Why You Should Visit Jostedalsbreen National Park in Norway

Nigardsbreen, part of the Jostedalsbreen National Park
Nigardsbreen, part of the Jostedalsbreen National Park | © Frank Optun Smedegård / Breheimsenteret
Photo of Danai Christopoulou
3 October 2018

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to experiencing the Ice Age — besides watching animated films? Jostedalsbreen National Park is a 1,310-square-kilometre wonderland in Sogn og Fjordane, and the home of Europe’s largest glacier. The park offers everything from glacier hiking to conversing climate change making it a location worth visiting.

The glacier is so enormous, there are endless hiking opportunities | © Frank Optun Smedegård / Breheimsenteret

Gaze upon the largest glacier on the European mainland

The Jostedalsbreen glacier is huge. So huge that, were it to melt, the whole country of Norway would have enough water to last for a century. At 80 kilometres long, the glacier covers a total area of 487 square kilometres with the ice being as thick as 500 metres in some places! It is easy to feel like you’re back in the Ice Age while traipsing all around its vast whiteness but thankfully, the only mammoths you’ll encounter will be statues.

The park is big, but you won’t feel lost in it. In fact, there are three different visitor centres and museums, strategically placed in Fjaerland, in Jostedal, and in Stryn. You will get acclimated to the area, learn about all the available activities and can book guided tours. You will also have the chance to watch interactive exhibitions and have lunch before heading back out there.

The Bre Museum and climate centre | © Norsk Bremuseum & Ulltveit-Moe senter for klimaviten

Learn about climate change

Climate change is not a hoax (despite what some people would have us believe). In fact, one of Jostedalsbreen arm, the Haugabreen glacier, has been found to have retreated about 130 metres within the last decade or so. In the park’s visitor centres, you’ll have the chance to learn a lot about the specifics of climate change and what you can do to help the environment. You’ll notice that, when you’re surrounded by all that ice, the thought of it melting becomes more tangible than ever.

Glacier walking with experienced guides | © Frank Optun Smedegård / Breheimsenteret

Go on a glacier walk

Exhibitions are certainly interesting, but in this park, you’ll have the chance to experience the glacier hands on (or rather, feet first). You can book glacier walks with experienced guides in any one of the three visitor centres at any day from May to October. Just know that distances are big and that you will likely hike for a couple of hours before even reaching the glacial area, so you need to be in good physical condition. Take a look at the possible glacier walks in the area here.

Explore a variety of environments

The whiteness is vast, yes, but it is not unchanging. Within the National Park, you’ll have the chance to explore a wide variety of natural terrains: from fjords (as the park is between two of the longest fjords in the world, Sognefjorden and Nordfjord) and farmland, to mountains with cascading waterfalls and creeks. Suffice to say you won’t get bored.

You can visit the unique blue ice cave underneath the glacier in the wintertime | © Breheimsenteret

There is something for everyone

Does hiking on ice terrain for hours sound a bit daunting? Jostedalsbreen National Park also offers kayaking in glacial lakes, rafting, historical walks for beginner level hikers, skiing, and visiting the unique blue ice cave underneath the glacier (in the wintertime). No matter the level of adrenaline you’re usually comfortable with, you’ll find an activity that suits you.

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