IMPORTANT
Lisa Owen

Argentina is more than Buenos Aires. This unique country also offers a beautiful national park at its southern tip that’s filled with massive glaciers and breathtaking peaks.

Los Glaciares National Park is located in the Argentine side of the Patagonia region, and is home to two key attractions, the Perito Moreno Glacier and the Fitz Roy peak.

glacier park in argentina

Your Patagonian adventure in Argentina will likely begin in the quaint town of El Calafate, located near the Chilean border. The town is full of wooden chalet type buildings that give it a ski town feel.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is located about a 90 minute drive from El Calafate and there’s plenty of bus companies to choose from to get there.

You can expect to pay 600 Argentinian Pesos to get there and back although some bus companies offer combo deals where you can get return tickets to El Chalten and a trip to the glacier for 1600 Argentinian Pesos.

Entry to the national park is 500 Argentinian Pesos. It’s certainly not a cheap exercise to see the glacier, but it’s well worth the spend when you see how close you get to the glacier.

argentina glacier

The Perito Moreno glacier is one of the few glaciers in the world that isn’t receding – in fact it’s actually advancing. It stands between 40 and 70 metres in height above the Argentino Lake, and the total size of the glacier extends more than 250 square kilometres.

You’ll have 3.5 hours in the park to take a good look at the glacier. There’s a whole network of boardwalks leading to different points of the glacier so you can get a good view from every angle.

You get so close you can feel the coolness radiating from the ice, and hear the ice cracking. During my visit, a large chunk of ice would break off the glacier and slide into the lake about every 15 minutes or so. It’s best to visit the glacier in the afternoon, when there’s more chance of the ice breaking off as it’s been warmed by the sun.

It’s also possible to organise an ice hike on the glacier. This can be arranged in El Calafate.

hiking el chalten in argentina

Hiking in El Chalten

The Perito Moreno Glacier is not the only must do in Argentina’s south.

Outdoor lovers should also head over to El Chalten, a three hour bus ride from El Calafate.

El Chalten is located inside the Los Glaciares National Park and there’s several hiking trails radiating out from the centre.

The good news entry is you’re not charged an entry fee to enter this part of the park. When you arrive by bus, you’ll be dropped at the Visitor Information Centre for a helpful 10 minute talk about the trails in the park and the weather forecast. They even give you a handy map in English.

The premier hike is up to the Laguna de los Tres viewpoint, which looks across to the epic Monte Fitz Roy peak. This hike offers one of the best views I’ve ever seen – and that’s saying a lot considering I do a day hike at least once a week.

The hike starts at the edge of town, and quickly winds upwards taking you to a couple of viewpoints.

fitz roy trail argentina

Soon you’re on flat ground through, winding through the woods, across meadows and over streams – getting views the whole time of 3,405 metre Monte Fitz Roy and 3,102 metre Cerro Torre.

The last hour of the trail is a very rocky and steep climb up to an epic viewpoint.

This last stretch climbs 400 metres in elevation over a one kilometre distance. It can be slippery, muddy and windy – so be prepared for the worst.

But what you see when you get to the top will take your breath away – unless the wind does it first!

At the viewpoint, you get a view of a glacial lake sitting at the base of the vertical Fitz Roy peak.

This route is 10km each way and takes about eight hours return.

But you don’t have to do the entire hike to get good views. Hiking 90 minutes up to the Fitz Roy viewpoint will also give you a great view – you just won’t be as close as the final location.

fitz roy approach hike argentina

After your hike, there’s plenty of places to eat and drink in El Chalten – which caters well for the backpacker crowd.

For a snack, head over to Che Empanadas. There’s many varieties of empanadas to choose from such as barbecue pork, chicken, Roquefort cheese, and ham, cheese and pineapple.

If you’re feeling really hungry, head to a parilla (restaurant specialising in steak) or grab a burger at one of the many restaurants. My favourite restaurant was B&B Burger Joint.

If the Cerro Fitz Roy hike didn’t wear you out, stay a couple of more days in El Chalten and check out the other hikes in the area.

  • From the Visitor Information Centre, hike up to the Los Condores and Las Aguilas viewpoints. These will take about an hour each way.
  • Hike to the Chorillo del Salto Waterfall. It’s an easy one hour each way walk from the centre of town.
  • Trek to Laguna Torre and take in views of the Cerro Torre range. This hike takes about three hours each way.
  • Head up to the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado viewpoint. This hike takes you uphill for a great view of El Chalten, across meadows, through woods and up to a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. This one is best left to a clear day.

Plan to spend at least two nights in El Chalten in case you hit bad weather on the first day. Even in summer, the weather can be very temperamental here – especially the wind.

argentina glacier park

How To Get There

You can reach El Calafate and El Chalten from Argentina or Chile.

If you’re starting in Argentina, most people fly to El Calafate from Buenos Aires or take the bus from Bariloche.

You can also reach El Calafate from Puerto Natales in Chile. Regular buses do the run across the border and take about five hours.

From El Calafate, it’s a three hour bus to El Chalten. Several bus companies run this route and it’s possible to buy your ticket from the bus companies inside the bus station the day before.

Things You Should Know

  • The weather can change quickly in Patagonia. Plan for all weather including rain, cold and wind.
  • Essential gear on your hike should include rainjacket, warm clothing such as gloves, beanie and a jacket, sunscreen, drybag for any valuables, raincover for your backpack, sunglasses and good hiking shoes. If you need trekking poles, these can be hired in El Chalten.
  • Argentinian ATMs charge foreign cards to withdraw money. If you’re only staying a short time, it might be a better option to exchange money. US Dollars are best.
  • You need to cross a border to get from the Chilean side of Patagonia to the Argentine side so make sure you bring your passport. If you’re coming from the Chile side, make sure you have your PDI receipt (provided to you by the Immigration Officer on your arrival into Chile). If coming to Chile from Argentina, you will have to surrender any fresh fruit or vegetables.
  • Tickets for buses between Puerto Natales and El Calafate can be bought at the bus station or in advance online from Bus Sur. Buses between El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier and El Chalten can be bought easily in person at El Calafate bus station a day before. Be aware that you have to pay a terminal tax each time you catch a bus from Argentine bus stations. It’s usually 10 or 20 Argentine pesos.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 80 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.