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Increased awareness about climate change and its effect on nature has put glaciers — those gloriously beautiful ice masses that have covered parts of the earth’s surface for thousands of years — even more at the forefront. And South America is an especially rewarding destination to view them.
LatinFlyer’s trusted sponsor content partner, Coddiwomple Journeys, offers a variety of South America tour itineraries that take in some of the region’s most spectacular glaciers, and each tour can be customized to meet the needs of every traveler. One thing is certain: the more you know about glaciers, the more fascinating they become.
The first glaciers formed around 34 million years ago atop the mountains of Antarctica. Some 20 million years later, global temperatures dropped and the glacial ice froze into the rock, creating the southern ice sheet. Since then, ice sheets have experienced various stages of growth and retreat. The geological period in which we live, which is called the Quaternary, began about 2.6 million years ago and has been marked by cold periods called “glacials” or “Quaternary glaciation.” Even today, glacial ice is the world’s largest reservoir of fresh water and — perhaps surprisingly — glaciers of varying sizes can be found on every continent, from Oceania (which includes Australasia) to Africa.
For travelers curious about witnessing the magnificent beauty of giant glaciers in person, South America is one of the best places on earth, thanks to the extensive glacial presence in Patagonia, a naturally beautiful region that includes territory in both Chile and Argentina. According to Bloomberg, Chile has one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water outside the north and south poles, specifically thanks to its Patagonian glaciers. Hundreds of these massive expanses of ice — many of which are shrinking — grace Patagonia, and there are a few that are absolute “must-sees” for travelers interested in nature, adventure and the environment.
One of the best Coddiwomple itineraries for glacier viewing is called Argentina and Chile by Land and Sea. The customizable itinerary includes a cruise to the Pia Fjords, a picturesque region where guests board zodiac boats for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier, a giant formation that sits along the Chilean Patagonia coast, between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. Its dramatically beautiful location between mountains and sea make it especially noteworthy, and visitors often hear the sounds of the ice moving and perhaps even calving into the water. The shore excursion includes a hike atop the glacier for a stunning view of the mountain range.
The following day, the cruise continues to Garibaldi glacier, which is responsible for forming the scenic Garibaldi fjord in Chile’s Alberto de Agostini National Park, where the ocean meets the Andes. A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, it’s a spectacular destination to explore, with a gorgeous, towering wall of ice that actually represents the coming together of two glaciers.
Massive glaciers are also the big draw at Agostini Sound, where guests board zociacs yet again to arrive on the shore, for a walk on the shore of a lovely lagoon to view the stunning Aguila glacier.
Coddiwomple’s Flavors of Southern Argentina itinerary provides yet another rewarding opportunity to take in the grandeur of South America’s glaciers. On the fourth day of the trip, guests arrive at Perito Moreno, a glacier located in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s one of the most legendary attractions in Argentinian Patagonia. The ice mass, which was named after 19th-century Argentinian explorer Francisco Moreno, represents the world’s third-largest reserve of fresh water. Guests on the Coddiwomple itinerary are treated to a 45-minute boat ride that provides an up-close view, where they might witness pieces of the glacier falling into the water.
Exploring sites as remote and vast as the glaciers of South America is easier when you plan your visit with Coddiwomple Journeys; the company can answer any questions and help you to prepare for the excitement. Coddiwomple works with expert guides and has an extensive array of local contacts to make sure that the trip is not only comfortable but also educational, fun and unforgettable.