When I first learned about glaciers in school, I imagined this river of ice that slowly grinds its way down the valley between mountains, advancing so slowly that the human eye cannot detect its movement. Since then I have seen many glaciers, all of them on mountains, and none of them matched that initial image my mind had conjured up as a kid learning geography.
When I saw the Perito Moreno glacier though, it was as if that first geography lesson had come alive before me. This was exactly how I had imagined a glacier would be!
Glaciar Perito Moreno is located in the southern sector of Los Glaciares National Park, about 80 km by road from El Calafate. Several buses take visitors from the town to the national park, and we booked ourselves on one of those.
The road runs along Lake Argentino for the most part, so we had pleasant views of the beautiful lake throughout. Primarily fed by meltwater from the glacier, this lake's milky turquoise blue coloration is very unique.
We had a guide on the bus, and at a bend in the road she announced with a flourish, "ladies and gentlemen, here is Glacier Perito Moreno." And this is what we saw!
Glacier Perito Moreno is named after Francisco Moreno, an Argentine explorer who led several expeditions into the Patagonian region in the late 1800s.
This massive glacier has an area of 250 km2 (97 sq mi), and extends 30 km (19 mi) in length. The ice field is the world's third largest reserve of fresh water, and Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still advancing. Its immense size and power is hard to describe in words.
There is a well-constructed walkway about 300m from the edge of the glacier, from where one can have excellent views of its expanse. The walkway is like a loop trail that takes about an hour to finish.
The front edge of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 km wide, and it towers 60 m (197 ft) above the surface of the water. The walkway starts high up near the road, from where we can have a great view of the expanse of the glacier. But as it descends lower, we can really get a feel for how massive the glacier is.
Even from this distance, we can hear periodic loud cracks, like sharp claps of thunder, followed by huge splashes, as giant chunks of ice break off and crash into the lake.
The constant grinding and rumbling of the glacier also makes it seem like a living thing, slowly moving forward in this enchanted landscape.
There are a couple of interesting-looking ice tunnels at the base of the glacier. The walkway leading to a closer view of these tunnels was closed, so we had to be content with a distant view.
The red blossoms of Chilean Fire Bush add a splash of color to the beautiful landscape. Note how tiny the boat is in comparison with the glacier!
We were so thankful to have a clear and beautiful day for our visit. We walked around there for close to two hours, trying hard to soak in the sights and sounds of this marvel of nature, for recollection later. Is there a limit to how much a brain can retain? Mine was stretched to its limits, trying to capture and store all the information from this visit.
If one is not content with viewing the glacier from afar, there is one company that offers glacier treks. This is an opportunity to get an intimate feel for the glacier and experience it from up close. We got to go on one of these. More about that in the next post.