Perito Moreno is the biggest glacier in the world accessible by land and 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 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 km2. 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, like Machu Picchu it is just so fantastic even though touristy it is so impressive you don’t even notice other visitors, just standing staring at this massive glacier waiting for huge chunks of ice to break off and crash into the water below! 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.
You get close enough to the glacier to feel its icy breath on your face. The extensive system of wooden bridges allow 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.
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.
Best time to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier
The best season to visit Perito Moreno and Los Glaciares National Park is in summer, from November to March with the sunniest weather. It’s 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 from up close!
The ice falls into the lake more often in the afternoon after being warmed by the sun.
To share the site with less tourists 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 with public transport there will be less tourists arriving by afternoon bus than 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
Visiting Perito Moreno is quite expensive for foreigners. With super high inflation rate fluctuating between 40 and 50% in 2019, the price will vary in dollars, but prepare yourself to pay around $20, middle 2019 the price is ARS 800 ($15), find out what the current price is in El Calafate. The ticket is valid for one day only so try to come earlier to have enough time to explore the area. Tickets can be paid cash in local currency (Argentine pesos), by card or be bought online.
How to get to El Calafate?
By Air – There is an airport in El Calafate, only local flights arrive and depart here, direct flights from Ushuaia, Buenos Aires and 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 $20 with buses leaving several times a day, a 24-hour bus trip from Bariloche vary between $45 and $80 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 so many hitchhikers, so if you decide to do this I would recommend you start early. From El Calafate, we hitchhiked to Puerto Natales we had no 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. Your options for getting from El Calafate to Perito Moreno is from cheap to expensive; hitchhiking, bus, rental car, organised tour or taxi.
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 fuel cost. Hitching is not always a 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 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 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, price and schedule are similar. Caltur does two daily trips one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning trip departs at 09:00, takes about 2 hours and will return at 16:00. The afternoon trip departs at 13:00 and returns at 19:30. You have about 6 hours to spend at the glacier with these trips which should be sufficient. Bus tickets beginning 2019 cost around $20.
Rental car – 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. Check here for a comparison of Car Rental Companies and book it right here!
Take a taxi – OK, I know this sounds crazy, but some groups of friends organized a taxi in town, you can just ask at 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.
Go with a tour – this is definitely the easiest way to go, but is more expensive and limits your ability to move at your own pace. Prices of tours vary a lot and can be very simple just offering transport to including a guide telling you about the glacier, boat trips or glacier hikes.
Take sandwiches or snacks with you to the park everything is very expensive and there is only one pricey cafeteria to buy food.
Walking trails at Perito Moreno
The walking routes on the metal boardwalk facing the glacier is 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.
Perito Moreno Glacier Tours
There are a huge variety of tours 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.
Round trip transfer to Perito Moreno Glacier.
Enjoy a convenient round-trip transfer El Calafate to Perito Moreno from your hotel in El Calafate to the Perito Moreno Glacier. A bargain at about $20!
Perito Moreno Glacier tour with Optional Nautical Safari
Hotel pick-up and drop-off in air-conditioned vehicle. Embark on an optional boat cruise along a glacial lake of the Glacier. Round trip plus boat cruise
Round Trip Transfer and Boat Trip tour
Get picked up at your hotel in El Calafate. Sail for 1 hour in front of the glacier and get up to 300 m close. Tour plus Boat Trip
Boat tours can also be booked at the entrance to the national park, at the little booth that says ‘Navegacion’, trips depart on a regular basis.
Are you more adventurous?
Perito Moreno Glacier Mini Trekking Experience
This 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 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
South America Tours including Perito Moreno Glacier
Do you want to explore more than Perito Moreno? There are some amazing tours including Perito Moreno and some other spectacular bucket list items in surrounding countries.
Explore Perito Moreno as part of this 14 day day Hike Patagonia in depth adventure starting and ending in Buenos Aires. Hike through some very remote areas of Patagonia, experience the otherworldly Torres del Paine National Park, staggering El Chaltén, sobering Glacier National Park, and the highly celebrated W Trek.
Argintina and Chile Multi Sport Adventure, almost three weeks packed with every activity you can think of and then some! Trek through perfectly picturesque Patagonia, wake up early for whitewater rafting, hike through crisp mountain landscapes on Torres del Paine’s renowned W Trek, and bike, raft, and smile to your heart’s content, explore Perito Moreno on the way!
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 while 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 were quite low, so drawing money works out expensive. To get bigger amounts try to find ATMs of international banks like Citibank or Santander.
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 cheapes you are going to get away in El Calafate. AMSA camping is to the left from 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, nice highly recommended hotel, on the main street
- Luxury – Xelena Hotel & Suites, top rated, beautiful hotel with excellent lake views.
- Esplendor by Wyndham El Calafate – Highly recommended 4 star boutique hotel with central location
Where to eat in El Calafate?
The town is expensive and has many restaurants and bars but we never ate out there. We always cooked using our stove and one night we had a big barbecue with wine that our Argentinian friends made for us. There is a big supermarket with normal prices not far from the camping. There are some bakeries and butcher’s in the town as well.
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, buy a good steak to a barbeque at the campsite, there are also some bakeries with delicious treats. There is a range of great restaurants in El Calafate, feel like a pizza? Try La Lechuza, a good vibe, and a nice place for a pizza or empanadas. For good Patagonian lamb or a nice Argentine steak hit up Don Pichon. For a burger and beer try Pluschow Resto
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About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic Aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.
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