PERITO MORENO GLACIER
Just 1,5 hours drive from El Calafaté you find the Perito Moreno Glacier. Different to other glaciers in the regio, this glacier is easily accessable and it is one of the main attractions in Patagonia.
HOW TO GET THERE?
The Perito Moreno Glacier is about an 1,5 hour drive from El Calafaté. All tour operators in the city offer a pick-up from the hotel to take you to the glacier. We had our own car and drove to the National Park ourselves. Which gives you the chance to be at the glacier early before the busses with the crowds arrive. (The entrance fee to the National Park is 5000 pesos.)
BEST WAY TO EXPLORE THE GLACIER
The Perito Moreno Glacier is so amazing because it is very accessible and therefor gives you the chance to get very close or even to walk on top of the glacier.
On the coast line just in front of the glacier, the national park built a series of board walks with different views of the glacier. The board walk is for free (you already paid the entracen fee to the park) and a good starting point. If you get there early (maybe around 9am) you will have most of the view points for your self.
From the parking lot at the board walks you can buy tickets for the a boat trip that takes you closer (but not very close) to the glacier. It is a great alternative if you cannot walk too much and don't want to walk on top of the glacier.
This is the trek we did. If you have your own car, you need to drive back from the board walks to the harbour (about 15 min drive). From there you will cross the river by boat. Once on the other side you will walk for about 20 min to where the ice starts. The tour guide will give you crampons for your shoes. From there you will walk for about an hour on the ice and finish the tour with a glass of whiskey with glacier ice. The total trek (incl. boat and walk to the ice etc.) takes baout 4 hours. It is pretty easy to do.
You can book the Mini Trek at Hielo&Aventura in El Calafaté.
Note: Several other companies also sell trekking tickets, but they all function as agents. The official organiser of the Mini Trek is Hielo&Aventura. You can book the trekking online. Your credit card company will refund you the difference between the official dollar rate and the tourist rate later. Make sure you book in advance since the trekking quickly sell out during high season.
BIG ICE TREK:
The Big Ice Trek is an 8 hours trekking experience where you go much deeper into the glacier than with the Mini Trek. You need to be in good physical shape to do this and the tour company has an age limit for this trek. We did not have time to di this, but what our guide told us about it sounds amazing.
Money Money Money
Money in Argentina can be pretty confusing. Due to the high inflation and the constant financial crisis, Argentina has developed a very unique system and depending on how you pay (cash vs. credit card) you get different exchange rates.
Here is how it works:
THE OFFICIAL RATE (Red Dollar):
The official exchange rate is what you see on sites like Booking.com. At the time of our travels that was around 190 Pesos for 1 US$. But don't worry, this rate will never apply.
It used to be that when you paid by credit card they would charge you the official rate. Which was the reason that no tourist ever used their credit card and tried to pay everything in cash. But in November 2022 the Argentinian government introduced a special tourist credit card rate to encourage people to pay more by card (which leads to more tax earnings for the government). At the time of our travel that was around 340 pesos for 1US$. It is still not as good as the rate you get for cash payments, but still much better than the official rate.
We noticed on our credit card statement that first they deducted the official rate but then refunded some of that money.
This also works for booking things online. As long as you use a Non-Argentinian Caredit card (Mastercard & Visa).
CASH (Blue Dollar):
Cash is king in Argentina but also pretty annoying. You can either take US$ and/or Euros (doesn't matter which one) with you from home and exchange them in Argentina or you can use the Western Union App to send yourself money and then pick up the cash in Argentina. (The WU app works very well and you can send the money within minutes. Just make sure you clear the identification process before you travel otherwise your limit is 1000€). At the time of our travel we would get around 390 Pesos for one 1US$ via the WU app.
HOW TO BOOK?
The easiest is to book through i.e. Booking.com but then choose "pay cash at location" as payment method. (BTW: Airbnb does NOT allow you to pay cash at location. You need to pay through the Airbnb system and therefor don't get the great exchange rate.)
TAKE A BIG WALLET:
Since the biggest bill in Argentina is 1000 Pesos (Which equals around 2,50€.) you will carry big bundles of cash. So make sure you take an extra pouch when exchanging money.