Our sole purpose for coming to El Calafate was to visit the world known Perito Moreno Glacier. Let me just say, this beast is more magnificent in real life than you can even imagine inside your brain.
First off, you have to get to El Calafate. Which can happen many different ways. You can drive, or take a tour bus from El Chalten or in the surrounding areas of Torres Del Paine. Geographically, El Calafate is south of El Chalten, and north of TDP. We were making our way south, so we drove from El Chalten. Like the rest of Patagonia, outside the main attractions, there was nothing interesting to see.
The drive from El Chalten took around three hours. Overall, El Calafate is larger, and more residential than El Chalten.
There are plenty of accommodation and food options. But there are only (or were only) two gas stations, and they were constantly packed.
You truly only need one day if you’re coming to see Perito Moreno, but we had two full days. During one of those days, we just walked around the waterfront and town. As I mentioned in our Chile Chico blog post, the wind in Patagonia is NO JOKE. It simply cannot be ignored.
There is no way that the photos below can demonstrate how windy it was, but I hope it at least gives you an idea.
Now for the main reason people flock to El Calafate – To visit a gigantic glacier which happens to be GROWING. Aka: Perito Moreno.
I assume open and close times change through the seasons. We asked our hotel front desk and headed out EARLY. We were the first vehicle in line. Once the park opened, we had to get out of our cars, pay, get a map and then they opened the gates.
The drive from El Calafate was around 30 minutes and then an addition 20-30 from the gate, into the actual Glacier parking lot.
As you make your way more south in Patagonia, the weather changes so fast. Just in the one hours we were at the glacier, we had rain, hail, sunny skies and storm clouds – which made for some fun photography.
I definitely suggest getting there early if you want to avoid the crowds. We saw maybe three to ten other people from 9-9:30, then it filled up pretty quickly.
There are a lot of ways one can see and experience Perito Moreno. For us, just seeing it from multiple viewing decks was enough. But know that you can take boat tours (obviously these stay a safe distance from the glacier because it has pieces falling off constantly), and even hike onto the glacier for a whisky tasting. You’ve got options.
If you’re as lucky as we were, you’ll get to see and hear a massive section break off and plunge into the water. If not, you will FOR SURE hear the constant crackle and movement within the massive glacier.
As you can see, we had some pretty dense cloud and fog cover toward the rear of the glacier but on a clear day, Perito Moreno spans back as far as your eye can see (judging from other photos we’ve seen).
We were out of there by 10:30-10:45am. Remember, you can make the experience whatever you want it to be. Choose your version of Perito Moreno. That’s what’s most important.
Ever want to visit Perito Moreno? Pin this post for later!
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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