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The 6th stage of our road trip to Norway, the Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier in continental Europe, stretching over 487 km² and reaching a vertical drop of 4,000 m in places. It is 60 km long and around 600 m thick at its maximum.
But the Jostedalsbreen is not just a glacier, but a tree with many branches (37!), each with a different name. To observe it, you need to explore several glacial valleys.
Discovering the glaciers is both a grandiose and distressing sight, because over the last 30 years, Norwegian glaciers have lost 11% of their surface area due to global warming.
We’ll start our visit to the Jostedalsbreen from the Sognefjord via route 55 (the Sognefjellet) to the south, one of the country’s most beautiful tourist routes. From route 55, you can climb up to the first arm of the glacier: Nigardsbreen.
As far as the north face of the glacier is concerned, there are quite a few different access points that we were able to discover, including Bodalsbreen, Kjenndalsbreen, Briksdalsbreen and Bøyabreen.
Road trip in Norway: the south coast, Stavanger and Lysefjord (stage 01)
Norway road trip: from Suldal to Bergen (stage 02)
Things to see and do in Bergen, Norway (step 03)
Norway road trip: the southern part of the Sognefjord (stage 04)
Road trip in Norway: the northern part of the Sognefjord (stage 05)
Norway road trip: Geirangerfjord (stage 07)
Road trip in Norway : Trollstigen and Ålesund (stage 08)
What to see and do on the Sognefjellet and Jostedalsbreen?
1 | Nigardsbreen, south of Jostedalsbreen
Nigardsbreen is an ice jewel in the southern part of Jostedalsbreen. It is undoubtedly the most popular because of its ease of access and the intense blue of its ice.
Probably our favourite glacier, as it’s the only one where you can really get close to the impressive moraine.
At the foot of the glacier lies the magnificent Nigardsbrevatnet lake, adding beauty to the landscape. It is formed by the melting of the Nigardsbreen glacier.
The hike to Nigardsbreen is an experience in itself. It begins with a walk along the lake, followed by an ascent to the glacier. You can find all the information about the hike on this site. It’s a 2.5-hour walk, or 7km round trip, with a 400m vertical drop. If you don’t want to hike along the lake, you can take the small shuttle boat that crosses the lake. It’s a 40-minute climb, but nothing difficult. In any case, you won’t be able to walk on the glacier unless accompanied by a guide.
Make sure you bring something to cover up, as it’s really windy at the foot of the moraine!
Parking: the price of the nearest parking lot to the glacier is around €9/car (90 NOC). The parking lot is really big.
Shuttle boat: €4/child and €6/adult
2 | The Sognefjellet, a spectacular scenic route
After visiting the Nigardsbreen glacier, we return to the Sognefjellet to reach Lom, also known as RV 55. This is the highest road in Northern Europe. It stretches 108 km between Gaupne and Lom. It is classified as a “National Scenic Route” in Norway, which means that it is considered one of the most beautiful in the country, highlighting the beauty of the landscape. And we were not disappointed! So be sure to allow plenty of time for breaks along the way!
As you travel along the Sognefjellet, you’ll pass through a variety of landscapes combining majestic mountains, snow-covered high plateaus, verdant forests and sparkling lakes.
On the way, if you can, I recommend a stop at Luster’s bakery, Lustrabui Bakery, for one or more Norwegian pastries.
After crossing the Sognefjellet, when you reach Lom, take a look at the standing wooden church (Stavkirke). It’s one of the most beautiful in the country. Still in use today, it was built in 1170 and enlarged in 1634.
On the road between Lom and Olden :
3 | Bodalsbreen and Kjenndalsbreen in the Lodalen Valley
To get up to the glacier parking lot, you’ll need to pay for access to a letterbox! Count 10€/car (or 100NOC), so bring cash. In the envelope you’ll need to pay the amount, and note your name and the number plate of your car.
Be careful, the road is really narrow and twisting. If I remember correctly, motorhomes are not allowed.
The path to the foot of the glacier is fairly straightforward, with an almost level path, but there is slush, lots of slush. Make sure you bring appropriate footwear! When we went, it was the end of the day (the sun had hidden behind the mountains), we were a bit tired and the temperatures were starting to drop. We didn’t think the trail would be so long from the parking lot, the information we had about how long the walk would take was wrong. The round trip took us 1h45.
Our favorite part of the hike was the valley right next to the parking lot, with the campsite and its colorful huts. It must be quite an experience to stay there!
To reach this glacier, you’ll have to drive along the immense glacial lake Lovatnet, lined with lush vegetation. Route 723 is very narrow, and there are passing-by cars.
As with the Bodalsbreen, a small pay toll (letterbox – 30 NOK/vehicle) gives access to a parking lot and the visitor center. If you don’t have cash or a top-up, you can go through the barrier and pay directly at the visitor center by credit card (which is what we had to do).
The nearest parking lot to the glacier is not at the visitor center, so you’ll have to drive a little further. Parking is free. From here, it’s a 10-minute walk to the river and the Kjenndalsbreen glacier. We didn’t fall in love with it, perhaps because you can see the glacier tongue from so far away. Nevertheless, it’s a very pretty place, and the walk to get there is quick and easy.
4 | Briksdalsbreen in the Olden Valley
After passing Stryn, we take the RV 60 towards Olden. Here, at the eastern end of Nordfjord, a picturesque road winds 23 km up Oldesdalen past two superb glacial lakes. The road passes through Brenndalsbreen before reaching the twin glaciers of Melkevollbreen and Briksdalsbreen.
Access to the parking lot is very easy. Parking is charged at 75NOC/car and is valid for all-day parking.
To reach this glacier, which is one of the most popular in the Jostedalsbreen area, you have a choice: either a 45-minute walk along a 3 km gravel path alongside the glacial river and up a flight of steps over a small waterfall, or the Troll Car (a kind of cart) which takes almost the same route. This popularity and the fact that it’s accessible by cart detract from the charm of the place. And the walk through the waterfalls is ultimately as enjoyable as the glacier itself.
5 | The Bøyabreen via Utvikfjellet
Between Olden and Bøyabreen you’ll pass through Utvikfjellet, a beautiful road.
The Bøyabreen is considered one of the most spectacular and accessible glacier arms of the Jostedalsbreen. It’s the only glacier of the 5 we visited that has free access and parking! A few minutes’ walk from the parking lot will take you to a lake with the glacier in the background. You can even see the glacier from the road. To park as close as possible to the start of the short walk, don’t stop at the first parking lot, but continue on to the 2nd parking lot next to the cafeteria.
I recommend you plan to picnic there, as there are a few tables by the lake, and it’s both a pleasant and beautiful place to eat.
Just a few hundred metres away, you’ll find a building offering a 360° view of the valley!
6 | The little extras: the village of Hjelle, Loen and the red church of Olden
The village of Hjelle
Olden’s red church
Where to sleep near Olden?
I can’t hesitate to recommend a small cottage in a family-run campsite on the shores of a lake surrounded by mountains. The photos below speak for themselves. The cabins are basic, but the place is magical. This is our favorite accommodation in Norway. You can also camp here.
Airbnb rental link: Camping Løken
Thanks for reading!
My most beautiful photos are on Instagram
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