LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK
Situated in the southwestern tip of the Argentine province of Santa Cruz, and covering an area of over 600.000 hectares, this National Park stretches from the wind-swept steppe in the east to the Andes Mountains in the west, which mark the natural boundary between Argentina and Chile.
Stretching over 350 km from north to south along the Andes Cordillera, it includes a National Reserve of approximately 180,000 hectares. Its 47 glaciers are the main attraction in the park, namely Marconi, Viedma, Moyano, Upsala, Agassiz, Bolado, Onelli, Peineta, Spegazzini, Mayo, Ameghino, Moreno and Frías, all of them belonging to the Atlantic basin.
There are also 200 minor glaciers, independent of this ice field.
Although apparently immobile, these glaciers are constantly moving which causes the ice on the front edge to break into big chunks which fall into the water and float away as icebergs.
Los Glaciares National Park was created in 1937 with the objective of protecting a vast area of continental ice and glaciers from harm or destruction. The images of this unique place are enough to feel its captivating beauty.
In 1981, UNESCO declared these glaciers Natural World Heritage Site due to the their attractiveness, scientific interest and endangered wildlife. Its main attraction is Perito Moreno Glacier which empties into Lake Argentino.
The Park affords a degree of communion with nature which has almost no parallel elsewhere in the world. The excursions offered include trips along lakes and rivers, through forests and over hills, as well as treks and boat trips affording spectacular views of the magnificent glaciers.
As a result of the thawing of this extensive ice, two lakes are formed: Lake Argentino and Lake Viedma, which in turn empty their waters into Santa Cruz River. This river flows eastwards across the province of Santa Cruz and into the Atlantic Ocean.
To the north lies Mt. Fitz Roy which majestically overlooks all the surrounding landscape and is part of a magnificent mountain range.
The park is home to varied wildlife, including some endangered species such as the huemul, the hullín, the pudu (miniature deer), the guanaco and other species.
Once inside the National Park, on the shores of Lake Argentino, there is a tourist complex including a camping ground, two restaurants, a snack bar and restrooms.
There is no doubt that the main attraction is this Patagonian ice field whose ice sheet is the second largest in the world after Antarctica, covering an area of about 2600 km2 which represent over 30% of the protected area in the Park.
THE MOVING GLACIERS
This remarkable southern wonder has unusual glacial characteristics: unlike other glaciers that are formed at 2500 mt above sea level, these ones are formed at 1,500 mt above sea level and slide down to 200 mt above sea level, thus offering unique access and sights.
Lake Argentino is the meeting point for two colossal glaciers: Perito Moreno and Upsala.
The well-known Perito Moreno Glacier, owes its popularity to the continuous movement of its ice mass, resulting from a cyclical forward and backward pattern. Thus, pieces break off its front which is 5 km wide and 60 mt above the lake level.
This surprising and curious passage brings about the accumulation, fracture and breaking-off of massive blocks of ice. With thunderous noises, these blocks break off and float away as icebergs along the Témpanos Channel (Iceberg Canal).
The gradual breaking off and subsequent lake leveling becomes a breathtaking sight which can be witnessed every three or four years.
Opposite Perito Moreno Glacier, in the Northern Arm of Lake Argentino, is Upsala Glacier, 50 km long and 10 km wide.
In the northern area of the park lies a mountain range whose highest peaks, Mt Fitz Roy (3405 mt) and Mt Torre (3128 mt), boast the greatest diversity of granite in the Andes.