A four and a half hour drive from Queenstown leads you to Franz Josef Glacier and to some of the most incredible landscapes on the planet, and in New Zealand, that’s saying quite something. Designated as a World Heritage Area by UNESCO, the town of Franz Josef and the surrounding areas are ripe for exploration and to satisfy the adrenaline junkie within you. The biggest and most obvious attraction to Franz Josef is the Franz Josef and nearby Fox glaciers. These glacial giants are remnants from the Ice Age and are slow-moving frozen rivers; looking at them can literally be equated to looking back into history.
A myriad of opportunities to explore this vast ice sheet are available to tourists and these range from ice-hikes that take you through the spectacular shock of deep blue and white ice to helicopter rides through the dramatic valleys and gives you a bird’s eye view of the glacier below. A huge reason why Franz Josef is such an important tourist destination is the fact that the glacier is less than 10km away from the town centre. You can even take your car up to the glacier and a hike of slightly more than 2km later leads you to within a stone’s throw of the glacier’s first terminal face.
Franz Josef Glacier is not limited to the glacier and the natural attractions are boundless in the region. Lakes, glacial rivers, and forests offer plenty of beautiful walking and trekking trails and is a region that is begging to be explored. Glacial hot pools are another huge draw and popular pastime amongst both locals and the ever-changing tourist population as well. Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are two other activities that tourists can indulge in at the nearby Lake Mapourika.
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