Perito Moreno glacier from El Calafate

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
0
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
3
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
3
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
7
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
60 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
South America
country
Argentina
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 70
Time of year visited
January
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
204th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 70% SUMMARY RATING: Worth doing

Summary

It’s kind of a must see if in this part of the world.  Yes you get hit a bit in the face with the mass tourism of it all, but the sheer scale of the glacier as it carves chunks into Lake Argentina really is spectacular

Visiting it from El Calafate is super simple, and the town itself has a nice vibe from all those making their way through this stunning part of the world

highlights

#1 Seeing the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno glacier. Standing on one of the view points and seeing it dominating the entire valley and edging its way forward into the lake. A natural wonder of the world

#2 Walking along the various boardwalk routes to get away from some of the crowds and enjoy different views of both the glacier and the surrounding lakes and mountains

#3 Taking the boat up close to the glacier as you see and hear great chunks of it being carved off and falling into the lake

#4 Reserva Natural Laguna Nimez is worth checking out if you have a bit of free time - a self guided trail to spot various birds, including flamingos, within walking distance of central El Calafate

#5 Breathing in the traveller / backpacker vibe through the Av del Liberator General San Martin as you jump into one of the restaurants or have a beer in the sunshine

Rough itinerary

  • You’ll typically get picked up from your hotel any time in the morning up till 1030am depending on the tour you go with (September to April: the park opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm. Winter opens 9 am and closes at 4 pm)
  • Takes around 1 hour to an hour and a half to get there
  • Take the boat trip for around an hour to see the glacier from the water
  • Walk around the boardwalks for a few hours and have lunch at the visitor centre
  • Return to El Calafate anywhere between 4pm – 6pm depending on the tour
  • Total trip is around 7/8 hours

Travel Tips

  • Tour – its just easier to do a tour, but be prepared for mass tourism (don’t worry, you can get away from quite a lot of the crowds quite easily on the boardwalks and the glacier itself is so huge you’ll always have a good view)
  • Boat trip – do the boat trip which costs the extra $30 (so $30 for the tour, $30 for the boat, $10 entrance fee – roughly) – if you don’t you’ll likely find yourself hanging around waiting for it to return or having a bit longer than you really need looking at the glacier
  • The boardwalks – there are a series of easily to follow boardwalks that give you different views of the glacier.  Obviously it depends on your tour as to how much time you have but I’d say give them all a go.  The distances are overestimated and, if you do your timing right, if you get tight for time all it will do is eat into your lunch time
  • Walking on the glacier – we didn’t walk on the glacier, just because I’ve done this sort of thing before.  But, if you haven’t, I’d really recommend it because its a cool experience with the crampons etc
  • El Calafate – is actually a cool little town with a lovely central tree-lined street.  Sure its like the lycra outdoor capital, but still fun to wander along the Av del Liberator General San Martin to check out the restaurants
  • Librobar drinks – if its a nice day, you’re in town and fancy a beer, I’d really recommend the rooftop area of Librobar in the gnome village right in the centre of town
  • Accommodation – we stayed outside of town to save a little bit of cash and it was no problem.  Hosteria Roblesur was nice and would recommend
  • The bird park (Reserva Natural Laguna Nimez) – is within walking distance of the centre of town is worth checking out if you have a spare bit of time.  Some of us get excited about flamingoes so gets you your fix
  • Parrilla and mate – make sure you try to a local parrilla (grill) and get a local or guide to let you try some mate (tea).  But do make sure you ask them to tell you the right etiquette first!
  • Recommended books for the trip:
    • In Patagonia.  Bruce Chatwin’s account of his journey through Patagonia to see the windswept landscapes, descendants of Welsh immigrants, forgotten legends and a feeling of adventure in seeing “the uttermost part of the earth”
    • I couldn’t more highly recommend This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson, one of my favourite books.  Although more focused on the Tierra del Fuego, this charts, in historical fiction-style, the true story of Captain Fitzoy’s journey to chart this part of the world, meeting the natives and bringing the young Charles Darwin with him

Experiences nearby

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone