Travel Icon: Perito Moreno Glacier

One of the few non-retreating glaciers in the Patagonia region, this is a true geographical highlight of the Argentinian Andes

Chris Moss | Issue 94 | March 2008

You can snap photo after photo, but you can never quite capture the character of a glacier. It looks absolutely static, but it is moving. It is mostly silent, but it growls. It is white, but it looks impossibly, electrically blue. It is impenetrable and cold, but – from a distance – has the texture and inviting tangibility of cake icing.

On my first trip to the Perito Moreno, it was the glacier’s surreal aspect that beguiled me. I sat on the terminal moraine in shorts, sunbathing in front of the towering, 80m-high ice wall.

On a second visit to a nearby estancia I took a cruise across Lago Argentino, the biggest lake in Patagonia, and visited Perito Moreno’s neighbours – the Onelli, Spegazzini and Upsala glaciers. The boat sailed through a bright green lake littered with bergs of every shape and size, before drawing up before the alien sight of a lonely, ominous slab of ice. Far from any town, I had the thrilling, if unnerving, sense of being in the midst of something utterly geological, outside human history.

The Upsala is actually bigger than Moreno, but the latter remains the most impressive for most. To see the Upsala properly, you’d have to fly over it in a helicopter or microlight, as it is tucked away (if you can tuck away 870 sq km of ice) in a long valley that is tricky to access. 

But the Moreno, which is in any case as big as the city of Buenos Aires, stuns you even if you see it only as the coach tourists do – from a bend in the road in front of the Los Notros hotel. From this humble tarmac, it’s a dazzling spectacle: framed by mountains and beech forests, tiny boats simper beneath the looming ice-cliff and, way beyond, the Southern Ice Field is encircled by mist.




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