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Mighty Mount Tronador and the Black Glacier | Bariloche, Argentina

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“Welcome to the tour,” our guide said in her slow, cheerful Argentine dialect. “We will first drive 30 kilometers on this nice asphalt road, and then the next fifty will be on gravel. The road has over 1,000 twists and turns, and after we get to Mount Tronador,” she paused, rolling that last ‘r’ with a flourish, “we will drive the same exact route back.”

This is going to be a looooong day, I thought to myself. I hoped it was worth it.

It was. This was exactly one of those Patagonia experiences we had imagined we would have: pampa, turquoise lakes, rugged mountain peaks and of course, glaciers, but this is also an entirely unique experience.

parque nacional nahuel huapi
The trip to the Tronador is so unique because of the presence of a rare black glacier, too.

After driving the first stretch along Argentina’s famous Ruta 40, toward the jagged tops of the ever-growing Patagonian Andes, we turned off into the Nahuel Huapi National Park. Immediately we spotted the diamond sparkles dancing on the deep blue Nahuel Huapi lake.

The first two hours were spent driving alongside it through the towering trees of the park. Nicknamed ‘the lake of seven colors’, around every one of those bends in the road was another picturesque scene of Patagonian trees framing the waters changing from turquoise, sapphire to indigo and a deep sea blue.

nahuel huapi national park When we made our first official stop for pictures at a river, our white 20-seater van pulled up to join a dozen others of the same make and model doing the same thing. Along the road itself it always felt like we were entirely alone and it was only at major stops that we realized how many other people were doing the same tour (mostly other Argentinians, Chileans, Brazilians and a sprinkling of Europeans and North Americans, too).

It never felt crowded, however, and doing this independently by rental car would almost have been less enjoyable. Literally surrounded by beauty, the person driving (this would have been me, so Dani could take pictures) wouldn’t have been able to take it all in. Plus, our guide was an absolute pro, mixing funny banter with really interesting information throughout the journey.

nahuel huapi national parkWe couldn’t have been happier with our decision to book with GetYourGuide, a site that offers tours, activities and other special events all around the world. We love it because practically everywhere we go, GetYourGuide has tours we’d love to do, like the El Calafate Perito Moreno Glacier boat tour we’ve been so excited about and this amazing four-day trip through the Atacama Desert.

For now, it was deeper into the forest we drove, until the trees eventually parted to reveal the first glimpse of the main attraction – the massive Mount Tronador. An extinct volcano, Tronador has three peaks set smack dab on the international border. One peak belongs to Argentina, one to Chile and the one in the middle is international territory. Eventually, as the road twisted and headed steadily downward, we entered the ‘pampa’, a flat, wide valley which must be traversed to make it the base of Tronador, which serves as a bright, white beacon looming ever larger as the day continued.

nahuel huapi national park mount tronadorAround 1pm we stopped for lunch at a ‘refugio’, which is a hotel and restaurant that feeds tourists like us during the day, but is there to serve as a true refuge for the daredevils taking ice-climbing lessons on the eight glaciers atop Tronador. Though at first we questioned how many people actually do this, we started to notice around town just how many backpackers have ice picks attached to their packs.

nahuel huapi national park refugioWe ate inside the log cabin and then sat in the sun chairs on the lawn to take in the bright sun and admired Tronador, now close enough to take in much more of its incredible scale. Just a quick ride later, we had arrived at the main attraction: the black glacier.
nahuel huapi national park black glaciernahuel huapi national park black icenahuel huapi national park black iceFrom the viewing point, the snow-white glaciers on top of the mountain give way to a black glacier below, which developed after millennia of rocks, gravel and ice fell from the glaciers above. Here our guide warned us, “if you hear the sound of ice breaking, it is already too late to see it fall, so keep your eyes peeled or you’ll miss it.” Sure enough, just after we start looking up, a giant piece of white, almost blue ice, cracks off and falls down the side of the mountain, followed by the distant, but still thunderous sound a full 30 seconds later.
monte tronador snowThousands of meters below, just in front of us, there is a glacial lake with giant pieces of glacier floating. One piece looks like it is made of marble, with swirling layers of mud and ice, while others lay broken on their side revealing their clean, white ice inside a relatively thin, dark shell in a way that reminded me of vanilla ice cream with a chocolate outside.

