Complete Guide to visiting Perito Moreno Glacier in 2020
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The Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Patagonia. This huge chunk of ice is both very unique and extremely impressive to see.
I have personally visited this glacier twice now and honestly, I would love to come back again – it’s just that breathtaking!
When it came to visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier for the second time, it was a breeze. I knew where to go, what to do, and how to do it for a very reasonable price.
But, as you can imagine my first time didn’t go that way.
That’s why I’ve decided to write this complete guide to visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina. Because let’s face it, for most, it’s your first time here, and I want your experience to be as magical as mine!
Here’s everything you need to know before you go all in one blog!
General Info about the Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the Santa Cruz Provence of Argentina in Los Glaciares National Park. This huge chunk of ice is 1 of 48 glaciers that make up the Patagonia Ice Field (which is the 3rd largest ice field in the world only beaten by Antarctica and Greenland!)
The glacier was named by 19th-century explorer Perito Moreno, and in 1981, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In size, the glacier is 5km (3.1 miles) wide and 30km (19 miles) long occupying an area of 250 square kilometers (96 square miles).
From the water’s edge of Lake Argentino, Perito Moreno stands up to 74m (240ft) from the water and is 170 meters (560 ft) thick.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most unique glaciers in the world because of one reason… it’s still growing! Only 2 other glaciers in the world share this key fact that has baffled scientists and caused international attention.
Because of the glacial growth, the Perito Moreno Glacier is alive and as the glacier grows and retreats huge chunks of ice break off and fall into the lake below. This movement makes the Perito Moreno Glacier one of the best glaciers to visit in the world and my personal favorite!
Where is the Perito Moreno Glacier?
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the southern region of Patagonia in Los Glaciares National Park. The closest town to Perito Moreno Glacier is El Calafate. This small touristic town is located only 80km from the glacier and is the best place to stay to visit Perito Moreno.
Despite what the name suggests, the town of Perito Moreno is located 370 miles north of the glacier and is not at all a good place to base yourself to explore the glacier.
Entrance Fees and Other Info About Los Glaciares National Park
The entrance fee (as of December 2019) to Los Glaciers National Park is 800 ARS (Argentine Pesos.) This entrance fee is only valid for 1 day. However, your second consecutive day entrance fee is reduced to only 500 ARS. This is only valid for the very next day (and then on the third, you will have to pay 800 ARS again.)
The entrance fee can be paid in cash or with a credit or debit card at the national park entrance gate.
The gate to the national park opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm (summer) and 9 am to 4 pm (winter.) But, you can stay in the park for two hours after the last entrance time.
From the entrance gate, you are 30 kilometers from the glacier which takes around 30 minutes to drive due to the windy road. Along this road, there are also other viewpoints of the glacier that are clearly marked.
*Please note: Due to hyperinflation in Argentina, the entrance fees continue to rise in Argentine Pesos but more or less cost the same when converting to an international currency based on my visit from 3 years ago.
Getting to Los Glaciares National Park and Perito Moreno Glacier
From El Calafate, it takes about 1 hour to reach the Los Glaciares National Park Entrance Gates by car. From there, it’s another 30 minutes to the glacier via a paved, but windy road.
There are many ways to get to the Perito Moreno Glacier but not all are equally as good. Of course, your decision will likely come down to budget, whether you are doing a tour, group size, and the experience you are after.
Here are the 5 different ways to get to the national park and Perito Moreno Glacier:
1. Rent a car
The first option is to rent a car and drive yourself. I personally chose this option the second time I visited and loved it!
For one, I got to visit the glacier first thing in the morning when almost no one else was there. And two, I could stay as long as I wanted and had way more freedom overall!
Another benefit was that I actually saved money. The reason being is that I did the glacier Mini Trekking Tour on Perito Moreno and that tour offered transport at a cost of $32 USD extra per person. There were 4 of us so that would’ve cost us $128 USD!
My rental car only cost me $40 USD per day (over a 10-day rental).
Rental cars vary in price and depending on how far in advance you book it, duration of booking, the season your visiting, and the car you choose. The cheapest place I found was on Airport Car Rentals.
On this website, you can compare hundreds of suppliers so you get the best deal. RentalCars.com is also a very safe and easy to use website!
For a one-day rental in town with 1.5 months’ notice, expect to pay around $60 USD. This is much cheaper than the bus, especially for 4 people.
My recommendation is to rent your car for a few days (or your whole trip like I did) so it’s not only cheaper, but you can check out some of the other awesome things to do in El Calafate!
Plus, what could be better than a Patagonia road trip?!
2. Take a taxi
The second option is to take a taxi to Perito Moreno from El Calafate. The first time I visited this is what I did and in my opinion, is a great way to get to Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate!
Between 4 people, this will work out around the same as the bus and a little more than the rental car. But the upside is that you’ll be able to take your time and visit at one of the less busy times (like first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon) and won’t have to worry about driving.
You’ll have to negotiate the price and it will depend on how long you spend at the glacier, but expect to pay around $100 USD. I paid only $80 USD 3 years ago with a little tough bargaining.
