitely one of our top Patagonia highlights, find out what our other favorite things to do in Patagonia are here!
Planning your Trip to Patagonia
Accommodation in Patagonia
Booking accommodation is one of the biggest aspects of your trip, and we should know as we stay in a new hotel up to 40 times per year! Funny enough, we make 99% of these bookings on one website and that’s Booking.com – and there are a few reasons why we use this site!
Number one is the website is easy to use and sorts accommodation options. That takes the stress out of planning which honestly still affects us and we do it more than not.
Second, is the price guarantee. We have literally booked a hotel months before and then 1 week out found it cheaper (we always do a quick search) and they’ll match that price from anyone’s website including the hotels!
And third, is the Genius loyalty program. If you make a certain amount of bookings per year you get a Genius discount. We are level two geniuses because we make more than 5 a year. At participating hotels, we get things like free breakfast included, early check-in, and up to 15% off.
You can check out all their accommodation options throughout Patagonia!
Renting a car in Patagonia
We enjoyed a rental car for our second trip to Patagonia – and wow, what a way to travel! But the best part was that we only paid $40 USD per day for a 5-person sedan!
But how? Well if you’re renting a car the cheapest company is Discover Cars. We often get questions from readers asking us if the website is fake because it seems too cheap!
If you do want to compare prices (and you should) do a quick search on Airport Car Rentals too. They’re another big competitor and each company often has its own deals to offer!
Tours in Patagonia
Tours are a tricky one. We love booking online because we can check reviews of that exact tour but they can be pricier than booking directly in person. So for this, we often do it 50/50 – half of the time in person and the other half of the time we book tours online in advance.
Related Read: Flying into Santiago International Airport? Check out the best things to do in Santiago before you get there!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!