Most Breathtaking Glacier Bays in the World
Icebergs and their native glaciers are some of the most inspiring sights in the world. Whether they're far to the north or tucked away in the southernmost regions of the planet, seeing one in person is well worth the effort. Consider venturing to one of these most breathtaking glacier bays in the world.
Disko Bay, Greenland
Disko Bay surrounds Disko Island, or Qeqertarsuaq Island, the largest island in Greenland, which is itself the largest island in the world. It connects with Baffin Bay off the northeast coast of Canada. It's also one of the most visited locations in Greenland, thanks to its range of outdoor activities and stark, remote beauty. The bay is home to an ever-changing array of ice formations.
Four towns encircle Disko Bay, each a collection of colorful homes perched on the coastline above the blue water. Ilulissat, the most common destination of the four, is also home to the Ilulissat Ice Fjord. This fjord has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance as a calving glacier and the most active ice-stream in the world. In addition to attracting tourism, the area has also been the subject of scientific study and observation for over 250 years.
If the icebergs aren't enough to draw you in, Disko Bay also offers opportunities for unique adventures like dog sledding and, if you time it right, seeing the northern lights. You can also learn about the native Inuit culture, which has remained vibrant even as Greenland itself has been an autonomous territory of Denmark since the 1700s.
Disenchantment Bay, Alaska
Despite its name, Disenchantment Bay is anything but a letdown. The bay received its misguided moniker in 1792, when a Spanish captain sailed along it in the hopes that he had found a passage to the Atlantic and was sorely disappointed. As long as you're not hoping to reach the other side of the continent, we think you'll find the area quite inspiring.
Disenchantment Bay is located in southern Alaska and extends into the larger Yakutat Bay, carrying melting water and icebergs from Hubbard Glacier. In addition to the glacier water and majestic snow-capped peaks, there is a variety of wildlife you can see. You can spot everything from ducks and other seabirds to whales, sea otters, and sea lions.
We'd be remiss not to mention that the Glacier Bay lies just to the southeast along Alaska's coastline. Glacier Bay National Park is one of the country's largest national parks and offers 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, forests, and fjords. If you're visiting the region, make sure you leave yourself enough time to explore both places. See the sights by foot, on a chartered boat, or perhaps even by kayaking through the beauty of glacial tidewaters.
Diamond Beach, Iceland
With its black sand and the glittering icebergs that gave the beach its name, Diamond Beach is a truly jaw-dropping sight. It is located at the outer edge of the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. The lagoon's crystalline waters are fed by Vatnajökull — the largest glacier in all of Europe and centerpiece of Vatnajökull National Park, one of the most picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The beach gets its otherworldly quality from the meeting of fire and ice: its black sand is a result of the island's extensive volcanic activity, while Vatnajökull itself covers eight percent of the country's area with its ice caps. The unique beauty of the beach and lagoon — combined with Iceland's stunning sunsets — have contributed to it becoming a favorite among photographers. It doubles as a destination for nature lovers hoping to see marine life.
The beach is conveniently located along Iceland's Ring Road 1, which circles the island. However, it does lie off the most common tourist route in the country, a loop known as the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle encompasses the original Geysir, the famous Gullfoss Waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park. Given that the entire island is smaller than the state of Kentucky, however, it is not difficult to get to most of the top attractions once you're there. Together with the geothermal spas at the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle and Diamond Beach see the majority of the country's recently booming tourism industry.
Pléneau Island, Antarctica
With some of the most magnificent polar sights in the world, Pléneau Island in Antarctica tops our list of breathtaking glacier bay areas. Its "iceberg graveyard" is full of formations both beautiful and bizarre. One feature, a looming arch, provides the bay's most iconic image. Both here and in many other arctic areas, you'll find tours that can take you up close — but not too close — with the icebergs, using inflatable craft known as Zodiac boats.
Of course, Pléneau Island's relatively untouched beauty is a result of its extreme remoteness. It is reachable, however, by boat from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina. From there, you can also explore the rugged nature of Tierra del Fuego, which is commonly called the End of the World. Continue on to Pléneau Island from Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego, and you'll truly be exploring another world.