Perito Moreno Glacier & Peninsula Valdés
Argentina´s Perito Moreno Glacier & Peninsula Valdés
Many travelers planning a visit to Chile, particularly to the Pumas of Pumaland, should bear in mind that while that far south already, one might consider an “open-jaw” itinerary design that involves entering South America or leaving South America through Buenos Aires. This design allows you to see both Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires on the same trip, and also to add to this clever itinerary design two of the most extraordinary sites in Patagonian Argentina: Perito Moreno Glacier and Peninsula Valdés.
The massive Perito Moreno Glacier is 30 kilometers long, covers 250 square kilometers, is 170 meters thick, and boasts a final, super-dramatic calving face that is five kilometers long and 74 meters tall. Year-round the glacier constantly calves chunks of ice into Lago Argentino, which with its 1,415 square kilometers of lake surface and depths from 100 to 500 meters, is the largest freshwater lake in Argentina and the second-largest in the entire Southern Cone. Despite the fact that most of the world’s glaciers are shrinking due to the climate crisis, this glacier stays at equilibrium, continuously dropping large chunks of ice into the lake. It is the most active calving glacier in South America, and one of the most active in the world.
The Perito Moreno Glacier and the nearly-as-impressive Upsala Glacier, which also calves into Lago Argentino, are the two main attractions of Argentina’s “Glaciers National Park” (“Parque Nacional los Glaciares”). This park is the twin park of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, with which it shares a 25-kilometer-long common border.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy the two big glaciers of the Argentinian park. The most popular way to view either of those two glaciers is to gaze at Perito Moreno from the ingenious, 2,000-meter-long, zig-zag matrix of user-friendly walkways positioned 300-500 meters from the glacier’s gigantic, terminal wall of blue ice.
As you watch the glacier, every half hour or so, a school-bus-sized chunk of blue ice topples from the top of the 70-85-meter-tall wall of ice and plummets into the blue waters of the lake, creating quite a noisy splash. If you are patient enough to wait on the walkway for a half-day or an entire day, you are likely to hear loud cracking noises like gunshots and then moments later, the roar of hundreds of thousands of cracking pieces of ice as a colossal piece of ice the size of the 22-story “flatiron building” of downtown Manhattan break off from the main wall and collapse into the lake, creating a humongous splash that sprays water 100 or more meters through the air.
Other ways to enjoy Perito Moreno and Upsala Glaciers include a relatively flat ice-hike on top of the first glacier or an all-day, scenic cruise across beautiful, iceberg-dotted Lago Argentino to the base of the terminal calving wall of Upsala. The cruise offers scores of close-up views of floating icebergs of striking shapes and fantastic blue hues.
Most visitors to this extremely popular Argentinian park spend two or three days visiting the park, and all of the lodging is located near or in the town of El Calafate, roughly 90 minutes of scenic drive from Perito Moreno Glacier.
In our opinion, Perito Moreno Glacier is in a three-way tie with Machu Picchu and the massif of Torres del Paine for the title of the most spectacular site in Latin America.
If your Patagonia trip will include entering or leaving South America through Buenos Aires, and if you are a wildlife fanatic, then you should consider a visit to the premier wildlife destination in all of Argentina: Península Valdés. This round, 900,000-acre peninsula connected by a narrow isthmus to the Atlantic coast of central Patagonia is famous for its dramatic, rocky seacoast and large, accessible colonies of Magellanic Penguins (the world’s largest colony of that species, in fact), Southern Fur Seals, South American Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, and numerous species of seabirds.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site also is famous for excellent viewing of Southern Right Whales, and, of course, the amazing, often-filmed Orcas that beach themselves to hunt sea lion pups. This dry, open, grassy peninsula also features Darwin’s Rheas, strange-looking Maras (the world’s fourth largest rodent, which looks like a cross between a dog and a rabbit), Guanacos, and many land birds.
Most of the spectacular wildlife of the peninsula is very seasonal in one way or the other. The phenomenon of Orcas hunting sea lion pups in the surf is restricted to the period of late March through early April, while most of the other most interesting species also are seasonal, but to a lesser degree.
A variety of hotels and lodges are available near and on the peninsula, but the best one for the Orcas is very small and fills up years in advance. Talk with our team to design the ideal visit for you.