Patagonia – the sparsely populated territory shared by Argentina and Chile and often referred to as “the end of the earth” – is home to some of the most stunning natural vistas on the planet. While its turquoise lakes and giant mountains are spectacular, there’s truly something otherworldly about the Perito Moreno Glacier.
The glacier is five kilometres wide and reaches 75 metres above the surrounding Lake Argentino, but also a whopping 170 meters below water-level. Situated in Los Glaciares National Park, it’s actually one of 48 glaciers that make up the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. For a science refresher lesson, a glacier forms when snow builds up (usually over centuries) and compacts into dense ice which moves very slowly under its own immense weight. Think of it as the world’s coldest, slowest river.
One of the most fascinating things about Perito Moreno is that it’s one of three glaciers in the entire world that continues to grow; most of the planet’s other glaciers are retreating. Every single day it grows at a rate of two meters, but also loses a just enough of its mass proportionate to its growth to ensure it all evens out. How does it do this? No one really knows. See, told you: it’s a marvel!
You can embark on a trek of the actual glacier with two options available: the 90 minute mini-trek or the five hour big ice trek for those more seasoned. The mini-trek will set you back $125AUD Hielo & Adventura, but we can confirm it’s absolutely worth the cash.
AWOL’s editor Taryn Stenvei said of her visit: “Only with proximity can you understand the true scale, and everyone is silent as our boat glides along beside the 70 metre high wall of ice, avoiding icebergs that dot the water like tombstones in a glacial graveyard. Without warning, huge sheets of ice, some the size of a school bus, calve off the glacier’s snout and slide seamlessly into the water, as if in slow-mo.”
The UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see if you’re planning on heading to South America. The glacier is located 78 kilometres from the Argentinian town of El Calafate. Make sure you head to the site in the afternoon when sunshine warms the ice of the glacier up enough to cause ear-cracking ruptures.[qantas_widget code=SCL]Check out Qantas flights to South America here.[/qantas_widget]