Jostedalsbreen National Park

Jostedalsbreen National Park, located in Norway, is home to Europe’s largest glacier, known as Jostedalsbreen or Jostedal Glacier.

Established on June 19, 1993, by Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the park saw an expansion in 1998, now covering an area of 1,310 square kilometers, making it the fourth-largest park in the country. It has 50% of its protected area covered by glaciers, and also features narrow valleys and large water areas with waterfalls and rivers.

The highest peak within the protected area is Lodalskåpa, standing at 2,083 meters above sea level. A height similar to the mountains of Jotunheimen National Park.

Over the years, the glacier has experienced a reduction in its surface due to melting, leading to the formation of moraines and various geological features. The region is characterized by a striking landscape contrast. Additionally, the area includes three museums and a visitor center for those who wish to explore and learn more about this unique natural environment.


Information about Jostedalsbreen National Park

Jostedalsbreen National Park

Purpose of the national park

The purpose of Jostedalsbreen National Park is:

  1. To protect a large, varied, and valuable glacier area, as well as the associated areas of flora and fauna and geological occurrences from the lowlands to the high mountains.
  2. To provide opportunities to experience nature through outdoor activities that require little technical infrastructure.
  3. To protect cultural heritage and the cultural landscape.

Protected area and relevant data

  • Area: 474 km².
  • Length: 60 kilometers.
  • Highest elevation: 1957 m above sea level (Breulen highest).
  • Lowest elevation: 60 m above sea level (foot of Supphellebreen).
  • Maximum length: 571 m.
  • Highest annual snowfall measured: 12 m.
  • Total excavation of stone material: 400,000 tons/year (equivalent to about 40,000 loaded trucks)
  • Volume: 73 km³.
  • Freshwater content: 73 · 10¹² liters = 300 billion baths of water = The total water consumption of Norway for 100 years.

Age of Jostedalsbreen

The Jostedalsbreen glacier is about 6,000 to 7,000 years old since it completely melted during a warm climate period. Therefore, the oldest ice in the glacier is probably between 1,000 and 2,000 years old.

During the Little Ice Age in the early 18th century, the glacier grew significantly but began to retreat around 1745. Since then, there have been fluctuations in the glacier’s size due to variations in temperature and precipitation.

In recent years, since 2000, Jostedalsbreen has experienced a decrease in its volume due to relatively sparse winter precipitation and very hot summers. This has resulted in the retreat of several glacier fronts, with Nigardsbreen retreating approximately 600 meters since 2000 and Briksdalsbreen retreating about 800 meters since 1996.

Entrance fees

There is no charge to enter Jostedalsbreen National Park. Nor is there a fee for hiking or camping in the area. Hiking is allowed for anyone, and in most cases, there are no fences or service guards limiting access. This means visitors can freely enjoy the park and explore its trails and landscapes without monetary or bureaucratic restrictions.

Recommended excursions and activities

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What to see and do in Jostedalsbreen National Park

It’s essential to start your visit to Jostedalsbreen National Park at the Breheimsenteret Interpretation Center, located in Jostedal.

Interpretation center

Jostedalsbreen Interpretation and Museum Center

This modern Norwegian center serves a dual purpose: it provides detailed information to understand the functioning of glacier ecosystems, including data on the formation of Jostedal, the impact of ice on the terrain, and its evolution over the years.

Additionally, it serves as a starting point for excursions to explore the glacier. A one-hour walk from here will take you to the edge of the Nigardsbreen arm, offering an impressive view of the ice’s effects on the terrain. To venture further into the ice mass, guided tours that include the necessary equipment can be arranged, costing approximately 80 euros.

Glacier tongues

Tour inside the Jostedalsbreen glacier

Another area of the glacier that can be visited is the Bergsetbreen Arm, accessible after taking a detour from Gjerde and walking six kilometers. Here, a walk through the forest will take you to the moraines, offering a spectacular geological setting. Nearby is the charming village of Fjaerland, famous for its colorful wooden houses. Additionally, Route 5 departs from this village, climbing up to the crests and crossing into the neighboring Nordfjord, passing by the front of the Bøyabreen Glacier. Another tongue of the Jostedalsbreen that can be visited is the Briksdalsbreen, located in the Nordfjord, a fjord popular among cruise ships.


