Everything you need to know about visiting Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina. From prices, where to stay, things to do in Perito Moreno and an independent travellers’ guide, we’ll help you make the most of your trip.
“Perito Moreno Glacier? Yea, it’s expensive, but so worth it!”
The backpacker in Puerto Natales was pretty convincing when we asked them what they thought of Patagonia’s most famous glacier.
As it turns out their quote perfectly summed up our own experience with visiting one of Argentina’s most popular tourist attractions, the sprawling frozen river close to El Calafate.
We had already visited quite a number of glaciers in the region, having just completed an awesome cruise through the Chilean Fjords and trekking the O Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park.
So we were contemplating skipping the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier to head straight out and see El Chalten and Fitz Roy.
We’re glad we didn’t.
After taking the bus from Puerto Natales we crossed the border back into Argentina and got dropped off at the bus station in El Calafate.
Not being in a rush we had given ourselves 4 nights in town, which gave us ample opportunity to catch the perfect weather to head out to Los Glaciares National Park, home to Glaciar Perito Moreno.
Trekking uphill to our first accommodation, La Cantera (read more about where to stay in El Calafate at the bottom of this article), we dropped our bags off and went to check out the town.
El Calafate is a funky, small town, right on Lago Argentino, the largest freshwater lake in the country. It has a leafy, ski-resort kind of feel about it and we instantly liked it, despite the ‘touristy’ feel.
Checking the weather we found out that the next day was going to be sunny. Being in Patagonia we knew to never trust weather forecasts, but rather than waiting a few days we decided to head straight out in the morning to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier.
Waking up around 7am we had breakfast, packed a bag with some snacks and wine, and headed down to the bus station.
We made it just in time to get the 8:30am bus to the national park and settled in for the ride. At 570 ARS (US$32.50) each*, it was an expensive bus ticket for a short journey.
With only one quick stop to pay our entrance fee on the way (another 450 ARS, or US$29.50*) we made it in about 90 minutes.
As we got closer to the end of the road we got our first view of the impressive glacier, tumbling into the lake on the left side of the bus.
*Note – Prices in 2022 are now 800 ARS (US$20) return for the bus tickets and 700 ARS (US$17.50) for the park entrance fee.
Once we disembarked Alesha and I had two choices for what to do with our day – go on one of the boat tours, or simply walk around the park and take our time. We chose the latter option to keep our budget down.
Being one of the most popular national parks in Argentina, everything is signposted and it’s impossible to get lost. We found the boardwalk and started our hike.
Don’t miss our new ultimate guide to budget travel in Patagonia!
The sun was beaming down hard and there were few clouds in the sky. Ahead of us, the glacier shined brightly against the turquoise lake and distant peaks.
Rounding a bend in the boardwalk we got our first up-close view of this sprawling wonder.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is over 30km in length and 5km wide at the face. The day was still young, and already we knew we’d made the right decision coming out there.
Stopping for countless photos along the way we found some beautiful vantage points to admire the lines and shapes of the majestic frozen river.
The face reached heights of 70m above the lake, making its size truly remarkable.
What makes Perito Moreno one of the most interesting glaciers in South America is how active it is.
Immense ice chunks constantly crack off the face, known as ‘calving’, sending huge waves across the lake.
Every 20 minutes or so another piece of ice would fall, causing everyone fortunate enough to witness this natural phenomenon to cheer out in unison.
We kept walking along the boardwalk and found a large platform to set ourselves up for lunch.
Cracking a delicious bottle of Malbec we enjoyed cheese and crackers with the bottle of wine, and sat there in silence observing the glacier.
While we were having lunch we started to see small bits of ice fall from one particular crack.
Sensing that something big was about to happen we set our cameras up and waited.
Sure enough a gigantic slice the entire height of the face calved off right in front of us!
The impact was massive and water crashed out dozens of metres. The sound was overwhelming, and we couldn’t believe how lucky we were to see such a large piece calve.
Many outlets report that the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the few in Patagonia that is advancing rather than retreating.
While it’s true that the length of it is growing, it is actually thinning at the same time. This means sadly that its volume is on a downward trend as well.
