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Franz Josef Glacier helicopter tours – prices, timings, heli hikes

Franz Josef and Fox glaciers in New Zealand are the most beautiful and approachable glaciers in the world.

Tourists love to go on a helicopter tour of these glaciers.

Some even prefer a heli hike on the Franz Josef glacier and the Fox glaciers.

This article shares everything you need to know about Franz Josef and Fox glacier helicopter tours.

About the Glaciers

The townships have emerged only to cater to tourists visiting the glaciers – the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier.

Both the glaciers are very accessible, thus making them popular tourist attractions.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier
Image: Trip Advisor

Franz Josef glacier receives around three times the tourists Fox Glacier witnesses.

Franz Josef glacier is steeper than Fox glacier, and this is what makes it more popular.

It finishes 19 kms (12 Miles) from the coast and is the busiest of the two glaciers.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier
Image: Glacier Helicopter

Fox Glacier is the biggest of the two West Coast glaciers.

It is 2 km longer than Franz Josef Glacier and finishes 12 KMs (7.5 Miles) from the Tasman Sea.

This glacier provides fantastic views of Mount Cook.

Types of glacier helicopter tours

There are six options you can choose from when it comes to helicopter tours of New Zealand’s glaciers.

For instance, you can decide to fly over one of the glaciers and land in the snow.

Or you can decide to fly over both the glaciers and then go for the adrenalin-pumping snow landing.

Alternatively, you can take off from Fox Glacier, fly up to Mount Cook, gaze at it up close, land in the snow, and then get back to the base.

If you are too keen for the tallest mountain in New Zealand, you can opt to circle Mount Cook and then get back.

Or if you fancy it (and are fit and agile), you can indulge in a 2 to 3 hours heli hike – where you strap on snow boots and explore the world’s most challenging terrain.

Whichever helicopter tour you choose, you are in for a thrilling ride. 

Heli tour of glaciers + snow landing

Heli tour of glaciers + snow landing
Image: Glacier Helicopters

You can decide to see one of the two glaciers – Fox or Franz Josef Glaciers and land on the snow.

These are known as snow landing helicopter tours.

The snow landing is a fantastic adrenaline rush and is an excellent opportunity to take in the surroundings and breathe the pure alpine air.

There is no hiking on these tours.

Mount Cook helicopter flight from Franz Josef

This scenic helicopter flight from Franz Josef glacier begins from the glacier.

Taking you over Mount Cook’s glacial icefalls and crevasses, this 40-minute heli tour will bestow upon you the privilege of witnessing both of New Zealand’s West Coast glaciers from the air.

Prepare yourselves for unreal views of the Southern Alps, summit of Mount Cook, and Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

Touch down for a snow landing and behold the beauty of the white wonderland from ground level.

Cost of the tour

Adult (15+ years): US$380
Child (4 to 14 years): US$266
Infant (up to 3 years): US$190

Fox glacier helicopter tour with snow landing

Take this 40-minute heli tour over Fox glacier for an experience to remember.

The aerial views of the pristine Southern Alps, Aoraki/Mt Cook, Tasman Glacier and the Tasman Sea are sure to win you over.

You will also gaze upon South Island’s imposing vistas, alpine snowfields, lush rainforests at the coast, and the Franz Josef Glacier.

Make a snow landing atop Fox Glacier for up to 10 minutes.

Cost of the tour

Adult (15+ years): US$380
Child (4 to 14 years): US$266
Infant (up to 3 years): US$190

Twin Glacier tours + snow landing

Twin Glacier tours + snow landing
Image: New Zealand Travel Organizer

In these helicopter tours, you can explore both Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers from above.

A glacier landing is also part of this tour.

Stepping on to the snow is a fantastic opportunity for snapping spectacular photos and creating unforgettable memories.

There is no hiking on this tour.

Twin glacier flight from Franz Josef

If you are based in Fox township, it is recommended you book a tour taking off from the Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Base.

The 30-minute Twin glacier helicopter ride from Franz Josef allows you to admire the sheer scale of both Franz Josef and Fox glaciers from the air.

You can also make a landing on either of the glaciers too see them up close.

Get a magical sight of frozen icefalls, glowing blue ice fields, and plunging crevasses beneath you as far as you can see.

