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Guide to the Best Glacier Hikes in Patagonia

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Los Leones glacier, Tierra Luna, Aysen, Chile

 

Visiting Patagonia and hiking on the glaciers go hand in hand. Read on for our suggestions of some of the best glacier hikes in Patagonia.

Patagonia offers a wonderful array of glaciers:  some you hike to, some you trek on top of and other, more remote, glaciers you can only reached by boat.

 

Glaciers of Chile

Stunning lakes and glaciers in Chile

Where is Patagonia?

Patagonia encompasses the southern part of the South American continent, covering both southern Chile and southern Argentina, from, 40 to 56 degrees south. It is a land of myth and legend, conjuring images of iconic granite spires, vast ice-caps and flowing glaciers.

 

Patagonia and glaciers

There are many opportunities to get up close to the ice, with some of the best trekking to glaciers anywhere in the Andes. Patagonia is home to cowboys on horseback, rodeos, vast cattle and sheep ranches, windswept plains and weird and wonderful animals such as rhea, guanaco and puma.  There is plenty to keep the traveller active and happy.

The Chilean side of Patagonia is characterised by deeply cut fjords, their slopes blanketed in temperate forests.  The towering, ice-covered, Patagonian Andes rise steeply from the fjords, to around 4,000m, a natural barrier and border.  To the east lie the vast flat, arid plains of Argentina, dry due to the rain shadow cast by the glacier covered Patagonian Andes.

For trekking through valleys, over mountains or on glaciers the Andes of Patagonia are the perfect choice. This is one of the most frozen parts of the world, within the Andes lie three vast ice-fields. The North Patagonia ice-cap, the South Patagonia ice-cap and the Cordillera Darwin ice field between them cover nearly 20,000 square kilometres. Over a hundred glaciers flow, in all directions, off the ice-caps. As well as these there are numerous smaller ice fields and glaciers. Finding ice is not a problem.

Hiking on the glaciers

Hiking on glacier Los Leones, Chile

Patagonia certainly has no shortage of glaciers to hike to or to trek on.

 

Here is our suggestion for the ten best glacier hikes in Patagonia:

 

Trek on Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

Hike up close to the Grey glacier whilst on the W or Circuit O trekking trails in Paine or go a step further, don your crampons and take an exhilarating walk on the Grey glacier on an expertly guided excursion.  Gaze in awe at unbelievable hues of blue, watch swirling water as it drops down a sinkhole, enjoy the sensation of being on ancient ice. Grey glacier flows from the ice-cap, in a beautiful wilderness setting.

Lake and Glacier Grey Patagonia Chile

Grey glacier in Torres del Paine, Chile

 

Trek on Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentinean Patagonia

The Perito Moreno glacier flows off the South Patagonia ice-cap, and it easily visited on a day trip from El Calafate in Argentinean Patagonia. This is a vast spectacular glacier, that stretches back for miles. Take a boat trip or trek on the glacier on a professionally guided ice-trek. Wander the boardwalks opposite the face and gaze in awe at this magnificent blue wall of ice as ear splitting cracks ring out from calving ice bergs.

Boardwalks at Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina

Board walk at Perito Moreno Glacier

 

Trek on Viedma Glacier Los Glaciares National Park

This glacier, flowing into Lago Viedma, can be visited from El Chalten in Argentina. Excursions include a boat trip across the lake at the snout of the glacier followed by a walk up the lateral moraine, donning of crampons and making a spectacular, professionally guided trek out onto the ice.

Trekking from El Chalten will also allow you to get up close to several other glaciers on day hikes: the Torre glacier flowing from the base of this near inaccessible iconic granite peak, and the hanging glacier of Piedras Blancas, that flows from the glacial cirque of the rich red granite Fitzroy peaks.

 

Trek on Marconi Glacier to the South Patagonia Ice Cap, from El Chalten.

This 9-day expedition starts with a hike up the Marconi glacier leading onwards to the vast expanse of the south Patagonia ice-cap. This is trek for the tough experienced adventurer and involves snow shoeing and sledge pulling across the ice, carrying all the kit you might need for 9 days. It is the nearest you may get to experiencing the polar ice caps, and a strange beautiful world devoid of vegetation, where white surrounds in all directions. Views of the back of the towering granite spires of the iconic Fitzroy and Cerro Torre peaks dominate this trek.

 

north-marconi-range-southern-ice-field-argentina-patagonia

North Marconi range, South Patagonia ice-cap, Argentina

 

Trek to Glacier O’Higgins and Glacier Chico, Chile.

Take time to explore the area around Villa O’Higgins, right at the southern end of the Carretera Austral. Not only is this one of the least visited parts of Chile with superb day walks, there are longer trekking options available. One multi-day trek will take you to two beautiful rarely visited glaciers, glacier O’Higgins and glacier Chico.  It requires a lot of effort to get this far and even more to reach the glaciers. You need a good amount of self-sufficiency, top quality camping equipment, bush whacking skills, plus time to give you flexibility to wait out bad weather as you hike through this stunning remote Chilean wilderness.

 

Trek to Glacier Leones, Aysen Chile

Further north in Chilean Patagonia is the wild and dramatic Aysen region, with access to the glaciers flowing from the northern Patagonia ice cap. This is an area for adventure travel, off the beaten track, remote and rarely travelled. Puerto Guadal is the small town, gateway to lago Leones and the wonderful glacier Leones. A day trip with a hike in or a jet boat ride, plus a zodiac ride across the lake will bring you right up to the nose of this glacier.

 

At Leones Glacier, Aysen, Patagonia, Chile

Leones lake and glacier, Chile

Trek on Alerce Glacier, Tronador, Argentina.

Near to Bariloche in Argentinean Patagonia lies the huge lump of Mount Tronador, with several peaks and eight glaciers.  A trek into this mountain area will get you close up to several glaciers and you can choose to stay overnight in the mountain huts and spend a day with a local mountain guide on a hike of the Alerce glacier. Learn about crevasses and the skills for glacier crossing whilst enjoying this pristine mountain environment.

 

Extra Glacier Visits – by boat.

Extras – fabulous glaciers to see but that you need to travel to by boat.

From Puerto Natales take a day trip to see the glaciers Tyndall and Balmaceda and from El Calafate a full day trip on Lago Argentino visits the glaciers Spegazzini and Upsala on a scenic, ice-filled day.

 

 

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