The boat ride to Grey Glacier is one of the major unmissable highlights of Cascada’s Patagonia Wildlife Safari in Torres del Paine National Park, but what does it actually involve? Join us as we take the Grey Glacier boat ride from start to finish and share all you need to know!
Although you might consider that getting up close and personal with Grey Glacier itself is the main prize on this excursion, the excitement starts on shore long before you even board the boat and builds throughout the whole voyage. As you set off on a short walk through the lush woodlands and emerge onto the black sand beach alongside Grey Lake, keep a close eye out for some of Torres del Paine National Park’s rich animal and bird life. The dark, wet sand is the perfect surface for catching animal prints that will give you an idea of what’s in the area.
Once you reach the shores of the lake with its picturesque jetty, you’ll be kitted out with a life jacket and helped into a small boat that takes you out to deeper waters where you’ll transfer to the double decker boat that will take you on your visit to the glacier. Even before you’ve really started sailing you can see the huge expanse of Grey Glacier in the distance at the other end of Grey Lake and you may find that the lake itself is swarming with dramatic icebergs in all shapes, sizes and colours. Look up to the steep cliffs as the boat pulls away from the shore and you might spot a condor nesting high above.
The boat itself is spacious and comfortable, with a covered bottom deck (don’t worry, there are windows on all sides) in case of rain or cold, and an open top deck for unencumbered views in all directions. At 19 kilometres long, Grey Lake is actually one of the smaller lakes in Patagonia, although it certainly doesn’t look it. It takes an hour to traverse the lake and reach Grey Glacier, but you won’t be twiddling your thumbs; the towering mountains are patched with vibrant forests and sliced by waterfalls tumbling down into the lake. Add that to the ever expanding glacier in the foreground and you’ll be more than busy snapping photos and sipping at the complementary glass of pisco sour on glacier “rocks” that makes a welcome appearance halfway through.
Then it’s time for the main event, the reason you’re here, it’s what you’ve been waiting for. The first hint that you’re at your journey’s end is the sudden chill that infuses the otherwise balmy air. Then the boat turns and slowly trawls across the first bright blue glacier tongue, which licks at the lake. Up close, you can suddenly appreciate the 30 metre height of this enormous river of ice as it towers above you and that blue colour is just incredible! You’re so close you can see each crack and fissure in the ice wall, as well as the ice caves rising out of the water.
All too soon it’s over and as you pass by a huge island of rock the air warms briefly as it hides the enormous glacier behind. Yet moments later it’s time for round two as the boat passes the rock island and emerges in the face of the glacier’s second lobe, the largest of all! Somehow a whole hour in the company of this ice giant feels like just a few minutes. Then finally it really is the end and the glacier recedes into the distance again. The return journey is the perfect time to contemplate this once in a lifetime experience and enjoy a moment of calm in this most beautiful national park.
The boat ride lasts three hours with roughly one hour spent travelling to the glacier, one hour visiting the glacier up close, and a final hour travelling back to shore.
Grey Glacier is 30 metres high on average and measures six kilometres across!
The glacier splits into three lobes that all drain into Grey Lake, you’ll see two of these up close on the boat journey.
The glacier is actually a temperate glacier since the temperature at its surface is 7°C, but it still feels pretty chilly when you’re nearby!
Bundle up warm for the boat trip, the air coming off the glacier is, well, glacial and standing on the boat deck can get very cold.
Don’t fight for a view on the approach to the glacier. Many people disappear below deck for the return journey leaving the top deck all for you. You’ll get exactly the same views, without having to jostle for them.
Take a small snack with you. Three hours isn’t a long time to be out of the lake but you might need more energy than you think when it comes to keeping warm.
Book your Patagonia Wildlife Safari with Cascada Expediciones to enjoy your boat ride to Grey Glacier.