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

Coddy / Getty Images

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.

1. Location of helipad
2. Tour timings
3. Fox or Franz Josef
4. Tour prices
5. Types of heli tours
6. Fox glacier heli hike
7. Franz Josef heli hike
8. What to expect in heli hike?
9. Is heli hike worth it?
10. Safety precautions
11. Fitness for heli hike
12. What to pack?
13. Hot Pools

Where do the helicopters take off from?

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.


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Timing of helicopter tours

From October to March, the helicopter tours start taking off at 8 am and end at 5 pm.

Between April to September – the winter in New Zealand – the helicopter tours start at 8.30 am and end early at 4 pm.

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.

Timing and weather

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.

Therefore, we recommended you plan the heli hike or snow landing on New Zealand’s glaciers in the first part of your holiday (so you have time for a re-schedule).


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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.

If you decide to stay in Fox, 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.


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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

Visitors stop to take in the stunning view during their hike on the Franz Josef Glacier. Image: Franzjosefglacier.com

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 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.


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Helicopter tour price

There are many ways you can experience the Franz Josef glacier, and the tour prices vary accordingly.

The cheapest helicopter tours to Franz Josef cost just a little less than 200 USD for adults and 130 USD for kids (4 to 14 years).

You can only see one glacier and land on the snow for 5-10 minutes at this price.

However, if you want to see both Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, you must book a Twin glacier helicopter tour, costing you approximately 250 USD for adults and 170 USD for kids.

This pricing also includes a snow landing.

You can book twin glacier flights that take off from Fox Glacier township or the ones that take off from Franz Joseph township

The costliest glacier tours in New Zealand tend to be the helicopter rides over Mount Cook.

Also known as Spectacular Mt Cook tours, they cost approx. 330 USD for adults and 230 USD for kids.

You can book a spectacular chopper tour over Mount Cook, either from Franz Joseph township or Mt Cook village

The heli hike tours over Franz Josef glacier are also priced similarly.

Both an adult and a child (8 years and above) end up paying 333 USD per person for a heli hike tour of the glacier.

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.


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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.

Or you can take off from Fox Glacier, fly up to Mount Cook, stare it in the face, land in the snow, and then get back to the base.

If you are too obsessed with 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. 

1. Heli tour of glaciers + snow landing

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.

Image: Viator.com

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

There is no hiking on these tours.

Franz Josef helicopter flight with snow landing

This is a 20-minute scenic helicopter flight over the Franz Josef glacier.

Adult (15+ years): 188 USD
Child (4 to 14 years): 131 USD
Infant (0 to 3 years): Free

Fox glacier helicopter tour with snow landing

This is a 40-minute aerial tour over Fox glacier, with stunning Mount Cook and the Tasman Sea views.

Adult (15+ years): 333 USD
Child (4 to 14 years): 233 USD
Infant (0 to 3 years): Free

2. Twin Glacier tours + snow landing

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

This tour is best if you plan to take off from the Franz Josef Helicopter Base.

Adult (15+ years): 243 USD
Child (4 to 14 years): 170 USD
Infant (0 to 3 years): Free

Twin glacier helicopter tour from Fox

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

Adult (15+ years): 243 USD
Child (4 to 14 years): 170 USD
Infant (0 to 3 years): Free

3. Fox Glacier and Mount Cook tour

In these helicopter tours, 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.

These tours also include a snow landing of about 5 to 10 minutes.

Adult (15+ years): 243 USD
Child (4 to 14 years): 170 USD
Infant (0 to 3 years): Free

4. Mount Cook Spectacular heli tours

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.

Image: Viator.com

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.

Tour of Mount Cook from Franz Josef

This is a 40-minute flight over Mount Cook’s glacial icefalls, crevasses, and neves.

In this flight, which takes off from the Franz Joseph Helicopter Base, you also get to see aerial views of Westland Tai Poutini National Park throughout.

Adult (15+ years): 333 USD
Child (4 to 14 years): 233 USD
Infant (0 to 3 years): Free

Tour of Mount Cook from Mt. Cook Village

This is a 50-minute helicopter tour that takes off from the Helicopter Line Base at Glentanner Park.

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

Adult (15+ years): 452 USD
Youth (8 to 14 years): 316 USD
Child (4 to 7 years): 316 USD
Infant (0 to 3 years): Free

5. Fox Glacier helicopter hike

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.

Adult (17+ years): 326 USD
Child (9 to 16 years): 310 USD
Infant (0 to 8 years): Not allowed

6. 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).

Franz Josef Glacier heli hike discount

Even though while booking the tickets, you must mention the number of children and their age, they don’t get a discount for the three-hour heli hiking tour.

For the two-hour hiking tour, kids aged 8 to 14 qualify for a discount of 20 USD.

There is no other way to get a concession on the glacier tour price.

