After seeing dozens of glaciers and icebergs in Antarctica, I began questioning my decision to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina. After all, it’s just another glacier. How different could it be? Eventually I decided to stick to my initial plan. At the very worst, I would have seen yet another glacier. I took a shuttle van from El Chaltén to El Calafate, gateway to the Perito Moreno Glacier, and booked a day tour with one of numerous tour companies located in the city center.
The next morning I began the long trek down to observation decks on the shore of Argentino Lake, where the glacier terminates. The dense pine forest suddenly opened up and I stopped in my tracks. Mile after mile of ice flowed into a valley tucked between black mountain peaks. The towering 240-foot high face of the glacier teetered at the edge of the water. Its surface was riven by deep crevices and scores of fractures splayed across its face.
As magnificent as this first view was, I would soon realize it was only one small corner of the Perito Moreno Glacier. For the next three hours I climbed up and down staircases leading to myriad decks that faced the glacier. Even then, I hadn’t seen its entirety; the walkways stretch nearly 2.5 miles long as they wrap around the massive field of ice. Finally, I was forced to return to the van or miss my ride back to town.
I climbed aboard with a whopping smile on my face. How different was it from the glaciers I saw in Antarctica? Massively different, in every sense of the word. The glaciers I saw in Antarctica were dwarfed by the sheer size and majesty of the seventh continent. But here, the glacier was the star attraction. Thank goodness I hadn’t decided to skip Perito Moreno.