On the occasion of Los Glaciares National Park’s 80th anniversary, Google froze its Doodle to honor it and highlight its ecological importance.
Los Glaciares National Park was established in its current form by the Argentine government on May 11, 1937, and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981 for being an area of outstanding natural beauty and an important example of the geological processes of glaciation.
El Perito Moreno: the main character
The Perito Moreno glacier is one of the few that does not melt. It also cannot grow three meters per day like other glaciers, as locals often say, but remains in balance through cycles of ablation and accumulation.
That’s because glaciers do not just respond to temperature changes. This giant has survived thanks to heavy snowfall, winds, altitude, and its protected location in Argentine Patagonia.
Perito Moreno drops from the Andes at an altitude of 2,100 meters into the warmer climes of Lago Argentino, which is 180 meters above sea level. With a length of almost 30 kilometers, it is one of the largest glaciers in Patagonia. It is also the most visited of all.
It is known for regularly cutting off the main southern arm of the lake, called the Rico Arm, completely separating it from the rest of the lake. This happens because the glacier advances through Argentine Lake until it reaches the opposite shore. The tongue of ice moves on dry land; it does not float, as is the case at the ends of glaciers that flow into the sea.
The result is a natural dam that prevents the lake’s water from circulating and silting up Rico’s arm. Below the dam, a sheet of ice continues to flow, washing mud into the lake and facilitating the descent of the glacier tongue. The damming effect causes the water level in Rico’s arm to rise up to 30 meters above the water level of the rest of Argentine Lake during thaws.
The pressure also causes the ice tongue to break off, a natural spectacle that repeats itself every four or five years as the glacier begins to grow back toward the opposite shore. This process first occurred in 1917 and destroyed a centuries-old forest.
Since then, the cycle has been repeated more than twenty times. The last time it happened was in 2016. The collapse of the dike has become a major tourist attraction in the region.
HIKING TRAILS TO THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER
Tourists reach a unique scenery via footbridges and wooden stairs, showing us the Perito Moreno like an endless collection of postcards, chosen for those who seek the meaning of life in nature.
Picture Credit: Laura(Follow her on instagram @__laura.c.trivino.s)
During a period of 4 or 5 years, the glacier tongue strengthens and expands, but the thaw causes torrents of such magnitude that they shift the extent, first digging a tunnel and breaking the glacier tongue within 72 hours. This phenomenon is known as the Perito Moreno break and has occurred with considerable discontinuity in recent decades; the world’s most famous glaciologists participate in this event.
If you are lucky, you can witness this amazing natural spectacle during the summer months. Some of our international travelers plan their entire schedule around this event.
You can reach the national park by taking the “11 route” and driving 80 kilometers on the highway. If you are unable or do not have access to your own rental car, there are plenty of options thanks to our travel agents, like Patagonia Chic and others.
In Calafate we have the option of booking lake excursions that take us to the Perito Moreno Glacier in specially prepared boats, bringing us closer to the wonder of frozen nature.
The most popular is “Gourmet Glaciers”, “All Glaciers”, “Ice Rivers” and others.
Gourmet Glaciers is a full-day experience aboard the María Turquesa Cruise, which crosses several locations in this Patagonian area with the utmost comfort and gourmet gastronomy specially designed for an unforgettable experience.
Picture Credit: Laura(Follow her on instagram @__laura.c.trivino.s)
Those who like it exciting and have a certain level of skill can choose the mini-trekking as an option, which consists of a short hike, not exceeding half a day, through the steep surface of the glacier. The most experienced connoisseurs of the place will be encouraged by the three-day exploration, accompanied by the best guides of the area, who will show them the most beautiful redoubts of the glacier landscape.
The excursion begins with the search for passengers in El Calafate. In our comfortable busses, on the way to Los Glaciares National Park, the guides will give you information about the place, the glacier, and the excursion.
Arriving at the port “Bajo de las Sombras” (Route 11, 70 km from El Calafate), you embark to cross Rico Lake. After about 20 minutes of sailing, you will reach the opposite shore in front of the imposing south face of the glacier. Perito Moreno.
After embarkation, you will be greeted by our experienced guides who will take you to a cozy cabin with a privileged view of
the glacier. From here the trekking begins! We start the tour with a walk along the shore of the lake and a view of the glacier, so you do not miss the opportunity to see landslides. Then the guides will give a lecture on glaciology. During the hike, you will be able to admire a variety of typical glacier formations such as deep crevasses, blue sinkholes, huge seracs, and turquoise lagoons.
At the end of the hike on the ice, you will cross the periglacial zone and the lateral moraine, from where you will have a panoramic view of the Perito Moreno Glacier, the mountains, and the lake. The way back is then via a path that crosses the lush Patagonian Andean forest, completing the 3 hours of walking on the coast of the LAKE, MORRENA, ICE AND FOREST (of which about an hour on the glacial ice). Upon arrival at the refuge, we will invite you for a hot drink and give you a souvenir. A short time later you will embark to return to Puerto Bajo de las Sombras, but first, you will contemplate the immense walls of the glacier from the boat.
The duration of the excursion with the transfer is about ten hours in total and includes a guided tour of about one hour to the jetties of the Perito Moreno Glacier, 7 km from the port. There they can enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of the glacier and take one of the self-guided hikes. If you do not opt for our transport and go on your own, the mini-trekking takes about four and a half hours, starting from the port and returning to the same starting point.
The mini trekking takes place in a natural environment where the climatic conditions and characteristics of the glacier and its surroundings change daily. This allows us to have unrepeatable experiences on the most beautiful glacier in the world! We are waiting for you!
How to reach the National Park
From El Calafate on the RP 11 to the Perito Moreno Glacier (80 km asphalt). RP 11 and RP 8 to Puerto Bandera (47 km).
To get to Lago Roca Sectional (50 km), take RP 11 towards the Moreno Glacier by turning left onto RP 60 (gravel road) until it connects with RP #15, or by always driving on RP 15, which is all gravel.
A Sectional El Chaltén via RP 11, RN 40 and RP 23 (220 km of gravel road).
Other means of transport
El Calafate has an international airport and is served by buses from Río Gallegos, the capital of Santa Cruz province. There you can rent a car, book excursions, and board the daily buses to the Perito Moreno Glacier, Lake Roca, and El Chaltén, the gateway to the northern part of the park.
Photo Credit: Laura(Follow her on instagram @__laura.c.trivino.s)