This option won’t make sense if you’re planning on joining a cruise or trekking tour as the taxi driver will have the wait around for a long time and this will cost more. However, if you just want to walk the boardwalk for 2 hours then this is a good option.
3. Take the public bus
The third option is to take the large buses from the main bus terminal in El Calafate. This option gives you the least amount of freedom but for a solo traveler or couple, it could be the cheapest and most convenient option.
The return bus ticket to Perito Moreno from El Calafate costs $30 USD per person. There are various different departure and return times to choose from. You can book your tickets directly at the bus terminal in El Calafate or through your hotel.
The cheapest option to get to the national park is to hitchhike. Of course, this option means you’re at the mercy of others but if you get onto the main highway out of El Calafate at around 7:30 am I am sure you will eventually find a ride.
Lots of people drive this way and almost all of them are going to Perito Moreno Glacier, so just make a sign so your intentions are clear and go for it!
Of course, make sure you allow lots of time on the way back so you don’t get stuck in the park.
5. Tours to Perito Moreno Glacier
A very easy way to get to Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glaciares National Park is on an organized tour. This way, you’ll get private transport to the glacier as well as a knowledgeable guide to show you around.
When it comes to price they aren’t much different from the cost of the bus! In fact, DayTours4U (the company I did the glacier hike with) charge between $32 – $40 USD per person for the transfer and they even have discounts for kids (that you won’t get on the bus!)
You can check out their Perito Moreno Glacier tour here for more info and to book.
Another great option is to book this tour for $60 USD that also includes a cruise. It’s great value when you consider the price of just the bus!
The Perito Moreno Viewpoint and Boardwalk
The most commonplace to see Perito Moreno Glacier is from the boardwalk, often referred to as “the viewpoint.” It is important to understand that these are the same thing.
If you take a taxi, bus, tour, or drive yourself this boardwalk will be your end destination to check out Perito Moreno.
The Perito Moreno Boardwalk is not one small viewing platform, but rather a 4 kilometer-long stretch of boardwalk offering multiple viewing platforms all with different angles in which you can see the glacier.
Navigating the Perito Moreno Boardwalk
Once you arrive at the Perito Moreno Boardwalk/viewpoint, you’ll be dropped off at the north edge of the boardwalk in a large parking lot. On the map above you can see this area labeled as “Lower right side”.
From this parking lot, you have two options:
1) Get on the boardwalk straight away and begin walking the blue track (on the map above) towards the yellow and black tracks. This walk is about 1.5-2 km long.
2) Take a free shuttle that will drive you to the “Upper left side” (labeled on the map) and begin exploring the boardwalk from there.
*Both of these options also work for getting back to the main car parking lot when you’re ready to leave.
All of the different colored paths link up one way or another and there are maps and information posted along the way so you won’t get lost.
In my opinion, the yellow and orange trails have the best views. So, if you’re short on time, consider skipping the blue and instead take the shuttle straight to the black and explore from there.
Best Time of Day to Visit Perito Moreno Glacier
I have personally visited Perito Moreno Glacier first thing in the morning when the gate opens at 8 am, at sunset before the gate closes, and in the middle of the day – here is what I think of each of time of day:
Middle of the Day
To be honest, the middle of the day is the worst time to visit Perito Moreno Glacier. This is not only because of the crowds but also because I had a very sunny day and there is little shade on the boardwalk. In fact, I left a little earlier than planned because the sun was really harsh.
At sunset or near closing time, there are the least amount of people and the sun is far less harsh.
If you’re a photographer, then you may want to avoid this time as you can’t stay late enough to catch a proper sunset and the sun sets right behind the glacier shooting the light straight into your camera.
On the morning I was due to start my glacier trekking, we were first through the gate to the national park and arrived at the glacier with not a soul in sight!
It was cool, quiet, the sun was behind us, and it was magical. By far my favorite time to visit is first thing in the morning!
There is one catch though…
It doesn’t take long for the boardwalk to get busy, so enjoy this first hour of peace because it’s so amazing!
Perito Moreno Glacier Tours
There are many different Perito Moreno Glacier tours you can do around and on the glacier. These tours offer a unique way to explore Perito Moreno and also usually include a visit to the boardwalk for just over an hour!
They are all great full-day tour options to make the most of your visit to Perito Moreno Glacier.
*Note: You can also book the below tours by themselves without transport. This means if you have a car, you can drive yourself and meet the tour group at the tour starting point in the National Park. This is what we did and it saved us quite a bit of money (the tour company we booked offered a reduced price if you don’t need transport!)
From the viewpoint you can see the glacier from pretty close, but the only way to actually touch the glacier is on a glacier trekking tour. The tour was always a “bucket-list experience” for me that I regretted not doing on my first visit here.
So when I returned the second time, I made sure I didn’t make the same mistake!
There are only two different glacier trekking tours you can do on Perito Moreno: Mini Trekking, and Big Ice. Both tours are operated by the same company. The biggest difference between the two tours is the time spent on the glacier.
