Glaciers You Should See Before They Disappear
Do you find glaciers captivating and would love to see or even hike one, one day?
Formed over the course of centuries and even millennia, these incredible glacial masses are both fascinating and frightening due to their almighty power. Yet, for the adventurer and intrepid traveler, glaciers simply inspire wonderment and excitement. Whether set between fjords, jagged peaks or surrounded by majestic lakes and lush valleys, they provide spectacular scenery and offer unique, exciting activities.
Unfortunately, these white giants are quickly disappearing due to global warming. Indeed, scientists have been increasingly expressing concerns as it is estimated that the earth has already lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice over the last 30 years.
With glaciers melting away at a rapid pace, now might be the best time to check out some of the most beautiful glaciers in the world before they vanish forever.
Are you wondering where to start?
To help you, we’ve listed below some of the most beautiful and accessible glaciers on the planet.
Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland
Set in the Bernese Alps of south-central Switzerland and stretching over 23kms, the Aletsch glacier is the Alp’s largest and longest glacier. Taking a trip to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is like being transported to a winter wonderland where time seems to have stopped, frozen in its tracks.
If you’re up for a unique adventure featuring stunning landscapes, you won’t be disappointed! Indeed, the glacier features thirty two 4000-meter peaks, an extraordinary ice sea that resembles a magical frozen highway between peaks, and countless panoramic hikes. Mountain climbing, ice climbing, skiing, and glacier excursions are popular activities in this beautiful region.
From glimmering blue glacial lakes, icy cliffs, and jagged snow-capped peaks to wonderful Alpine forests and elderflower valleys ablaze with color, there’s something magical about the area.
As for most glaciers on the planet, unfortunately, the Aletsch glacier is quickly melting and has already retreated by 2 miles (3.2kms) since 1870. Besides, scientists have consistently voiced their concerns in the last decade as the glacier is receding at an unprecedented rate of 12 meters (13 yards) a year.
Jostedalsbreen Glacier, Norway
Ready to step into a hypnotizing Winterland where glaciers and fjords collide?
Flanked by two epic fjords, the Sognefjord and the Nordfjord, the mesmerizing Josteldalsbreen glacier is unfortunately quickly melting away. If you’re planning to see the most beautiful glaciers on earth before they disappear, this one should definitely be on the top of your list!
The Jostedalsbreen glacier is the largest in continental Europe, stretches over more than 60 km (37 miles), and covers half of the spectacular Jostedalsbreen National Park. This impressive glacier is located in Vestland county in Western Norway and is split up between 50 different branches, such as the incredible Briksdalsbreen and Nigardsbreen glaciers.
What is particularly unique about the Jostedalsbreen Park and glacier is the diversity of the landscape. Indeed ranging from dramatic fjords, deep blue glacial areas, and small rural farms clinging onto barren mountains to lush farmlands, breathtaking waterfalls, and rushing rivers, the site offers visitors a colorful taste of Norway’s natural beauty.
The region is a major ski destination and offers many other exciting activities to adventurers, including boarding a mountain train, fjord boat tours, or incredible glacial expeditions.
Athabasca Glacier, Canada
Located in the Jasper National Park, the Columbia Icefield is a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once covered Western Canada’s mountains.
The Columbia icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies. And the Athabasca Glacier is the largest of the six main glaciers that can be found in the Columbia Icefield. Global warming has led to the glacier’s recession for over 150 years, revealing a rocky landscape in its path.
While it has lost about half its volume, the glacier currently stretches over 6km (4 miles), it is still one of the most visited glaciers in North America due to its remarkable scenery and accessibility. Indeed, frozen in motion, its icy white stream seems to be winding its way down the valley. On a sunny day, the glistening blue ice and white icy formations sharply contrast with the blue sky.
A rugged and barren mountainscape, combined with snow-capped peaks, glacial streams, and colorful wildflowers make this place incredibly unique. Once there, one of the best things to do is to hop on board the Ice Explorer, a special bus that will take you all the way up to the top of the glacier, offering sweeping icy views!
Fox and Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Located on the spectacular west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are two natural wonders that genuinely set New Zealand apart as one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, home to an unparalleled variety of landscapes.
Are you looking for uniqueness? Nowhere else in the world will you see glaciers so close to the ocean! Indeed, these marvelous white giants are both situated a mere fifteen kilometers from the Tasman Sea. Fox and Franz Josef are also very easy to access, only a short walk away from the parking areas.
If you’re coming from Queenstown, the first glacier on the way is the Fox Glacier. Located in the heart of the New Zealand Alps, this majestic glacier is 13 kilometers (8 miles) long and became a major tourist attraction in the 1920s. Fox Glacier is not only New Zealand’s longest glacier, but it’s also one of the world’s fastest-moving glaciers. Indeed, the glacier is constantly moving, creating spectacular scenes of ice cliffs and blue crevasses.
The glacier is part of the Te Wahipounamu Park, a World Heritage Site. And what makes this glacier even more unique – besides its proximity with the ocean, is the lush rainforest it is surrounded by! Indeed, once there, the scenery is unbelievable; green tropical mountains frame an astonishing blue frozen stream, rushing creeks, and white snow-capped peaks.
The Franz Joseph glacier is 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) long and is as impressive as the Fox glacier. Also flanked with rivers and lush rainforest, the glacier provides photographers and nature lovers alike with incredible scenery. Epic shots and views guaranteed!
While glaciers have been covering the earth for millennia, they’re most likely about to disappear. And as sad as it sounds, the next few years could be the last chance we have to see a glacier in our lifetime.
Do you have specific glaciers on your bucket list? If that’s the case, we’d love to read about them in the comment section below!
Dan has been working in the photography industry for over 20 years mostly in the commercial space. He re-focused in travel and travel content 5 years ago after a long career in commercial studio, interior and advertising content for industry leaders in many genres.
Published many times in print with Professional Photographer, Sony, Culture Trip, Countryside Magazine, NY Tourism Guide, New York Times, many real estate marketing magazines throughout the USA and many online publications. Dan has also co-authored “Creative Photography : The Professional Edge”.
Dan also runs yearly photography tours in Alaska at alaskabearcruise.com where he is the guide and company co-owner. He also runs a successful nationwide photography business.
Current principal sponsors include Think Tank Photo and Lumix, also a previous British Photography Awards Ambassador.