With the wine finished we continued walking to the end of the boardwalk, constantly in awe of the glacier’s size.
We ended up in a tranquil forest, adding a different element to the easy hike.
The hours passed by quickly, and soon it was time for us to return to the bus.
Surprisingly the glacier’s activity slowed down, and the entire walk back didn’t have any more sizeable pieces of ice fall despite the afternoon heat. We’re glad we made it out there when we did!
We got back to the bus just in time and kicked back for the 90-minute ride to El Calafate.
Over the next few days we relaxed in town, spending a fair bit of time at Cerveceria El Zorro, drinking boutique beer and reflecting on the beauty of the small section of Los Glaciares National Park we had seen.
Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier was more impressive than we could have ever imagined.
Despite the high price associated with seeing it, we were blown away with its magnificence.
It’s not very often you can see one of the most fascinating attractions in nature up close and personal.
And with the way climate change is affecting the globe, who knows how much longer these glaciers will still be around.
The backpacker we met was right – it was worth every peso!
Table of Contents
- Perito Moreno Glacier Travel Guide
- Where is the Perito Moreno Glacier
- How to Get to Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate
- Tour vs Going Independently
- Where to Stay in El Calafate
Perito Moreno Glacier Travel Guide
To help you plan your own visit here, we’ve put together a list of the important information you’ll need to know.
Where is the Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is about 80km from the town of El Calafate in Argentine Patagonia.
Not to be confused with the town by the same name (about 12 hours further north), the Perito Moreno Glacier is part of the Los Glaciares National Park.
To give context to the location, the Perito Moreno Glacier is actually part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
This sprawling landscape feeds dozens of glaciers in southern Chile and Argentina, including the Grey and Dickson glaciers next to Torres del Paine National Park, and all of the glaciers you encounter on a cruise of the Chilean Fjords.
How to Get to Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate
To get to Perito Moreno Glacier you first have to travel to El Calafate in the Santa Cruz province in Argentina.
El Calafate has an airport, connected to a few regional towns in Argentina, but the main connections there come from Buenos Aires, Bariloche and Ushuaia.
You can also travel to El Calafate by bus from Puerto Natales (an easy 6-hour journey), from El Chalten (only 3 hours), or a mammoth leg from San Carlos de Bariloche (24 gruelling hours….we did it…).
Once you’re in El Calafate getting to the Perito Moreno Glacier is quite easy. You can either book a tour including transport, rent a car or a taxi, or do what we did and take the local bus.
How to Get there by Bus
- First head to the main bus terminal in El Calafate
Address: Jean Mermoz 104 (map here).
- Buy your bus ticket for ‘Glaciar Perito Moreno’. There are a few bus companies that go to the glacier, but we went with CalTur. The price for this ticket is a hefty 800 ARS (US$20) return.
- The buses leave at either 08:30 or 09:00, depending on the company. It is totally possible to buy your bus tickets on the day of your trip. Just make sure you get to the bus station with 20 minutes to spare.
- The trip to takes about 90 minutes. About 1 hour into the ride the bus will stop at the entrance to the Los Glaciares National Park. Here park rangers will come onto the bus and take your money for the entrance ticket.
Cost: 700 ARS (US$17.50) per person (MUST BRING CASH, they don’t accept credit card)
- Eventually the bus arrives at the end of the road. Here you get out and can either go for a hike or book your boat tickets. You’ve made it to the glacier!
- Buses return at 16:00 in the afternoon. Simply go back to the spot the bus dropped you off at. We suggest taking a photo of the number plate so you know which bus was yours, but it’s pretty straight forward. Don’t lose your ticket!
- CalTur also have a bus that goes out at 13:00 and returns at 19:30, for those who want to be out there in the afternoon or have late connections.
Hitchhiking to the Glacier
It is completely possible to hitchhike to the glacier. The road that heads out there doesn’t have many other destinations along it, so most traffic will be heading to Perito Moreno.
Get yourself a bit out of town and make it to Ruta Provincial 11. From here you shouldn’t have a problem finding a ride.