The region offers more than just ice. Nearby, you can visit culturally and historically significant sites. In Kaupanger, you can find a stave church and the Fjord Museum, which explores the relationship between the local people and the fjord. The ferries crossing the fjord’s waters are a key part of the local culture. One of them connects Solvorn and Ornes, allowing you to visit the impressive Ornes Church, one of the oldest in the country with Viking elements. Another highlight is the famous Flam Train, offering one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in Europe.

Glacier Hiking

Glacier hiking in Norway

Glacier hiking is an exciting activity that can be enjoyed during the summer. Several professionals offer excursions for children and adults in various parts of the glacier, where you can walk on the blue ice. It is important to note that walking on glaciers without the proper equipment or knowledge can be dangerous.

During the winter, it is possible to enter the glacier from below and witness how it shapes the bedrock beneath its surface. Beautiful blue ice caves form beneath the ice during this season. If you are interested in this experience, it is advisable to hire an experienced guide.

For more information on the opportunities available in different regions, it is recommended to consult local companies and visitor centers. It is important to plan carefully and follow all necessary precautions to ensure a safe and memorable experience.

Summer Hiking

During the summer, hiking is easily accessible through well-maintained trails in the valleys near the glacier. Here, if you are lucky, you may observe animals grazing in the cultural landscape. It is also possible to hike in higher and steeper areas, offering spectacular views from the top.

Josten på langs Ski Route

"Josten på langs" is a classic Norwegian ski route that covers almost the entire length of Jostedalsbreen. This ski traverse is challenging, as it crosses steep terrain. It is only possible to complete it during the spring, and due to the risk of crevasses on the glacier, it is recommended that the journey be guided by a professional.

Kayaking and Rafting

Kayaking offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in the surrounding nature and enjoy it at your own pace. Paddling in a kayak in front of a sliding glacier is a unique experience that most people never forget. Combining this activity with a glacier hike provides a fascinating perspective on how water and ice continuously shape the landscape within the national park.

On the other hand, rafting on a glacial river is an exciting experience that offers a unique adrenaline rush.

Hiking in the Bøyadalen Valley

Hiking in the Bøyadalen Valley offers an impressive and accessible experience for the whole family. From the state road, you can easily enjoy views of the Bøyabreen Glacier. The hike to the glacier is simple and suitable for families, while the surroundings offer spectacular landscapes.

Additionally, you can explore the lush deciduous forest of western Norway by walking to Andersbenken, also known as "Anders’ bench." From this point, you will enjoy a unique and spectacular view of the glacier, making this hike an unforgettable experience.

Hiking on the Haugabreen Glacier

Hiking on the Haugabreen Glacier offers an accessible and exciting experience in the national park. This glacier is easily accessible and provides a scenic walk through the Haugadalen Valley.

Hiking in the Kjenndalen Valley

Hiking in the Kjenndalen Valley takes you through stunning landscapes to the mouth of the Kjenndalsbreen Glacier, located at the end of the beautiful emerald lake Lovatnet.

The Blue Ice Cave beneath Nigardsbreen

Explore the blue ice cave that forms beneath Nigardsbreen during the winter, accompanied by experienced guides. This cave reveals a fascinating world of blue hues in the glacier ice, offering a unique and memorable experience.

Hiking to the Austerdalsbreen Glacier

Enjoy a hike to the Austerdalsbreen Glacier, described as "the most beautiful ice landscape in Europe" by the English climbing pioneer William Cecil Slingsby. The route from Tungestølen Tourist Cabin will take you through an impressive landscape covered with terminal moraines. Here, you can contemplate the stunning ice falls, named after the Norse gods Loke, Odin, and Thor, which feed the main glacier outlet of Austerdalsbreen.

