Climbing the Frans Josef Glacier

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
72 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
New Zealand
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 300
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
104th/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 30% SUMMARY RATING: Superb


As part of the trip up the stunning west coast of New Zealand, one of the must-do activities is to see one of the fastest moving accessible glaciers in the world, and, even better, to climb through it


5 tips:

  1. Climbing – climbing through the glacier with the crampons on and the ice axe at the ready was what made this such a great experience, so be sure to give yourself the day to include this.  The only issue is the price.  A few years ago you were able to simply rock up to the glacier and climb through it, whereas unfortunately now you often need to take a helicopter further up the glacier and explore from there.  On the plus side, you’ll get some amazing views of the glacier from the helicopter
  2. Climbing can get a bit hairy! – when climbing, be prepared for it to be a little scary at times.  We thought it would just be a walk but, depending on your guide, you may be climbing up sheer slopes and starring down into the ice abyss below – you’ve been warned!
  3. Fans Joseph or Fox? – both are similar, but their nearby towns make it a choice between bigger with wider facilities but a bit busier (Frans Jospeh) and smaller with few facilities but quieter (Fox).  When I visited, I went for Frans Jospeh and it was a great experience.  It also has Glacier Hot Pools which would be great to enjoy after the climbing
  4. Hiking – if you don’t want to climb, one activity that you simple must do is a hike to get a feel for the scale of the glaciers.  The Glacier Valley walk for Frans Jospeh is fantastic as its gives you a nice walk past the small lakes and view out across the glacier.  6km / 3.7miles return and will take around 1.5hours
  5. Two things we wish we’d done – we left thinking that we would have loved to have taken a scenic flight to see the glaciers from the sky (you can cover this now with the helicopter trip) and also kayaked in the more tranquil nearby Lake Mapourika, with the “Classic Trip” taking 3 hours in the early morning


#1 Getting the crampons on, the ice axe out and heading off to climb up the various fissures in the giant flowing rivers of ice

#2 Exploring around the glacier itself as you look down some of the chasms and make (slow) progress walking along it

#3 Taking the views in from the valley floor at just how steep and huge the Frans Jospeh Glacier is

#4 The views out across the ice as you look past seemingly endless peaks in the distance

#5 The awesome waterfalls that plummet down from the impossibly steep sides of the valley

#6 The nearby west coast scenery with its superb small islands dotted all the way along

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone