The best places for seeing icebergs
“An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open water.” (Source: Wikipedia)
The first time I saw an iceberg I was amazed. A big chunk of ice, floating in a lake, without melting just like that, despite the temperature being quite high. I could have looked at it forever, slowly melting and eventually dissolving in the water, like it had never been there. Somehow, ever since, I’ve always been amazed by icebergs. Where they come from, how they are formed and where they are going.
Fortunately, you don’t have to A) travel to the north or south pole and/or B) have a lot of money to see them, as they are pretty much within reach for everyone who travels. Here are our favorite places for seeing icebergs:
Newfoundland in Canada has the most amazing iceberg viewing! The northwestern part of the island is located along “Iceberg Alley” and is a great spot for finding massive icebergs. They calved off the Greenland glaciers and take about 2 years to reach the coastline of Newfoundland. While we were there (June 2010) there were plenty of them in front of a small coastal town called Trinity. Other great places for seeing icebergs are Twillingate and all along the Northern Peninsula. As seeing them is not guaranteed, don’t fly all the way over to Newfoundland just to see icebergs. Luckily, the rest of the island is totally worth visiting as well so no need to be disappointed if you don’t see them. Best chances to see icebergs are in spring and early summer. We got “lucky” since we had a crazy (literally) boat driver who took us all the way to the ice so we could touch it. Pretty insane because you know the saying “Tip of the Iceberg” right? And do you know where it comes from? 90% of the ice is actually below the water. Just imagine what happens when the iceberg flips…
More information about seeing icebergs in Newfoundland can be found on the Iceberg Finder Website.
Knik Glacier, Alaska
One of my favorite places in Alaska! It’s pretty unknown because the only way to get to Knik Glacier is with a small airboat, that can take up to 8 people at a time. This boat will take you to the mouth of Knik Glacier and its glacial lake. Both times I was there, the lake was filled with icebergs, one even larger than the other. Amazing! Just sit down, relax and listen to the ice moving. I even spent a night camping there (a night in the extreme cold!) a couple of years ago. So much fun but sooooo cold , in fact I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold before.
During the night, a huge chunck of ice came off the front of the glacier but since I wasn’t wearing my contacts (they were safely locked up in the bear proof bin 100 meters away from where I camped, just imagine finding a grizzly next to you … I wasn’t in a tent that night, just a sleeping bag, so better safe than sorry) and unfortunately I couldn’t see it happen. Just hearing the thunder-like sound of a massive chunk of ice breaking off and crashing into the lake, causing giant waves, is pretty neat yet scary, because you can’t see and only guess what’s going on…
Lago Grey, Torres del Paine
All the way down south in Chile lies Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most amazing places on earth as far as I’m concerned. In the western side of the park, you can find Glaciar Grey, a huge river of ice streaming down into Lago Grey from the Patagonian icefield. You can reach the glacier in two ways: by walking or by taking the boat. The first time we were in Torres del Paine, we walked and the last time I took the boat. Both times there was lots of ice around in the most awesome colors and sizes. I could’ve stayed there forever. If you are walking, make sure to stay overnight at Refugio Grey, a great and cozy place with awesome people. At least, 5 years ago that is…
Probably the easiest to reach (if you’re from Europe or North America), it’s only about 375 km drive from Reykjavik. This iceberg lake is probably the most famous in the world, since various movies were shot here (such as Tomb Raider and Die Another Day). Normally the lake has plenty of ice, coming from the mighty Vatnajökull glacier that covers more than 8% percent of Iceland. However it’s also possible that there’s little ice, Martijn goes here every year while guiding and has seen it anywhere between filled up completely and just a few icebergs. You can take a stroll around the shores of the lake or embark on a boat taking you right through the ice. Also watch for ice on the black sand, a very popular object for photographers. Just follow the stream down to the beach, it’s hard to miss.
Alberto de Agostini National Park, Chile
OK, this place isn’t exactly easy to get to but it’s awesome. It can only be reached by an organized boat trip (4 days) and it’s expensive. But it’s worth it. The icebergs we saw came off Pia Glacier, a large glacier coming out of the Darwin Mountain Range. While there, we just sat and stared, had whiskey with ancient ice and got cold bottoms. And other than the rest of the passengers on the ship, there was nobody there.
Tasman Lake, New Zealand
Even though there’s not a lot of ice in Tasman Lake, at least compared to the places we mentioned above, we still wanted to add New Zealand because it is one of those places that attracts many visitors. The first time we were in New Zealand, we completely missed this spot which we made up for the second time we came back. Tasman Lake is located in Mount Cook National Park and can be reached by car from Twizel and National Park Village. When there, you can opt for the adventurous way, which is kayaking on the lake, or the non-adventurous way, which is boating around the icebergs. We obviously went kayaking and succesfully failed to flip around one of the icebergs (with permission of our guide!).
We know we should go to the real Arctics and Antarctics one day… to see Spitsbergen, Greenland, Antarctica… all those places that have more icebergs than you can imagine. However, right now, it’s just too expensive. Maybe in the future, never say never!
Want to read more? You may like these:
– 24 hours in Mount Cook National Park
– The best glaciers in the world
– More about Torres del Paine
Thanks for sharing!
Amazing photos – we’ve recently been to Jökulsárlón, Iceland and it was just amazing. Can’t wait to tick off the rest!
Margherita @The Crowded Planet
Brilliant post. I’ve never seen icebergs but I have seen glacier and found them totally amazing. I can only believe how beautiful icebergs would be. I don’t know which place I’d choose – probably Iceland, or maybe New Zealand as you can kayak there. Beautiful!
New Zealand is great for kayaking, although one of our trips got canceled because of the poor weather. Am sure you’d love it there!
Wow, these are stunning! I think I can add it onto my Iceland list for when I go back, which hopefully will be soon 😉
We are so intrigued by glaciers and icebergs and really want to visit Antarctica and Greenland, but as you said, they are too expensive right now! I love this list–so many great suggestions to get an arctic fix. We loved Jökulsárlón, and are hoping to head to Alaska sometime soon!
You live relatively close to Alaska guys, so you should be able to make it 🙂
Wow, this is amazing!
I’d love to see an iceberg live!!!
Marysia @ My Travel Affairs
Icebergs are always super beautiful and super humbling to me! Great pictures guys!
Hi. What specific boat tour or boat captain did you use in Newfoundland? Would love to recreate a similar experience to the one you had, so any tips would be appreciated! Thank you
Sorry that tour isn’t going anymore … I did it out of Trinity so would just ask around. I guess that most are not willing to take that risk, maybe just find a crazy fisherman? Good luck!