Returning to El Calafate should be just as easy, but we recommend doing what our friend did and ask the person if they can take you back as well (if they are heading back).
Tour vs Going Independently
It’s quite common for people to jump on a Perito Moreno Glacier tour to get out and see this marvellous natural wonder, but we think it’s better to go on your own *unless* you want to walk on the glacier itself.
Tour companies will charge you a little bit more for private transport to get out there but you will still have to buy your entrance ticket.
Some of them, but not many, have lunch included though.
On the bright side you get a guide, however in our opinion this is unnecessary for the standard boardwalk that you do, as there are plenty of information signs along the whole way talking about what glaciers are and the history of Perito Moreno.
You’ll also be shuttled around in a group, meaning you can’t take your time in the places you want to.
Instead we recommend saving the extra money and just bringing your own lunch with you (and a bottle of wine, of course).
Boat Tours of the Perito Moreno Glacier
Once you get to Perito Moreno Glacier you can book a boat tour right there and then, so there’s no need to prebook this in El Calafate.
When you arrive in the national park there will be a small booth with a sign saying ‘Navegacion’. Simply enquire there about boat tours and they can put you on one.
If you want to get closer to the glacier than from the boardwalk this is the next best option without going on a hiking tour.
These will get you up to 100m away from the face of Glaciar Perito Moreno and give you a spectacular perspective from the water’s level.
Most of these tours also include snacks and a glass of whiskey served with glacial ice and last for around 90 minutes or so. Confirm this when you book your tour.
Trekking Tours on the Glacier
One of the best things you can do in El Calafate is go on a trekking tour of the Perito Moreno Glacier! If you’re after an adventure, be sure not to miss this.
Teaming up in small groups you leave town and head to the national park in private transport.
Then you jump on a boat and cross the lake to get to the side of the glacier.
Now comes the best part – you will be given crampons and ice axes and be taken on a guided trek directly on the glacier itself! If you’ve never been on a glacier before trust us – it’s something you’ll never forget!
Walking on one of Argentina’s biggest tourist attractions is truly sensational.
You can book short hike Perito Moreno Glacier tours (known as ‘Mini Trekking’) or the larger ‘Big Ice’ which lasts for a few hours more and can even go inside ice caves depending on the time of year.
As to be expected, especially in Argentina/Patagonia, these tours aren’t cheap.
The Big Ice trek is 4000 ARS (USD$275) including transport, and the Mini Trekking is 2400 ARS (USD$156).
Neither of these include the park entry fee or lunch.
Still, it might just be your only chance to trek on an enormous glacier! We didn’t personally do it (we’ve trekked on quite a few glaciers before), but you can pre-book your tour.
Where to Stay in El Calafate
El Calafate is one of the more expensive places for accommodation in Argentina due to its remote location and popularity.
But being expensive also means it has very high quality hotels!
If you’re looking for a good, budget place to stay in El Calafate, then the absolute best option is the America del Sur Hostel.
Located only 7 minutes walk from downtown, this hostel is designed like a beautiful timber cabin and has panoramic views of the mountains and lake.
If you want something a bit cheaper than check out the other options on Hostelworld. Make sure you book ahead in the high season (December to April).
Design Suites El Calafate
For the absolute best luxury hotel in El Calafate, you can’t beat the incredible (and aptly named) Design Suites!
A short 10-minute drive from downtown with a to-die-for view over the lake and surrounding mountains, Design Suites has the highest quality hotel rooms with the funkiest style in town.
From the moment you walk in you are welcomed with the huge windows letting in light and vistas from all angles.
There is a large dining area with a bar attached, and a cool sitting room to the side.
This is also where the delicious buffet breakfast is served in the mornings.
There’s an interesting collection of art scattered throughout the hotel as well, giving it a gallery feel, with most of the pieces available for purchase.
You’ll find an indoor-heated pool, sauna and spa as well downstairs, ensuring Design Suites has all the amenities you could ever want to make your stay enjoyable.
The rooms are bright and spacious, with large, comfortable beds and window-side sitting areas with glorious views.
When you’re finished exploring the best that El Calafate has to offer, coming back here at the end of the night is superb.
