People around the world visit Los Glaciares National Park for two main reasons: to see the advancing Perito Moreno Glacier and to hike the trails of Mount Fitzroy and Cerro Torre. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest national park in Argentina (2,806 sq mi), Los Glaciares includes independent glaciers, part of the southern Patagonian icefields, sub-Antarctic forests, and the Australian Andes. Located in the province of Santa Cruz, it is divided into two sections—the northern section by El Chalten and the southern section by El Calafate.
Estancias (farms) dot the surrounding area, while the park’s varied landscapes make for breathtaking glacier walking, kayaking, rock climbing, boat cruises, and camping.
In a violent military takeover in 1879, the Argentine government confiscated the park’s lands from the native Aónikenk people. However, Los Glaciares did not become a national park until 1937, when the area became part of a land-grabbing competition with Chile. The nearby town of El Chalten was named for Mount Fitz Roy with the name Aónikenk, meaning “smoking mountain.”
Things to Do
Most of the activities in the southern region of the park revolve around the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the few glaciers in the world that is rising rather than melting. Sometimes snow falls from glaciers and crashes into the Canal de Los Tempanos, making the Peninsula de Magellan boardwalk a great photo opportunity across the channel.
Perito Moreno is also one of the most accessible glaciers globally, and Hilo y Aventura offers short and long ice climbs to its top. On a Milloutdoor tour, it is possible to take a boat to see the glacier up close via Southern Spirit catamaran or kayak.
The cost of admission to the southern part of the park is 1,800 pesos ($18).
Hiking is the most popular activity in the Northern Territory, although some of the best climbers in the world will continue to summit Mount Fitzroy and Cerro Torre. Ice climbing, trekking, and dog sledding can all be done. Casa de Guias offers several-day ice trekking tours on the southern Patagonian icefields. Lake cruises, fly-fishing, kayaking, and rock climbing are also available in the northern part. Although not allowed in the park, just outside it, you can go horseback riding with guides from estancias or book with companies like El Relincho.
Best Hikes & Trails
Admission is free to all trails within the national park beginning at El Chalten. El Chalten’s website provides maps and estimated times for several treks.
- Laguna Torre: This trail leads to Laguna Torre, where trekkers can see the snow-capped summit of Cerro Torre surrounded by a garden of glaciers. Visitors can take one of two trails starting at El Chalten which eventually merges into a longer trail. The trail is about 6.4 miles, so spend about three hours hiking.
- Laguna de Los Tres: At the end of Avenida San Martín, this trail is for 8 miles past waterfalls, through forests, meadows, wooden bridges, and views of Laguna de Los Tres and Mount Fitz Roy above the treeline. winds for Hiking time is about eight hours.
- Piedras Blancas Glacier: An easy climb of about 5 miles, this trail leads to a turquoise lake that is filled with snowflakes. The path begins at the bridge over the Blanco River on Provincial Route 41 and continues through woods where White Gardens and Magellanic Woodpeckers can be seen. The hike takes about four to five hours round trip.
Where to Camp
Los Glaciares has camped in its northern and southern parts, ranging from backcountry sites with no service, some with hot water and general stores. Many are free and do not require permits or reservations. Bring a gas stove if you plan to cook, as igniting is prohibited. You’ll also need to pack your trash. If camping doesn’t suit you, you can stay at a hotel or estancia inside the park.
- Lago Roca: A well-equipped campsite located inside the park, Lago Roca has grills, cabins, full bathrooms, a general store, ping pong, a public telephone, a restaurant, and it issues fishing licenses. Find it on Route 15, 30 miles from El Calafate.
- Bahia Escondida: This campground offers spectacular views of the Perito Moreno Glacier, about 4 miles away. Hot showers, a general store, grill, and picnic tables make this a comfortable base right off Ruta 11.
- Poincenot Campground: A primitive campground with a single pit toilet and sunrise-perfect views of Mount Fitzroy, find it along the Laguna de Los Tres trail (about one hour to 75 minutes after Laguna Capri turn-off), from L. Only 6 miles away. trend.
- Agostini Campground: Set in a forest about 6.5 miles from El Chalten, this primitive campground has a single pit toilet. Nearby science-watching sports offer panoramas of Laguna Torre and the southern Patagonia icefields.
Where to Stay Nearby
Although there are plenty of accommodations in El Calafate and El Chalten, you’ll need to book in advance if you plan to visit during the high season (December through February and Easter). For significantly lower prices, visit during the shoulder seasons of fall and spring. Winter can also bring reasonable prices, although some accommodations are closer to the season.
- Americas del Sur Calafate Hostel: Only a seven-minute walk from downtown, this hostel offers impressive views of the mountains and lake from the communal lounge’s floor-length windows. Both dorm and private rooms with heated floors are available, as are Wi-Fi, a good continental breakfast, and booking services.
- La Cantera: This rustic boutique hotel has large beds and private balconies with lake and city views. Family-friendly, it has Wi-Fi, a breakfast buffet, an on-site wine cellar, and an on-site restaurant specializing in Patagonian cuisine.
- EOLO: Located halfway out of town between El Calafate and Los Glaciares, the 17 rooms at this luxury lodge overlook the surrounding lake, steppe, and cordillera. Its remoteness gives guests a serene environment for uninterrupted sleep, and the on-site restaurant’s head chef formerly worked in Michelin-starred kitchens.
- Pieros del Valle: Located on Avenida San Martín, this hostel is only three blocks from the hiking trail and offers dorm and private rooms, Wi-Fi, a fully equipped kitchen, and a large screen TV.
- Chalten Camp: This sparkling enclave is just 2 miles from El Chalten and features geodesic domes perched atop native forests with uninterrupted views of Mount Fitz Roy. Each dome has a wood-burning stove, private bathroom, and slippers, while the central dome houses a lounge and dining area.
- Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montana: Situated on the edge of town, only 0.3 miles from Los Glaciares, this hotel makes for a convenient and luxurious stay for trekking, comfortable rooms, and the spa. Book a massage and swim a few laps in the heated pool to relax after the trek.
How to Get There
Flights run daily from Buenos Aires, Bariloche, and Ushuaia to El Calafate, as well as to Rio Gallegos. El Calafate and Río Gallegos both have buses to the south of Los Glaciares. The southern part of the park is most easily reached by driving west on Route 11 from El Calafate for about an hour. To get to El Chalten (the gateway city to the northern part of the park), take one of the daily buses from El Calafate that run from November to March. Get to Los Glaciares by walking from El Chaltén, as many of the most famous trails begin on the outskirts of the city.
The southern part of the park offers more wheelchair-accessible activities than the northern part. The two highest floors of Perito Moreno Glacier’s boardwalk trails are accessible from the upper parking lot, and there are ramps and an elevator to access the ground floor. You can also explore the glacier via a wheelchair-friendly Southern Spirit Boat cruise, which takes passengers around the northern face of the glacier. There is wheelchair-accessible hiking to a waterfall at the northern section’s park entrance, Chorrillo del Salto. For the visually impaired, the Los Condoras Trail has Braille signage.
Tips for Your Visit
- Bring cash. Lodging and touring businesses will often give you a small discount if you pay cash. Bring US Dollars into Buenos Aires and exchange at the blue market rate before flying to Patagonia for the best exchange rate.
- Pets are not allowed in Los Glaciares.
- Pack layers as the weather can be unpredictable during the summer with strong winds and rain and even snow, depending on how high you are.
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