It had been more than a year of my visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier, near the Patagonian town of El Calafate in the province of Santa Cruz, in October 2016.
It was not my first time in this magical, unique, unmissable place. I was lucky to visit in 1986, arriving by car from Buenos Aires. My parents had decided that our summer vacation would be totally different. Instead of the traditional and quiet holidays in Miramar, we would only spend a few days there, to depart on a road trip to the Patagonia Argentina.
We arrived after about 15 days travelling, stopping in many beautiful places of the Patagonia. In those days, El Calafate was a small town of a few blocks, almost without hotels, mostly hostels or family homes.
I remember arriving at the Perito Moreno National Park and being shocked by that beauty, that most of the Argentines didn’t know much about this unique place. Obviously El Calafate and the glacier had much less tourism than today. But already at that time, most of the visitors were foreigners, especially Europeans and Americans. In addition there was no paved road from Río Gallegos, the capital of the province of Santa Cruz, to El Calafate. These foreign passengers arrived by plane, the few Argentines mostly did it by car.
After 30 years, I returned with my husband, by plane. Already the airport of El Calafate shows us the change of that town that I remembered; even is still a small town.
This time we arrived from Ushuaia, around 5:00 PM, and went directly to the hotel, which was a bit far from the main avenue, but no more than five minutes by taxi. After checking in, we went to the downtown to book the glacier excursion for the next day, since we had not coordinated anything previously.
We hired the travel agency Hielo y Aventura (http://hieloyaventura.com/), renowned with a lot of experience.
The following day, they pick us up in a van at 7:00 am. After adding several passengers from different hotels, before leaving El Calafate we were transferred to a bus to join the group. The distance is about 80km, which in an hour and a half of paved road is very comfortably.
As being a tour, the agency deals with all the procedures at the entrance to the “The Glaciers National Park”.
In our case, with the people of Hielo y Aventura we hired, in addition to the visit to the park, the option of Mini Trekking, the famous walk on the Perito Moreno Glacier.
The guides gave us about two free hours to explore it, eat in the restaurant or just sit and contemplate this landscape, which not only offers unique beauty but a lot of peace.
Our guides told about the history of the park, the flora and fauna, as well as recommendations to move within it.
Keep in mind that the minitrekking takes place from the beginning of August until the end of May.
The Mini Trekking tour starts at the “Bajo de las Sombras port”. After crossing the Rico Lake by catamaran, that takes about 20 minutes, we arrived to the south wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
At the refuge, the guides organized the groups that each consist of up to 20 people. First, we enjoyed a beautiful walk along the shore of the lake for about 20 minutes until reach the glacier.
Upon reaching the edge of the ice the guides place the crampons to the participants, where we received instructions on how we should move on the ice. There begins the tour of an hour and a half, where we appreciate variety of ice formations such as: cracks, seracs, sinkholes, small lagoons. The ice surface on which we walked is irregular, but firm and safe.
Also the guides, very experienced, friendly and kind, told us about flora, fauna and general glaciology of the region as the rupture in the Perito Moreno Glacier occurs. Before leaving the ice they served us with whiskey and chocolates!! At the end of the walk, we returned to the refuge through the exuberant Magellanic forest.
For those who have more physical preparation there is another activity called Big Ice, a trip to the center of the Perito Moreno Glacier with duration of around seven hours between ice and forest. And for those who do not want physical activity, or cannot perform these medium and high impact walks, there is the option of Nautical Safari, navigation in front of the southern wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier. The departures are daily, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm with trips every hour, depending on the time of year.
Around 5:00 pm we were back on the bus to El Calafate.
The true is that we only wen to El Calafate for almost 3 days, leaving much to visit as the town El Chalten (you can do it in a day tour or stay some night there), Punta Walichu (original cave paintings), Glaciarium (modern center dedicated to the dissemination of the Patagonian Ice and Glaciers, one of the few glaciological interpretation centers in the world, http://glaciarium.com), Estancia Cristina, (you can go to spend the day or staying there), Upsala Glacier, and also the excursion for a day trip to Las Torres del Paine in Chile.
The day after our visit to the Glacier in the afternoon we flew to Buenos Aires so we spent our time walking around El Calafate. The hotel was located 200 meters from Lake Argentino, so we walked along the coastal road around the lake, the four kilometers that separate the hotel from the downtown, that walk worth it and I recommend it to get to know this town. In the neighborhood of the hotel are the most luxurious houses, with beautiful views of the lake.
Libertador Avenue, the main boulevard, it’s where you will find all shops, banks, municipality, some hotels, travel agency to book different excursions, many restaurants and bars.
I suggest to all those who have the possibility of traveling, do not miss our Patagonia. And of course, all my beautiful country. Come to Argentina, we have a lot to offer!!!
Below some links that will be useful to plan your visit to El Calafate and the Glacier Perito Moreno.