Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
On the eastern slope of the Andes, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares comprises more than 759,000 hectares of slowly flowing ice, interspersed with Magellanic forests, that spawn clear, frigid rivers and vast lakes along the Chilean border east and north of El Calafate.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s most famous for Moreno Glacier, which draws thousands of sedentary visitors for day trips but also pulls in international scientists absorbed in glaciology and climate studies. The isolated northern sector is a four-hour bus trip from El Calafate.
Wildlife includes the endangered, rarely seen Andean huemul.
At the Río Mitre entrance, the main Moreno Glacier approach, the Administración de Parques Nacionales (APN) collects a US$10 admission fee (payable in pesos only) for nonresidents of Argentina. At present, the Lago Roca and El Chaltén sectors continue fee-free.
At the southern approach to El Chaltén, the APN (tel. 02962/493004) has turned a former hostería into a national-parks visitors center. In addition to natural-history exhibits, it provides a decent trail map (scale 1:75,000) and also issues climbing permits (free of charge). Hours are 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily.
For an informed guide who leads backcountry trips in from El Chaltén, contact retired park ranger Adrián Falcone (tel. 02962/493064, aefalcone [at] hotmail [dot] com), who speaks English and even a smattering of Japanese.
Moreno Glacier is about 80 kilometers west of El Calafate by Ruta Provincial 11, which is paved to the park entrance; the trip takes an hour-plus. Both Cal Tur and Taqsa, at El Calafate’s bus terminal, have scheduled services at 9 a.m. daily (US$20 round-trip), returning in the afternoon.Albergue del Glaciar runs its own guided minivan excursions (US$30 pp), leaving about 8:30 a.m. and returning about 5 p.m.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition