The BEST Franz Josef HELI HIKE Tours – New Zealand

A Franz Josef Heli Hike tour is one of the most unique and thrilling experiences you can do on the South Island of New Zealand. After living in New Zealand for a few months we had the opportunity to experience several Heli tours ourselves. Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier is a bucket list adventure and is only allowed and possible with a guided tour. But there are quite a few different options and tour operators to choose from for your Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike.

So to save you time, we have reviewed and ranked all the different Franz Josef Heli Hike tours. All the essential information you need to know to make a considered decision is included in this guide. Find out what to prepare, what to expect and what’s the best time for the Franz Josef Heli Hike tour. Make sure to secure your spot for a heli hike tour in advance because this popular activity sells out quickly! 

Before we dive into all the details about heli hiking on a glacier and the best Franz Josef Heli Hike tours, let’s first answer the most important question! 

Table of Contents

Is a Franz Josef heli hike worth it?

Yes totally worth it! A Franz Josef glacier heli hike tour provides a unique opportunity to hike on the Franz Josef Glacier, which is a spectacular natural wonder and a once in a lifetime experience for many people. 

My top 3 choices

No time to read the whole article? Here are my top 3 heli hike choices, so that you can pick the best one for you.

*Please note that the prices are subject to seasonal pricing

Franz Josef Glacier Guided Heli-Hike

4 hours | $446 USD*

Best value for money

Franz Josef Glacier Guided Heli-Hike

3 hours | $443 USD*

Lowest Price

Franz Josef Glacier Heli-Hike from Queenstown

7 hours | $918 USD*

Most beautiful Flight

The Franz Josef heli hike tour includes a helicopter ride from Franz Josef to the top of the glacier where you will explore the ice formations and crevasses with your knowledgeable guide. This provides a truly unforgettable experience and a chance to see the glacier up close in a way that is not possible through other means.

It’s important to note that the Franz Josef Glacier is a constantly changing natural formation and can be affected by weather conditions. Therefore, a Franz Josef heli hike tour is dependent on the weather circumstances. The tour agency you book with will contact you in the morning of your booking to confirm if your tour will depart or that you have to reschedule because of the weather. If your tour gets completely canceled due to poor weather, you’ll be offered a full refund. So you never have to worry that you lose money when booking a Franz Josef heli hike tour. 


Can you walk Franz Josef Glacier without a guide? 

No, it is not safe or even possible to walk on Franz Josef Glacier without a guide. The glacier is a constantly changing natural environment that can be hazardous. The hidden crevasses, unstable ice formations and other dangers are not always visible to the untrained eye. Therefore you should always listen to your guide when attending the heli hike tour. 

To ensure your safety, access to the glacier is strictly controlled and guided tours are mandatory. Everyone who wants to visit Franz Josef Glacier from up close must book a heli hike tour with a licensed and experienced operator. They will provide all the necessary equipment and guide you safely through the glacier to provide you with an unforgettable experience!

In addition to ensuring safety, guided tours also offer a more informative and educational experience, with knowledgeable guides providing information about the glacier, its history, and its unique environment. This will enhance your experience and provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of this incredible natural wonder.

Therefore, it’s always recommended to book a guided tour with a reputable operator when visiting Franz Josef Glacier to ensure both safety and an enjoyable experience.


The BEST Franz Josef Heli Hike Tours

*Please note that the prices are subject to seasonal pricing

Franz Josef Glacier Heli-Hike GUIDED | 4 hours | Price: $446 USD*

This tour provided by Franz Josef Glacier Guides is the most popular one and a true bestseller! Therefore you should book your guided heli hike tour in Franz Josef in advance to secure your spot. During this 4-hour tour, you can explore the ice with your guide and gain insight into the geological forces at play. The scenic helicopter flight above the Southern Alps with views on Mount Cook is a breathtaking start, but the glacier hike is the true highlight. You will be for 2 hours and 15 minutes on the ice exploring and the group is limited to 11 people to ensure personalized attention from your expert guide.

→ Book here your 4 hour guided heli hike experience from Franz Josef

Franz Josef Heli HikeGuided Tour | 3 hours | Price: $443 USD*

This 3 hour heli hike adventure is an ideal tour for first-time glacier hikers. During the heli-hike you will explore ice caves and other glacial terrain with your professional guide. The scenic helicopter flight is in an open-plan cabin which offers prime views for all six passengers. 

→ Book here your 3 hour heli hike experience from Franz Josef

Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike from Queenstown | 7 hours | Price: $918 USD*

If you’re staying in Queenstown and want to have a day trip to Franz Josef Glacier including hiking on the glacier, then this tour is for you! Enjoy convenient hotel pick-up and drop-off in Queenstown before you board the plane to Franz Josef. This already is an unforgettable experience as you will fly above the Southern Alps with stunning views of Mount Cook. In Franz Josef, you board the helicopter which takes you to Franz Josef Glacier. After enjoying the two-hour guided glacier hike you will go back to Franz Josef Township. From here you hop in the plane again which brings you back to Queenstown. A worry-free heli hiking experience from Queenstown!  

→ Book here your 7 hours Franz Josef heli hike tour from Queenstown


The Best Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Flights 

If you can’t do a heli hike, then there are luckily many other scenic helicopter flights in Franz Josef which you can book. These tours vary from only a scenic flight above the glacier to a snow landing. This will still allow you to stand on a glacier, but won’t be as demanding as the glacier hike. 

Franz Josef & Fox Glacier Helicopter Flight with Glacier landing | 40 minutes | Price $370 USD*

This aerial tour with a helicopter landing on the snowfields of Franz Josef Glacier shows you the best of this incredible landscape in a 40-minute tour. Your professional pilot will provide fascinating commentary while you soar over the Southern Alps and the Murchison Glacier Valley. You will see Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier by air before the helicopter lands on the ancient ice of the glaciers. This landing will only be for 10 minutes before you return to the take-off place. 

→ Book here your 40 minute scenic helicopter flight including glacier landing

Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight Fox Glacier Franz Josef Glacier | 30 minutes | Price $271 USD*

Enjoy New Zealand’s stunning landscape from the air during this 30-minute helicopter tour. You will fly over Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier with a short glacier landing. It will allow you to walk on the ancient ice of the glacier but is a shorter stop than the above tour. 

→ Book here your twin glacier helicopter tour including a short glacier landing


What is the best time to do a Franz Josef heli hike?

The best time to do a Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike is during the New Zealand summer, which falls between December and February. We experienced that November or March can be a good time as well. During these months, the weather is relatively milder, and the temperatures are more conducive to an enjoyable glacier experience. Keep in mind that weather conditions can be unpredictable, so it’s advisable to check the forecast to ensure optimal conditions for your Heli Hike adventure.

Is it better to do a Franz Josef Glacier heli hike in the morning or afternoon?

From my experience, the morning is the better time of day to go as low clouds can build up as the day goes on. In case there is a forecast of rain/poor weather in the morning, then you may want to take the afternoon flight.

Can you bring a camera on the Franz Josef heli hike tour?

You are usually allowed to bring a camera on the Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike tour. We recommend bringing one to document this unforgettable experience! Capturing the breathtaking landscapes, ice formations, and the overall experience is part of the joy. It’s recommended to check with your chosen tour operator for any specific guidelines or restrictions regarding the camera equipment. Some operators may provide guidelines on securing cameras during the helicopter ride or advise on the best ways to protect equipment in the glacier environment. Always ensure to follow the operator’s recommendations to ensure the safety of both you and your camera.


What do you wear during a Franz Josef heli hike?

When going on a heli hike tour in Franz Josef, it’s important to wear appropriate clothing. This will ensure comfort and safety in the cold and often wet conditions on the glacier. Your tour company will provide you with protective gear including a Gore-tex jacket, trousers, woolen hat, gloves and leather boots with crampons in preparation for your Franz Joseph Glacier tour. 

However, it’s always smart to be prepared and some items are not provided. So consider the following items to bring on your heli hike adventure:

  1. Layered clothing: Dress in layers so you can adjust your temperature as needed. It is recommended to wear two to four warm upper-body layers. Start with a base layer of thermal clothing, then add a fleece or wool layer, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer.  Wear quick-drying trousers and avoid jeans.
  2. Sunglasses: The glare of the snow can be very bright, so bring sunglasses to protect your eyes and improve visibility.
  3. Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, the UV rays can be strong at high altitudes, so apply sunscreen to protect your skin.

It’s also important to follow any additional clothing recommendations provided by your tour operator as they may have specific requirements based on the conditions of the day.


How fit do you need to be for a Franz Josef glacier heli hike? 

A reasonable level of fitness is required for a glacier heli hike to ensure that you can comfortably navigate the terrain and enjoy the experience. While you don’t need to be an elite athlete, you should be prepared for a moderate level of physical activity and be comfortable hiking on uneven and sometimes slippery terrain.

The exact level of fitness required varies depending on the specific tour and the conditions on the day. Some heli hikes involve more strenuous hiking and climbing, while others are more relaxed and geared towards families or less experienced hikers. Your guide will always carry an ice pick to carve out steps if necessary at certain points on the trip and you have your hiking pole to keep your balance.

If the glacier hike gets a bit too far out of your comfort zone, then you should always inform your guide so they can go for an alternate route. In total, you will be on the ice for about three hours, but that doesn’t mean you will be hiking the whole time. Your guide will allow the group to take plenty of stops for photos and you’ll move at a pace that suits the slowest in the group. 

It’s always a good idea to check with your tour operator ahead of time to determine the level of fitness required for the specific tour you have booked. They will be able to guide on what to expect and any preparation you can do beforehand to ensure you are physically prepared.


What to expect during the Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike tour

The Franz Josef Heli Hike is a professionally, well-organised tour that ensures guests’ safety. The amazing and worry-free experience allows you to explore the stunning natural beauty of the Franz Josef Glacier under the guidance of a certified and experienced guide. Here’s what you can expect during the tour:

  1. Check-in and safety briefing: You’ll check in at the tour operator’s office, where you’ll receive a safety briefing and all necessary equipment including crampons and ice axes.
  2. Helicopter flight: The tour starts with a scenic helicopter flight to the top of the glacier. Here you’ll land on the ice and meet your experienced guide.
  3. Glacier exploration: With your guide leading the way, you’ll explore the glacier’s unique environment. You can see the ice formations, crevasses, and ice caves from up close. Your guide will provide insights into the glacier’s history, geology, and ecology.
  4. Hiking and climbing: You’ll wear crampons to help you navigate the ice, and your guide will lead you on a hike that will take you up and down the glacier’s undulating surface. You may also have the opportunity to climb up ice walls or crevasses, depending on the conditions.
  5. Scenic views: You’ll have stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys from the glacier’s vantage point.
  6. Return helicopter flight: After three hours on the glacier, you’ll board the helicopter for a scenic flight back to the tour operator’s office.

The tour typically lasts around three to four hours, and the exact itinerary may vary depending on weather conditions and other factors. Throughout the tour, safety is a top priority, and your guide will provide guidance and support to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


Are there age restrictions for Heli Hike Tours?

Age restrictions may apply for all Heli Hike Tours at Franz Josef Glacier. While policies can vary among different tour operators, it’s common for there to be minimum age requirements due to safety considerations. Most tour operators require a minimum age of 10 years old.

How to get around in New Zealand?

To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a carcampervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand. 

Car rental in New Zealand

Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of road.

We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.


Campervan rental in New Zealand

Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen, and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower or not because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and connect you with nature.

We recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!

Where to stay in Franz Josef  

Franz Josef is a small but charming town with a range of accommodation options, restaurants, and shops. It has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and is a great base for exploring the surrounding area. You can easily visit Franz Josef Glacier, the Glacier Hot Pools and many more attractions near Franz Josef. Here are the best places to stay in Franz Josef. 

Check out all the accommodations in Franz Josef HERE

JAG Escape Franz Alpine Retreat

We have stayed here ourselves and loved the self-contained chalets. It felt like a ‘home away from home’ with everything you need. A fully equipped kitchen to cook your meals, comfortable bed, table with chairs for dining, comfortable couch, private parking and shared laundry. Highly recommended! 

→ Book here your stay at JAG Escape Franz Alpine Retreat

JAG Escape Franz Alpine Retreat-

Rainforest Retreat

Set amongst the lush native bush in Franz Josef town is the Rainforest Retreat located. With a range of different accommodations from luxury tree huts to backpackers rooms, the Rainforest Retreat has something for every budget. There are 5 bedroom holiday homes and one bedroom cottages. There is also the option to choose a private hot tub with some tree houses or rooms with bunk beds. With an on-site spa, sauna and restaurant, there is nothing you will miss in this beautiful accommodation.