Design Suites also offer a free shuttle into town, but this only happens twice a day which is a shame, meaning if you want to go at any other time you need to call a taxi (around 5000 Pesos each way).
Boutique Hotel La Cantera
We also were lucky enough to spend 2 nights at Boutique Hotel La Cantera. While it’s not quite as luxurious as Design Suites, it does offer a very homely feel and a better location for those who want to be closer to downtown.
The common area is more like a large living room complete with a fireplace and comfy couches. It’s a perfect place to kick back with a book (or in our case our laptops to catch up with work).
The bedroom we booked was tucked away at the back of the hotel, and while it was large and had some interesting decorations, it did feel a bit dated, particularly the bathroom. It also didn’t have a lot of light coming in.
That being said, they do have bedrooms that seem much nicer and more modern facing the lake. If you stay here definitely try to book one of these.
Our accommodation in El Calafate was organised as part of our partnership with Destino Argentina, and hosted by Design Suites and La Cantera. All thoughts, opinions and hours spent watching chunks of ice fall of the glacier are, as always, our own
61 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier (2023)”
Awesome post guys! thank you so much!
No worries at all. Happy to help. 🙂
Your page is very interesting, i have bookmarked it.
Thank you so much. Glad you like it. Take care
As you did, I will spend 4 nights in El Calafate on the beginning of December. I was puzzled to think either rent a car or take bus to Glaciers Park. After reading your article I decide to take bus because your experiences sound easy to ride on bus. But I would like to spend more time to sit or stand there just watching the beautiful glaciers, can I buy 8:30 am and return on 7:30 pm bus tickets if you know that? Many thanks for your reply.
Hope you had a great trip and it all worked out. With time for the bus, it is best to contact the bus companies. Happy travels
Hi Alesha and Jarryd,
Just to let you know that at the beginning of your article you talk about a “570000 ARS (US$32.50)” return bus ticket and a “450 ARS, or US$29.50 entry fee.” Later in the article in the ‘how to get to’ section you mention “800 ARS (US$20) return” bus tickets and a “700 ARS (US$17.50)” entry fee, obviously from the feedback in other comments. I was there in Feb this year and confirm those prices are correct.
So how is this a “complete” guide to visiting in 2019? Your prices and exchange rates represent your visit in 2017. It’s a little misleading when the prices and exchange rates for your trip were completely different. Your guide’s great, but you can’t claim it’s accurate for 2019 when you haven’t been there for two and a half years.
Awesome write up on the Perito Moreno Glacier especially on the logistics and what to expect. Extremely spot on for solo traveler like me 🙂 Thanks for the generosity of sharing!
Hi PinkyC, so glad we could help. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out and we will try to help out. Happy travels. 🙂
I was wondering what you did for the other 3 nights there? We are going next week and its a last minute trip so rushing to plan as much as I can 🙂
We got there late on the first day, visited the glacier on the second day and relaxed on the third. All the best and have a great trip
Hi there!! I’m a student from China. We were just learning about glaciers in our geography class, and we were told to make a poster about the Perito Moreno Glacier and how we can get to it. Your blog is SO useful!!! Thank you all for making this wonderful blog and thank you again for helping me with my homework. I just wanted to say that, your blog do not just help the people who is going, but also the people who is dreaming of going…… Like me. Thank you guys sooooooo much!!!!! 😛
Hi Cindion, thank you so much. We are so happy we could help. All the best with your studies. 🙂
We have 9 people arriving at El calafate by flight around 10am
Will we still have time to make it perito Moreno park after dropping bags at hotel?
where can we hire a private minibus? Are there boat ride in the afternoon? Where can we check the boat schedule?
Hi Jeanette, best to check with your hotel. They would have a better idea. All the best
Fantastic info, thank you! We just did the glacier in late April (absolutely stunning, perfect weather). The price for return bus is 800 now, but given the Argentinian economy has crashed so badly the value is actually better for tourists (though bad for the locals). We went to counter 10 in the bus station and paid 800 for a private driver with only one other couple. The driver explained many things along the route and stopped for photos. Was quicker getting in to the park
without a bus load of people too. Strongly recommend!
