Los Glaciares: Things to Do

Los Glaciares National Park is a large national park covering approximately 6,000 square kilometres (2,300 square miles) of Argentinian Patagonia.

The National Park is dominated by hundreds of glaciers, Patagonia's two most famous peaks, two vast lakes and two main towns.

The Glaciers

As the name of the park suggests, Los Glaciares is home to a large number of glaciers; in fact, there are 356 of them!

  • Perito Moreno Glacier: This is the most famous glacier in Patagonia. Located at the southern end of Los Glaciares National Park, this glacier comes down off the Ice Cap and feeds into Lago Argentino. Named after the Argentinian explorer Francisco Moreno, Perito Moreno Glacier stretches nearly 20 miles long and is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world. If you want to see the glacier for yourself, you can read more about the ways to visit it and see our Perito Moreno Glacier trips.
PeritoMoreno-Neil-Pike
  • There are several other glaciers feeding into Lago Argentino in the South of the park, most notably Glaciar Upsala and Glaciar Spegazzini. These are truly spectacular glaciers and Glaciar Upsala is one of the largest in the national park.
  • Further North, Glaciar Viedma is an impressive glacier which feeds the large lake of the same name and can be seen from close to El Chalten.
  • There are many smaller glaciers, including Glaciar Torre and Glaciar Piedras Blancas, in the El Chalten and Fitz Roy region, which can be seen when trekking in the area.
viedma 1

The Peaks

The peaks in Los Glaciares National Park offer some wonderful trekking opportunities.

At the Northern end of the national park stands the famous granite peak Cerro Fitz Roy. This mountain was initially named Chalten by the indigenous Tehuelche people, which means 'peak of fire' in their native language - it seems that they mistakenly believed the mountain was a volcano. The peak was later renamed Fitz Roy after Captain Fitzroy, who captained the ship on which Charles Darwin came to this area in 1834. Cerro Fitz Roy is notoriously difficult to climb and is climbed on average only about once a year.

Another imposing peak stands close to Mount Fitz Roy and that is Cerro Torre. While not as famous as Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre is a very distinctive granite peak and one which is almost as difficult to climb.

Fitzroy1

The Towns

The town of El Chalten lies close to Fitz Roy, and on a clear day, the peak dominates its skyline, which is why the town was given the old Telhueche name of the mountain. The town is very small and predominately caters for tourists.

The other main town, and the only large town, in Los Glaciares is El Calafate. The town is in the South of the park and from here you can reach the Perito Moreno Glacier in just over an hour by road. To access the El Chalten and Fitz Roy region in the North of the national park, it takes around 3 hours by public bus or private transfer from El Calafate airport. The town itself has few attractions but does have some good hotels and restaurants if you want to stay in El Calafate as part of your trip to the national park.

El Chaltne and FitzRoy

The Lakes

There are also two huge lakes in the national park, which are fed by glacial meltwater: in the North there is Lago Viedma, and in the South Lago Argentino - the largest lake in Argentina (it covers over 1500 square km or 600 square miles).

Lago Viedma

The Ice Cap

If you're in good shape, keen to don ice-axe, crampons and snowshoes and aching to get deep into the Patagonian Wilderness, then this is the one for you. 

The South Patagonian Ice Cap (or Hielo Continental) stretches over 400km North-South, around 40km East-West and is over a kilometre deep in places. It is a wild, unexplored and very dramatic place. Expeditions typically take a minimum of 8 to 10 days - time to get onto the Ice Cap.

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Map of Los Glaciares National Park

Los Glaciares: Your Questions Answered

  • What are the Top Things to do?

    1. See Mount Fitz Roy.
    2. Trek around El Chalten and Mt. Fitz Roy.
    3. Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier.
    4. Take a boat trip on Lago Argentino or Lago Viedma.
    5. Go riding while staying on an estancia
    6. Expeditions on the Patagonia Ice Cap
  • How to see the Glaciers?

    There are several ways to visit the park's hundreds of glaciers:

    Perito Moreno

    You can appreciate the most famous glacier in Patagonia in a variety of ways. The Perito Moreno glacier is very accessible (and therefore very busy!) and it can be reached by road: there is a public bus which runs from El Calafate, or alternatively you can arrange private transport. Once there, if you want to get right up close to the ice, you can actually trek on the glacier itself. With crampons and a guide, even complete beginners can walk a short way on the glacier, while those looking for a longer glacier trek can go much further onto the ice. Another option is to take a boat trip on Lago Argentino, which will bring you as close to the glacier as possible, without actually being on the ice.

    Trekking

    The glaciers around Mount Fitz Roy can all be seen by trekking from El Chalten, either on a day hike or a longer trek.

