The ice kingdom of Perito Moreno in Patagonia, Argentina
From 40 degrees in Rio de Janeiro to a frozen land just 1500km away from Antarctica.
I've wanted to visit Patagonia for years. I've always been fascinated by how remote and wild this land is. A true wilderness - which is still relatively easy to access.
To come here, I had to fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, a small town with the only airport in the area. The town is actually quite touristic. A lot of people come here for the glaciers and to hike in the surrounding mountains.
It was not easy to get my ticket to Calafate! LATAM was not accepting any of my cards so I had to go to their office in Buenos Aires and pay there. First time I've done that. Cost was around $350, not cheap but I was buying it only a few days in advance.
The night before my flight I couldn't sleep, I was so nervous and excited that this dream is finally coming true!
I spent the 3-hour flight looking at the desert below me, a landscape that belonged on the moon or on Mars.
We landed around 1pm in Calafate. I spent the rest of the days exploring the small town. It had a touristy main street that was made to look like an Alpine Swiss town - despite the fact that it was in the middle of the desert, surrounded by flat dry lands for miles and miles.
El Calafate sat on Lago Argentino - a giant turqioise lake with milky waters produced by the glaciers to the west. The lake is inhabitted by flamingos! Unfortunately I wasn't able to take pictures as they were very far away and looked like tiny pink dots.
I booked a tour to Perito Moreno glacier at my hostel. I usually try to avoid group tours, but in this case the only other option was renting a car - and I don't have a licence.
The trip started early in the morning. We drove through the Patagonian steppe for about an hour, then entered the Los Glacieres national park and paid the entrance fee (about $20).
Inside the park, the landscape turned from dry yellow flat lands to hills covered with small trees, and mountains in the background.
Finally we arrived at the glacier. This was one of the most otherworldly things I've seen. It felt like I was entering an ice kingdom in a magical, surreal world.
The first view was shocking - I did not imagine it to be that tall. It was over 70 meters! The tour boats dwarfed next to it. And there was a lot more underwater.
The gigantic ice was constantly cracking and it sounded like thunder. Once in a while pieces were breaking in off and falling into the water, some were the size of a house!
Luckily this is a stable glacier - it's not shrinking, it stays the same size (or can even grow) so no need to be worried when pieces fall off - enough new ice is produced to replace them!
I did the boat tour, then got off the boat and explored all of the walkways in the area.
We were only allowed to go on the walkways, as coming near the glacier was dangerous. Apparently it can shoot out ice pieces that killed 32 people in the past. So now no one is allowed to get that close.
Notice the boat in the picture above? It's a pretty big catamaran transporting 30-50 tourists at a time. Just for scale.
The last walkway took me away from the glacier and down to the turquoise "beach". I loved how green this place was, despite the cold. I stayed for a while, watching the layers of mountains of the backgrounds. Unfortunately, soon it was time to take the bus back to Calafate, where I continued my journey to El Chalten.
Perito Moreno was one of my favourite experiences so far, and I think I will be visiting more glaciers in the future, and hopefully get to Antarctica sometime soon!