Dramatic and elegant, glaciers hold about 69 percent of the world’s fresh water and played a major role in carving out iconic landscapes including Switzerland’s Matterhorn and the Great Lakes in North America. Just seeing one of these icy wonders is an unforgettable experience. But recently, hotels, lodges, and glamping experiences have popped up beside some of them, turning a fascinating encounter with a slow-moving body of ice into an overnight experience. By day, guests at these glacier stays get special access to the colossal ice sheets—some larger than 50 football fields in length—and in the evenings and at night they take in views of it all from luxurious abodes.
Compounding the impact of any glacier visit is the fact that many of them are melting. Greenland reportedly lost 12.5 billion tons of ice in a single day during this summer’s record-breaking heat, and last month, Iceland bid farewell to its first glacier lost to climate change. The following glacier hotels have all put sustainability first to mitigate and raise awareness of the speed at which glaciers are melting; if there’s any time to see a glacier responsibly, it’s now.
Glacier View Lodge
Popularly known as one of the world’s most scenic drives, the Icefields Parkway in Alberta connects Banff and Jasper National Parks and leads to the Columbia Icefields and the 3.7-mile-long Athabasca Glacier. At its foot, the new Glacier View Lodge is the first and only glacier-view resort in Canada. The property is open June to the end of October and features 32 rooms with hygge-inspired interiors.
Guests who book an all-inclusive one-night package at the lodge enjoy a small-group glacier walk after the icefields close, as well as early-morning access to the area’s Skywalk, an architecturally stunning glass bridge suspended 918 feet in the air that overlooks several glaciers and snow-capped peaks. Evenings are spent sipping bubbly from the nearby Okanagan wine region and enjoying the views of Athabasca Glacier through floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
To keep its carbon footprint small, the lodge sources most of its food and beverages from local Alberta and British Columbia farms, limits single-use plastics, and has invested $1 million in creating a sophisticated water treatment system that eliminates pollutants though oxidation before returning the water to the local environment. —From $859 per night.
Staying at Hotel Arctic is like sleeping in an evolving ice sculpture exhibit: The property sits on the edge of one of the most active glaciers in the world, the UNESCO-listed Ilulissat Ice Fjord, which advances 66 feet per day. The hotel rooms are great vantage points from which to witness the fast-moving ice stream calve, melt, and refreeze to form archways and crevasses. But those interested in an even more intimate glacier experience can opt for one of the five two-person igloo cabins available from May to October. Inspired by the design of the classic Greenlandic Inuit igloo, but made of aluminum instead of ice, the little huts feel as comfortable as traditional hotel rooms and are perched on a hill that offers a superb view of the nearby glacier. Greenlandic fare such as musk ox, reindeer, halibut, and Arctic hare makes for hearty fuel for outdoor explorations, including a hike along the edge of the glacier at Disko Bay and a boat trip to see the icebergs up close.
The hotel has been carbon neutral since 2013 and uses solar panels to generate 20 percent of its electricity, with the goal of making all its igloos 100 percent energy-sustainable in the near future. —From $203 per night.
Purcell Mountain Lodge
Akin to an elevated sleepaway camp for backcountry lovers, Purcell Mountain Lodge is a cozy base for year-round activities. The 10-person, timber-framed chalet is high in the alpine slopes of Bald Mountain and accessible via a 15-minute helicopter ride from Golden, British Columbia. Each of the 10 rooms enjoys a scenic alpine vista dominated by the peak of Mount Sir Donald and not just one glacier, but four, including Avalanche Glacier and Duncan Glacier.
From May through October, guests can take in more glacier views on guided hikes around the lodge, including a long climb to the top of Copper Stain Mountain, and in winter and spring (December through April), they can explore by ski and snowshoe.
The lodge is completely off the grid and operates like a small eco-friendly city, pumping fresh water from a nearby creek and treating wastewater in Canada’s only high-alpine sewage treatment plant before releasing it back into the watershed. —From $1,878 for three nights.
There are no hotels near any of Antarctica’s 500 glaciers; in fact, there are no hotels on the continent at all, but between November and February, guests can sleep on the frozen continent at Whichaway Basecamp, a glamping experience by tour operator White Desert, accessible by private jet or chartered flight from South Africa. Six fiberglass sleeping pods accommodate 12 people and are outfitted with natural wood floors, fur textiles, efficient heating, an en suite bathroom, and a writing desk.
During the day, the more adventurous can trek to electric blue ice tunnels, kite ski across the wilderness, and abseil down glacial mountains known as nunataks, while the more languid may prefer to enjoy a gourmet picnic on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, one of three sprawling ice sheets in Antarctica, the largest single mass of ice on Earth. White Desert is the only carbon-neutral tour operator in Antarctica and uses carbon offsetting programs to compensate for the flight emissions. Following a “leave no trace” philosophy, the camp further reduces its footprint with solar heating, wind power, stringent waste removal systems, and biodegradable soaps. —From $38,000 for a four-day expedition.
Perched on the 6,000-foot-high Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park—a region that was once only accessible to extreme adventurers—the all-season Sheldon Chalet sees stunning views of the aurora borealis in winter, the midnight sun in summer, and the soaring peak of Mount Denali at any time of year. The property only accommodates 10 guests at a time and is accessible by helicopter from Anchorage or Talkeetna. Clever design features such as a high-efficiency fireplace that doubles as a clean-energy heating system make the interiors feel elegant and keep the carbon footprint small.
In “Adventure Season,” from May to August, guests can trek across the Ruth Glacier, explore its crevasses, and rappel down its icy walls, while in “Aurora Season,” from September to April, moonlit glacier treks, snow cavern spelunking, or helicopter adventures to nearby hot springs are a few of the main activities. There’s no Wi-Fi or phone service here, so evenings are spent warming up in the rooftop sauna, stargazing, sampling innovative meals, and basking in the utter silence. —From $3,150 per night; three-night minimum.