Franz Josef Glacier Ice Explorer

Franz Josef Glacier Ice Explorer – The Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most beautiful natural wonders on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. At 12 km in length descending from the Southern Alps less than 300 meters above sea level, the Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the country for travelers to see and interact with.

With such proximity to the glaciers, the town of Franz Josef offers us many opportunities to stay for an adventure that you won’t find anywhere else.

Franz Josef Glacier Ice Explorer

From glacier hiking to skydiving over the Southern Alps, here’s a complete backpacking guide to Franz Josef with a list of epic things to do here and all the other information you need to play a trip great to Franz Josef Glacier. Without further ado, let’s take a look at Franz Josef’s route map:

Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing

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The question I get asked the most about visiting the glaciers in the South Island is “Which should I visit, Franz Josef or Fox Glacier?”. This is the question as old as time that many travelers fear that they may miss certain activities if they decide to visit one of them.

Well, I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to worry about that. Both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier have exactly the same activities you can do. Want to go hiking? Both have hiking trails that you can hike to see the glaciers. Want to go ice climbing on glaciers? Both have tours daily.

Frozen Franz Josef Land

Essentially, both glaciers are exactly the same when it comes to the activities you can participate in. Physically, Fox Glacier is longer with a length of 20 km, while Franz Josef Glacier is about 12 km. In the grand scheme of things, you won’t see the difference at all unless you’re flying high in the sky looking down.

So to answer your question “Which should I visit, Franz Josef or Fox Glacier?”, it’s up to you. Now that you know they are pretty much the same, you can simply choose which one you want to explore.

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In fact, you can even visit both from one place if you book this helicopter tour, which will finally solve all the problems you have to choose one over the other 😉. To book a helicopter tour to see both, you can click on the link below:

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Athabasca Glacier, Ice Explorer Bus Editorial Photo

Here are some of the best tours and activities you may be interested in participating in while in Franz Josef, New Zealand:

One of the best things to do in Franz Josef, if not all of New Zealand, is to hike the amazing frozen blocks of Franz Josef Glacier, and you can do that with the Franz Josef Heli Hike Tour.

Because the glaciers are permanently retreating due to global warming, the Franz Josef Glacier is no longer accessible by foot as it was many years ago. The only way you can go up to the glacier now is by helicopter and with the Franz Josef Heli Hike Tour, you are taken by helicopter to the glacier where you are guided through each part of the glacier on foot.

The Franz Josef Heli Walking Tour will cost you around USD 350. It’s expensive, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I recommend you try it if you’re already in Franz Josef.

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Make sure you keep your expectations in check as the tour will depend a lot on the weather and if the visibility is poor or the wind is too strong they can delay or even cancel the trip altogether so you won’t be disappointed .

It’s more common than you think. My first flight was also canceled despite the clear sunny weather, but due to the strong wind, they had to cancel it at the last minute. I ended up extending my stay and was able to do it the next day. Nothing tests your patience more than waiting to board one of these epic flights!

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From the town of Franz Josef, weather permitting, you will be transferred to a helicopter and flown to the top of the glacier. From the helicopter, you will be able to see the amazing features of the glacier and get a taste of how big the Franz Josef Glacier is.

Once you arrive at the landing place, you will be disembarked and then given safety equipment such as crampons, geter foot covers etc. to help you navigate the glacier safely.

Franz Josef Glacier Hi Res Stock Photography And Images

From there, the guide will help you learn the dos and don’ts of glacier hiking. Stay away from the edge of the crevasse, always keep the ropes installed and do not go outside.

The Franz Josef heli walking tour will give you about 3 hours on the ice, which is one of the most you can get from these snow walking tours, so you will spend about 3 hours walking around the glacier.

The ascent will take you higher and higher along steep blocks of ice where you have to climb these installed ropes. The higher you go, the true scale of the glacier will start to become clearer and clearer.

Snow walking, pulling yourself on the rope and stumbling through 2 blocks is not easy and you need to have certain levels of strength. After about an hour of walking, to be honest, I was starting to feel a little out of breath. Fortunately, there were plenty of stops and plenty of photo opportunities to break up the climb.

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At some point, you will be faced with the decision to press through this extremely narrow passage between 2 huge masses of ice, or navigate through it. Of course, I went to the narrow passage, and boy was afraid.

It’s definitely everyone’s biggest fear to be stuck between 2 blocks of ice weighing several tons and that’s how I felt when I got between the blocks of ice and couldn’t get back out. I literally had to bend every part of my body to slide down the last part of the walkway. Thank goodness for frictionless ice!!

After 3 hours of walking, you will definitely be completely drained and ready for a nap. The helicopter will come and pick you up at the end of the 3 hour hike and you will be transferred back to the town of Franz Josef where you can then continue exploring Franz Josef.

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If you want to see the Franz Josef Glacier from the ground for free, you can also take an hour and a half hike along the Franz Josef Glacier Walk which takes you from the town of Franz Josef to the viewing area of -Franz Josef Glacier through a rock passage at the bottom of the river and waterfalls.

New Zealand: Franz Josef Glacier

The Franz Josef Glacier Walk is a great way to see and appreciate the Franz Josef Glacier from the ground without spending a dime. The ride is smooth with no ups and downs. The trail begins after crossing the Waiho River Bridge where you will find the trailhead on your left.

Once you reach the top of the trail, all you have to do is follow the path that follows the river and the Franz Josef Glacier starts to appear behind the mountains.

The Franz Josef Glacier Walk is 5.3 kilometers long (return) and takes about 1.5 hours to walk one way. Allow about 3 to 4 hours if you plan to tackle this hike from Franz Josef.

You can also hitchhike if you want, as there will be many travelers driving this road to see the glacier as well. If you’ve never hitchhiked, New Zealand is probably the best place to start. The country is as safe as can be for hitchhiking.

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You will be walking on rocky riverbeds as you approach the glacier, so be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes. The hike is amazing and the view of the Franz Josef Glacier from the riverbed is worth all the sweat.

I highly recommend doing this hike even if you’ve already been on the heli tour. The view from the ground allows you to really see the true scale of the Franz Josef Glacier which you cannot see when you are on the glacier.

If you’re wondering if you’re missing out on something by choosing to visit Franz Josef Glacier over Fox Glacier, then let’s put it this way

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