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Glacier Trekking in Patagonia: Viedma vs Perito Moreno

Glacier Trekking in Patagonia: Viedma vs Perito Moreno

There are few places in the world that offer such easy access to glaciers as Patagonia. With some of the largest glaciers in the world the fact that you can boat to, fly over, and even walk on these glaciers is incredible. Glacier trekking is a unique way to see these forces of nature from an entirely different vantage point. In Argentina, there are two main glacier walking options – the Perito Moreno near El Calafate and the Viedma near El Chalten. We're often asked what the main differences are between the two so read on below to find out which one you should include on your trip to Patagonia!

The impressive Perito Moreno glacier
The boat ride to the Viedma starting point

The Approach:

Viedma: Board a catamaran at Tunel Bay, just 17km from the mountain town of El Chalten (and about 3 hours from El Calafate). Crossing the lake takes about 45 minutes and you have the chance to pass by the base of the glacier in the boat. The glacier has receded in recent years so when you disembark on terra firma you do so on rock, not ice. Scramble across the rocks to reach the ice. The glacier has retreated in the past few years and there is now a necessary rappel down the rocks to reach the ice. Upon reaching the ice, the guides will outfit you with crampons and prepare you to step foot on the glacier itself.

Perito Moreno: Board a ship at Bajo de las Sombras, about 45 minutes outside of El Calafate. The ride across the lake takes about 20 minutes, arriving at a dock and general landing area. There are table and viewpoints from which you can relax and watch the glacier in all its glory. The hike to the ice is a well worn trail that skirts the edge of the lake before arriving at the edge of the ice. Here, you put on your crampons and get ready to step onto the ice. 

The rocky scramble leading to the glacier
The rappel to the glacier ice of the Viedma
About to step onto the ice of the Perito Moreno from the approach trail

The Trekking

Viedma: The Viedma ice trekking is more challenging – there are steeper ascents and descents. Your guides will teach you the nuances of using crampons and kick steps for you if necessary. You are on the ice for close to 3 hours and walk deep into the glacier. Your guides will point out all manner of glacial formations. 

Restrictions: ages 12+ (no upper limit) 

Requirements: over the ankle boots 

Group Size: max 15 

Perito Moreno: there are 2 options on the Perito Moreno – minitrekking and Big Ice Minitrekking: the path through the glacier is a well worn trail. You will be doing little "trail breaking" and there are no real steep ascents or descents. You still encounter crevasses and other glacial formations but in a very controlled environment. Time on the ice is about 1 ½ hours 

Restrictions: ages 12-65 

Requirements: any hiking boots 

Group Size: max 20 

Big Ice: this is a smaller group that goes deeper into the glacier. You're on the ice for 3 ½ hours and will have the opportunity to use ice axes as well as crampons. There will be steeper ascents and descents and since the group is smaller your guides can more easily customize the trek to the level of the group 

Restrictions: ages 18-50 

Requirements: any hiking boots 

Group Size: max 15

Exploring an ice tunnel on the Viedma
A group of trekkers on the Perito Moreno

The Scene:

Viedma: The Viedma glacier is more remote and much less crowded. The only way to get to and see the glacier is by boat. It's farther from the hub of El Calafate and it's less well-known than the Perito Moreno so there are fewer groups on the glacier itself. There are generally no more than a couple of groups on the ice at one time. The Viedma is unique for the bright orange rocks that abut the icy blue glacial lake water, making for a vibrant and colorful picture.

Perito Moreno: There are few glaciers in the world that can compare to the grandeur of the Perito Moreno. 3 miles wide and over 20 stories high, it's magnificent to behold both on and off the glacier. While walking expect to feel very small with cavernous valleys and cliffs for the duration of the walk. Due to its famous nature, the Perito Moreno has a near constant flow of people going on and off the glacier with much larger group sizes. There are viewing platforms that look at the glacier across the water making for a  less remote experience. The Big Ice tour has a smaller group size and goes deeper into the glacier, allowing for a more similar experience to the Viedma. 

The Viedma ice trek
The expansive Perito Moreno. A few small groups are visible across the glacier

Both glacier walks offer a truly unique experience to walk on glaciers - the chance to feel small as you walk beneath soaring peaks of ice and look through tunnels that seem deep but are just scraping the surface of the glacier's icy mass. The Perito Moreno is more accessible both in terms of approach and technical skills necessary. The Viedma is for the very adventurous, those looking to push the boundaries of travel on rock and ice. In today's day and age this is the time to visit the glaciers of our world and see them in all their glory before it's too late.   

More questions about which trek is right for you? Ask us!

Ready to book your glacier trekking adventure? Check out our Hiker's Patagonia itinerary or Best of Patagonia

6 Ways to Experience the Glaciers of Patagonia
Exploring Undiscovered Patagonia: The Aysen

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