In the heart of Patagonia, tucked between Argentina’s two largest lakes, amidst a massive ice field, you’ll find Los Glaciares National Park. If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing building-sized chunks of ice crash into water, or of climbing some of South America’s most iconic peaks, you shouldn’t miss this spot.
Today, we’re highlighting a few features that make this destination so impressive. Welcome to Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina’s most beautiful expanse of wilderness.
The glaciers of Los Glaciares National Park
There’s a reason that Argentina named this park after its awe-inspiring glaciers, and once you see them for yourself, you’ll quickly fall in love. You won’t be the first — or the last — to feel this way! Plenty of people have been blown away by the park’s glaciers, and the world’s second-largest ice field is actually located in Southern Patagonia, which explains why Los Glaciares enjoys World Heritage status.
Today, about half of the park is covered by glaciers. And while each one is a sight to behold, the Perito Moreno Glacier is the most famous of all. At 19 miles (30 kilometers) in length, three miles (five kilometers) in width, and up to 200 feet (60 meters) in height, it’s both splendid and sprawling.
Unlike most glaciers around the globe, Perito Moreno is actually advancing instead of retreating. As it pushes against Lago Argentino, the pressure dams the lake’s southern section and causes large pieces of ice to collapse into the freezing water.
“Calving” is the technical term for these collapses, and if you wait patiently at one of the park’s viewing areas, you just might get to witness this natural phenomenon. The thunderously noisy calvings send huge waves surging across the lake’s surface, and (for many people) they’re the highlight of a trip to Patagonia.
A word to the wise: the ice calves most frequently during the late afternoon. And if you’re visiting on a sunny day, your chances of seeing this exciting event are even better!
The mountains of Los Glaciares National Park
When you close your eyes and picture Patagonia’s spiny, jagged, snow-covered peaks, you probably conjure up images of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, the region’s most iconic mountains. To see them with your own two eyes, you’ll need to go to the northernmost area of Los Glaciares National Park.
Here, the elevations are high, and the views are prime. This area, undoubtedly home to some of the world’s most gorgeous real estate, straddles the border between Argentina and Chile, and the two countries tend to disagree on where the boundary really lies.
From the sporty town of El Chaltén, Argentina, you can join hikers, trekkers, and mountaineers on some of Patagonia’s best trails. The town is part of Los Glaciares National Park, and it was founded in the 1980s for the sole purpose of supporting local tourism. Given its location at the base of Mount Fitz Roy, it’s the park’s gateway to true adventure.
While you’re here, you’ll want to hike along the trails that lead to Laguna de los Tres or Laguna Torre. Along the way, you should take some time to catch your breath and admire the surrounding views.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that any old tourist can summit Mount Fitz Roy or Cerro Torre, though. They’re two of the most treacherous peaks in the Western Hemisphere, and it takes a serious mountaineer to pull off that feat!
Flora and fauna of the park
In a wilderness that’s streaked with glaciers, you might not expect to find much flora and fauna. But Los Glaciares National Park is truly extraordinary, and it plays host to several notable plant and animal species.
For example, about 100 types of birds — including condors, hawks, ducks, and finches, as well as flightless birds like Darwin’s rhea — live in the park. So, if you’re a bird watcher, you’re sure to enjoy exploring Los Glaciares!
And while scientists know much more about the park’s avian inhabitants than its other residents, they have discovered that pumas, foxes, Andean cats, and deer live there too. There are also a few types of fish in Lago Argentina and Lago Viedma, and you might even spot some lizards back on dry land.
As far as plant life is concerned, you won’t find much greenery in the park’s steppe or semi-desert highlands, but that will change when you venture into the woods. Here, the lenga trees are abundant, sometimes reaching up to 100 feet (30 meters) tall and always growing close together. The ñire and guindo trees, both close relatives of the lenga, also grow in Los Glaciares.
When the leaves change in autumn (March to May), the park becomes even more beautiful than usual. And with the woods ablaze in bright, fiery oranges and reds and yellows, there’s no place quite like Patagonia in the fall.
That said, there’s no place like Patagonia in the spring, summer, or winter either. It’s an incredibly unique part of the world — and Los Glaciares National Park is Patagonia at its best. Whether you gaze at its glaciers, hike its trails, or admire its wildlife, you’ll leave the park with your sense of wonder renewed. Happy travels!
If you’d like to explore Los Glaciares National Park, join us on one of our trips to Patagonia. We hope to see you there!
Post written by Whitney Brown