    Ice Hiking

    Ice hiking is an increasingly popular activity and requires no previous experience. There are several glaciers in Los Glaciares where it is possible to don a pair of crampons and trek on the ice with a guide. Because of the lack of stability in the climate, the glaciers which are suitable for ice hiking change from year to year, so check with us if you particularly want to do some glacier trekking.

    Boat Trips

    Some of the glaciers in the national park feed into large lakes and taking a boat trip is a great way to get up close to the glacier and see it from a different perspective. Boat trips on Lago Argentino allow you to see glaciers which include Perito Moreno, Mayo, Spegazzini, and Upsala, while Glaciar Viedma can be seen from Lago Viedma and Glaciar O'Higgins can be seen from Lago O'Higgins/San Martin.

  • How do I get to Los Glaciares?

    Coming from outside of Patagonia, you first need to get to Buenos Aires and then take a domestic flight from there to El Calafate, which has the airport that serves the whole national park.

    As the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires has a large international airport into which you can get flights from all over the world. From here, there are between 1 and 3 daily flights to El Calafate, which take just over 3 hours.

    If you want to combine a trip to Los Glaciares National Park with seeing some other areas of Patagonia, there are several ways to get to and from the national park:

    • Torres del Paine: Cross the Chile/Argentina border by land to get to or from Torres del Paine National Park, which is roughly a five hour drive South of El Calafate.
    • Aisen: This is a remote region in Chilean Patagonia to the North of Los Glaciares. To get to or from Aisen, you can cross Lago O'Higgins/San Martin.
    • Lake District: It is possible to fly between El Calafate and Bariloche (BRC) in the Argentinian Lake District, or take a road trip, in order to combine the Lakes with Los Glaciares.
  • Where should I stay?

    It is possible to stay in one of the two towns of Los Glaciares: the larger town of El Calafate in the South and the smaller El Chalten in the North.

    • Since the airport which serves Los Glaciares is close to El Calafate, it is often convenient to stay in this town at the start or the end of your visit to the national park. There is a decent selection of hotels in and around El Calafate, including luxurious lodges, which tend to be further away from town, and mid-range hotels which are often more centrally located.
    • El Chalten is a fantastic base for trekking in the area around Mount Fitz Roy. Although it is a very small town, it has a good range of hotels and hostels, as well as bars, restaurants, and shops for buying or renting trekking gear.

    If you don't fancy trekking around El Chalten, or if you're looking for something more comfortable or inclusive, then lodges and estancias are the best options for staying in Los Glaciares.

    An estancia is a traditional Patagonian farm, many of which now offer accommodation to visitors. Estancias are usually located in more remote areas and they have a homely and welcoming atmosphere. Most keep horses and so staying at an estancia is a great option if you want to incorporate horse riding into your trip.

    The lodges in Los Glaciares offer fully inclusive packages to their guests, including various excursions in the National Park.

    Get in touch to find out more about where to stay.

  • Where can I Trek and Mountaineer?

    The best place to go trekking in Los Glaciares National Park is the Fitz Roy & El Chalten area. Here there is a wide range of trekking options, from gentle day-hikes to multi-day treks over mountain passes, to expeditions onto the South Patagonian Ice Cap.

    • Staying in the town of El Chalten, it is possible to hike straight out onto the trails and to return to your hotel each evening. There are day-hikes which take you to stunning glaciers and lakes, as well as viewpoints of the impressive Mount Fitz Roy and Mount Torre.
    • For those wanting a longer and more challenging trek, there are several options in this area which involve camping each night and allow you to trek for several days through some amazing landscapes. The treks range in difficulty and most start from El Chalten and take in at least one of the mountain passes in the area.
    • There are two passes onto the South Patagonian Ice Cap in this region: Paso Marconi and Paso del Viento. Since these passes can both be reached in two days of trekking from El Chalten, this is a good base for an Ice Cap expedition.

    There are also plenty of options for mountaineering in Los Glaciares. While Cerros Fitz Roy and Torre are climbed only by the best climbers in the world, there are some other mountaineering challenges in the area, which are accomplished much more frequently. For example:

  • When should I visit?

    The best time to visit Los Glaciares is in between the end of spring and the start of autumn, which in the southern hemisphere is roughly from November through to April. Whatever time of year you visit Patagonia, you will find that the weather is very changeable, but avoiding the winter months will mean that there is a higher chance of being able to do the activities that you want to do. Visiting in the winter is possible and you will find the national park to be much quieter, but this region does receive heavy winter snowfall.

  • Can I combine Los Glaciares with Torres del Paine?

    Yes, it's possible to explore both great regions taking in Fitz Roy massif in Los Glaciares and the iconic towers of Torres del Paine. 

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