5 ways to get close to glaciers in Patagonia

 Ever since I watched the fantastic documentary Chasing Ice by James Balog (see the trailer here) I have been fascinated by glaciers. I wanted to get close to them, to touch them, to explore them. In Patagonia, my dreams became true.
The glaciers of Patagonia are among the most accessible in the world. Did you know that the Southern Patagonian ice field is actually the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water? It stretches between Chile and Argentina, over 12.000sqkm. It feeds more than 40 glaciers in the area among them the famous Perito Moreno (El Calafate,  Argentina) but also glaciers Viedma (El Chalten, Argentina) and Grey (NP Torres del Paine, Chile) , all really accessible to the active traveler.
Getting close to glaciers is the number one  on the list of my must do in Patagonia.

1. Admire glaciers from panoramic point of view

National Park Los Glaciares (Perito Moreno), breathtaking.

Forget everything you know about glaciers and just get there.
You thought glaciers were big? You will stand speechless trying to realise the actual size of these monsters of ice. You believed ice was white? Stay amazed admiring the fifty shades of blue created by air trapped in different density of ice.
You thought glacier were standing boring giants? Get to Perito Moreno, one of the few glaciers in the world that is advancing. With 2m of progression a day, a visit at the park almost guarantee you to witness some blocks of ice breaking and collapsing into the cold waters of Lago Argentino in a defining noise. The spectacle of glaciers is permanent and the landscape changes everyday as it melts, breaks or in the contrary accumulates during winter.


2. Visit the Glaciarum museum, El Calafate

Ice-trekker admiring magic details of a glacier.

Maybe you were not expecting to find this first on the list. A museum, really? The curious traveller will find that little information is displayed on the glaciers sites themselves.

If you want some background, and to understand a bit the science behind the beauty, visit first the comprehensive Glaciarum Museum located in El Calafate (Argentina). You will get to know about the glacier formations, their circle of life, their role in the eco-system and how they are impacted by global warming.


You can easily spend 2h (around $10-15). Note that it’s probably a bit too complex for kids below 10.


3. Take a boat tour

This is an option offered by several companies across South Patagonia. Contrary to what you may think, you won’t get closer to the glacier by taking a boat tour: for security reason, the boats stay further away than some of the viewing platforms at Perito Moreno’s site for example.
The cool thing with getting on the water is that you will get close to the icebergs and will be able to see the glaciers from another angle. Some would say it give a feeling of mini polar expedition.
Boat tours costs around $30.


4. Approach by Kayak

If you want to challenge yourself and get close to the icebergs, book a kayak tour. By the force of your arms, you will navigate between these giant floating blocks of ice until getting pretty close to the big wall of ice. You feel small, really small…
These original tours are open to beginners and after a short briefing, you will know the basics of kayaking. it will cost you around $90 for a 2.5h tour.


5. Go Ice-trekking

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You barely saw them from the point of view: the ice-trekkers similar to ants on the huge ice field. Time to put on your crampons and to become one of them.
Ice-trekking is the activity that gives you both the small and the big. Be part of the immensity of the glacier and at the same time, admiring the tiny nitty details of it: its rivers, lagoons, cascades, trapped air bubbles, tunnels. All of it making you evolve in a enchanted like environment. At times, the guides secure you with harnesses so that we can truly bend over the edge and take a good look at the gorges, canyons and crevasses. Some of them are more than 20-30m high! This is a walk you will never forget.


You will spend between 1- 2h on the ice and the complete activity usually takes 3-5h. You need to be in good physical condition but no previous climbing experience is needed. Ice-trekking is really a popular activity, in high season you should definitely book in advance to avoid disappointment.


Make it happen: discovering Patagonia’s glaciers

First thing, hurry up! Unfortunately glaciers of Patagonia are endangered due to global warming, almost all of them are retrieving and thinning at an impressive and alarming speed.

Grey_Glacier_Torres del Paine

Ice-trekkers on the 26km long Grey Glacier. Grey has never been so blue.

The activities described in this article can be realized in several places in Southern Patagonia. The most accessible are the following:

  • Viedma Glacier, El Chalten, Argentina
  • Perito Moreno, El Calafate, Argentina
  • Grey Glacier, Torres del Paine, Chile
In Northern Patagonia, you will find glacier Rafael in Los Antiguos, (Argentina) where many of these activities are possible as well.
Are glaciers on your bucketlist?


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