Perito Moreno galcier , El Calafate, Argentina. Perito Moreno backpacker's guide
Argentina Patagonia South America

Perito Moreno Glacier – the Ultimate Visitor’s Guide.

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. 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! 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. 

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.

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 most sunny weather. 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.  

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. You can pay only by cash in local currency (Argentine pesos), no cards accepted. 

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 Argentina lake in two parts. The water level difference between them can reach 30m.

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 deodo’ in Spanish) Patagonia for about 3 months no problems. We were lucky to get a ride with our neighbours in the campsite to Perito Moreno splitting 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. Want to know more about our 3 months exploring the Carretera Austral hitchhiking?

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

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.

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

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.

Perito Moreno glacier, El Calafate, Argentina
Perito Moreno glacier, El Calafate, Argentina

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?

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 barbeque in 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, good vibe and 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

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 Usuaya, 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, the 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 three months on the Careterra 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. Local people were very friendly and helpful. 

Want to know more about traveling South America check our South America travel budget article for tips and the cost of traveling this amazing continent on different budgets.
https://stingynomads.com/south-america-travel-budget/

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6 Comments

  1. 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

      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!

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

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

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

  3. 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

      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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