Hiking to Mount Skåla

The route to Mount Skåla is the longest climb in Norway in terms of elevation gain. This hike to the summit involves overcoming more than 1,800 meters of elevation from the starting point at the fjord to an altitude of 1,848 meters above sea level. But the view from the top makes every drop of sweat worth it!

Hiking in the Bergsetdalen Valley

Hiking in the Bergsetdalen Valley is an ideal option for families with small children. At the end of this beautiful valley is the impressive Bergsetbreen Glacier. During the hike there, you can also enjoy views of two other glaciers called Tuftebreen and Baklibreen.

Glaciers of Jostedalsbreen

Jostedalsbreen Glacier is the main glacier of the park, being the largest in Europe, but it also includes smaller glaciers such as Grovabreen Glacier, Myklebustbreen Glacier, and Jostefonni Glacier, with approximately half of the national park covered by ice.

Jostedalsbreen Glacier

Jostedalsbreen was formed by the glaciers that shaped the landscape of the famous Norwegian fjords. These glaciers developed during an extreme cold period that lasted approximately between 4100 BC and 500 BC.

During the Middle Ages, a period characterized by lower-than-usual temperatures, the glaciers in Norway, including Jostedalsbreen, advanced. Historical evidence suggests that during that time, Nigardsbreen reached its maximum extent.

Briksdalsbreen Glacier

The Briksdalsbreen Glacier, an arm of the Jostedalsbreen Glacier, is located on the north side of Briksdalen, within the extensive Oldedalen.

Descending from a height of 1,200 meters, this wild glacier plunges into the narrow and lush Briksdalen. It is an impressive sight that attracts thousands of visitors from around the world each year.

Nigardsbreen Glacier

Nigardsbreen Glacier, an arm of the Jostedalsbreen Glacier, is located in the municipality of Luster. It is one of the most accessible glacier arms, where you can easily reach by boat to get close to the blue ice on your own or join a glacier guide to explore it further.

This glacier is named after the Nigard farm, which was destroyed by the glacier’s advance in 1748 after it had moved approximately three kilometers during the period 1700-1748. It finally stopped about 4.5 km ahead of where its edge is located today.

To get there, you can drive your own car following the RV 55 road towards Breheimsenteret, taking the exit at Gaupne and continuing through Jostedalen until you reach Nigardsbreen. You also have the option to take a bus, as there are daily services from Sogndal to Breheimsenteret from late June to late August.

Glaciers in the Stryn and Nordfjord Area

In the Stryn and Nordfjord area, there are several glaciers worth exploring:

  • Kjenndalsbreen Glacier: Located at the foot of Lodalen, about 17 km by car from Loen. It is accessible by car and offers an impressive view of the surrounding nature.
  • Bødalsbreen Glacier: Located in Lodalen, this glacier is near Loen. To get there, you can take a toll road towards Bødalen and Bødalssetra from Loen.
  • Brenndalsbreen Glacier: Situated in a side valley of Oldedalen, with a detour from Olden. Exploring this glacier offers a unique experience amid the pristine nature of the area.

These glaciers offer incredible opportunities to experience the majesty of nature and the beauty of the glacial landscapes in the Stryn and Nordfjord region.

Glaciers in the Sognefjord Area

In the Sognefjord area, there are various glaciers offering unique experiences:

  • Austdalsbreen Glacier: Located in the northeast, you can reach it by following the road from Tungestølen and crossing Austerdalen.
  • Bergsetbreen Glacier: To get here, park at Bergset and walk approximately one hour to the foot of the glacier.
  • Bøyabreen Glacier: You can observe it closely from the RV15 road. Additionally, nearby is Brevasshytta, where you can enjoy a magnificent view of the glacier from the restaurant’s large panoramic windows.
  • Supphellebreen/Flatbreen Glacier: Located near Fjærland. From there, hike up Suppheldalen to Øygard and then walk to this valley that connects Fjærland and Veitastrond.
  • Fresvik Glacier: Located in the municipality of Vik, between Setjedalen and Storedalen, ending in the village of Fresvik.
  • Nigardsbreen Glacier: In the heart of Jostedalen.
  • Tunsbergdalsbreen Glacier: Located at 500 meters above sea level in Leirdalen, a side valley of Jostedalen. It is now possible to visit through organized trips with Leirdalen Bre og Juv or by kayak with Icetroll. However, it is important to note that it is dangerous to approach the glacier and established barriers should be respected due to the risk of landslides and the constant movement of the glacier.