nahuel huapi national park black glacier lake
nahuel huapi national park black iceHundreds of pictures later, we packed back into the van and headed up a steep road which takes visitors even a little bit closer to the actual base of the mountain, where we had 45 minutes to hike to see impressive waterfalls and fill our water bottles with fresh glacial water in the river below. Families who had camped out here overnight were having barbecues, laying like lizards taking in sun on the rocks.

nahuel huapi national park mount tronador with waterfallsThe entire day, but especially this part, made us realize how perfectly untouched, unspoiled this part of the world is. We breathed the clean, fresh air in just a bit deeper, and smiled just a bit wider as we took our last look at Tronador before starting the two-hour trip back to Bariloche and, too invigorated to sleep, we both enjoyed the entire ride back into town.

More information about the tour:

The nine-hour Mount Tranoador and Black Glacier tour from Bariloche costs $95 per person. The tour includes a trip along the Manso River, the Los Alerces Cascade on the river, the most beautiful parts of the Nahuel Huapi National Park and the Ventisquero Negro black glacier. The tour includes hotel pick up and drop off, and is in Spanish only, but the guide spoke very slowly and was easy to understand for beginner Spanish learners. Optional lunch and mandatory National Park fee of 50 Argentine pesos were not included and are both payable by cash only.

Nahuel Huapi National Park ArgentinaThanks again to GetYourGuide for making this amazing Patagonian experience possible. All opinions, as always, are our own.

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18 Comments

  1. How fantastic. The more I read of your travels through South America the more I wish we’d had the time to explore it in 2011. The black glacier looks almost surreal, I’ve never seen anything like it.

    We’re not normally ones to take organised tours however it looks like this one may be an exception to our rule. As ever thank you for another informative and inspiring piece!
    Charli l Wanderlusters recently posted..Duct Tape & Face Plants on Mount Baker

    1. Oh good, Tammy! You should go for sure. We absolutely loved our time in patagonia, and though it is really hard on the budget, it is so worth it. You could hike for days and days in Chile and Argentina, both! Just avoid going in Feb like we did – vacation month!

  2. I have an upcoming trip to Argentina and plan on travelling throughout the country for a month. this is most definitely on my list of must-do’s!
    Cheers~erin

    1. Thanks Michael. We ended up using the Couchsurfing service and staying with a fabulous couple that a friend of ours put us in touch with! Kind of ended up to be a great way to experience Rosario!

  3. Hi!
    I would like to do the same daytrip but your link under ´more information´ shows a daytrip that costs 58$ instead of 95 so I guess that´s another trip?
    If so, exactly which trip is the same as yours?

    thanks, Robert from Stockholm

  4. I just did this tour yesterday, and it was amazing! It’s starting to see how much the glacier has retreated from when you visited. My guide said that in 14 years it will be gone completely.

    For those curious about prices: $580ARS + $120ARS park entry fee. With current blue market exchange rates, it works out to about $46USD for an 8 hour excursion. Totally worth it!
    Kelly recently posted..Revisiting photos from the Inca Trail, Peru

    1. Kelly, thanks so much for your feedback! So happy to hear you enjoyed the Black Glacier as well. Can’t believe that it’ll be gone in 14 years! Such a shame 🙁

  5. Hi Globetrotter girls.
    Awesome experience. I was just looking through your photos. I did the trek at the start of winter/ end of fall just now! Thought I would share with you + readers my photos so you can see how different the landscape looks at different times of the year– Climbing Thunder Mountain in Patagonia- Mount Tronador and also …
    Spending A Night atop the Glacier of Mount Tronador hope you enjoy! Feel free to leave a comment. cheers!
    Rich recently posted..Goodbye Bariloche – I Got a License to Drive!

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