Top 10 Glaciers in the World to Hike
The world of glaciers is calling, and not just for skiing: Hiking enthusiasts also benefit from the mystical ice that can be found in various countries around the world. Here are the top 10 glaciers for an exciting and unforgettable hiking trip.
Vatnajökull Glacier (Iceland)
Are you ready for a real madness glacier? It is the largest in all of Europe: Vatnajökull with an area of around 8,100 square kilometers. It is located in Iceland, a paradise for nature lovers and active vacationers, and combines the landscape panoramas typical of the island state. Snow, ice, glacial rivers, waterfalls, and mountains spread out before you in Vatnajökull National Park, home to the glacier of the same name. It is a protected region since 2008.
Various highlights can be visited in the icy paradise of Vatnajökull. A favorite among visitors is Falljökull, an area full of sculptures, caves, and tunnels made out of ice – though also comparatively challenging. Things are a little quieter at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, which features colorful icebergs. If you don’t want to decide on a hike there right away, you should start with a boat trip through the lagoon. Access to the national park is easiest from the southern direction.
Difficulty: easy to medium (depending on the tour)
Columbia Icefield (Canada)
Easily accessible, huge in extent, and around 12,000 years old: These are the most important facts about the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. To go hiking here, you have to take an overseas flight, but you will be immediately rewarded with impressive panoramas: Eight glaciers, two national parks and a vantage point at an altitude of almost 300 meters await you in an environment that is perfect for nature vacationers.
However, the Columbia Icefield is also an impressive and at the same time very frightening example of the consequences of global warming: After all, you can see from the signs posted here how much the glacier has receded over the past few years. Nevertheless, there are still up to 350 meters thick sheets of ice to be admired, some of which date back to the last ice age. Ride in the Rocky Mountains comfortably with a shuttle bus to the so-called “Glacier Skywalk” or take part in a guided tour through the mountains.
Aletsch Glacier (Switzerland)
It is located in the Swiss canton of Valais and therefore requires a shorter journey than our places 1 and 2. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has characteristics such as more than 20 kilometers in length and over 4,190 meters in height. In this atmosphere, you can challenge yourself!
There is a total of 79 square kilometers for adventurers to discover. The landscape spoils you with various mountain peaks, deep gorges, and bizarre-looking rocks that have been shaped by the traces of time. You don’t have to miss mountain lakes like the accumulation of the Märjelenensee either. In the region, which is as idyllic as it is challenging, you can enjoy views from various viewpoints.
A place of mesmerizing beauty is also our 4th place Most Beautiful Glaciers to Hike – bringing us back to Iceland again. It is Mýrdalsjökull, the island nation’s fourth-largest glacier, which is best known for its characteristic ice sculptures.
In addition to the naturally formed ice figures, Mýrdalsjökull has another special feature: it is located on the Katla volcano. This situation sometimes leads to volcanic activities such as eruptions below the ice surface, the so-called “subglacial eruptions”. As fascinating as these may be to outsiders, they pose a dangerous risk to those living in the surrounding area. Therefore, it is not surprising that in this region, behavior in the event of a volcanic eruption is regularly rehearsed. Are you brave enough for a tour on the bubbling underground?
Pastoruri Glacier (Peru)
Now we are taking you to a completely different setting: You can also explore fascinating glaciers in South American countries. For example, the Huascarán National Park in the Andean state of Peru is home to the Pastoruri Glacier. It can be climbed relatively quickly. The only challenge is the altitude. Therefore, you should take enough time for an inspection. You will be rewarded with different views of the glacier, which is around eight square kilometers in size and four kilometers long. You shouldn’t waste any time planning a hike here either, as the Pastoruri has lost around 15 percent of its original ice mass in the last 35 years alone.
Jostedal Glacier (Norway)
Norway’s largest ice field welcomes you to Jostedalsbreen National Park. An area of around 500 square kilometers earns the glacier of the same name the title of the largest of its kind on mainland Europe. There is enough space for adventurers and plenty of challenges for nature lovers who want to be active. The difficulty is pleasantly easy and the temperatures are surprisingly mild.
A popular route leads over the “Nigardsbreen” glacier arm, which inevitably reminds of fascinating fairytale stories about snow queens and ice monsters with its blue shimmering ice. There are guided tours in Jostedalsbreen National Park from various locations, for example from Jostedalen. In addition, you can expand or refresh your knowledge of the glacier world in Norway in the nearby glacier museum.
1st and 4th place in our top 10 have already proven that numerous glacier paradises await in Iceland. 7th place also brings you back to the fascinating island state: Langjökull has the second-largest glacier in Iceland after Vatnajökull. It impresses in particular with its length of more than 50 kilometers, from which its name comes, and with peaks of up to 1,235 meters.
Langjökull stretches from northeastern Iceland far into the southwest and, like Mýrdalsjökull, hides a system of volcanoes beneath it. Naturally beautiful sights await you in the form of a picturesque lake and an impressive waterfall. Gullfoss Waterfall also marks the start of a popular route through the countryside that takes in other natural highlights. As a rule, ice caves are part of it, but they change again and again depending on the weather. In addition to hiking, snowmobile tours are also possible around Langjökull.
Stubai Glacier (Austria)
Stubai Glacier is the largest glacier ski area in all of Austria. Those who can part with skis or snowboards here and exchange this equipment for hiking boots with crampons can look forward to picturesque mountain worlds with waterfalls, white mountain peaks, and green meadows. Difficulty ranges from “easy to master” to “slightly more challenging”. Ideally, you should inform yourself on site which tour suits you best. Either way, you see what is probably the most natural side of Tyrol, which spoils you with fresh air and wonderful panoramic views of the mountain peaks in the surrounding area. How about a photo from the top of the shovel before heading back down to the valley in a relaxed manner?
Difficulty: easy to medium (depending on the route)
Mendenhall Glacier (USA)
Which US state do you think of first when it comes to snow and ice paradises? Wide Alaska! And this is exactly where the Mendenhall Glacier lures with its diverse ice landscape. It is located near Juneau and is part of the Juneau Icefields with an area of around 3,800 square kilometers. It measures about 20 kilometers and has ice at the glacier tongue that is at least 150 years old. Embark on the famous Mendenhall Glacier Hike or take a boat trip across Mendenhall Lake!
Location: United States
Pasterze Glacier (Austria)
The Pasterze Glacier is the longest of its kind in Austria and extends at the foot of the 3,798 meters high Grossglockner. As a passionate hiker, you have probably heard of the highest mountain in Austria. No wonder a wonderful ambiance awaits you here! In the past, it was easy to reach with a glacier cable car, but global warming and the associated retreat of the glacier mean that you also have to go for a walk.
A highlight on one of the most popular hikes through the area is certainly the so-called “horseshoe break”. To reach the Hufeisenbruch, you have to start your tour at the Glocknerhaus. With a hiking time of about four hours, only people with enough stamina should go here.
Difficulty: easy to medium (depending on the route)