Cost of the tour

Adult (15+ years): US$279
Child (4 to 14 years): US$192
Infant (up to 3 years): US$137

Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight from Fox Glacier

If you are based in Fox township, it is recommended you book a tour that takes off from the Fox Glacier Helicopter Base.

On this 30-minute heli tour of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, fly across vast ice formations, falls, and crevasses on your way to Franz Josef Glacier.

Also see Westland Tai Poutini National Park rolling by underneath you as you hover over it.

Touch down on a glacial snowfield for a photography session.

Cost of the tour

Adult (15+ years): US$277
Child (4 to 14 years): US$194
Infant (0 to 3 years): US$139

Fox Glacier and Mount Cook tour

Mount Cook and fox glacier
Image: The Helicopter Line

On this scenic Fox Glacier and Mount Cook heli tour, you fly the Fox Glacier’s entire length and look at the Aoraki/Mount Cook mountain right in the face.

At 3,724 meters (12,217 feet), Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain.

This 30-minute tour also include a snow landing above the icefalls at the summit for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Cost of the tour

Adult (15+ years): US$277
Child (4 to 14 years): US$194
Infant (up to 3 years): US$139

Mount Cook Spectacular heli tours

Mount cook tour
Image: Trip Advisor

In this tour, you fly over the Southern Alps’ rugged spine and then go around the Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Yes, that’s right.

Instead of just staring at Mt Cook from above the Fox Glacier (as in the previous tour), you make a full circle around New Zealand’s tallest mountain in this helicopter tour.

Besides this, you also get to land on the soft snow on one of the glaciers.

You can board the Mount Cook helicopter tour from two locations – from Franz Josef township or Mount Cook Village.

Heli tour of Twin Glaciers and Mount Cook from Mt. Cook Village

Imagine flying over New Zealand’s highest mountain!

The 50-minute Heli tour of Twin Glaciers and Mount Cook take you across vast icefields, crevasses, and rainforests to the Tasman Glacier.

You will also land in pristine snow and walk around.

Hotel pick-up and drop is part of this tour.

Cost of the tour

Adult (15+ years): US$499
Child (4 to 14 years): US$348
Infant (0 to 3 years): US$249

Fox Glacier helicopter hike

Video: Youtube

This is not as popular as the Franz Glacier heli hike tour.

But if you are based out of Fox, this is a better helicopter tour to book because you won’t waste an hour traveling to Franz Josef. 

You take off from the helicopter base at Fox Glacier, and your three-hour hike is also on the same glacier.

The total duration of this tour is approximately four hours.

Cost of the tour (9+ years): US$430 per person

Franz Glacier helicopter hike

These are the most popular helicopter glacier tours in New Zealand.

You get to soar above New Zealand’s Southern Alps during a scenic flight, before a snow landing on the Franz Josef glacier.

Once on the snow, your guide takes over and leads you on a 2-hour (or 3-hour) hike through dramatic ice formations.

You explore ice caves and other glacial terrains in an 11-member group led by a professional guide. 

After your return flight, you get to rejuvenate in the complimentary Glacier Hot Pools.

When it comes to Franz Josef heli hikes, there are two options – the three-hour hike (tour duration of four hours) or the two-hour hike (three hours).

Cost of the tour (10+ years): US$455 per person

This experience is also available in a three-hour duration.

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Departure point

Depending on which township your helicopter tour is booked from, you must reach either the Franz Glacier Helicopter base or the Fox Glacier Helicopter base.

If you stay in Franz Josef or Fox townships, you can reach these bases within ten minutes.

That’s because these townships are quite small.

The address of the helicopter bases is provided on the booking voucher.

The helicopter bases are near public transportation.

All Fox Glacier and Franz Glacier helicopter tours end back at the the meeting point.

Timing of helicopter tours

Franz Josef helicopter tours take off every day between 8 am and 4.30 pm year round.

Whether you book just a helicopter flight over the glacier with a snow landing or book a helicopter hike tour, the departure window remains the same.

Restrictions strictly followed

Weight limits apply for safe and comfortable helicopter rides over Franz Glacier.

A minimum and maximum number of passengers are required on these tours, failing which, they will be canceled.

Infants and children are allowed onboard, but infants must sit on the caregiver’s lap throughout the flight.