The Color of Jostedalsbreen Glaciers’ Ice

Glaciers function like rivers of ice that slowly move from the tops of the plateaus. As the ice advances due to gravity, the upper part cracks, exposing the older blue ice that has traveled through the valleys for a long period. The blue ice seen on the glacier’s face could be over a thousand years old!

Geography of Jostedalsbreen National Park

Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe, presents itself as a vast glacier plateau extending from altitudes of 300 to 2000 meters above sea level. With 28 identified glacier arms, the glacier has sculpted a distinctive landscape around it, shaped by its movements and growth over time. This landscape is characterized by U-shaped valleys, moraines, well-defined mountain slopes, plains formed by glacial rivers, landslides, and grooves.

The most significant rivers in the region include the Strynevassdraget and the Loenvassdraget. Regarding elevations, Høgste Breakulen, at 1952 meters above sea level, and Lodalskåpa, at 2083 meters above sea level, are the highest peaks of both the glacier and the national park that houses it. This geographic and geological environment offers a fascinating insight into the dynamics and grandeur of glaciers in action.

Fauna of Jostedalsbreen

Fauna of Jostedalsbreen in Norway

Jostedalsbreen National Park is home to various wildlife species, including:

Birds of Prey (Rovfugl)

Among them, the golden eagle, known in Norwegian as kongeørn, is one of the most representative animals of the protected area of Jostedalsbreen.

The habitats of these birds are mostly inaccessible and generally not affected by human activity on the trails or in the snow and ice areas. Vulnerability assessments conducted in the park indicate that, in general, the wildlife in the studied areas appears to be little vulnerable to human activity. However, it is warned that human activity and the use of drones could disturb eagles and other birds of prey, especially during the breeding season.

Wild Reindeer (Villrein)

The eastern part of the park is part of the Reinheimen-Breheimen wild reindeer area, important for wild reindeer, especially during the winter. The northwest arm of the park around Svartebotnen is crucial for the wild reindeer of that region. Human activity in sensitive areas, such as crossing Kamperhamrane, could disturb the reindeer in their last intact summer habitat, Rauddalen.

Mnemosyne Butterfly (Mnemosynesommerfuglen)

This rare species inhabits the rocky debris areas of the park, found in areas like Veitastrond. Smaller fauna has been little studied, so better studies are planned for the coming years.

Flora of Jostedalsbreen

Flora of Jostedalsbreen in Norway

The flora in Jostedalsbreen National Park highlights vegetation influenced by local climatic variations, which result from the large differences in altitude and the presence of glaciers in the conservation area.

The flora in Jostedalsbreen is very vulnerable to human activity, and the types of vegetation found in the park have special protection.

Vulnerable Vegetation

Certain types of vegetation in the park are particularly vulnerable to human activity. This includes peatlands and wet areas, moraines, steep slopes, and ravines, where vegetation can be easily damaged by visitor traffic.

Wetlands and Peatlands

These areas are commonly found in the valleys leading to the glaciers and are sensitive to trampling. The strategy to minimize impact in these areas includes directing visitors along well-defined routes.

Species Adapted to Specific Conditions

In the higher slopes, there are species adapted to poor and sparse soils, as well as exposure to severe climatic elements. Vegetation recovery in these areas can be slow due to the thin soil layer and extreme climatic conditions.

Sensitivity of Vegetation to Erosion and Climate Change

Vegetation areas are also sensitive to erosion and the effects of climate change, which may affect their distribution and composition in the future.