→ Book here your stay at Rainforest Retreat Franz Josef

Rainforest Retreat

Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Centrally located in Franz Josef Village, the Scenic Hotel offers spacious and modern furnished rooms and suites with en suite bathrooms. Some rooms have a balcony. You can enjoy breakfast and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant which serves modern New Zealand cuisine and quality wines.

→ Book here your stay at Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Best tours on the South Island

New Zealand’s South Island is full of adventure, stunning scenery and fun experiences to be made. There are a few experiences that are an absolute must when you’re traveling New Zealand’s South Island. Below is a summary of the best tours you can book.

Check here the best New Zealand South Island tours on GetYourGuide

Check here the best New Zealand South Island tours on Viator

Franz Josef Glacier Helicopter Flight with Snow Landing

An unforgettable experience in New Zealand is a helicopter flight to Franz Josef Glacier including a snow landing. Fly above the icefalls, snowfields, and crevasses before you land in a glacial snowfield. A must-do in Franz Josef and an absolute once in a lifetime experience!

→ Book here your Helicopter flight to Franz Josef Glacier including snow landing


Milford Sound Cruise and Kayak Tour

Depart during a morning cruise on a smaller boat that travels outside of peak hours. This will give you prime viewing and more time on the water than other tours. You will listen to the informative commentary from the passionate skippers of Southern Discoveries and enjoy a provided picnic lunch. If you want to, you can include a kayak excursion and paddle Harrison Cove in a small group. Limited to 8 people you will have a very intimate experience to take in the immense scale of the bluffs and uniquely explore Milford Sound.

→ Book here your Milford Sound Cruise and Kayak tour


Cruise to the hidden Doubtful Sound

The lesser-known and quieter version of Milford Sound is Doubtful Sound. During this full-day tour you will journey across the clear waters of Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. Make sure to keep  an eye out for wildlife while taking in the scenery. If you’re lucky you might see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and crested and little blue penguins. Your naturalist guide will tell you everything and point out interesting sights.  

→ Book here your cruise to the hidden Doubtful Sound


Take a scenic flight over Milford Sound

A Milford Sound scenic flight is the perfect way to see the impressive landscape of Fiordland NP from the air. Depart from Milford Airport and track west along Milford Sound. Climb alongside Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak for some great views of the fiords and its towering peaks. After the helicopter flight of 20 minutes you will return to Milford base.

→ Book here your scenic flight over Milford Sound

Another way to see Fiordland National Park from above is when you book the scenic fly-cruise-fly tour from Queenstown. You will get a round-trip flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound followed by a boat cruise in Milford Sound. Take in the spectacular views of the snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps, remote valleys and waterfalls. During the flight you will have an amazing aerial view of Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls as can be seen in the picture below. This experience will take your breath away and is a must-do if your budget allows it. Without a doubt some of the most scenic flights in New Zealand.

→ Book here your Milford Sound Scenic Fly-Cruise-Fly departing Queenstown


More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Franz Josef heli hike. Make sure to put this awesome experience on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!

There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides and read more!

Franz Josef Glacier Country

Best Walks in Franz Josef – The Ultimate Guide

Franz Josef Glacier Walk – The Complete Guide

Roberts Point Track – All You Need to Know

Hokitika Gorge Walk – The Complete Guide

Fox Glacier Walk & Walking on Fox Glacier Guide


30 best things to do in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

16 best hikes in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

10 best wine tours in Queenstown – The Complete Guide

12 best helicopter tours in Queenstown – The Complete Guide

Queenstown Hill Walk – The Complete Guide

Ben Lomond track – The Complete Guide

Moke Lake loop track & viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Bobs Cove nature walk – The Complete Guide

Mount Cook National Park

12 best Mt Cook walks – The Ultimate Guide

Hooker Valley track – The Complete Guide

Sealy Tarns track – The Complete Guide

Tasman Glacier Viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Fiordland National Park

20 best things to do in Milford Sound – The Complete Guide

Milford Sound Cruise – The Complete Guide

Lake Marian track – The Complete Guide

Mirror Lakes New Zealand – The Complete Guide

Key Summit track – The Complete Guide


20 best things to do in Glenorchy – The Ultimate Guide

Glenorchy walkway & lagoon track – The Complete Guide

Earnslaw Burn glacier valley and waterfalls – The Complete Guide

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