Thank you so much David. Thats great about the private driver. That would be definitely way better than the bus. It is sad about the economy crashing for locals. It is so up and down it is hard to keep up with it. Glad you had a great time.
It’s now 800ars return bus ride and 700ars entry!!!!!
Thanks for the update on prices. 🙂
How could 500 ARS be 32.5USD? As far as I know it is 14USD.
At the time of writing this article back in 2017, the inflation was very high. We have heard that today it is very low therefore prices of things are half the price. Maybe next week the inflation can go up again and prices will be expensive. Unfortunately this crazy inflation has been happening in Argentina for a long time. If you travel to Argentina now, it will not be an expensive trip. Happy travels
Thanks for all the info! I may have missed it, but when did you visit the glacier? I am going this January (2019) and just want to be sure that your comments on not needing to book buses/boat rides in advance applied to the high season.
Thanks so much!
Hi Caroline, you will have a great time. Since you are going in high season, we highly recommend booking the bus. There are a few companies that go up there at different time during the day. Definitely book in advance because you don’t want to miss out. 🙂
Thank you very much for this useful info; it was clear with good tips!!! I started (now) to plan my trip for the Easter week 2019.
Glad we could help. Thank you for reading. Have a great trip.
Thank you for your great blog! I am trying to determine whether or not I should rent a car. There will be 6 of us. Three of us will be doing the mini-trek on the glacier, and three will plan on just doing the boat ride. All of us want to spend some time on the walkways. It sounds like taking your time and spending as much time as possible on the walkways was time well spent. The tour only spends about 1 hour on the walkways, and I think I would prefer a much longer visit. With the 6 of us and wanting to spend more time on the walkways, it seems that renting a vehicle would be best. Plus, we could use the car to see other places around El Calafate. We will have 2.5 days in El Calafate. Did it seem parking was easy to find at the park and around town? We are planning to stay in town, so perhaps we just park at the hotel and walk around town. Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you, and thanks for the beautiful pictures too!
Hi Yvonne, sorry for the late reply. We have been away on an assignment for the last couple of months, I hope it all worked out for you if you have been already. If not maybe renting a car might be a great option for you and your friends. The buses and tours only give you are short amount of time at the glacier and if you want to hike or really take the area, having your own wheels is definitely the best option. We didn’t have a car but it seemed parking was fine and easy to find in town. Have a great trip or I hope you had a great trip. 🙂
I like your information very much. We plan to do it on next March. But we need go to El Chalten in the same day , So we need back to El Calafate before 4 pm and we are 9 adults, is there any way we can back earlier from the glacier
Hi Jing, Yes there is an earlier bus. It does not give you much time. Maybe your best option is to privately rent a vehicle and go out there on your own or on a private tour. Have a great time.
Hi, thanks for all the information, great reading. I am planning my trip for November now and we will end in El Calafate. Are there any tour companies you recommend? I know they have tours to trek on the glacier itself, and that is what we want to do. Thanks, I appreciate your anticipated response.
When we went to the visit Perito Moreno Glacier we went to the bus station and got one of the local buses to the glacier. We paid for a return trip and they let us know when we could return. As for the trek on the glacier we are not too sure of a company. Our advice is to ask around when you get there or you can contact companies before hand. All the best and have a great time.
Felt great reading your blog. Its an awesome experience. Wanna visit the glacier soon.
Thanks for inspiring.
Hope you get there. It was amazing to see. Thanks for your comment Senthil.
Excellent advise. We are using it to plan our trip to Calafate. Best I ‘ve read yet
Have suggestions for a short trip 2-3 days to Bariloche
Thank you so much for reading. That amount of time in Bariloche would be fine. Definitely rent a car. The area is beautiful. You will have a great time in the area. Here are a couple of article from our friends Dan and John over at Two for the World. We travelled together around the lake district near Bariloche. Have an amazing time Karen.
Wow – extremely useful post. We have just started our prep of a few months trip to South America (Sept’18-Jan’19)…. hoping it will be a good time – as I noticed, you mentioned the high season starts in December?
