A quick day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier
I woke up early to book a tour to the Perito Merino Glacier, which is pretty much El Calafate's sole attraction. Located only about 50 miles from the small town, the Perito Moreno Glacier, part of Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park, is one of the few glaciers in Patagonia that, despite global warming, is actually growing.
I initally wanted to book an ice trek, where you can actually go on the glacier with crampons, but the tour was full, since they only have one per day. I was a disappointed initially, but decided that I was probably too tired to have enjoyed it. I also did a glacier trek on the Franz Josef Glacier when I studied abroad in New Zealand, so I told myself I wasn't missing anything.
The bus ride to the glacier was scenic, as I had come to expect of anywhere in Patagonia.
My tour guide, Rebecca, spoke both Spanish and English, but this ended up being one of the few times I wished I knew a little more Spanish. Usually, she would say something about the scenery or history for about 3 minutes in Spanish, and only 30 seconds in English, so I definitely think I was missing some extra information!
We arrived at a viewpoint to see the glacier from a distance. Honestly, from this distant of a perspective, the glacier looked big, but not that big.
But once we arrived at the actual glacier, where there were balconies to walk around and view the glacier closer, I realized why everyone said it was a must-see. The glacier was HUGE. Apparently, the glacier above the water is on average 75 meters (~250 feet) tall, but also extends below the lake more than twice that height (170 meters / ~560 feet)!
The walkways were actually really nice and well placed for awesome views of the glacier. They were sturdy and outfitted with benches, so you could sit and stare at the massive ice formations, waiting for calving (when big ice chunks fall off).
A small GIF I made of the splash after a calving! It's hard to actually get a picture of calving if you have little patience like me. There is a cracking thunder when an ice chunk falls off, but because sound travels more slowly than light, the calving has already happened by the time you look!
I paid a little extra to go on an hour boat ride that takes you even closer to the glacier. I thought it was really cool, but if you're strapped on cash, the views weren't THAT much better than the ones you get on the balconies.
My tour guide said that the glacier moves almost 1.5 meters every day! That's pretty crazy to imagine. But with all the ice calving that happens, the distance between the glacier's end and the land across the lake doesn't change much.
It was crazy how blue and jaggedy the glacier was. I mean, I know I shouldn't expect anything different from a glacier, but my mind was running with all these how, why, and what questions about the glacier.
There were also quite a few large icebergs in the water. I would have loved to see these rupture off the glacier!
On the boat ride, we could see the little people walking on the glacier. There is only one company, Hielos y Aventuras, that has permission to operate ice treks and boat excursions around the Perito Moreno Glacier. I know they must have to pay the government a sizable chunk of their revenue, but man, that's a monopoly!
On the boat ride, everyone just kept crowding to the side of the boat that provided the best photo opportunities. I would say a majority of the passengers spent more than 80% of the hour taking pictures of themselves. There was even a photographer on board whom you could pay for professional photos, and who guided you through some "cool" poses against the glacier background. There was a flamboyantly gay Italian couple on my boat who chose this option, and it was very entertaining to witness their inner divas in front of the camera.
Luckily, I found many other tourists and kind guides to take pictures of me, but after a few shots, I was (politely) pushed aside by other tourists who wanted a picture of themselves clear of any other tourists in the background. (Which was fine with me, since my exhaustion from the Torres del Paine trek was very visible in my pictures and gave me little patience to deal with the crowd!)
Overall, I had a really nice and relaxing visit to Perito Moreno Glacier, even though I didn't get to do the Big Ice tour I wanted. It was incredible to see the glacier in its tall blue glory. Now that I've seen El Calafate's primary attraction, I am 100% ready to go to El Chalten for the last 3 days of my trip!