It is recommended that warm clothing and suitable footwear be worn on this tour due to cold temperatures.

Most Franz Josef heli tours (except Twin Glacier flight from Franz Josef) are not wheelchair accessible.

For safety reasons, carrying selfie sticks, drones, flammable liquids, lighters, iPads/ tablets, and large bags are not allowed onboard.

A valid photo ID is required.

No pets are allowed onboard except service animals.

Flight times are approximate based on winds, weights, and conditions.

Seating arrangements may often be in the hands of the tour organizers for a safe and stable flight.

Exclusions of the air tours

Mount Cook heli tours do not include hotel transfers and food and drinks unless stated otherwise.

Gratuities and items of a personal nature are excluded from your ticket.

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What to expect during Franz/Fox glacier helihike?

Since hotel pick-ups and drops aren’t part of the Franz Josef helicopter flights, you must reach the Franz Josef Glacier guides base yourself.

The address for the applicable base station is provided on your booking voucher.

Once you reach the base, the helicopter tour operators team checks you in, provides the essential gear, and takes you through a pre-trip briefing.

The guides then help you walk through the native forest to reach the helipad.

After last-minute safety instructions, you board the helicopter, and the highly trained pilot takes off.

Fly over amazing glacier before the pilot lands you on the snow – a purely surreal experience.

Go on a 2-hour or a 3-hour hike over the incredible icescape.

During the hiking tour, the guide ensures you get to experience all-terrain – narrow crevasses, towering walls of ice, blue ice tunnels, ice caves, etc.

Once the guide feels you need to return, he signals the group and you get back to the helicopter for the return flight.

Safety precautions for hikes

The glacier helicopter tour operators in New Zealand take all precautions to ensure all tourists’ safe return.

All guests must –

1. Be over eight years’ old
2. Weigh 35 Kgs and more
3. Taller than 137 cms (52.2 inches)
4. Every guest must weigh less than 115 Kg
5. Not be pregnant
6. Not be under the influence of intoxicating drugs or alcohol
7. Prefer booking an afternoon tour when the track is more suitable if travelling with younger children

*If the lead guide of the heli-hike feels that you aren’t fit enough to finish the required trip, they can cancel your hike in your best interest.

Fitness required for hikes

The Franz Josef Glacier Hike is a unique experience that takes hikers through an ever-changing landscape of ice, rock, and breathtaking views.

The hike typically begins at the glacier’s base, where hikers will traverse diverse terrain, including rugged terrain, moraines, and ice formations.

The route is moderately difficult, involving steep ascents and descents, along with some other challenging obstacles.

Hence, Franz Josef Glacier hikes require a moderate level of fitness and stamina.

Guides reserve the right to curtail or cancel trips for clients whose fitness is not appropriate.

Experts believe that if you can walk for 3 hours comfortably, you must have no problem navigating the glacier during your three-hour hike.

However, certain medical conditions can impact your ability to participate in a glacier heli hike.

If you have any of the following medical conditions, please consult your doctor before booking the tour.

  • Neck or back injuries
  • Severe asthma
  • ACL damage
  • Ankle or knee injuries
  • Joint replacements or dislocations
  • Heart conditions
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Diabetes

What to carry for the helihike

During the hike, you need to bring:

  • Warm, breathable inner layers. Preferably made of merino or polypropylene
  • Two to four warm upper- body layers 
  • Long, quick-drying pants, such as tracksuits and leggings. Jeans aren’t recommended
  • Sturdy footwear
  • Sunglasses are essential. If you forget to bring them, you can buy them from the tour operator
  • Ample amount of sunblock
  • A warm hat and gloves (if you don’t have one, the tour operator can provide this for free)
  • Your camera or phone to capture memories
  • A water bottle (preferably small) and a little snack if you may need one during the hike

What the operator provides

  • A small waist pack to carry your essentials
  • Crampons to improve your mobility on snow
  • Snow-friendly walking boots and socks
  • Trekking Poles
  • Waterproof jackets
  • Waterproof over-pants to wear over your long pants

Is Franz Josef Glacier heli hike worth it?

While a heli hike on the Franz Josef glacier might be costly, but it is worth every penny.

Here are some of our reasons why you must look beyond the price and book a heli hike right away –

1. Glaciers are melting, and we don’t have much time

Not so long back Franz Josef glacier used to be accessible by a short hike up the valley. But because of climate change, the glaciers have been melting rapidly and drifting apart.