Franz Josef Glacier heli hike price

There is not much of a difference in the 2-hour hike tour pricing and the 3-hour hiking tour.

The heli hike tour with three hours of hiking costs 333 USD per person. Even kids end up paying the same price.

The helicopter tour with two hours of hiking costs 326 USD per adult tourist (age 15+ years).

Kids aged between 8 and 14 years end up paying only 305 USD per head.

Best for the super fit and those who have hiked on ice before.   

Best for beginners.


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Franz Josef glacier without helicopter

This tour is for you if you don’t want to get onto a helicopter, or land on the snow or go on an arduous hike, but you still want to see the Franz Josef glacier from up close.

This is a three-hour guided hike towards the Franz Josef glacier, over the riverbed of the mighty Waiho.

The hike groups are usually limited to around ten tourists for a more personalized experience.

Adult (17+ years): 55 USD
Child (6 to 16 years): 45 USD
Infant (0 to 5 years): Not allowed


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What to expect during Franz glacier hike?

This applies to heli hikes on Fox glacier as well.

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.

If you have booked a helicopter tour and hike on the Fox Glacier, you must visit the Fox Glacier guiding base.

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

Since Franz Josef and Fox are small townships, these bases can be reached in around 10 minutes from everywhere.

Once you reach the base, the helicopter tour operators team checks you in, and 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.

You will fly over amazing ice-cold terrain before the pilot lands you on the snow – a real adrenalin rush for everyone involved.

That’s when the guide takes over and helps you with the final preparations for your hike on the glacier.

One of the guide’s core objectives is to cut and prepare the steps for you so that you can follow them on the spectacular route.

The guide takes you through 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.


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Is Franz Josef Glacier heli hike worth it?

Agreed that a heli hike on the Franz Josef glacier is very costly, but it is totally worth it.

Anybody who has ever been on tour has come back saying the splurge was worth the adrenalin rush.

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. You get to be part of a legendary love story

If you believe in love, you will like 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.

He loved her and just couldn’t refuse Hinehukatere’s 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?

3. The hiking guides will leave a lasting impression

Almost every hiker has come back appreciating the guides. They feel the glacier guides are knowledgeable about the terrain, they are friendly, funny, and wholly focussed on the safety of the group.

They ensure everybody in the group is together and also keep a relaxed pace so that everyone has a good time during the hike.

4. You may get an extra hour of hiking

If you are lucky, you may also end up getting four to five hours of ice time as against the advertised three hours.

This generally happens when there aren’t many tourists or the weather is favorable for a more extended stay.

This will make the high cost even more worth it. No?

5. You may find the kid in you

If you are lucky, you will also get to slide back down the hills on your bums. This will depend on a lot of factors but imagine finding the kid in you on a glacier.

6. You get to be James Bond for a day

How many times have you been on a helicopter? Most tourists will answer that with a ‘Never!’

Now imagine, getting on to a helicopter, fly through the mountains, past waterfalls and over rivers to land on a glacier.

Wouldn’t you feel like 007 James Bond?

What’s even more exciting is the adrenalin rush you feel as your helicopter searches for a helipad that’s almost not there in the glacier.


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Safety precautions for heli hike tours

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

*If the lead guide of the heli-hike feels that you aren’t fit enough to finish the required trip, he/she can refuse to take you along.


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Fitness required for heli hike tour

“Can I do the 3-hour glacier hike?” is a question many ask before booking their tour.

That’s a reasonable question to ask because the glacier terrain is variable and reasonably challenging.

You will get all the equipment (boots, crampons, and trekking poles), and the local guide will maintain a steady path for you to hike on, but you still need to be healthy enough to last the 3-hour hike.

Your 3-hours ice trek won’t be continuous. Instead, you will get enough stops to rest and catch your breath.

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

If your doctor has given you the go-ahead, you may still want to share it with your heli hike guide.

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

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What to bring for glacier heli hike tour?

The most important thing to bring along on a heli hike tour is your health.

If you are not fit enough to hike for 2 to 3 hours on the ice, this tour isn’t advisable for you.

Besides being fit and agile, there are a few more things needed to stay warm, dry, and safe.

What you need to bring

  • Warm, breathable inner layers. Preferably made of merino or polypropylene.
  • Long pants such as tracksuits and leggings. Jeans aren’t recommended.
  • 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
  • Warm hat and gloves (if you didn’t bring)
  • Waterproof jackets
  • Waterproof over-pants to wear over your long pants

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Franz Josef Glacier hot pools

Once you are back from your Franz Josef Glacier helicopter ride, you will want to warm up a bit.

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

The pools warm you down and relax your aching muscles after the long hike.

The hot pools are surrounded by lush native rainforest.  There are three main pools of varying temperatures in which you can take a dip.

If you would prefer a private pool, you can always upgrade by paying 41 USD.

This upgrade can’t be done online and is possible only at the operator’s reception area.

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

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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