Posts Tagged 'El Calafate'

Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

The southern sector of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares holds one of the world’s largest ice fields after those of Antarctica and Greenland, and has been declared a Unesco National Heritage of Humanity site.  The park encompasses several environments and despite the fact that its southern portion was ceded to Chile in 1999 over a border dispute, it remains Argentina’s largest national park.  The park’s main attractions are the enormous glaciers that flow down from the heights of the Southern Continental Ice Cap, most notably the blue-hued jagged mass of crevasses and towering obelisks of ice known as the Perito Moreno Glacier.  Sweeping down off the ice cap and measuring 30km long, 5km wide and 60m high, the Perito Moreno Glacier is constantly advancing, up to 2m per day, and is considered stable while most of the world’s glaciers are receding.

The Península de Magallanes is close enough to the glacier to provide exceptional panoramas.  A long series of boardwalks and viewing platforms allows seeing the glacier from different angles and hourly boat tours depart from the dock for a close-up view.  It’s common to spot Perito Moreno jagged ice peaks as they break apart and crash into the water below with thunderous cracks, creaks, thuds and giant crunches followed by huge splashes, small tidal waves and large bobbing icebergs.  Less frequently, the glacier advances far enough to reach the Península de Magallanes and dam Lago Argentina, however after a few years a river cuts through the dam and eventually collapses it sending vast blocks of ice, some weighing hundreds of tons, into the waters below.  The most recent big glacier breakage occurred in 2008.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most impressive natural wonders we’ve seen throughout our travels and one of the highlights of our trip.  The boat tour was amazing, allowing us to get a closer view of this enormous ice mass which reaches heights equivalent to that of a 20-story building.  Hundreds of people visit the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares to see the Perito Moreno Glacier each day, and these numbers rise during the months of December and January, making it the most popular tourist attraction in the country.  Fortunately, the extensive viewing platforms enable the crowds to disperse and more than once we found ourselves with a platform all to ourselves awaiting the next spectacular calving and crash-landing.

Perito Moreno

the long ride to El Calafate

El Calafate

After departing El Bolsón we headed south to El Calafate, one of the Patagonian region’s most popular tourist destinations.  Conveniently located between El Chaltén and Torres del Paine National Park in neighboring Chile, and just 80km from Los Glaciares National Park, El Calafate is touristy and growing fast.  It’s a long ride from El Bolsón, nearly 28 hours by bus. About 12 hours into the trip, around midnight, we found ourselves stalled in a long line of traffic and soon found out that the Argentinian petroleum workers were protesting and the protests had shut down the highway.  They lasted throughout the night until the next morning when the traffic eventually started moving again.  We finally arrived in El Calafate the following evening around 11pm, after nearly 35 hours on the bus!