Epic Adventures Los Glaciares Uncategorised

Exploring Perito Moreno glacier by boat

When it comes to icy rivers of blue and white, few glaciers can make you draw breath like Perito Moreno in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. Everything about it is superlative. Its immense walls tower more than 60 metres above the waters of a vast lake, offering a great face of ice that stretches seemingly endlessly back into the mountains. 

Perito Moreno – one of Argentina’s greatest natural wonders

Perito Moreno isn’t frozen in time either. It’s incredibly fast moving for a glacier, advancing ceaselessly down from the Andes at a pace of two metres a day. This means that its cliffs continuously calve icebergs into the waters, playing one of nature’s greatest spectacles on an endless loop. Throw in its proximity to the hiking hub town of El Chaltén and it’s easy to understand why this is one of Patagonia’s most visited sites. Simply put, to come to this part of the world and not see Perito Moreno would be like visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. 

How to explore Perito Moreno

There are plenty of activities to do around Perito Moreno, including donning crampons to hike on its surface, paddling alongside it in a kayak, or simply enjoying it from the many scenic viewpoints set up for tourists. Indeed, one of the most incredible things about Perito Moreno is its accessibility, making it an option for anyone and everyone passing through nearby El Calafate. Of course, what this means is that everyone does visit it, and thus it will necessarily be one of the more touristy attractions on your Patagonia itinerary.

Walkways link the viewing platforms at Perito Moreno

This is no reason not to go of course! But on my most recent visit, in order to get away from the crowds and explore some of the less frequented corners of the Park, I opted to do the Mayo Spirit excursion instead. This full day trip culminates with that must-do boat ride on Lago Argentina to view the Perito Moreno from the water, but it builds up to this grand finale with a series of walks around the wider glacier area. It’s a great option for anyone who wants some walking that isn’t too strenuous but who still wants to explore the nooks and crannies around the lake shore. 

The boat for the Mayo Spirit Trek excursion

The Mayo Spirit Trek starts with being picked up by a shuttle van from your hotel in El Calafate and driven to Punta Bandera on the lake – a journey of a little over an hour. 

Remote shores

From the moment we pulled away from the dock and tasted the cool breezes washing down from the mountains it was clear that taking to the water was the right decision to get away from the morning commotion that comes with starting at Perito Moreno itself. Although the boat can take up to 60 passengers, it never felt busy, and there was always plenty of fresh air available up on the deck. 

The Mayo Spirit Trek involves two stops before reaching the face of Perito Moreno itself. The first leg of the boat trip was a happy hour and twenty minutes of drinking in the scenery, before the first landing at Bahía Toro. 

Lakeside at Bahía Toro

Getting off the boat here, we walked through the forest to a viewpoint with a spectacular waterfall nearly 200m high. It was a gentle hike along the flat but the guide (bilingual in English and Spanish) kept us everyone engaged telling us all about the flora and fauna in the area, as well as explaining the long history of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field that had given birth to the attraction we were all here to see.   

After returning to the boat we headed off for the second stop of the day. The views from the lake here were of the hanging glaciers of Cerro Mayo and Cerro Negra. It was to the latter that we headed now, hiking leisurely towards its face. 

The hanging glacier at Cerro Negra

This walk was more of a hike that the previous nature walk in that it was uphill, but it was still gentle enough to be nicely accessible to all. The end point of the trail was a gorgeous view of the glacier, but the nice touch here was that the guide invited us all to stay at the top and take our time to wander down at our own pace. The group split up as some people headed down quite quickly and others (including myself) took the opportunity to explore a little more and find other viewpoints to take in the scenery and feel like we had the space to enjoy all to ourselves.

Approaching the ice

I ate my box lunch out on the top deck of the boat after we pulled away from Cerro Negra, refreshed from having stretched my legs. From here it was about an hour and a quarter’s pleasant cruising to the main event: Perito Moreno itself. 

The ice cliffs of Perito Moreno

Having the slow build up all morning was the perfect way of drumming up the anticipation for seeing Perito Moreno up close. And nothing can quite prepare you for just how massive it is and just how small it makes you feel when you approach it from the water, pulling into the aptly-named Canal de los Témpanos (Iceberg Channel). 

Of course, we could only get so close. It wasn’t long before we were reminded that its cliff wall is a highly active area. With an explosive crash, an immense chunk of ice the size of a building suddenly sheared off the blue wall and plunged straight into the water. 

Viewing the ice from a safe distance

It was also a very practical answer to the big question we’d all been asking our guide as we started to approach the glacier: just how close would the boat get to Perito Moreno? Now, with waves rolling out from the birth of this new iceberg, and spears of ice continuing to fall from the cliff, we were happy to watch from a respectful and happily safe distance. 

The sound of ice

A soundtrack of slow creaks and cracks from the ice punctuated our time near the face of Perito Moreno, before the boat pulled away so that we could sail to the dock and spend the last hour and a half of the excursion exploring the extensive network of walkways that give you aerial views of the ice field. 

New icebergs are constantly born from the glacier

On some occasions this can be easier said than done. Those icebergs that calve off the face of the glacier have to go somewhere before they slowly melt away, and with the strong Patagonian wind such as it is, it’s not unprecedented for the approach to the dock to sometimes be blocked by an ice cube the size of a house. Thankfully this time we met no such obstructions. 

Docking at the end of the Perito Moreno cruise

After a day on the water sailing between remote locations it felt like a surprise to be back among the groups of tourists who had driven down from El Calafate just to take in the view. But who could blame them when the view was as spectacular as this? I’d already done plenty of hard hiking on this trip so it was lovely to indulge in this softest of adventures and yet still find within it a space for most marvelling at the quiet wonder of nature – and the explosive booms when it puts on one of its greatest shows. 


Exploring Perito Moreno by boat is just one way you can get close to one of Argentina’s greatest natural wonders. Swoop Patagonia can help find the best one for you: check our our full list of adventure activities on the glacier here.

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Sydney Miller

Swoop Patagonia Specialist

Sydney was still in Patagonia when she began plotting her return. Since her first visit to Torres del Paine in 2013, she’s trekked all over the globe but always finds her way back to this otherworldly place that started it all. Few things make her happier than swimming in a Patagonian glacial lake after a long hike – and encouraging others to do the same!