Some ten percent of the land on Earth is covered by year-round ice, but most of that is in remote Antarctica, a next-to-impossible destination for most people. Most of the rest is in Greenland, which while not impossible is certainly off the beaten path. That leaves only a few other places, either at high latitudes, high elevations, or both, where you can see remnants of the massive ice sheets that covered much of the earth just a few thousand years ago. As climate change advances, glaciers around the world are in retreat, and many of them could disappear in the lifetime of anyone reading this.
Where to see glaciers
This is not a list of all the glaciers in the world, for a longer list see Wikipedia. This is instead a list of the best places to access glaciers for the average (non-mountaineering) tourist. They are organized by continent and natural region (e.g. mountain range) rather than by tourism region, since many mountain ranges cross multiple political and cultural borders.
- Gilgit-Baltistan, the northernmost part of Pakistan is home to eighteen of the fifty highest peaks in the world, as well as the highest paved road in the world, the Karakoram Highway, which crosses into China at Khunjerab National Park.
- Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim has many glaciers, but the paved road ends in Gangtok, so renting a jeep or trekking are the only options.
- Mount Kailash, in Ngari, Tibet is a sacred mountain and home to the massive glacier that is the source of many of Asia's greatest rivers, namely the Brahmaputra, Indus, Sutlej and Karnali. It is however, not easy to get to.
- Northern Nepal has many glaciers, but the roads on the way to Everest Base Camp don't go any further than Jiri and planes can't get you higher than Lukla, so quite a bit of trekking is needed to reach them.
- Norway has many glaciers in easy reach, if not from cities, at least from villages by the roads; Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier on the European mainland.
- Iceland has many glaciers, including the largest glacier in Europe overall: Vatnajökull, which also is quite easily reached.
- Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, Southern Alps, two large, accessible glaciers in New Zealand.
- Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, Southern Alps home to the two highest peaks in New Zealand.
- Carstensz Glacier in Lorentz National Park, Papua, Indonesia is one of the last few glaciers found near the equator. Unfortunately, due to climate change, it is expected to melt by 2029.
- Columbia Icefield, Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta Rockies, about 325 km² (125 sq mi) in area, this the largest region of ice and snow in the Rocky Mountains. There is access by private car right to the foot of the glaciers (and an interpretive centre), via the Icefields Parkway.
- Glacier National Park (Montana), Northwestern Montana. In 2015, only 26 named glaciers remained (compared to 35 in 1966), but still the most glaciers in one region of the 48 continental states of the U.S.A. It is possible to see glaciers from the Going-to-the-Sun Road without any climbing.
- Glacier National Park (British Columbia), Columbia-Rockies, is located directly on the Trans-Canada Highway, and glaciers can be seen from the road at Rogers Pass.
Coast and Cascade Mountains
- Glacier Bay National Park, Southeastern Alaska, is not accessibly by car, but still thousands of people see it every year by cruise ships or ferry (the Alaska Marine Highway).
- Strathcona Provincial Park, Central Vancouver Island, does have a few glaciers, but they are a hike from the road's end.
- Los Glaciares National Park, the second largest park in Argentina, one third of which is ice covered, is accessible by road via the town of El Calafate.
The glaciers are not stable, but flow down the mountain. This will cause cracks ("crevasses"), which may be obscured by snow bridges. The walls and roofs of ice caves can collapse and cracks can get closed. At the edge of glaciers huge blocks break loose, fall down and perhaps jump or roll farther from the edge. If they fall into water, they can cause huge waves (think tsunami).
There are regularities, so the glacier's behaviour can be predicted to some degree, especially with local knowledge.
Never go near the front of a glacier, but instead approach from higher ground on the sides. Unless you are an expert, just watch it at a secure distance or go on a tour with local guides.