The Rhone Glacier in Switzerland is one of the most stunning and easy-to-reach glaciers in the Swiss Alps. The famous glacier has been easy to access ever since the modern-day Furka pass first opened some 150 years ago. It is a glacier with a memorable Victorian/James Bond hotel and an ice tunnel, and it is a glacier telling the unfortunate story of a global glacial retreat.
The Swiss Alps a famously picturesque and offer some of the most dramatic alpine landscapes in Europe. Switzerland is famous for its alpine trains, and one of the highest places in the world one can reach by train is the "Top of Europe" in Switzerland. The highest one can reach by cable car is Klein Matterhorn at 12,700 feet. If one can afford Switzerland, it is a country with an endless number of alpine adventures to enjoy.
Rhone Glacier - Europe's Most Easy To Reach Glacier
The Rhone Glacier is accessible from the nearby Furka Pass road - the tight turns of the pass make it one of the most stunning roads in Switzerland. Nowhere else in Europe is access to a glacier so easy. Here one can just drive to the glacier, park one's car, and admire the glacier close up (if there's parking space nearby).
- Location: Swiss Canton of Valais
- Road: Furka Pass Road
- Café: There Is A Café Onsite
Rhone Glacier sits in the stunning valley of Goms and is the source of the Rhone River.
The old Victorian hotel built for the glacier may have closed, but at least there is a café at the car park for those visiting the glacier. Just up the road is the Furkablick restaurant.
There, visitors are rewarded with a panoramic glacier viewing platform. Soon there will be a new glacial lake platform because as the glacier melts, a new lake is forming at the end of the glacier.
Visit The Ice Grotto Tunnel In The Glacier
One of the most famous attractions to the glacier since Victorian times is the ice grotto. It is a tunnel that has been carved into the glacier since 1870.
- First Carved: 1870
- Altitude: 2,300 Meters Above Sea Level
- Duration: Around 30 Minutes
- Length: 70-100 Meters
Every year, the grotto is carved anew into the ice. When the tunnel is carved, it is around 100 meters long, but the glacier is moving and melting all season long, so by the end of the season, the tunnel is only around 70 meters long.
- Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
- Admission Fee: 9CHF ($9.50)
It takes around 30 minutes to tour the ice grotto, and visitors can tour it by themselves without a guide. It is an otherworldly experience to walk through a tunnel and ice chamber in a river of ice. It is a unique experience to be inside a glacier and to admire the fine shades of blue from the inside (even if the glacier looks whitish-gray on the outside).
As the glacier is constantly moving, so is the tunnel that is predrilled through it every year. The glacier moves by around 30-40 meters every year. It is a good idea to have closed shoes and warm clothing while going through the grotto.
The Rhone Glacier Is In Retreat
The Rhone Glacier has been a tourist attraction since the 1800s. The eye-catching Belvedere Hotel was built right at the doorstep of the glacier in the 1880s hotel when on to feature in a James Bond movie. When Sean Connery was filming the James Bond film "Goldfinger," the hotel was still in fall swing, and the glacier had not retreated as much. But since then, the glacier has retreated, and the hotel has closed.
- Retreated: Around 1.2 Miles Up The Mountain
Since the Victoria-era hotel was built for tourists who came to admire the glacier, it has retreated around 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles up the mountain.
Today residues of gray scree and boulders are reminders of where the mighty glacier once flowed. Rhone glacier is not alone; over 500 Swiss glaciers have vanished, with 90% more of the remaining 1500 in danger of following by the end of the century.
The Rhone Glacier has been in retreat for many years now, and authorities are making efforts to steam the worst of the melt. Special blankets are placed on the glacier to slow the melt during hot spells.