Putting the words ‘travel’ and ‘Argentina’ together evokes a number of images, but certainly one of them is of a field of ice spilling down out of mountains before ending dramatically in a lake. Although in reality this could be a number of different glaciers one may find in Argentina; in reality it is almost certainly the famous Perito Moreno Glacier. Tour Patagonia and a visit to this glacier will inevitably be on the list of necessary stops, and for good reason. No other glacier is as accessible, nor as dramatic. A simple bus ride away from the town of Calafate, a Perito Moreno Glacier tour combines comfort with the possibility of adventure, and above all, plenty of time to take in this rare phenomenon.
While many tours in Argentina require bus rides, few have the opportunity of being as preparatory as the one to the Perito Moreno Glacier. The guide helps underline the sheer extent of a glacier’s influence on geology, weather, and the water cycle, which requires some understanding. Outside, there are dramatic changes in the landscape. A kind of overture to the main show, dry Patagonian plain evolves into hilly, Andean forest, with the two arms of the Lake Argentino extending into swamps on either side. Once inside Los Glaciares National Park, one rounds the peninsula opposite the glacier to catch that first startling view. It doesn’t matter how many photos or films one has seen before, the first real life view of the glacier never fails to astound.
The first stop on the tour is to take a boat cruise. Of varying sizes, these offer a variety of ways to view the glacier, either from the inside or outside. For the best, freshest viewing option, go upstairs and wait in the front, right hand side of the boat. From afar, the Perito Moreno Glacier looks a bit like spilled ice cream. Once one nears the walls of ice, it finally becomes clear just how big the glacier is—especially when one considers that the hundred or so meters of visible ice is only 10 percent of the reality. Boats keep their distance from the icy cliff, with good reason. Every boat is almost guaranteed a spectacle as what appears to be a small sliver of ice suddenly comes off the wall, plummeting down to the water to create a splash that could easily overcome a careless craft.
The boat ride proves to be only the first taster of the Perito Moreno Glacier tour. From there there are two options. First, one can opt to put on cramp-ons and venture out onto the glacier, an experience so surreal it can only be replicated at the Earth’s poles. Surrounded by the ice and led carefully by a guide, one negotiates the enchanting terrain, which, after a short hike, hides all other surroundings from view. Close enough to touch, the ice continues to reflect an oddly spiritual blue colour. With luck, one can venture down into an ice cave, and be enveloped by the colour, as if under water.
Alternatively one transfers to the viewing boardwalks, where it becomes clear that the boat only accessed about a third of the whole glacier. This takes time to sink in, and fortunately the twisting paths to the twenty some different viewing platforms allow one to take it in from various elevations and angles. At some point, one gives up trying to take pictures that will somehow capture it, and, sitting, one simply stares. Gradually it becomes clear just how many years that crushed snow took to journey from its original resting place in the mountains to eventually slide down, fall off and become part of the lake, before either journeying by river to the ocean to evaporate, become cloud and perhaps fall once again as snow on top. One also becomes aware that the glacier is somehow alive as it descends and disintegrates one meter daily into the lake. Whichever way one’s thoughts progress, it will certainly include a certain amount of thankfulness for such an incredible opportunity.
Walking the board walks away from the views of the glacier, through the woods and around back to the main parking lot brings into perspective how undesirably short any visit to the glacier is. Taking one last glimpse before boarding the bus again is like the parting of close friends. This is why one can feel relief that the tour ends with a small liqueur of Calafate, a drink which guarantees one will return someday.
There are a great variety of tours in Patagonia that visit Argentina´s glaciers, hike Patagonia’s trails and travel to key destinations like Calafate, Chalten, Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine and more. For further information about tours in Patagonia, Argentina vacations or tours in Iguazu Falls, contact Argentina travel experts, Say Hueque – Tours in Argentina www.sayhueque.com