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Perito Moreno Glacier – 2023 Ultimate Visitor’s Guide

Perito Moreno in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentine Patagonia is the biggest glacier in the world accessible by land. It is one of the most spectacular sites in South America and I rate it right up there with Iguazu Falls and the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. The glacier and the Laguna de Los Tres hike to Mt Fitzroy both located in the park were our highlights to visit on the Argentina side of Patagonia. The Perito Moreno Glacier is located about 80km from the town of El Calafate.

perito moreno glacier view from boardwalks
Excellent view of Perito Moreno glacier from balconies.

The massive glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field including several other well-known glaciers in Chile and Argentina. A visit to Perito Moreno Glacier can be combined with hiking in El Chalten or backpacking in Torres del Paine.

Perito Moreno is 30 km in length expanding over 250 square kilometers (96 square miles). The glacier is truly spectacular, it is very touristy, but the infrastructure is great, and being surrounded by walkways and balconies with multiple excellent viewpoints all the other tourists did not bother me. Visiting the glacier by boat tour is another popular option. See amazing sites on a guided day trip by boat in the Glacier National Park. Perito Moreno in the south and Iguazu Falls in the north are probably the two biggest attractions in Argentina and must-visit places in South America.

Tour boat compare to the size of the glacier looks like a tiny kayak. Perito Moreno backpacker's guide
A boat taking tourists closer to the massive Perito Moreno Glacier.

You get close enough to the glacier to feel its icy breath on your face. The extensive system of wooden bridges allows you to walk for an hour or two and see the glacier from different angles and cruise boats can take you even closer to experience the glacier, if you want to explore the glacier trekking tours are available to take you out to walk on parts of the glacier. Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier was one of the highlights of our Patagonia itinerary.

If you’d like to see an off-the-beaten-track glacier and have a little adventure on the way to it O’Higgins Glacier Trek might be the great one to visit. The most famous glacier was declared as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1981.

There has been a significant drop in the value of the Argentinian Peso compared to the USD  since 2020, so for foreigners traveling this makes a big difference. Prices in this article were updated in August 2023.

The best time to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier

The best season to visit Perito Moreno and Los Glaciares National Park is in the summer months, from November to March with the sunniest weather. This is high season with many tourists. Great weather makes this a perfect time if you planning to do day hikes in Patagonia or a couple of multi-day treks. On sunny days you have the best chance to experience the ice cracking and crashing into the lake, this spectacle is called ‘calving’ and happens almost every half an hour if you are lucky you can see this incredible visual experience from up close! Visiting the glacier is an unforgettable day. 

To share the site with fewer tourists during peak season your best chance is to arrive early in the morning before the buses start arriving, the best way to do so is by taxi or renting a car. If you come by public transport there will be fewer tourists arriving by afternoon bus than by morning bus on most days.  

If you want to know more about traveling to South America check our South America travel budget article for tips and the cost of traveling this amazing continent on different budgets.

Entrance fee to Perito Moreno 

In August 2023 the price to visit Perito Moreno is ARS 10000 ($36), find out what the current price is or buy online here. The ticket is valid for one day only so try to come earlier to have enough time to explore the area. Tickets can be purchased with a credit card (Visa/Mastercard), debit card (Electron), or in cash (Argentine pesos).

The glacier splits Argentino lake in two parts. The water level difference between them can reach 30m. Perito Moreno backpacker's guide
The glacier splits Argentino lake in two parts. The water level difference between them can reach 30m. Perito Moreno backpacker’s guide

How to get to El Calafate?

The Perito Moreno Glacier can be reached from the town of El Calafate in the Santa Cruz province in Argentina. The most common way to get to El Calafate is by bus with connections from El Chalten, Puerto Natales, and Bariloche.

By Air – There is an airport in El Calafate, only local flights arrive and depart here, and direct flights from Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, and San Carlos de Bariloche several times a day.

By Bus – This is the most popular way of transport to El Calafate, transport by bus in Patagonia is pricey. We had a lot of competition hitchhiking from El Chalten to El Calafate since many backpackers went to the bus station and decided to hitchhike since it was too expensive, the three-hour trip from El Chalten to El Calafate is around $28 (07/2023) with buses leaving several times a day todays bus ticket price.

A 24-hour bus trip from Bariloche varies between $45 and $150 USD.

