Cornforth Images

Los Glaciares National Park

Los Glaciares National Park is located in the area known as the Austral Andes in Argentine Patagonia, in the south west of Santa Cruz province. To the south is Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. The national park is the second largest in Argentina. Its name refers to the giant Patagonia Continental Ice Cap in the Andes range that feeds 47 large glaciers, of which only 13 flow towards the Atlantic Ocean. The ice cap is the largest outside of Antarctica and Greenland. In other non-polar regions of the world, glaciers typically start at a height of 8,250 ft (2,500 m) above sea level, but due to the size of the ice cap, these glaciers begin at only 4,950 ft (1,500 m), and wind their way down to 650 ft (200 m). It was created in 1937, and in 1981 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

On the northern extreme of the park, the granite peaks, lakes, woods and glaciers all come together in one of the most extraordinary places on earth. The high mountains of Mount Fitz Roy (3,405m) and Cerro Torre (3,102 m) dominate the area and draw trekkers and climbers from all over the world. The village of El Chalten is the starting point for several treks into the park. Viedma Lake and the Viedma Glacier are also nearby.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is the parks most famous glacier due to its dynamic advancement and retreat. Glacier ice can spectacularly calve from its face at any time. The closest town is El Calafate, which is situated on the shores of Lago Argentino. It is the center of the regional activities and services.

The mountains hold most of the humidity from the Pacific Ocean, letting through only the icy coldness and creating an arid steppe on the Argentine side of the range. This area is habitat for nandues, guanacos, cougars, and gray foxes, who have suffered from the invasion of the cattle industry and are currently endangered, but find shelter in the national park. There are over 1,000 species of birds in the park, including the endangered Andean condor.

The best locations for photography in Los Glaciares National Park require long day hikes or overnight backpacking trips. The best places to photograph Mount Fitz Roy include the the ponds near Campamento Poincenot and the sunrise view from Laguna de los Tres, which requires a predawn hike uphill for several hours from the campground. Camping near Laguna Torre at Campamento De Agostini is the best view to photograph Cerro Torre. One can spend many hours trying to photograph falling ice at the Perito Moreno Glacier.