Today, it is almost impossible to get on the glacier without a helicopter. You may want to visit the glacier while you still can.

2. Breathtaking Scenery

The helicopter ride alone offers unparalleled views of the majestic Southern Alps, lush rainforests, and the vast expanse of the glacier.

It provides a perspective of the landscape that few fortunate folks get to witness, making it an unforgettable visual treat.

3. Adventure and Adrenaline

Combining helicopter flight with glacier trekking adds an element of thrill and adrenaline to the experience.

It’s a perfect opportunity for those seeking an adventure that goes beyond traditional hiking.

4. Bucket List Achievement

For many, a heli hike on the Franz Josef Glacier is a bucket-list-worthy experience.

It’s an opportunity to check off a significant adventure from your list and create stories that you’ll share for years to come.

5. Be a part of a legend

If you believe in love, you will take fancy to the legend of Franz Josef glacier.

The glacier is also known as KāRoimata o Hinehukatere, which in the Maori language, means ‘The Frozen Tears of Hinehukatere’.

According to Maori legend, thousands of years ago, there was a local woman named Hinehukatere.

She loved climbing the mountains, but her lover – a man named Wawe – didn’t.

One day, despite not knowing how to climb mountains, he agreed to accompany her on her request.

Midway through the climb, he got caught in an avalanche and died.

Hinehukatere was devastated and blamed herself for his death.

She sat on top of a mountain and continued to cry for days on end.

The Maori Gods took notice and decided to freeze her tears as a memorial to her sorrow.

Today we know hose frozen tears as the Franz Josef Glacier.

Now, wouldn’t you want to be part of such a lovely legend by visiting?

Franz Josef Glacier hot pools

Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island, Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools stands as a serene oasis, inviting travelers from around the world to experience the perfect blend of nature’s wonders and therapeutic relaxation.

With the Franz Glacier helicopter hike tours mentioned above, you also get complimentary access to the Franz Josef Glacier hot pools.

Surrounded by lush rainforests, snow-capped peaks, and the awe-inspiring Franz Josef Glacier in the distance, it’s hard not to feel humbled by the sheer majesty of nature.

The three hot pools owe their existence to the region’s geothermal activity.

The mineral-rich waters are believed to possess therapeutic properties that can help soothe sore muscles, alleviate stress, and promote overall relaxation.

Whether you’ve been trekking through the rugged terrains of the glacier or simply wish to unwind after a long day of sightseeing, these hot pools are the perfect remedy for rejuvenation.

If you would prefer a private pool, you can always upgrade the booking, possible only at the operator’s reception area.

You will reach the reception after the heli hike is over.

Fox or Franz Josef – where to stay for glacier heli tours?

You can stay either in Fox township or the Franz Josef township.

Fox and Franz Josef are less than 30 mins drive from each other.

If you prefer a quiet holiday, with tonnes of natural sights and amazing unique experiences you should stay in Fox.

In that case, you will be within 10 mins drive from the Fox Glacier Helicopter base.

Franz is more developed than the Fox township with no shortage of accommodation, restaurants, and shops.

As additional attractions, Franz also has the West Coast Wildlife Centre, Okarito lagoon, and the Glacier hot pools.

If you decide to stay in Franz Josef township, you will be within 10 minutes of the Franz Glacier Helicopter base.

However, if you plan to stay in one township and take a helicopter tour from another township, you must start an hour before your scheduled trip.

Thirty minutes to reach and another 30 minutes to prepare for the flight.

Cancellation policy

All these tours have a tourist-friendly cancellation policy. You must cancel at least 24 hours before the start date of the experience for a full refund.

Your flight is subject to favorable weather conditions.

If your Franz Josef and Fox glacier helicopter tour get canceled due to poor weather, you will get an alternative date or a full refund.

Tours in New Zealand

# Mount Cook helicopter tours
# Helicopter tours to Milford Sound
# Helicopter tours from Queenstown

Recommended Reading

# How to prepare for first helicopter flight
# What to wear for helicopter tour?
# How to overcome fear of flying?
Why helicopter tours are fun
FAQs about Helicopter tours
Helicopter tour – how long to wait after scuba diving?

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