Hiking Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand

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Last Updated on April 22, 2024 by Audrey Scott

One minute, you're in the center of the town of Franz Josef, a cafe on one side of you, a pizzeria on the other. Then, within minutes, you are transported to another world. Your helicopter pops up into the air, through jagged mountain crags, just before dropping you into the heart of a glacier, an otherworldly ice field of turquoise blues and glowing whites.

This was Franz Josef Glacier.

Hiking at Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand
Hiking up at Franz Josef Glacier. South Island, New Zealand.

During our visit, weather conditions were not the best. We were pelted by windswept drizzle. It didn't much matter, though. Our earlier trip had been canceled thanks to changing weather, and we were thrilled just to be where we were. We made it. We were on the glacier, Franz Josef Glacier. And this in itself was a victory.

With crampons strapped to the soles of my shoes, I felt like superwoman on that ice. I climbed uphill and downhill, through tunnels and over ice fields — gripping myself into all that the ice had to offer.

Once I got my footing, I rarely looked down into the path left by the metal spikes of my shoes. My head spun, I continually looked up, looked around. There was simply far too much to take in while trying to come to terms with the fact that I was standing on a dazzling ice field in the middle of the mountains of New Zealand.

I'll never forget the turquoise light that seemed to emanate from that ice. It seemed a way, nature's way, of delivering at once beauty and mystery and an adventure I'll never forget.

Practical Details for Hiking Franz Josef Glacier

We took the Ice Explorer trip through Franz Josef Glacier Guides NZ. This trip includes a short helicopter ride (5 minutes) up to the glacier and around 3 hours of hiking on the ice (weather permitting). We chose this tour because it gave us the most time on the glacier. You can also choose scenic helicopter tours or a heli-hike that has more time in the air and less time on the ice.

Tours get canceled at the first sign of the weather turning bad for safety reasons (you really don't want to be in a helicopter in bad weather!). The earlier in the morning that you have your tour slot, the more likely the weather will be good. Our suggestion is to book early morning slots online in advance to try and decrease the weather cancellation factor. Our glacier guide also suggested that winter (June-July) is the best time to see the glacier as the weather is usually clear and the turquoise of the ice takes on crazy bright colors.

Disclosure: Our New Zealand Encompassed Tour was provided by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. Our flights were kindly sponsored by Air New Zealand. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

14 thoughts on “Hiking Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand”

  1. @Kristin: So great that you’ll be at Franz Josef in a couple of weeks. Try to book an early morning spot. Hope the weather is great!

  2. It is an extraordinary concept in which people can experience the wonders of Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand without having to go there. I hope you could make some more panoramic views on different places.

  3. Wow, it looks beautiful up there! That must have been quite the adventure…New Zealand sounds awesome 🙂


  4. @Dariece: We had high expectations for New Zealand, and they were far exceeded. There are so many stunning places and adventures like this. Yet they are only a few hours from each other. There’s so much squeezed into such a small place.

  5. Hi Audrey, sounds like an awesome trip. After reading your post and looking at that panorama I will be putting on to my ‘to do’ list.

  6. @Terry: Our New Zealand trip was pretty awesome, in the true sense of that often over-used word. Really loved every angle of it. And I highly recommend trying to get up on Franz Josef Glacier – just incredible!

  7. Great post! I hiked almost the entire way up to reach the glaciers but the conditions were so bad we couldn’t continue to the top 🙁 thanks for putting a 360 up to see

  8. Okay, you’ve done it. Next time I’ll DEFINITELY go to south island!! Thanks for a great post.

    Looks like you’re going strong.. where are you headed next?

    All the best,

    Kamiel & Yeon…. & Miru our daughter

  9. @Rebecca: The conditions on the glacier change so quickly. We were really fortunate just to get up at all – our previous attempts were all canceled. Glad this 360-degree panorama provided a glimpse into what was waiting for you at the top!

    @Dee: New Zealand’s South Island has only about a million people. Really incredible how small the population is when you consider the size of the island. It’s a beautiful place.

    @Kamiel: Glad to hear that you & Yeon are doing well. And congratulations on the birth of your daughter! Yes, South Island is definitely worth a visit next time. So much to see and do in a relatively small place.


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