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The huge natural forces at play here are clearly evident and the sheer scale of Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers is humbling. Flowing almost to sea level, these glaciers are some of the most accessible in the world. Walks wind past steep valley walls bearing huge scars from where the glaciers have retreated and advanced over thousands of years. Surrounded by lush green rainforest and bound by coastline, it appears somewhat puzzling that these giant walls of ice exist in such a temperate landscape.
How on earth...?
The secret lies at the very top of the glaciers. Both plummet over 2,500 metres down from the Southern Alps and are fed by four alpine glaciers that receive huge amounts of snow each year. This mixture of ice and snow slides down to the valley below, maintaining thickness and frozen mass. This is one of the few places in the world where mountains of ice descend into fertile rainforests.
Exploring the best of Glacier Country
A multitude of easy walks lead right to the foot of the glaciers themselves. Franz Josef’s Glacier Valley Walk is a 45-minute stroll to the public glacier viewing viewpoint, where you’ll get a spectacular perspective of the valley of ice stretched out in front of you. The walk to the foot of the Fox Glacier takes only 30 minutes – don’t forget your camera! Lake Matheson stretches out in front of Fox Glacier and is famous for its beautiful reflections of the glacier and the Southern Alps.
A scenic helicopter flight – where you’ll have the opportunity to land on a glacier – is simply breathtaking. Soaring high over rainforests and the Southern Alps, you’ll discover a birds-eye-view of the icy world that lies high above the snow line. Blessed with mind-blowing topography, this part of the world is home to soaring, snow-capped peaks only 30 kilometres from the coast. For the more adventurous, there’s the option of a heli-hike, where a helicopter drops you off atop a snowy peak and you hike with a guide to a pre-determined pick-up point. You’ll experience a beautiful, isolated part of New Zealand that few locals or visitors ever get to see.
At MoaTrek, we’re passionate about showcasing the very best of New Zealand on our small group tours. The West Coast’s glacier country is simply out-of-this-world – it’s where the forces of Mother Nature come alive. We include this part of the country on many of our small-group tours, along with free time for you to explore on foot or take an optional scenic flight. Contact us now, or find out more on our website.