Franz Josef is a small town in the South Island of New Zealand. It is home to one of the biggest glaciers in the country. It sits at 300 metres above sea level, measuring a massive 12 km in length so it's quite a cold and chilly walk end to end, as you can imagine.
Fortunately I didn't have to do this... I went on a tour of the glacier, which was roughly 3 hours. They teach you everything you need to know. From how to put on and use your crampons (the spikes that go on your boots) to how to get out of the helicopter. Yes, I got to ride in a helicopter!
"The ride is only a few minutes long but it feels completely different to any other type of flying."
Unfortunately the tour that I went on has been closed down. Due to there being a limited amount of people allowed on the glacier each day. This is to preserve its natural beauty, as because of global warming, the ice is melting at a very fast rate. So if the tours had of continued it would have destroyed the glacier even faster. This is a great shame as now less people will get to experience the Franz Josef Glacier, but it wouldn't have been closed down unless it was completely necessary.
On the tour I was flown up to the glacier in a helicopter. This is because it is extremely hard to get up it with any other mode of transport. Unless you can say you are some sort of badass ice climber. But lets face it most of us aren't.
The helicopter is amazing and personally it was my first time doing this. The ride is only a few minutes long but it feels completely different to any other type of flying. You can actually see all of the glacier as the helicopter goes through the air and the size of it is vast.
Now once you land and get on to the ice it's time to put your crampons on and go explore. The glacier is hard to climb and you need a decent fitness to get up some parts, which are quite steep and hard to push your boots into. You will also look into ice caves and walk through small valleys, with ice walls on each side. You feel like you are actually in the Ice Age.
If you are on the south island in New Zealand the Franz Josef Glacier is a must, as long as you don't mind embracing the cold for a few hours. I advise taking warm clothes like a thick jacket, hat and gloves, but also sunglasses. You might think this is strange, but sunglasses help to protect your eyes from the suns glare off the ice. There is nothing worse than having to squint to see the beautiful glacier.
"So a two day, one night stay in Franz Josef is more than enough."
When going to the town of Franz Josef I would advise staying in a youth hostel for one night before, if you are travelling on a budget and then move on around the south island the next day. Franz Josef doesn't really have much of note, except the glacier. There are some nice little shops and restaurants, however these can be visited before or after your trip up the glacier. So a two day, one night stay in Franz Josef is more than enough.
I know tours are harder to find now in 2017, but trust me the Franz Josef Glacier will not disappoint you!
Do you have any questions about Franz Josef? Or any other tips? Please comment them below