Los Glaciares National Park is an area of exceptional natural beauty, with rugged, towering mountains and numerous glacial lakes. At its farthest end, three glaciers meet to dump their effluvia into the milky grey glacial water, launching massive igloo icebergs into the lake with thunderous splashes.
Los Glaciares National Park is located in the southwest of Santa Cruz Province in the Argentine part of Patagonia. Comprised of a National Park and a National Reserve it has a total surface area of nearly 1.5 million acres (600,000 ha). Los Glaciares owes its name to the numerous glaciers covering roughly half of the World Heritage property.
Many of these glaciers are fed by the massive South Patagonian Ice Field, the most extensive South American relict of the glaciological processes of the Quaternary Period. In addition, there are impressive glaciers independent of the main ice field. The property therefore constitutes a massive freshwater reservoir. The Upsala, Onelli and Perito Moreno Glaciers calve into the icy and milky waters of the huge Lake Argentino, which is partly included in the property.
Los Glaciares National Park is embedded into the enchanted and remote mountain landscape of the Patagonian Andes shared by Argentina and Chile. Dominated by rugged granite peaks and the landscape is modeled by massive, ongoing glaciations. About half of the park is covered by numerous glaciers, many of which belong to South America's largest ice field.
Despite the name's focus on the impressive glaciers there is a remarkable landscape diversity encompassing a large altitudinal gradient of nearly 10,000 ft (3,000 m) and very diverse ecosystems. A number of mountains very popular among fans of climbing and trekking are found here, including Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
The glaciers feed the huge mountain lakes of Viedma and Argentino. The overwhelming beauty of the landscape is epitomized where the Perito Moreno Glacier meets Lake Argentino. The vast front of the slowly and constantly moving glacier, up to 200 ft (60 m) high, regularly calves bluish icebergs into the waters of Lake Argentino, an audiovisual spectacle attracting visitors from all over the world.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is the most striking sight. This large glacier blocks a narrow channel formed by Lake Argentino thereby raising the water level temporarily. This in turn causes regular thunderous ruptures of the glacier tongue into the lake. Due to its size and accessibility, Perito Moreno is one of the major tourist attractions in southern Patagonia.
The 250 km2 (97 sq mi) ice formation, 30 km (19 mi) in length, is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field located in the Andes system shared with Chile. This ice field is the world's third largest reserve of fresh water.
The Perito Moreno Glacier, located 78 km (48 mi) from El Calafate, was named after the explorer Francisco Moreno, a pioneer who studied the region in the 19th century and played a major role in defending the territory of Argentina in the conflict surrounding the international border dispute with Chile.
Los Glaciares National Park is an excellent example of the significant process of glaciation, as well as of geological, geomorphic and physiographic phenomena. These phenomena were caused by the ongoing advance and retreat of the glaciations that took place during the Pleistocene epoch in the Quaternary period and the neoglaciations corresponding to the current epoch or Holocene.
These events have modeled – and continue to model — the landscape of the area. They may be recognized by the lacustrine basins of glacial origin, the moraine systems deposited on the plateau, or by more recent systems pertaining to the current valleys and the many large glacier tongues fed by the Ice Fields of the Andes. The location also provides fertile ground for scientific research on climate change.