The journey continues with Ammon and Sasha:
Though it might not have the name recognition of Machu Picchu or Iguazu Falls, to me the Perito Moreno Glacier has always been an A-list destination in South America. There was no way we were going to miss it, especially being in the neighbourhood.
From Ushuaia we flew an hour north to El Calafate still in the southwest of Argentina. It is also a very touristy town and a gateway to a region rich in southern Patagonian mountains, nature and hiking. It is a bit like a more remote and smaller Bariloche, built on the side of a lake with tons of tourists (including local backpackers), tour agencies, restaurants and a handful of chocolate shops again. Honestly we can’t say too much about El Calafate because it was raining the whole time in town and we were there only long enough to visit the glacier.
Being the touristy town that it is, there is a pretty well established system for visiting the glacier, with a choice of buses for a morning or afternoon half-day trip. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to the park and with set return times you get about 4-5 hours to walk down to the viewing area and watch the glacier. Why is it such a big deal since there are glaciers all over the world to see? Simply put it is the best and easiest place on the planet to witness a glacier rupture, collapse, break, etc.
The arm of the glacier extends down from the huge Southern Patagonian Ice Field (3rd largest after Antarctica and Greenland), extending into Lake Argentino at a very narrow section of the lake. At that point the glacier is 5 km wide and averages 75 meters high. On the other side of the lake, but feeling very close by because it is huge, there are a series of walkways leading to a number of viewpoints. It is then up to you how much patience and focus you have because on an average of something like every 20 minutes there are chucks breaking off the face as the glacier continuously expands into the lake. The cracking, moaning and splashing sounds are incredible but you have to keep scanning all the time to witness the actual breaks and pieces falling. They are often small but we were also lucky enough to see some full height, large sections collapse as well. Photos simply can’t convey the full effect.
|First glimpse of the glacier|
It is an amazing experience to watch the power of nature on that scale and in the end we didn’t even bother walking to all the different viewpoints because that would take time away from staring at the action. There is also the possibility to take boat tours up to the glacier or even walk on it. Front and centre was good enough for me. Unfortunately it was quite cold and overcast when we visited so it wasn’t as comfortable as it could have been. It was recommended that we take the afternoon trip as it is generally less busy and we found that to be true as far as we could tell. Even for being still in the busy season it wasn’t as busy as I expected.
Having seen and done a lot of mountains and snow lately we were definitely feeling ready to return to some warm summer action again, so we opted to skip some of other popular attractions in the area like Chalten and Torres del Paine, and flew much further north to Cordoba.