Hitchhiking – We found hitchhiking in Patagonia to work very well and this was our way of transport for traveling the Carretera Austral. From El Chalten to El Calafate there were many hitchhikers, so if you decide to do this I would recommend you start early. From El Calafate, we hitchhiked to Puerto Natales without problems. The local people were very friendly and helpful. 

How to get to Perito Moreno from El Calafate?

Perito Moreno Park is 80 km away from El Calafate, you will most likely go to Perito Moreno from El Calafate. There are plenty of options to make this trip and you can do it daily by bus, rental car, organized tour, or taxi. Hitchhiking is even a very popular way to travel for backpackers.

Book a tour – this is the easiest option with a hotel pick-up and is not too expensive relative to transport prices. Check out this well-rated tour from Patagonia Dreams for $35 (August 2023). Optional Boat ride included. Get to the front of the glacier on a boat trip!

Hitchhiking is the cheapest way to get to the glacier, it is relatively safe and easy in this part of the world, we hitched around (called ‘a dedo’ in Spanish) Patagonia for about 3 months with no problems. We were lucky to get a ride with our neighbors in the campsite to Perito Moreno splitting the fuel cost. Hitching is not always very reliable time-wise and you may end up spending little time at the glacier. If you decide to hitch start early in the morning when most people drive to the park.

Take a bus – ARS$ 10 000 ($37) for bus tickets August 2023

From El Calafate bus terminal to Perito Moreno Glacier. There is no public bus transport to the park, but several companies have a daily bus service between El Calafate and Perito Moreno. You can book a return ticket at the bus terminal and can buy one when going, but try to do it the day before to make sure you have a spot. There are several bus companies doing the return trip, and prices and schedules are similar. Caltur departs from El Calafate to Perito Moreno twice daily. There is an 9:00 am bus with returns from the park at 4:00 pm and a second departure time at 13:00  that returns at 19:30 from the park.
The approximate stay time is 5 hours.

Rental car – Rental Cars is an excellent company for booking car rentals. Renting a car allows you to miss the crowds and arrive at a  good time – early! All public transport starts arriving later and the park gets super busy. This is definitely the most convenient way to travel the whole Carretera Austral and allows you the most flexibility to travel from El Calafate to Perito Moreno. Just jump on Provincial Route No. 15 from El Calafate, it will take you about an hour and a half to drive the 80km (50 miles) to Perito Moreno.

Take a taxi – Ask your hotel/hostel to phone and organize a taxi. This is not that expensive if you are sharing and your driver will happily wait while you go and explore.

Walking trails at Perito Moreno

The walking routes on the metal boardwalk facing the glacier are well-marked with spectacular viewpoints of the glacier. There are several trails of varying difficulty taking 45 minutes to an hour and a half to complete. Here you can observe the glacier from balconies located at different heights and appreciate this wonder from different perspectives.

Perito Moreno Glacier Tours

A huge variety of Perito Moreno Glacier tours are available varying between $20 and $200. All tours do not include drop-off at your hotel and entrance to the glacier, so just make sure when you book your tour what is included. Please read recent reviews written by other travelers on the specific tour.

Tours can also be purchased in the national park at a booth with a sign saying ‘Navegacion’

Perito Moreno Tour by Boat

On a boat tour at the glacier, you will sail across the Rico arm of Lake Argentino. Sailing between floating ice close to the spectacular 196-foot (60 meter) high front wall it is an unreal vantage point for taking photos. Watching massive chunks of ice crash into the water crashing into Lago Argentino is an unforgettable sight. This popular Perito Moreno Glacier Day Trip with Optional Boat Ride from El Calafate includes an optional boat trip. 

Perito Moreno Glacier Mini Trekking Experience

The Glacier Mini Trekking is an extremely popular, well-rated activity, everybody we spoke to loved it! We have done this at other sites and were a bit limited on time and budget so we did not do this, but it does look fantastic. Glacier Mini Trekking

Perito Moreno Glacier Big Ice Trek

Do a longer trek on the glacier combined with a hike in the Patagonian Forest. Experience an unforgettable hike across the ice on the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier. From El Calafate, embark on an incredible Patagonian adventure as you marvel at the ice flow from new angles and learn about this frozen landscape. Strap on some crampons, grab your ice pick, and get ready! Big Glacier Trek

If you like hiking you can combine a trip to Perito Moreno with a visit to Torres del Paine National Park where you can do amazing day hikes or one of the challenging multi-day treks such as the O circuit or the W trek.

