Famous Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina
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World's Most Beautiful Glaciers to See Before They're Gone

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Famous Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina
guenterguni/istockphoto

Slip Sliding Away

The world’s glaciers are a stunning sight, but if they’re on your travel bucket list, the clock is ticking. In nearly all cases, they’re melting at an alarming rate, and many formerly imposing sheets of ice are already but a fraction of their former glory. Here are some of the glaciers most worth seeing before they potentially disappear forever.  


Related: Amazing Tourist Attractions That No Longer Exist

Mountain goats and glaciers in Alaska
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Exit Glacier

Alaska

One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers, Kenai Fjords National Park’s Exit Glacier is a short drive from Seward, Alaska. Visitors can hike right up to its face, past markers that show just how much the ice has retreated over the years. A more strenuous trail rewards hikers with a sweeping view of the ice field, or visitors can sign up with professional guides to get out on the ice itself.  


Related: Epic Hiking Trails Around the Globe

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta,Canada
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Athabasca Glacier

Canada

Unfortunately, one of North America’s most-visited glaciers is also one of its most vulnerable. Athabasca, in Alberta’s Jasper National Park, is retreating about 16 feet every year and could disappear completely in the next 100 years, leaving only an alpine meadow, experts say. Stone markers show visitors just how much the mighty ice field has shrunk in the past century.


Related: Best Summer Travel Destinations in Canada

Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park
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Aerial View of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
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Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
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Perito Moreno Glacier

Argentina

While most of the globe’s other glaciers are shrinking, Patagonia’s Perito Moreno continues to grow. Why? Scientists aren’t exactly sure, though they guess its very steep angle may be helping, according to National Geographic. A particularly well-timed visit may allow you to witness the collapse of an icy arch into Lake Argentino, a phenomenon that happens every two to four years. 


Related: Spectacular Photos of Hard-to-Reach Places

Vatnajokull Glacier
Stanson/ istockphoto

Vatnajokull

Iceland

The largest glacier in all of Europe is Vatnajokull, a UNESCO World Heritage site that spreads over a whopping 8% of Iceland. Under its surface are volatile volcanoes, and the glacier’s ice caves are a truly stunning sight for winter visitors. But even this massive ice cap isn’t immune to climate change, and according to the New York Times, it’s retreating by the length of roughly three football fields in some spots each and every year.


Related: Jaw-Dropping Ice Caves to Inspire Your Inner Explorer

Beautiful view of the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland
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Aletsch Glacier

Switzerland

The largest Alpine glacier is almost as big of a tourist draw as the nearby Matterhorn, and it holds a staggering 11 billion tons of ice. The region draws not just glacier hikers, but skiers, mountain bikers, paragliders, and other daredevils. But if you want the best view of the ice, go soon: Scientists say that even under the best climate conditions, Aletsch will still likely lose about 50% of its ice by the end of the century. 


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Approaching Columbia Glacier in Prrince William Sound,,Alaska
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Columbia Glacier

Alaska

One thing is for sure: This stunning mass of ice in Prince William Sound, often visited by cruise boats, isn’t retreating at a glacial pace. Researchers say it has shrunk about 12.5 miles since 1980, and if that isn’t dramatic enough, consider this: It’s dumping 4 gigatons of ice into the ocean every year. Cruisers who are lucky enough to dodge massive icebergs to get close to the glacier’s face can stare in awe at sheets of ice up to 400 feet tall

Cavell & Angel Glaciers in Jasper National Park
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Angel Glacier

Canada

So named because of its icy “wings,” Angel Glacier clings precariously to Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park, not far from Athabasca Glacier. Its shape continues to change as it melts, so hikers shouldn’t count on angelic views for much longer. You can watch part of the glacier collapse and pour off the side of the mountain in this YouTube video

Liberty Ridge, Mount Rainier
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Carbon Glacier

Washington

The longest, lowest glacier in the continental U.S., Carbon Glacier stretches about 5 miles down the side of Mount Rainier. Rocks and other debris tumbling down from the summit shield the ice, helping make Carbon the mountain’s thickest and most resilient glacier, and giving its lower reaches their “dirty” appearance. 

Sea of Ice
Massimo Merlini/istockphoto

Mer de Glace

France

This long tongue of Alpine ice, the largest glacier in France, was just a few steps from a cable-car stop near Mount Blanc in the late 1980s. Today, visitors must trek 580 steps down to the glacier to visit an ice cave that’s dug every year. The cave may also be in danger — diggers have recently hit rock instead of ice.  

Bergsetbreen Jostedalsbreen Glacier, Norway
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Jostedalsbreen

Norway

Norway’s famous fjords were carved by glaciers, and visitors can find continental Europe’s largest glacier in the Scandinavian nation. Jostedalsbreen covers about 188 square miles, and scientists have been slowly mapping the thickness of the ice in order to predict how the warming climate may affect the glacier in the future. One possibility: The massive ice sheet may split into several smaller glaciers. 

Grey Glacier,Patagonia, Chile,Patagonian Ice Field, Cordillera del Paine
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Grey Glacier

Chile

A spectacular tourist draw in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, Grey Glacier attracts hikers, kayakers, and boaters to Patagonia. It made the news in 2017 when a giant iceberg, roughly 1,200 feet long, broke free and floated into Grey Lake, raising questions about the effects of climate change. Satellite images from NASA show just how much Grey has shrunk in only a 20-year period.

Pasterze Glacier, Grossglockner mountain, Austria
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Pasterze Glacier

Austria

Pasterze, Austria’s biggest glacier, continues to be a major Alpine tourist attraction even as it shrinks at a rapid clip: It has lost about half of its volume and retreated about 2 miles in the past century. Still, it’s worth a visit to see this impressive sea of ice, which can be explored with a certified guide. There’s also year-round skiing, a glacier cable car, and plenty of other mountain activities.

Iceberg, Greenland, Ilulissat Icefjord
René Lorenz/istockphoto

Jakobshavn Glacier

Greenland

Remote though it may be, Greenland — itself about 80% ice — should be on any glacier lover’s bucket list. The Jakobshavn Glacier in western Greenland is a whopping 40 miles long and a mile thick, plus it’s a prolific source of icebergs, including the one that doomed the Titanic. Visitors can get a taste by exploring the rapidly retreating glacier’s terminus at the Ilulissat Icefjord, the northernmost UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


Related: Breathtaking Photos of the Earth's Most Remote and Unexplored Places