On the Mini Trekking tour you’ll spend about 1.5 hours on the actual glacier and on the Big Ice tour you’ll get 3.5 hours. The Mini Trek tour goes for around 10 hours total from pick up to drop off, whereas the Big Ice Trek is a 12 hour day.
Both treks start at the same place and involve a short scenic ferry ride to get to the glacier before beginning to walk on the glacier.
If you want more info on the tours you can check out our Perito Moreno Glacier trekking guide or use the comparison table below.
|Mini Trekking||Big Ice|
|Fitness level required||Moderate||High|
|Price||$154 USD +||$304 USD+|
|Time spent on the glacier||1.5 hours||3.5 hours|
|Time of year the tour operates||September-June||September-May|
Perito Moreno Glacier Kayaking
Another hands-on tour is the glacier kayaking. This adventure tour will have you mere inches from the freezing cold water of the lake and paddling past icebergs.
This was definitely a tour I wanted to do, and if I could do it all I would have! However, watching the kayakers from the viewpoint was all I got to do!
The kayaking tours to the glacier can be booked from El Calafate that include transport, or at the glacier boardwalk itself (as long as it’s not already sold out.)
No matter what you choose, this is the ultimate glacier kayaking adventure!
If you want to see the glacier in the most relaxing way possible then a scenic cruise is your best option. Of course, there are many different cruises with the main difference being how long the cruise is and how many glaciers you’ll get to see.
The shortest cruise leaves from the boardwalk area and only lasts for around 40 minutes to an hour. These cruises are a great short but sweet option that visits the Perito Moreno Glacier only.
However, if you want a longer experience that explores more of the national park, then this 10-hour cruise that visits 3 glaciers and cruises to the north side of Los Glaciares National Park is a top seller. Of course, these cruises spend all day on the water so if you still want to visit the boardwalk too, you’ll have to come back the next day.
There are a heap of other cruise options you can check out!
For the ultimate glacier experience, consider this 3-day glacier cruise that’ll have you sleeping onboard a ship right next to glaciers – a crazy amazing experience if you ask me!
What to Pack to visit Perito Moreno
It’s best to pack lots of layers because the weather in Patagonia is so unpredictable. On a sunny day with winds, it can be very cold but without wind, it can be extremely hot!
It can also rain at any time so pack for any weather. Some other things to pack are:
Sunglasses – The sun really reflects off the ice so sunglasses will come in handy (and on the glacier trekking are a must!)
Sunscreen – Don’t be fooled by the cool temperatures, the sun here is really strong!
Good shoes – There isn’t that much hiking to do on the boardwalk but comfortable walking shoes are a great idea.
Water – You can fill up right from the lake if you want, but be sure to bring a large bottle filled with water just in case you don’t go to the lake’s edge.
Lunch – There is a restaurant but expect to pay around $30 USD for lunch.
Camera – That’s a no brainer!
Cash – The restaurant does take card but just in case, some cash would be wise.
Lip Balm – To save your lips from the wind, dry air, and sun.
Rain jacket – the weather changes so quickly so it’s best to be prepared regardless of the forecast.
Warm clothes – it can be super-hot or freezing cold, just be prepared.
Where to Stay in El Calafate
Budget Hostels in El Calafate
Hostel Lago Argentino – This hostel is a good cheap option that I have stayed at before. The hostel includes a nice breakfast, a large kitchen, and helpful staff. The location is also central!
Red House Hostel – This highly rated hostel comes at a really cheap price. The hostel is very well designed, clean, comfortable and has a great social atmosphere.
Folk Hostel – This is one of the best budget hostels in El Calafate. It’s a great option (if it’s available.) The staff are amazing, the facilities are modern and clean, and the location is perfect!
Mid Budget hotels
Hotel Amado – This beautiful hotel is located as close as you can get to the middle of town. It’s clean, modern, and a great place to stay for those looking to be close to town.
Todos Los Glaciares – A nice new hotel with amazing reviews about the staff who go out of their way for guests including picking people up from the bus station. The breakfast is also highly reviewed!
Del Glaciar Libertador Hotel – Simple hotel located only 10 minutes from town. Includes a good breakfast and they also have an amazing social bar and restaurant.
Aparts Calafate Suites – This place rents self-contained apartments for optimal privacy. The apartments are modern, well furnished, and perfect for those wanting more comfort and quality in El Calafate.
Boutique Hotel La Cantera – If you really want a slice of luxury then this hotel is one of the best options. The building itself is stunning and the location and views are amazing. They serve a buffet breakfast and have their own restaurant and bar.
Before you go…
Thanks so much for visiting our travel blog! We really hope you found what you were looking for and now have all the info you need to enjoy and an epic trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier!
Please, if you have any questions leave them below and we will get back to you!
You can read more informative blogs about Patagonia or Chile or Argentina! Otherwise, check out some of our personal favorites:
- BEST Things to do in Argentina
- Puerto Madryn, Argentina Travel Guide
- Guide to Hiking the Torres del Paine W Trek
- South America Safety Tips
February 24, 2020