Perito Moreno Kayak Tour Experience

Explore the famous Moreno glacier with a guided kayak tour including full transfer, hotel pick up and drop off. Experience this natural wonder from the viewpoint of the water. Walk the footbridges which surround the glacier. Glacier Kayak Adventure

El Calafate, the gateway to Perito Moreno

The city is 80 km away from the park and the majority of tourists who come to see the glacier stay here. It has good infrastructure and all you need to spend a couple of days visiting the famous glacier. It is a nice little holiday town, but it was a bit touristy for our liking.

An advantage is however that all conveniences can be found here, in El Calafate there are several ATMs and money exchange places. Fancy shops, supermarkets, and restaurants accept cards. The withdrawal limit at local ATMs was quite low, so drawing money works out expensive. To get bigger amounts try to find ATMs of international banks like Citibank or Santander.

Perito Moreno glacier, El Calafate, Argentina
Walking around on the boardwalks you get plenty of great views of the glacier.

Accommodation in El Calafate

Since everything in El Calafate revolves around tourism there is plenty of accommodation in all budget ranges.

Shoestring Budget – Camping is definitely the cheapest you are going to get away in El Calafate. AMSA camping is to the left of the bridge. The camping was good and clean when we were there. It has toilets, hot water showers, electricity, tables and benches, wi-fi at the reception area, and places for barbecue. Most of the tourists here are locals many with their own cars it’s a nice place to meet people and maybe arrange a ride to the park.

  • Budget accommodation – Bla Lodge Great location, good views, well-rated, cheap dormitory beds, always easy to organize trips from a hostel.
  • Mid-Range – Hotel Quijote, a nice highly recommended hotel, on the main street
  • Luxury – Esplendor by Wyndham El Calafate – Highly recommended 4-star boutique hotel with a central location
Perito Moreno glacier, El Calafate, Argentina
Perito Moreno glacier, El Calafate, Argentina

Where to eat in El Calafate?

El Calafate has a huge range of restaurants catering to different budgets. If you are backpacking there is a big supermarket, do yourself a favor and go to the butchery in town, and buy a good steak to barbeque at the campsite. The town also has some bakeries with delicious treats. There is a range of great restaurants in El Calafate with pizza, steaks, burgers, empanadas, or whatever you feel like.

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Aleksandr

Saturday 2nd of November 2019

Correction to the article: according to the national park web page, you can pay for the ticket via card now. And you can also purchase it in advance online.

Stingy Nomads

Friday 22nd of November 2019

Thank you for commenting Alex, I am adding that to the post.

Jonas

Thursday 7th of December 2017

Hi! We're currently traveling in South America and just wanted to say that every time we try to find some advice online your blog shows up! We've planned a lot based on it - From hiking in Ausangate, to pitching our tent in the desert of San Pedro de Atacama, and now we're down in Patagonia trying to figure out how to visit the Moreno Glacier the best way. Thanks for sharing! If you've heard about a place where you can camp close to the glacier (so we can watch the sunset/sunrise) let us know :-)

All the best, Jonas and Maiken

Stingy Nomads

Friday 8th of December 2017

Hi, Jonas! Thank you for the comment! We're glad our blog was helpful for you! We camped in El Calafate and went to the glacier in the morning (didn't have to hitch we made some local friends in the camp and they gave us a ride) didn't see any campsites close by while driving. Some people mostly cyclists go camp somewhere in the bush just before the park gate but it's still quite far from the glacier I'm not sure you'll be able to watch sunrise fro there. There is campsite in the park itself. If you find something, please, let us know! Goo luck and enjoy Patagonia!

Elodie

Sunday 5th of March 2017

Very precious thisarticle. Thank you :) One question: How did you go to El Chalten ?

stingynomads@gmail.com

Sunday 5th of March 2017

Hello, Elodie! Thank you! We hitchhiked from El Chalten to El Calafate and from El Calafate to Puerto Natales. Cheers!

Christine

Thursday 3rd of November 2016

you guys - i should have read all your imfo befor i booked my toour! You have amazing advise - one should just take the time to do it!

stingynomads@gmail.com

Friday 4th of November 2016

Thank you, Christine! I'm sure you'll enjoy your tour and Patagonia! And Yes, you need time to do it on your own;)

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