After getting our fill of one day back in civilization, we spent the following day seeing what El Calafate is really known for: the Perito Moreno Glacier.
The glacier is one of the largest in the world, 30 km in length and at least 5 km wide near its mouth. Its average height is 74 m above the surface the water.
What really makes the glacier worth a visit is standing in front of it and watching as sheets of ice crack off the front and plunge into the icy waters below. The sound is intense, like a bomb going off, and amazing to experience in person.
When its not losing pieces, the glacier continually snaps and crackles, giving you the feeling that it is living and breathing. The glacier moves up to 2 meters per day, which might be what explains all that noise!
Another unusual thing about the Perito Moreno glacier is that it is advancing, while most other glaciers in the world are receding. The reason for this isn’t fully understood.
Interestingly, the glacier has advanced so far that it blocks off the connection between the two lakes it sits next to. The creates a dam-like effect, and the water level in one lake significantly rises over time. This results in so much pressure against the glacier that eventually the water will bust through the ice, creating a huge gush of water as the “dam” is opened. It is apparently quite the event to witness!
The walkways built beside the glacier allow you to get a close-up view of the glacier. However, tourists are warned not to stand too close, as large ice chunks falling into the water have previously created small tsunamis which resulted in the death of nearby observers.
While it would have been fun to watch a big wave, we were happy that this didn’t happen while we were there.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located about an hour drive outside the town of El Calafate. It may be reached by private vehicle, shuttle bus, or a tour company from El Calafate. Apart from transportation, we don’t think a tour guide is necessary as there are lots of informative signs in the part and the glacier is fairly self explanatory.
Note there is an entrance fee to enter the national park where the glacier is located. At our time of entering, this amounted to roughly $40 CAD. There is parking near the glacier, as well as restrooms and a restaurant if needed.