Category Archives: El Calafate

Visiting Argentina’s Glaciers

Stunning. Awesome. Fantastic. Beautiful. Marvelous. Gorgeous. Spectacular. These were just some of the words I used to describe my visit to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in Argentina, Mar. 10-13, 2013.

I was thrilled to travel there, eager to visit places I’ve wanted to see for more than a decade—to El Calafate, the city that serves as the gateway to the National Glacier Park (in the province of Santa Cruz, southwest Argentina, along the Chilean-Argentinean border of the Andes Mountains). The huge ice field spans 220 miles in both Chile and Argentina. A total of 48 glaciers feed into Argentina’s largest lake, Lago Argentino. On its southern coast is the city of El Calafate, a 45-min. bus ride from the National Glacier Park. The city itself is tourist-oriented, where one can’t walk more than a few steps before encountering shops selling artesanal and winter goods, or restaurants offering grilled Patagonian lamb (cordero Patagonia a la parrilla). What captured me completely was seeing the majestic glaciers.

The first time I saw Perito Moreno, named to honor the 19th century explorer Francisco Moreno, was via a tourist cruise on a passenger catamaran and the second, from the viewing bluffs and walkways in the National Glacier Park.The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of South America. Within it are three of Lake Argentina’s tributaries that led our catamaran to the most famous glaciers here: Upsala, the Spegazzini Glacier and the most visited, most famous and likely most photographed of them all, the Glacier Perito Moreno. Perito Moreno is 3 miles wide and 19 miles long. It rises almost 200 feet above the water level and extends another 2,300 feet below the water level! Guides say the entire city of Buenos Aires could fit within it. Now that’s a lotta ice!

Standing on a bluff overlooking Moreno I could hear the booming and cracking sounds the glacier made as chunks of it exploded and collapsed into the water below. Watch and listen to the rumbling sounds Perito Moreno makes when ice eruptions or collapses, called calvings, occur in this YouTube video from 2012. The sounds you’ll hear were not made by airplanes flying overhead, but they are the sounds the glacier makes when parts of it – wherever on its surface—collapse into the waters of Lake Argentina.

After enjoying the glaciers from the water and the shore, I capped it off with an afternoon trip to the new ice museum, the Glaciarium, a short bus ride from the heart of El Calafate. This is the place to learn about ice. There I learned that glacial ice is denser than ice made from melting snow, and that glacial ice absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except blue, so we see the ice reflecting blue. As crystal blue ice. As shimmering turquoise blue ice. Pale blue, variegated ice. Glacial ice.

Stunning. Awesome. Fantastic. Beautiful. Marvelous. Gorgeous. Spectacular. That’s what some FB friends told me when I shared a few of these photos from my trip to El Calafate. See more of them in the slide show I created.

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Filed under El Calafate, glaciers