Hey would you be interested in a walking tour to visit a glacier? Never thought I’d utter those words so casually like I was going to the movies. Seemed like something everyone does while passing through the Southern Alps in New Zealand, and I was glad we did it. The sleepy little town of Franz Josef was where we’d be staying at for 3 days, and the mighty glacier was just van ride away. After contacting our tour company, the Franz Josep Glacier Guides, a booking was made. Oh, also to note that this company also provides complimentary access to their wonderful hot springs if you book a tour with them. It might not sound like a big deal, but trust me, take the dip! After a whole morning out walking for a couple of miles with heavy boots on, a soak in the hot spring pools would be truly invigorating.

I’ve never seen a glacier up close before, so that morning while we got suited up at their ‘office’ with outdoor gear, we were all set to go. We were provided with a breathable rain jacket, hiking boots and waterproof over-trousers. After putting all those extra gear on it felt like I was going on a 3 days expedition touring on the ice, not a bad feeling if you’re into the outdoors. After getting all pumped up by our informative guide, we were shuttled in a van toward the valley of the glacier, driving by the mighty Waiho river, and into the rainforest where we soon would start our adventure.

Franz Josef glacier waters.
Watch your step.
No monkey business on the edge, hehe.
Braving the icy winds & rocky terrain.

Our guide soon started explaining on the different properties of the flora and fauna nearby that was unique to this area, when a giant bird swooped down on us and started tearing some fruits off the trees and inhaling them. Cameras were soon firing like machine guns, before I got my chance to join in it swooped off into the clouds. That’ll teach me for being a slow poke. Another interesting aspect he mentioned, is that if you looked carefully on the rocky grounds you might be able to find some semi precious stones hidden somewhere, mostly milky quarts. Leave no rock unturned if you’re going to be looking for treasure, of a souvenir for keepsakes.

Just around the river bend.
Waterfalls at every corner.
Walking on the dried river path.
Never thought I’d call moss/fungus beautiful.
Heavy clouds hovering above us.

I was so disheartened at the fact that drones were not allowed to be flown in this valley. I had it in my backpack with me waiting to take off into the skies. I was already loving the scenery around me, what more from up above?

The glacier terminus.

After walking till the very end, I was honestly expecting a little more from the view, I imagined it to be prettier. I suppose the weather and lighting made everything gloomy, still can’t believe we mad it up here though! Our guide soon started distributing hot chocolate in his flask to each and every one of us, woo hoo! A much needed perk me up after walking for almost 2 hours. This is as far as we could go without risking our safety, the next best thing to get closer would be to join a helicopter tour to land on top of the glacier itself.

On the edge of the valley. Overlooking the Franz Josef glacier in all it’s glory with my hot chocolate.
Mandatory umbrella appearance. Up we go.
Our guide picked up a chunk of ice from the river for a show and tell.
Looks so beautiful like a large diamond.
Take only memories, leave only footprints.
The stroll back to the entrance of the park by the mighty Waiho river.

4 hours well spent hiking through the river valley. You could technically do this walk for free, but with the cost of bringing your own equipment, and paying for transportation, also the with the lack of a guide to explain various features and points of interests around the valley, I’d recommend sticking with the tour. Everything is taken care of, and you are seamlessly transported from the township to the glacier and back. Plus, you get to use the hot springs after too. Now, why didn’t I bottle some of the luscious glacier waters to bring back home as a souvenir?