Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina: a Travel Guide
Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina
Besides its beauty and immensity, two things make the Perito Moreno Glacier to be one of the most famous landmarks of Argentina: it has a relatively easy access compared with other major glaciers in Patagonia; and its process of fracture is one of the wonders of the world. Yes, it’s true; there are a few glaciers in the Patagonian Ice Sheet bigger and higher than the Perito Moreno Glacier, even within Los Glaciares National Park. But none of them has the infrastructure that the Perito Moreno Glacier has, so they will remain unknown except to a lucky few. The second advantage, which really makes the Perito Moreno Glacier unique, is its process of fracture. This natural phenomenon that seemed to be lost because of climate change, now, to our delight, is taking place every couple of years (the latest in 2004, 2006 and 2008). However, when you are in front of the glacier, awestruck by its beauty, waiting that another big chunk of ice breaks apart from its wall, you will feel that it doesn’t really matter whether the glacier fractures or not during your visit, the Perito Moreno Glacier always has something spectacular to offer. This hub attempts to be a travel guide to help you in your trip to this fantastic Patagonian spot.
Types of Glaciers
According to their morphology, placement and characteristics the glaciers found in Los Glaciares National Park could be classified in:
- Valley Glacier: when its length occupies all or most of a mountain valley.
- Compound Valley Glacier: when a valley glacier is fed by several more glaciers in the same valley.
- Cirque Glacier: when the glacier occupies a not very large circular shape depression surrounded by mountains.
- Hanging Glacier: these glaciers originate high in steep mountainsides and are wider than long. Ice and snowdrop from its terminus by Avalanches and icefalls to the valley floor below.
- Reconstituted Glacier: it is the glacier formed by the accumulation, and reconstitution by pressure melting, of ice blocks which have fallen of one or more hanging glaciers.
- Calvin Glacier: when its terminus ends in a body of water into which calves icebergs.
Because of its placement and shape the Perito Moreno Glacier is a typical example of a valley glacier. From its accumulation area of about 182 sq km, which lies next to the Pietrobelli Mountain range (2250m high), the Perito Moreno Glacier flows down 22km skirting the Federico Reichert range to forming an ice face of 3km in front of the Magallanes Peninsula, between Canal de los Tempanos and the south branch of Lago Argentino. The geographical position and the high ice wall (up to 70m) have permitted the Perito Moreno Glacier to work as a natural dam that built up behind the icy wall. When the pressure of the water becomes irresistible the wall breaks down in a marvelous spectacle of the natural world. The last fracture took place during winter, in July 9th 2008 (the Argentine Independence Day) and was witnessed by only 40 very lucky tourists.
El Calafate Tourist Office: 1004 Julio A. Roca Street (Bus Terminal) El Calafate - Tel: (54 2902) 491090/491466 e-mail: info@ elcalafate.com.ar
In Buenos Aires:
Administración de Parques Nacionales (National Parks Administration) Office: 680 Santa Fe Avenue, Buenos Aires-Tel: (54 011) 4311 0303 ext 147 - e-mail: info@ apn.gov.ar
Santa Cruz Information Centre: 1120 Suipacha Street, Buenos Aires - Tel: (54 011) 4325 3098/3102 -e-mail: info@ santacruz.gov.ar
When to Visit:
As Los Glaciares National Park receives heavy snowfalls during the winter, the recommended time to go is in the summer season, from late October to early April. January and the first fortnight of February are best avoided due to the overwhelming number of visits. In winter it is possible to visit the Perito Moreno glacier from Calafate, but the supply of tourist excursions is very limited.
Permits & Regulations:
The park has an entrance fee of about US$ 10.
By Air: Aerolineas Argentinas has four flights from Buenos Aires to Calafate through Trelew and Ushuaia daily. There are also three or four flights per week to Calafate from Bariloche and Comodoro Rivadavia by LADE.
By Bus: From Buenos Aires there are several buses to Rio Gallegos daily. The journey takes about 36 hours. Once in Rio Gallegos there are buses to Calafate also dialy. In addition in high season there are several buses from el calafate to el Chalten and to Puerto Natales passing Cerro Castillo in Chile.
Accommodation & Camping
Accommodation is rather expensive in this part of Argentina. But if you like traveling in style and don’t mind expending quite a bit, Los Notros just in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier is the best place. More humble travelers have to search rooms in Calafate where there are options for everyone’s budget (but always expensive for Argentine standards). Middle range accommodation could be found in Hotel El Quijote at 1155 Gobernador Gregores Street. A recommended place to stay for budget-conscious travelers is Albergue del Glaciar at 251 Los Pioneros Street. There are also a number of camp grounds in the zone: El Arroyo at 58 José Pantin Street in the town of Calafate beside the Calafate stream, Lago Roca 60km from Calafate over the shore of Roca lake, Bahia Escondida a 8km from the Perito Moreno Glacier Balconies.
Darwin was the first in pointing out the possible existence of continental glaciers in southern Patagonia and in the Magallanes Peninsula, when he referred to the problem of the erratic bounder formation. He considered that these huge spherical rocks had been scattered by ice floes detached from the glacier fronts, possibly during the Pleistocene and well within the Quaternary. These formations can be seen near the Upsala glacier and around Puerto Bandera in Lago Argentino. Darwin (1843): “In the origin of the erratic bounder” taken from Gillermo A Chinni (2004) Glaciares del Lago Argentino y El Chalten - Zaguier & Urruty Publications.
What to do there:
Perito Moreno Glacier Full Day Excursion: a number of tour operators offer regular excursions to the Glacier. Buses depart from Calafate at 8:00 am and return to the town at 05:00 pm. From El Calafate there is 78km to the balconies, a series of walkways in front of the glacier where the tourist has 3 hours to marvel with the impressive view, every couple of minutes big chunks of ice breaks down into the water adding a source of expectation to the scene. After that, depending on the package you have booked, could follow the Minitrekking, the Safari Nautico, or remaining in the restaurant until the return to the town.
Safari Nautico (Sailing Safari): it consists of a navigation of one hour in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier wall in the Rico branch of Lago Argentino. The boats depart from the Bajo de las Sombras pier 8km before the glacier lookout. In high season there are departures hourly. This tour is easily combined with the Perito Moreno Glacier Full Day.
Minitrekking: an easy hiking with crampons of about one hour and a half over the Perito Moreno Glacier. The tour departs from Bajo de las Sombras pier crossing the Rico branch of Lago Argentino. Once in the opposite shore starts a forty minutes walk to the glacier. There, after strapping the crampons on, starts the hike over the ice. To celebrate the walk the hike ends with whisky and chocolates.
Big Ice trek: a hard four hour trek with crampons into the white immensity of the Perito Moreno Glacier. The trip leaves from Bajo de las Sombras pier, crosses the Rico Branch in 10 minutes, and follow a path over the moraine up to a viewpoint, where after putting the crampons on, starts the trek over the ice. During the four hour walk you can view deep crevasses, seracs, blue lagoons, and incredible ice caves, to sum up in this trek you can feel the glacier.
No travel to Argentina could be considered complete without visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier. It is simply fantastic, a major landmark of Argentina and a true natural wonder of the world.
Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina Rupture Winter 2008
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