Blue ice hiking at Nigardsbreen

10 interesting facts about Jostedalsbreen Glacier

If you’re searching for an unparalleled outdoor adventure, look no further than the Jostedalsbreen glacier. Here are ten facts worth knowing about this momentous glacier.

It sets a European record

Jostedalsbreen glacier is not only monumental for its beauty, but also its size. That’s because it’s the largest glacier in mainland Europe and covers a lot of ground. The glacier takes up nearly half of the entire Jostedalsbreen National Park, spanning an area of 474 km² (183 sq. mi), with a length of 60 km (37 mi). 

Høgste Breakulen, its highest peak, reaches 1957 m asl. It’s lowest elevation, 60 m asl., is found at the foot of the glacier Supphellebreen.

It has a lot of falling rock

Meltwater and rocks below the Nigardsbreen glacier
Photo: Santi Rodriguez

Every year, the total erosion of rock material from the Jostedalsbreen glacier equates to 400,000 tons. To put that into perspective, New York’s Empire State Building weighs about  365,000 tons.

It can be explored by foot…

Blue ice hiking at Nigardsbreen
Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik | Fjord Norway

The first person to walk the entire length of Jostedalsbreen was Ole Bøsasva, way back in 1788. In 1906, the first footpath was made for tourists to enjoy.

…or by ski

If you’re looking to ski the glacier, the best time to do so is May, though a number of spectacular ski runs can be accessed year round. There include Josten end-to-end, Olden circular and Loen circular.

A ski destination with a history

Prior to its current condition, Jostedalsbreen was a throughline for neighbouring villages and a major regional transport route. As the region lacked any roads for transport, villagers would have to make their way around on skis. 

The only other alternative was to travel by water, a laborious journey that involved rowing boats throughout the long arms of the fjords.

It could fill a lot of bathtubs

Nigardsbreevatnet lake
Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik | Fjord Norway

The fresh water equivalent to come from the ice of Jostedalsbreen is 73 x 10¹² litres (16 x 10¹² gal.). That’s enough to fill 300 thousand millions bathtubs, which is the equivalent of the water consumption in Norway for 100 years!

It has a variety of landscapes

While the circumference of the Jostedalsbreen glacier takes up almost half the park, there are a wide range of lush environments that can be accessed in short spans. These include green, lush valleys full of flora and fauna to rocky mountains to cool, icy glaciers.

It changes size and shape over time

Boat dock at Nigardsbreen
Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik | Fjord Norway

The glacier changed size considerably over the decades. In the 18th century, the glacier expanded, and in turn eliminated vast stretches of cultivated land. It then dwindled significantly right up until the 1960s. 

It started to enlarge again towards the end of the 1990s as the snowfall during the winter season amped up. These days, the glacier is decreasing in size again as a result of drier winters and warmer temperatures in the summer.

It acts as a natural divider

The Jostedalsbreen glacier acts as a natural divider, separating 2 of the longest fjords in the world  –  the Sognefjord and the Nordfjord.

It can be accessed different ways

Each way to access the Jostedalsbreen glacier presents a unique adventure. 

Glacier hiking at Nigardsbreen glacier

Group of people is walking on the glacier

Early Bird Blue Ice Hike

Take the first boat across Nigardsbreen Lake and experience the glacier in the early morning
From NOK 1450
Smiling man climbing the glacier

Long Blue Ice Hike

Get further up on Nigardsbreen on this guided glacier hike
From NOK 910