The conservation of flora in Jostedalsbreen is crucial, not only to protect the park’s biodiversity but also to maintain the health of ecosystems that support both local wildlife and human activities. Visitor management and educating visitors on how to minimize their impact on these vulnerable environments are essential parts of conservation strategies in the park.

Cultural and Archaeological Aspects

Architecture in Jostedalsbreen

The area surrounding Jostedalsbreen National Park is rich in cultural history and archaeological remains, reflecting human interaction with this unique landscape over the centuries. Findings include artifacts dating back to the Stone Age, as well as evidence of ancient agricultural settlements and historical trade routes. These discoveries underscore the importance of the park not only as a biodiversity reservoir but also as a living archive of human history and adaptation to the natural environment.

In the past, there was a road that traversed the glacier, connecting eastern and western Norway, primarily used by farmers transporting cattle and horses. However, over time and as the glacier retreated, the road fell into disuse due to the formation of crevasses and its shrinking. The last known use of the road was in 1923.

In the valleys and peatland areas below the glacier, there used to be farms and established communities. It is said that the English tourist and writer WC Slingsby was one of the first visitors to the glacier, exploring it on several occasions around 1880.

How to Get to Jostedalsbreen National Park

Only 265 kilometers from the city of Bergen, this vast ice expanse of nearly 500 square kilometers serves as an excellent reason to explore the Sogn Fjord. This Norwegian National Park is known as one of the top destinations for hiking enthusiasts in northern Europe.

By Car

To reach the edge of the National Park, a car is the most convenient option due to limited public transportation, with only a few daily routes available.

Highway 5, connecting Sogndal with Skei, passes through a tunnel carved into the bedrock under the glacier. At the tunnel entrance in Fjærland, you can see the Bøyabreen arm, visible near the road.

On the other hand, the Stryn Summer Ski Center is located at the northern end of the glacier, along Highway 258 that runs from Stryn to Grotli. This route provides access to the park from that direction.

From Oslo

From Oslo, there are several options to reach Jostedalsbreen National Park by car:

  1. Take Highway E16 towards Lærdal.
  2. Then, continue on Highway 5 towards Sogndal and Fjærland.
  3. Next, take Highway 55 towards Lustre and Jostedalen.

Another alternative route could be:

  1. Take Highway E6 from Oslo to Otta.
  2. Then, take Highway 15 towards Stryn.
  3. Finally, continue on Highway 55 towards Lustre.

These are two main options to reach Jostedalsbreen National Park from Oslo by car.

From Bergen

From Bergen, a common route to reach Jostedalsbreen National Park by car is:

  1. Take Highway E16 towards Lærdal.
  2. Continue on Highway 5 towards Sogndal and Fjærland.
  3. Next, take Highway 55 towards Lustre and Jostedalen.

This route will take you from Bergen to Jostedalsbreen National Park, passing through stunning natural landscapes and offering the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful surroundings during the trip.

From Trondheim

From Trondheim, a common route to reach Jostedalsbreen National Park by car is:

  1. Take Highway E6 towards Otta.
  2. Then, continue on Highway 15 towards Stryn.
  3. Finally, take Highway 55 towards Lustre.

This route will take you from Trondheim to Jostedalsbreen National Park, allowing you to enjoy the journey while passing through impressive natural landscapes.

From Geiranger

From Geiranger, a route to reach Jostedalsbreen National Park by car could be:

  1. Take Highway 63 towards the Langvatn junction.
  2. Then, take Highway 15 towards Stryn.
  3. Continue on Highway 15 to Grotli and then take Highway 258 (old road) towards Stryn.
  4. Next, follow Highway 15 towards Lom.
  5. Finally, take Highway 55 towards Lustre.

This route will take you from Geiranger to Jostedalsbreen National Park, giving you the chance to enjoy beautiful landscapes along the way.

Public Transport: Bus and Train

During the summer season, there is a daily glacier bus available from Sogndal to the Breheimsenteret center in Nigardsbreen. To get to Sogndal, you can choose to fly from Oslo or use bus or express ferry services from Bergen.

