Located in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, an adventure to see stunning glaciers in South America is the perfect vacation for hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts.
Some of South America’s glaciers are accessible only by boat, while others are located inland. Inland glaciers usually have a terminus (the lowest end of a glacier) on a large glacial lake, while coastal glaciers typically flow into a sea channel.
The vast majority of glaciers in South America are retreating, which means that they are slowly melting and becoming smaller. Due to precipitation and climate change, glaciers retreat when their melting ice is not recovered by new snowfall or ice formations.
Most of the retreating glaciers of South America are located within the massive icefield of Patagonia, which is separated into three parts: the North, South, and Cordillera Darwin icefields. The Southern Patagonian icefield is the largest contiguous concentration of ice in the Southern Hemisphere (aside from Antarctica) and stretches for thousands of miles.
Here are some of the most awe-inspiring glaciers to visit during your travels to South America.
Perito Moreno in Los Glaciares National Park, PatagoniaThe most famous glacier in South America is Perito Moreno, which is located in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Patagonia full of dramatic landscapes, towering mountains, frozen lakes, and over 47 large glaciers.
Perito Moreno is one of the largest glaciers in Patagonia and one of the few glaciers in the region that is advancing, meaning its ice continues to expand and reach farther down the valley floor.
Once you arrive at Los Glaciares National Park, explore the surroundings of the glacier by walking around the wooden boardwalks or taking a boat ride through the glacial water at its base. Not only will you marvel at the cool blue hue of the glacier, but you’re also likely to witness chunks of ice falling off the glacier into the lake below, a natural phenomenon known as calving.
Bruggen Glacier or Pio XI Glacier is located in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. At 37 miles long, it’s the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica—it’s almost twice as large as Singapore! Bruggen also has the distinction of being one of the few glaciers that is advancing rather than retreating.
The other impressive glacier to visit at Los Glaciares National Park is Upsala Glacier, which is the largest glacier in South America. It spans over 37 miles long and 230 feet high.
It’s not an easy glacier to visit since it’s rapidly retreating and goes through extensive calving, which makes it difficult for ships and boats to approach.
Glacier Alley is made up of five tidewater glaciers in the Chilean fjords. The glaciers of Glacier Alley are fed by the Darwin ice field and line the northern arm of the Beagle Channel, a large waterway that is part of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego and separates Chile and Argentina.
Even though each of Glacier Alley’s five glaciers differ in look, they all provide a breathtaking backdrop when you’re cruising through the Beagle Channel waterway. All five tidewater glaciers are named after European countries: Holanda (Holland); Italia (Italy); Francia (France); Alemania (Germany); and Espana (Spain) as a nod to the home of the 19th-century explorers who mapped out the region.
Located in the Garibaldi fjord in the Alberto de Agostini National Park in Chile, Garibaldi Glacier is one of Chile’s most beautiful glaciers and is home to an impressive glacial waterfall.
Garibaldi Glacier is one of the most remarkable glaciers in South America because of its medial moraine, which is a formation of rock and debris that is made when two glaciers collide, and the dense forest that surrounds its icy walls.
The massive Pia Glacier is roughly the same size as Santiago, the capital of Chile. It’s an incredibly active calving glacier, so you’re likely to witness one of its thunderous displays of ice dropping down into the frigid water below during your visit.
A cruise is one of the best ways to experience South America’s natural wonders, fascinating cultures, and flavorful cuisine. Browse our cruises to South America and book online, or talk to one of our vacation specialists at 1-800-852-8086.