Argentina has more than 300 glaciers of which some are in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Glacier National Park). This majestic park stretches for approximately 350km along the Andes and is part of the Patagonian Ice Field, which is the second biggest in the world after Antartica.
Since 1981 this area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it includes two lakes and 47 glaciers. The larger of the lakes, Lago Argentina, is the largest in Argentina and is now a very impressive 15,000 years old.The largest glacier is Upsala (60 km long and 10km wide) and can only be reached by boat.
The national park is also home to mountains, forests and rivers. The famous mountain peak is Cerro Fitz Roy (named after the captain of Darwin’s ship, HMS Beagle). It is also known as Chaltén and stands at 3405m. It is a challenging peak to climb and only really for the professionals although there are other possible treks to do but again aren't for the faint hearted.
The magnificent and main attraction of the park is the Perito Moreno glacier, the only glacier in the world to still be growing (falling snow accumulates faster than it melts). It has a distinctive blue colour (which comes from the oxygen trapped in the snow) and is named after the first Argentinian to explore the area. Reaching five kilometres across and 60 metres high, visitors listen for creaking sounds as this indicates large chunks of ice are about crash into the water, making observation best from a safe distance!
On Lago Argentina it is possible to go ice-trekking (which you need to be relatively fit for), an experience people say they never forget. An alternative, if this might not be your thing, is a mini-trek, which is only available on a smaller and safer part of the glacier. Otherwise you can horse ride, cycle or drive around Lago Argentina through the forests taking in the glorious views. Boat trips also make a great day trip.
On the other lake, Lago Viedma, activity is focused on the Upsala glacier (which is only reached by boat). It is possible to get off and follow a trail - in the park you can see wildlife such as condors, aguila moras, choiques, guanaco and pumas. While on the water keep your eyes peeled in order to dodge the icebergs.
The best time of year to visit is from October to April (the high season). Spring is the especially is good – the weather is improving, flowers are blooming and there are less crowds. However it is imperative that you take warm clothes regardless of the season as the wind can really be biting.
To reach the park it is best to travel to the city of El Calafate, which is on Lago Argentina, there is an airport here as well. El Calafate is a tourist town with plenty of accommodation, shops, tour agencies and restaurants. It makes an excellent place to base yourself. The town of El Chaltén is the base point for all the climbers and trekkers. Once in the region you should allow 3-4 days for your stay, of course the weather conditions are never reliable and sometimes you will have to wait in order to see the glaciers.
While in this stunning and remote part of the world a stay on a sheep estancias is highly recommended. Although they are not cheap accommodation options they are inclusive of all your meals and provide the unforgettable experience of life on a working ranch in Patagonia.
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