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The walks to the glacier heads are the easiest way of seeing the glaciers from a distance. But joining a guided walk and getting up close to their ice formations is unforgettable, and flying over the glaciers is quite thrilling, but expensive. The ultimate combination is to fly by fixed-wing plane or helicopter to the top or middle of the glacier and get out and walk on it. Heli-hikes give you the most time on the ice, two to three hours of snaking up and down the middle of the glacier.
Fox Glacier Guiding. Fox Glacier Guiding has trips to suit all fitness levels, budgets, and time frames, and even ones that are good for kids (over the age of seven). The four-hour walk travels about 2 km (1 mi) up the glacier. The climb requires some fitness. Arguably the best option is to heli-hike, combining a helicopter flight onto and off Fox Glacier and walking for 2½ hours on the ice with a guide (NZ$399). Reservations are recommended. Fox Glacier Guiding Bldg., Main St., Fox Glacier, 7859. 03/751–0825 or 0800/111–600. email@example.com. www.foxguides.co.nz..
Franz Josef Glacier Guides. Franz Josef Glacier Guides provides a comprehensive guide service with a popular half-day walk, a full-day trip, or a heli-hike tour where you'll get flown up onto the ice field, dropped for a two-hour hike, then picked up again. Bookings are essential. Main Rd., Franz Josef, 7856. 03/752–0763 or 0800/484–337. www.franzjosefglacier.com.. half-day NZ$123, full-day NZ$180, heli-hike NZ$399.
Helicopter Line. The Helicopter Line operates several scenic flights over the glaciers from heliports at Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Three-hour heli-hikes on Franz Josef Glacier are yet another option (NZ$395), where you'll get two hours up on the ice. Reservations are recommended in summer and essential for the heli-hikes. Main Rd., Franz Josef, 7856. 03/752–0767; 0800/807–767 (NZ only). www.helicopter.co.nz..
Mountain Helicopters. For a more personalized helicopter experience try Mountain Helicopters. They fly out of both Franz Josef and Fox with flights starting at 10 minutes for NZ$95 (out of Fox) or NZ$125 (out of Franz Josef). The smaller choppers mean that everyone gets a window seat, and the experience is more intimate than with the bigger operators. They also have an office on the main street at Fox Glacier. Fern Grove Souvenir Bldg., Main St., Franz Josef, 7856. 03/751–0045 or 0800/369–423. www.mountainhelicopters.co.nz.
Mount Cook Ski Planes. Mount Cook Ski Planes has fixed-wing ski planes that fly over the glaciers, landing amid craggy peaks in the high-altitude ski slopes at the head of the glaciers. They provide a less edgy experience than a helicopter, if flying in small craft isn't really your thing, and the company has more than 50 years experience flying through these mountains. The planes shut down their engines while sitting on the ice, leaving you in a deep, natural silence, allowing you to hear the ice creaking and cracking beneath you. They also have a retractable ski, which allows them to do airfield take-offs and on-the-ice landings, or vice versa, on the same trip. Departures are from Franz Josef village. Main Rd., Franz Josef, 7856. 03/752–0714 or 0800/368–000. www.mtcookskiplanes.com.
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