Due to the large number of glacier arms and potential starting points, such as Sogndal, Fjærland, and Olden, it is easy to incorporate a visit to Jostedalsbreen National Park into a road trip through Norway’s fjords.

To reach the edge of Jostedalsbreen National Park by bus or train, considering that Sogn og Fjordane county has a limited railway network, the bus is the best public transportation option available. Although buses operate on limited schedules, the service covers the entire county well. You can check the map on, which shows bus stations, stops, and accommodations, including phone numbers. Although the map is not in English, you can select one of the municipalities bordering the glacier (Jølster, Luster, Sogndal, or Stryn) where it says "VEL KOMMUNE." Then, you can use the local bus for the last few kilometers to the glacier front.

From Trondheim

From Trondheim, you can take an express bus that goes via Otta and Stryn to Bergen. This bus service will take you through a scenic route through the region. The bus will likely stop in Otta and Stryn before continuing to Bergen. It is a convenient option for those who prefer public transport and want to enjoy the scenery on the way to Bergen. It is advisable to check the schedules and availability of the bus service before planning your trip.

From Bergen

From Bergen, there are several public transport options to reach different destinations:

  1. Express Bus via Førde, Skei, and Stryn to Trondheim: This bus service will take you to Trondheim, passing through Førde, Skei, and Stryn along the way. It’s a convenient option if you prefer traveling by bus and enjoying the scenery along the route.
  2. Express Bus via Førde, Skei, and Byrkjelo to Ålesund: If you prefer to go to Ålesund, you can take an express bus that passes through Førde, Skei, and Byrkjelo on the way to your destination.
  3. Express Bus via Lærdal to Sogndal: Another option is to take an express bus from Bergen to Sogndal, passing through Lærdal along the way. This will take you through beautiful landscapes in the region.
  4. Train to Flåm, then bus to Sogndal: An alternative is to take a train from Bergen to Flåm and then a bus to Sogndal. This journey will allow you to enjoy a scenic train ride through the Norwegian fjords before continuing by bus to Sogndal.

From Oslo

From Oslo and Oslo Airport, you have several options to reach Sogndal:

  1. Express Bus via Valdres to Sogndal: You can take an express bus that goes through Valdres to Sogndal. This route will take you through beautiful mountain landscapes and valleys on your way to Sogndal.
  2. Train to Otta, then bus to Stryn (towards Bergen or Måløy): Another option is to take a train from Oslo to Otta and then a bus to Stryn. From there, you can continue by bus towards Bergen or Måløy. This route will allow you to enjoy a train journey through the beautiful Norwegian landscape before continuing by bus to Sogndal.
  3. Train to Flåm, then bus to Sogndal: You can also take a train from Oslo to Flåm and then a bus to Sogndal. This journey will include a scenic train ride through the Norwegian fjords before continuing by bus to Sogndal.

By Boat

To access Jostedalsbreen National Park by boat, there are a few options available:

  1. Cruises from Skjolden or Olden: Some cruises stop at Skjolden (Luster) or Olden (Stryn district), from where bus transportation to the glacier, located about 30 km away, is offered. This is a convenient way to approach the national park from the surrounding fjords.
  2. Express Passenger Boat from Bergen or Flåm to Balestrand or Sogndal: Another option is to use the express passenger boat that travels from Bergen or Flåm to Balestrand or Sogndal on the northern coast. From there, you can connect with public transport to reach Jostedalsbreen National Park.

Accommodations in Jostedalsbreen

In Gjerde, you have two campsites available, one of them located almost at the foot of the glacier, along with a small rural hotel. You can also find some accommodations in Gaupne. However, it is important to note that prices in this region of Norway tend to be high.

An alternative to find lower prices is Sogndalsfjøra, which is 60 kilometers from Gjerde (about 50 minutes by car). Here, the chances of finding more affordable accommodations are higher, making it a good option for overnight stays. Additionally, Sogndalsfjøra can serve as a convenient base for exploring other corners of the fjord and its surroundings.