Did you know glaciers covered 32 percent of the total land area of the earth during the maximum point of the last ice age? Today, barely 10 percent of the earth is covered by glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets.

Are glaciers retreating?

When I first visited Franz Josef Glacier in 1989, it took me about 10 minutes to reach the ice. I could see the ice from the car park. In 2015, the hike was over 45 minutes from the car park. The scenery of the entire area had changed. There are rocks and man-made walkways now.

These two photos I took in 1989 and 2015 shows the glacier has retreated:

Franz Josef Glacier 1989

Franz Josef Glacier 1989, close to the car park

Franz Josef Glacier 2015, after walking 15 minutes from the car park

Per National Snow and Ice Data Center, Franz Josef Glacier began losing mass from 1999 to 2005. It made a slight comeback from 2005 to 2008 and started retreating again since 2008 and will continue to decline into the 22nd century.

Trippy user Ken Stein from Redondo Beach asked:

Where can I get the best glaciers experience?

Here are 10 glaciers to visit around the world before it’s too late:

1. Franz Josef Glacier, NZ

Heli-hiking is the best way to explore Franz Josef Glacier. You must reserve this small group guided trip in advance. This four-hour tour includes round trip helicopter ride and a 3-hour guided glacier hike. The tour ends with an opportunity to soak in the Glacier Hot Pools.

Geologist Julius von Haast was the first man who explored Franz Josef Glacier and named it after the Austrian emperor. The Franz Josef Glacier Village has several hotels and hostels, perfect for a two or three-day quiet getaway.

About 15 miles south of Franz Josef is Fox Glacier. You’ll need two days to explore both glaciers. Fox Glacier offers heli-hiking, overnight alpine trekking, and ice-climbing trips as well. You are not allowed to get onto the glaciers without a guide.

Trippy user Anna-Fee Schuller from Germany wrote:

I booked a “heli hike” in Franz Josef, so I flew to the glacier in a helicopter and walked on the glacier with a guided group. It was breathtaking. Blue ice, spectacular ice formations (we sometimes were allowed to walk/crawl/squeeze through) and you could see the ocean. (The first three pictures are Franz Josef, the last one is Fox).

2. Mer de Glace, France

France’s largest glacier, Mer de Glace is the main attraction in the Chamonix Valley. It is the second largest glacier in the Alps. According to Chamonix.net:

If in 1988, it took 3 steps to get down to the ice cave, now, Mer de Glace has shrunk so fast that visitors must go down 370 steps to get there.

Sounds like Mer de Glace is having the same problem as Franz Josef Glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Nevertheless, it is still business as usual in Mer de Glace. Some of the attractions include: visiting the ice grotto, Glaciorium, restaurants, and café with panoramic views of the mountains.

3. Matanuska Glacier, Alaska

Matanuska Glacier in Alaska is one of the few glaciers you can touch and walk up from the roadside. Unlike Columbia Glacier, another famous Alaskan glacier, the Matanuska Glacier is not showing signs of retreating.

It is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Anchorage, and there are pullouts along the highway to view the glacier. To get to the glacier’s edge, you’ll have to pay a fee since access to the glacier is on private land. Glacier hiking and ice climbing classes are also available at Matanuska Glacier.

Alaska.org, the official tourism website for Alaska has an Alaska Glaciers Directory that you may want to check out. There are 616 officially named glaciers in Alaska per NPS.gov. Trippy user Matt Merkel did a 26-glacier day cruise, and this is what he wrote:

I just got back from Alaska. While there we did a 26-glacier day cruise out of Whittier. (The cruise really got you up close to only 4 of them). Also, a day cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park, leaving from Seward – saw two glaciers up close on that tour. The only hands-on experience was a visit to Exit Glacier outside of Seward. These were not excursions where you hike or climb the glaciers or enter into ice caves, but there are plenty of tours throughout Alaska where you can do that. Plus there is so much else to see and do in the state – I can’t recommend it enough, and I can’t wait to go back.

4. Athabasca Glacier, Canada

Athabasca Glacier, the most visited glacier in the Canadian Rockies is gradually shrinking according to a report by NASA Earth Observatory.

Those looking for glacier adventure should add Athabasca Glacier to the list. Ride on an all-terrain vehicle on the surface of the glacier, stroll along a cliff-edge walkway and walk on the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk.

Trippy user, Alyasia Liles from Mexico recommended Athabasca Glacier. She wrote:

Hidden within the rugged landscape of the world-famous Canadian Rockies is the magnificent Athabasca Glacier. The glacier spreads across Jasper National Park stretching into the Icefields Pkwy, one of the most scenic highways in the world. The more adventurous ones can indulge in a full day tour exploring the vastness of this icy landscape. Icewalks are operational between May up to October.

5. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina

Trippy user Utsav Singh from India loved Perito Moreno. He said:

Perito Moreno Glacier: It is situated outside the city of El Calafate. It is also one of the main tourist attraction in Argentina. This beautiful glacier stretch 30 km in length. There will be three viewing points located on land to enjoy the landscape beauty of these Glaciers.

Unlike the other glaciers, Perito Moreno is growing every day. Located in southwest Argentina’s region known as Patagonia, Perito Moreno is part of the Los Glaciares National Park. Viewing platforms are available and to get closer you can take a boat ride on Argentino Lake. Guided one and a half hour ice trekking tours are available from early August to late May.

6.Vatnajokull Glacier, Iceland

Vatnajokull is Iceland’s largest glacier, and it is melting at a rate of about one meter per year says Iceland’s Glacier Guides.

Day trips are available from Reykjavik to Vatnajokull and Jokulsarlon. The tour usually runs around 17 hours. The tour covers a guided hike on the Vatnajokull Glacier, trip to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This tour is available year-round.

Trippy user Pau Van from Madrid said:

The Fjord region (northeast) is quite enjoyable, even though it takes some time to explore it properly. In the south, Jökulsárlón Floating Icebergs and Vatnajokull are a must.

7. Jostedalsbreen, Norway

Jostedalsbreen Glacier covers about half of the Jostedalsbreen National Park, located in Western Norway. It divides the world’s longest fjords into two – the Sognefjord and the Nordfjord. Jostedalsbreen Glacier has more than 50 glacier branches, and the most accessible is Briksdalsbreen.

Jostedalsbreen Glacier, Norway

3-km hiking and 3-day glacier hiking tours are available in Briksdalsbreen. The most popular is the 3-km trail from the Mountain Lodge to Briksdal Glacier.

8. Grey Glacier, Chile

Grey Glacier is one of the attractions of Torres del Paine National Park, located in the Southern Patagonian ice field of Chile. The glacier begins in the southern Andes Mountains to the west and ends in three distinct lobes into Grey Lake. The glacier turns deep blue when the sun hits the surface. Per NASA, some of the surfaces are indeed grey-brown because of the debris from adjacent mountainsides color.

Grey GlacierTo get a closer look of the glacier, join a 3-hour boat ride from Hotel Lago Glacier to Rio Pingo, at the edge of the glacier. This comfortable tour includes a guide and a drink.

9. Midui Glacier, Tibet

Midui Glacier in Bomi County is the lowest glacier in Tibet. Located just four miles from China National Highway 318 (Sichuan-Tibet Highway), all off-road tour vehicles drop off tourists at Midui Village. The glacier is accessible by foot (two hours) or pony from the Midui Village. A walk to Midui Glacier includes views of lush greeneries, copper-red mountains, ice-capped mountains, farmlands, lakes and of course the Midui Glacier.

10. Canada Glacier, Antarctica

Cruise to the earth’s last frontier, Antarctica to see the wilderness covered in ice and lava. See the most spectacular glaciers in the world’s most inaccessible continent – and take a photo in front of Canada Glacier. Will it disappear one day? New York Times’ article, Miles of Ice Collapsing into the Sea stated:

For scientists working in Antarctica, the situation has become a race against time.

Is it time to take a trip to visit one of the glaciers listed here? Not sure and have questions about visiting? Join Trippy and post your questions. It’s is free to join.

Article and photos by Claudia Looi

Mentioned in this post
  1. Franz Josef Glacier
    Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand

    Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand
  2. Glacier Hot Pools
    Attraction in Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand
  3. Fox Glacier
    City in New Zealand

    Fox Glacier New Zealand
  4. Mer de Glace
    Attraction in Haute-Savoie France

    Haute-Savoie France
  5. Matanuska Glacier
    Attraction in Matanuska-Susitna Alaska

    Matanuska-Susitna Alaska
  6. Anchorage
    City in Alaska

    Anchorage Alaska
  7. Kenai Fjords
    Park in Alaska

  8. Seward
    City in Alaska

    Seward Alaska
  9. Exit Glacier
    Attraction in Kenai Peninsula Borough Alaska

    Kenai Peninsula Borough Alaska
  10. Athabasca Glacier
    Attraction in Division No. 15 Canada

    Division No. 15 Canada
  11. Perito Moreno
    Attraction in Lago Buenos Aires Dept Argentina

    Lago Buenos Aires Dept Argentina
  12. Argentino Lake
    Attraction in Lago Argentino Department Argentina

    Lago Argentino Department Argentina
  13. Vatnajokull
    Attraction in Iceland

  14. Jostedalsbreen
    Attraction in Stryn Norway

    Stryn Norway
  15. Briksdalsbreen
    Attraction in Stryn Norway

    Stryn Norway
  16. Grey Glacier
    Attraction in Última Esperanza Chile

    Última Esperanza Chile
  17. Tibet

  18. Canada Glacier
    Attraction in Antarctica