Patagonia remains high on most lists as a place you have to experience at some point in your life. The gateway to this paradise is El Calafate, and no visit here is complete without the short day-trip to experience the majesty of Glaciar Perito Moreno. Whether you’re just going to the “Cat Walks” or trekking on the glacier itself, this glacier is a special place in Los Glaciares National Park that has to be seen to be believed.
First off, the glacier is immense in size. Not only is the glacier an incredible 30.5 kilometers long with a headwall floating in Argentino Lake that’s 4.8 kilometers wide, but the ice wall where it terminates stands at 73 meters on average. The “Cat Walks” viewpoint at the Mirador is an incredible place to view. It gives you a panoramic view where the glacier terminates.
Another interesting fact about Perito Moreno is that it's one of the few glaciers in the world that is advancing, where most are in steep decline. Glaciologists are still debating the cause of this advance. The dynamic of this advance is that as it enters the lake and pushes forward, it periodically meets the other side of the lake. This blocks the flow of water from the two parts of Argentino Lake, causing the southern arm of the lake, called Brazo Rico, to rise because the water has no place to go. It was once measured 30 meters above the surface of the rest of Argentino Lake. As the water rises, the pressure builds on the glacial dam. Once the pressure reaches a critical mass, it ruptures and sends an enormous amount of water into the main body of the lake to equalize. This happens cyclically every one to 10 years.
You can drive yourself to the Mirador Perito Moreno, but most people tend to not rent cars when visiting Patagonia. There are many tour companies that bus you directly from your hotel to the park. This is typically done as a day trip that includes a glacier hike after taking a boat to the far shore adjacent to the glacier. Whether hiking or not, this viewpoint is very impressive and should not be missed if you’re passing through El Calafate.