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A Guide to Argentina’s Upsala Glacier

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Often overshadowed by the more popular Perito Moreno Glacier, The Upsala Glacier certainly deserves some time in the limelight. The Upsala Glacier can be found in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina’s portion of Patagonia. Stretching out over 870 km², the glacier is actually the biggest of its kind in South America.

The jagged icy peaks of the Upsala Glacier, which can be seen from quite some distance, are just a taste of what’s to come. As travellers approach the face of the glacier they are likely to feel like they have been transported to a different world. The eerie silence, broken only by the ripple of water under the boat only enhances the experience. It is definitely a sight you will never forget.

How to experience the Upsala Glacier

The Upsala Glacier isn’t known for its accessibility. Indeed, the only way for a close encounter with the glacier is by taking a boat across the Lago Argentino. Nonetheless, there is also a by-land option if you want to merely see the glacier.

  • Boat tours

Boat tour on upsala glacier
Upsala Glacier as seen on a boat tour

The most common way to visit the Upsala Glacier is via a boat tour. There was a time when the Upsala Glacier was inaccessible due to the number of icebergs in the water. These icebergs blocked the way for boats rendering trips impossible. If you choose to cruise then you will hop in a boat at the port of Puerto Bandera on the Lago Argentino and then sail to the Upsala Branch of the lake.

  • Kayaking tours

An Upsala Glacier tour done by kayak is the most magical way to experience this glacier. Participants climb into their double kayaks and head off onto Lago Argentino to see the Upsala Glacier. Floating along the milky water so close to such an incredible natural wonder is sure to blow you away. At certain points, you will even be close enough to touch the ice.

  • 4x4 excursions

If you want to keep your feet on terra firma then there is another way to experience the Upsala Glacier. This comes in the form of a 4x4 excursion. During this tour, you will be driven to the Upsala viewing point from where you will have spectacular views of the glacier. While the views from the lookout point are the best, there is also plenty of beauty to be admired on the drive. Overall it is a very aesthetically pleasing way to visit the Upsala Glacier.

Other attractions at the Upsala Glacier

Whilst visiting the Upsala Glacier you might want to spend some time exploring some of the nearby attractions.

  • Perito Moreno Glacier
Ice Hiking in Perito Moreno Glacier
Ice hiking through the Perito Moreno Glacier is the best way to get up close and personal with the glacier.

Despite not being as big as the Upsala Glacier, the Perito Moreno Glacier attracts far more visitors. This is presumably down to it being the more accessible glacier of the two. There are many Perito Moreno Glacier tours; additionally you can also do ice hikes across its surface. The hikes are challenging but not impossible and afford participants some unique views of the glacier.

  • Lago Argentino
Lago Argentino in Patagonia
A ferry boat sails through Lago Argentino

The glaciers certainly steal the show in this part of the world but the humble lake that ripples beneath them is just as impressive. Take a walk along the banks of the Lago Argentino or sail around it in a boat and you will see what we mean. The water is a stunning colour and its size is astonishing. You’re definitely going to want to snap some photos while you’re there.

  • Stay in an estancia

There are a number of remote lodges around Los Glaciares National Park that accommodate guests to the region. Rustic and beautiful, these estancias have fabulous backdrops and offer guests a range of different activities to fill their days there. Options usually include horse riding excursions, 4x4 trips and hiking excursions.

Best time to visit the Upsala Glacier

As with most of Patagonia, the best time to visit the Upsala Glacier is during the summer. This means that the ideal time to go is between December and February. However, the shoulder months of November and March are also fine and usually see less crowds. It is highly unadvisable to travel to the Upsala Glacier outside of this time frame as poor weather conditions can seriously hamper your trip or even render it impossible.

For more information, refer to our guide on the best time to visit Patagonia.

Good to know

  • The Upsala Glacier is only accessible by boat so if you don’t like water travel you should bear this in mind and perhaps consider visiting other great glaciers in Patagonia.
  • The glacier is retreating at an alarming rate so try and visit sooner rather than later or you might miss out on it altogether!
  • Just like most things in Patagonia, visiting the Upsala Glacier is expensive so make sure your budget is prepared to take that financial hit.
  • Wrap up warm. The glaciers are made of ice so and it can be very cold when you get near them.
  • Kayaking tours are only available from November through to April.

In summary, visiting the Upsala Glacier is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The magnificent glacier is a testament to the power of mother nature and seeing it up close is an experience unlike any other.

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