One of Argentina’s most impressive natural wonders is the Perito Moreno Glacier, the world’s third-largest freshwater reserve.
The glacier is located in Los Glaciares National Park, in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz.
The national park where the glacier can be found is incredible in itself. Thirty percent of the park is covered by the most enormous ice cap outside of Antarctica and Greenland, including 48 different glaciers. Of this vast collection of glaciers, Perito Moreno—nicknamed “Glacier Moreno”—is certainly the most famous, and for good reason. Besides its massive size of 97 square miles, the glacier has a rich and engaging history behind it.
Starting in the year 1917, the glacier has partially ruptured on a number of different occasions. The phenomenon occurs when the glacier dams up a large amount of water from Lake Argentina, causing it to burst through the ice. To witness one of these natural explosions is an incredible experience that can only be fully appreciated firsthand. Many witnesses to this event have testified that it was the most exciting aspect of their Perito Moreno Glacier tour.
But by no means can the glacier only be appreciated during one of its ruptures. There are a variety of exciting ways to experience Perito Moreno’s beauty, which attracts hundreds of adventurers and nature enthusiasts every year. Daily boat trips allow a very attractive view of the glacier from the lake, and there are also a number of pathways on the Península de Magalanes, where visitors can get picture-perfect views and watch chunks of ice fall into the water.
However, many adventurers opt for a more invigorating kind of Perito Moreno Glacier tour. Participants are coached and provided with crampons (special traction devices that assist with walking on ice and snow) before they are taken to actually hike on top of the glacier itself. The experience of walking atop a 558-ft thick chunk of ice is unforgettable and a bit spooky, especially accompanied with the glacier’s strange blue-tinted glow.
Generally, visitors can decide which kind of Perito Moreno Glacier tour they’d like to take: the mini-trekking version, which lasts about 1-2 hours; or the more intense “Big Ice” version, which lasts approximately 5 hours. The second option allots much more time for exploring the glacier. Upon closer examination, visitors find that the glacier is not completely solid ice, but rather a diverse terrain of its own, with a variety of lagoons, crevices and even caves. The ice caves in particular, with the freezing lake water rushing closely beneath, are truly surreal.
No matter which Perito Moreno Glacier tour you decide to take, sunglasses and warm/waterproof clothes are necessities. In case it wasn’t obvious right off the bat, glaciers are extremely cold. Once you step onto the glacier, you won’t be getting off for awhile, especially during one of the longer tours, so you want to make sure you’ll be warm enough during the whole hike. Layering is a good idea, and a hat and sunscreen couldn’t hurt either, especially if it’s extra-sunny the day of your tour.
A Perito Moreno Glacier tour allows one to get up close and personal with a fascinating kind of environment. It’s easy to forget, especially during one of the “Big Ice” tours, that you’re really walking on water—frozen water, but water all the same. And beneath that frozen water is a deep, freezing cold lake that somehow coexists with the glacier.
Many Perito Moreno Glacier tours and especially the “Big Ice” tour allow visitors time to eat lunch on top of the glacier. To sit and relax on top of the glacier, which seems to stretch endlessly across the lake, is an out-of-this-world experience that can’t be properly described in pictures or words. Sitting on a desert of ice is a beautiful kind of isolation that most people never experience. Especially at the center of Perito Moreno, it’s difficult and often impossible to see where the edge of the glacier meets with the base of the Andes Mountains. You really start to feel as though the glacier is a world of its own. And in a way, with its tunnels, crevices, mini-lakes and caves, it is.