Most people love walking. I know I do and I make a point of getting out for a brisk one every day — come hail or shine! Indeed, from what I can see, walking-based holidays are becoming increasingly popular particularly those routes that combine a bit of history and religion along the way such as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela or the Via Francigena. For years, countries like Austria and Switzerland proved extremely popular with keen walkers and hikers and indeed, continue to do so. What I want to talk about today though is a slightly different type of walking which I’m sure many of you will be interested in — Glacier walking!
I had the privilege about 18 months ago of undertaking an escorted walk (see photo) along Fox’s Glacier which is located on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. I found the whole experience fascinating even though the weather was awful — driving rain with consequently slippery conditions on the ice! Obviously, New Zealand is a long, long way and probably out of the reach (and budget!) of many people so it got me to thinking where else in the world — particularly closer to home — can one experience a walk along a glacier. Here is what I found out:
1. The Jostedalsbreen Glacier in Sogn og Fjordane is the largest ice-cap in Northern Europe. It is one of the favourite playgrounds in Norway among skiers and ice-climbers. In April and May, it is popular to ski on the snow covered Jostedalsbreen ice-cap. Folgefonna and Hardangerjøkelen are two other popular glaciers. During the summer, the crampons are used for walking and climbing on the glacier-arms. There are easy access to the glaciers from many of the surrounding valleys. Several companies are guiding on the glaciers in western Norway. Scandinavian Airlines operate direct daily services to many of the major Nordic destinations or you can find out more information by checking in with your nearest Travel centres-affiliated agent, location for which you can find on the home page of this website.
2. You can undertake a moderate glacier tour in the majestic surroundings of Svínafellsjökull, hemmed in by some of Iceland´s most spectacular peaks. Plenty of local tour companies operate packages to this area of Iceland and although there are no direct scheduled services from Ireland, there are frequent flights from a number of airport in Britain and Scotland. SAS also offer some competitively-priced fares via Copenhagen.
3. Switzerland is home to the great Aletsch Glacier, which at 23 kilometers length and a surface area of 80 square kilometers is the longest and largest glacier in Western Europe. The more adventurous (and fitter) of you can experience a two-day guided hiking tour which is a highlight of the unique mountain world of the UNESCO World Heritage region of Jungfrau – Aletsch.
4. Austria is home to the Stubai Glacier which is often a starting point for many mountain and glacier tours.
5. Last but not least, you could check out Sarek national park which is the largest national park and is located in the far north in Swedish Lapland. Sarek is home to more than 100 glaciers, some of which can to hiked.