After our flight from Ushuaia, we wrapped up Vesper’s birthday with some pizza and beer in the small town of El Calafate. The big attraction there is the Perito Moreno Glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park. We spent one day at the glacier before heading three hours north to El Chaltén for three days of hiking. These two places were insanely scenic, providing the picturesque Patagonia we expected in Ushuaia but happily found here.
Our tour of the Perito Moreno Glacier included an informative guide, boat ride close to the glacial wall, and a few hours to walk along the viewing balconies on the shore opposite the glacier. We learned that the glacier is the third largest ice cube on the planet after Antarctica and Greenland, and it’s still growing! In addition to its size, the Perito Moreno Glacier is famous because every four years or so it has a massive rupture. The flowing glacier dams up a portion of Lago Argentino, which causes the water on one side to rise upwards of 30 meters, putting immense pressure on the ice dam. The water erodes away at the bloackage to form an ice bridge, which eventually collapses into an awesome tsunami of freezing water. Unfortunately for us the ice bridge had just collapsed in March (boo).
The foggy, rainy, and cold weather made our first viewpoint comical: we could barely see the glacier, and we definitely couldn’t see any of the mountains behind it. A vendor had photos of the view on a clear day so at least we got to see what it was supposed to look like. Once inside the park, we had a quick boat ride that went right up to the glacier. Being that close on the water allowed us to appreciate how impressively tall the wall of ice is.
The viewing balconies ended up being the best part of the tour because we got to see several HUGE sheets of ice fall off the glacier! It was pretty much one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. Had it been warmer out, we would have happily sat on the balconies for hours watching the glacier, but instead we settled for only 90 minutes and completely numb extremities before heading back to the bus.
Our first day in El Chaltén, we woke up bright and early to do a full day hike to one of the nearby lakes. A park ranger at the visitor center insisted we hike to Laguna de los Tres as it was the first clear day in a week, and we would be able to enjoy the majestic views of Monte Fitz Roy. It was an amazing hike - one of the best we’ve done in our entire trip! The hike was about 23 kilometers and took eight hours to complete. The hardest part was the final kilometer to the laguna with a steep slope and slippery rocks, but the views at the top were so worth it! This was the Patagonia we had been imagining from the start.
The next day we did a slightly shorter (20 km over 6-7 hours) hike to Laguna Torre so our legs could recover a bit.
Since it was low season, only a handful of restaurants were open, but we managed to find one with a few local beers on tap and enjoyed happy hour after our hikes. We also shared an amazing Patagonia lamb stew at a parrilla to celebrate our last night together before Jaclyn headed back home.
After Jaclyn left Saturday morning, we did two small hikes that provided great panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. It was a great way to wrap up our week hiking in Patagonia before heading to our brewery workaway in Chile!
Update: This post was featured on The Outspoken Travel Guidebook at atdaa.com.