We are mega excitied – thanks for sharing your experiences!
Hi Natalia, Glad we could help. You are going to have a blast. We will be in Chile in October and November. Don’t worry about the busy time. During December and January, just make sure you prebook everything so you get on the tours and accommodation you want. Have an amazing trip. 🙂
Thank you for this great entry and breakdown for someone interested in visiting El Calafate and the Periot Moreno Glacier. Practical with a touch of personal fun. You have become our primary resource for our trip planning on this area.
Glad we could help Acacia. It is a beautiful area. If you have anymore questions please let us know. Have a great trip and enjoy the area. 🙂
we went today. amazing!
So glad you had a great time. It is definitely an amazing place. 🙂
I am just downloading my photos of this wonderful place, like you I saw it in sunshine on the boardwalks and this was fun. I loved the boat ride too as the colours look different when you are looking from water.
A condor positioned itself with grace as I came to the point on in the road in where you see the glacier for the first time
I didn’t walk on the ice being rather more interested to see calving from the balconies…you hear what sounds like a series of sharp crack shots all the time, even if you do not catch a large chunk falling and it is good to crunch crisps at the same time.
So glad you had a great time Liz. I bet you got a lot of amazing photos. Hearing it carve is very surreal isn’t it. 🙂
Just found your very informative blog. We are going in December this year. Do you suggest doing the boat ride when you first arrive or after doing the boardwalk?
I note you are in OZ at present. I hope you are enjoying our country.
Hi Margaret, Bet you are excited for your up and coming trip. The area is gorgeous. This all depends what you want to take away from Perito Moreno. We personally weren’t too fussed about the boat ride as we had seen a glacier up close before. We you first get to the glacier check the boat times. If you would like to do both maybe the boat ride first then the walk. There are a few marked sections on the walk so you can work out how many you can do with the time you have left. Going by the public transport provided you are limited with time. If you are travelling by your own car then you don’t need to rush. Take your time. We have you enjoy the area. Have a great trip. Happy travels
Glad we could help. 🙂
It’s awesome by just reading your posts and looking at those stunning pictures of yours! I believe you must have fond memories about this exciting expedition to the glacier park.
I am planning a trip there in middle of May this year and do you what’s the weather condition during the winter months in southern Argentina?
Thank you for your comment Benjamin. We do have great memories from national park and Argentina. Not too sure what the weather will be like. Sorry. Have a great trip.
I see you always quote prices in ARS as well as USD. When you say they require cash for the service are you saying ARS or USD ? I’m just trying to figure out how much ARS to bring on our trip. Or can we pay with USD?
We quote in both currencies as it makes it easy for people to budget. Some places in Argentina do take USD but for a better price, paying local is the best way. Check with your bank and see what currency exchange rate they provide if you take money out with your card in Argentina. This is how we get our local money. We find some times the exchange fee at the currency exchange shops can be high. Have a great trip.
Love your post. WE are heading to South America in December and wanted to get the most bang for the buck. This post came in the perfect time for me to get to see more for less.
Keep it up!
Hi April, So happy we could help. Hope you have a great trip. 🙂
Love this guide! Planning to visit Perito Moreno Glacier this year too and I really found this blog helpful. Thank you for sharing!
Glad we could help. It was amazing to witness. It’s up to you with the boat trips but if you want to save some money don’t worry about it. You get closer to the glacier on the boardwalks. have a great time
Love the fact you packed Wine along with your snacks You really do have your priorities straight.
It looks stunning and such a beautiful place to visit. The scale of it is epic.
We treated ourselves. It definitely is a stunning place. 🙂
The Perito Moreno glacier looks absolutely stunning. I love the colour the ice turns when its concentrated like that. I really hope that we can look after our planet well enough for this type of thing to still be in existence in several centuries´ time. Argentina looks like an incredibly diverse and beautiful country!
We agree. We hope it is around for several centuries too. Thank you for reading. Happy travels.
Wow! You nailed it!. Great Pictures with Information about Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s so beautiful. Thanks for Sharing.
Thank you so much. Definitely a stunning place. 🙂