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Jostedalsbreen National Park

A sanctuary of colossal glaciers

Address

Jostedalsbreen National Park, Fosnes, 6799 Oppstryn, Norway

GPS: 61.912228696994, 7.0518212156846

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Founded by royal decree in 1991, Jostedalsbreen National Park is home to and named after the largest glacier in continental Europe. This nature reserve is in the Norwegian county of Sogn og Fjordane, comprising the towns of Stryn, Sogndal, Lyster and Jølster. Surrounded by high peaks, Jostedalsbreen National Park lies within the lake district of the Breheimen mountain range.

After an extension in 1998 in its northwestern section, the park now covers an area of 1,300 km², more than half of which is occupied by glaciers of various sizes. The Jostedal Glacier (or Jostedalsbreen) is over 60 kilometres long and its ice sheet can be over 500 metres thick in places. It is situated on top of a plateau and comprises several glacier arms, including Nigardsbreen, Austerdalsbreen and Briksdalsbreen. Its plateau extends over a large part of the park (about 480 km²) while fluctuating with 2,000 metres in altitude. The highest nunatak (mountain above the ice caps) in the park is Lodalskåpa. Its summit was first climbed by Gottfried Bohr in 1820, a former member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. At the end of the 19th century, Kristian Magdalon Bing, a pioneer climber in Nordfjord, succeeded in crossing the Briksdalsbreen Glacier, one of the most famous arms of Jostedalsbreen. The wide-open spaces of Jostedalsbreen National Park are fed by a multitude of glaciers and are dotted with lakes, streams, waterfalls and wild rivers. They lie above 800 metres and form unique habitats for the region’s flora and fauna. The variety of its natural environments can be discovered through scenic routes, outdoor activities and steep or gentle hikes that provide easy access to Jostedalsbreen’s main glacier branches and tongues.

The large ice cap of Jostedalsbreen National Park has the distinction of being between two of the longest fjords in the world (after Scoresby Sund in Greenland): Sognefjord (204 kilometres long) and Nordfjord (106 kilometres). Formed by ice, held together by heavy snowfalls, and shaped by water over thousands of years, the park’s landscapes continue to be in constant flux as the world’s climate changes.

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  • The park’s ever-changing glacier landscape
  • The great Jostedalsbreen glacier and its many branches: Briksdalsbreen, Kjenndal, Bødalsbreen, Nigardsbreen, Bergsetbreen, Austdalsbreen, Tindefjellbreen… the highest point of the Jostedalsbreen glacier (Høgste Breakulen, 1,957 metres above sea level)
  • The great diversity of natural environments (forests and deciduous trees, rivers and glaciers, lakes and waterfalls, rock faces and high alpine mountains, green valleys, and glacial plateaus)
  • The Briksdal and Fjærland valleys; Mount Skåla; Ramnefjellsfossen waterfall
  • The variety of fauna (eagles, deer, lynx, gluttons…) and flora; the rich geological heritage of the region
  • Walking, climbing, and hiking (on and around the glaciers), skiing (Lodalskåpa summit or Stryn Sommerski resort); scenic routes to drive on
  • Storevatnet, Oldeskardet, Kattanakken, Supphelleskardet, Kjenndalen and Austerdalen trails
  • Activities and exhibitions at the park’s three information centres (Norsk Bremuseum in Fjærland, Jostedalsbreen National Park in Stryn and Breheimsenteret Jostedal in Luster); the Norwegian Glacier Museum (Norsk Bremuseum) in Fjærland, which is responsible for providing general information on the formation and functioning of glaciers as well as studies on climate change
  • The annual marathon in July on the shores of Lake Hornindalsvatnet
  • Jostedalsbreen National Park is home to Hornindalsvatnet, the deepest lake in Europe (514 metres).
  • The Briksdalsbreen (or Briksdal Glacier) has lost so much surface ice in recent years that it is in danger of breaking away from the upper Jostedalsbreen ice field. Ice climbing is therefore prohibited.
  • Jostedalsbreen is the largest unmapped landscape area in Europe and, since 2020, is now being mapped by a field mission that aims to measure the surface and underground dimensions of the ice cap. Another part of the research focuses on the consequences of the reduction of the glacier and its impact on humans and their environment, as a result of global warming.
  • Recent research shows that the Jostedalsbreen ice cap had completely disappeared more than 5,000 years ago before it recovered during the “Little Ice Age” period (between the beginning of the XIVᵉ and the end of the XIXᵉ century). This conclusion is based on the discovery of ancient farmsteads submerged by the advancing glacier (which is fed by excess snow in winter).
  • The valley of the village of Loen, which is part of the municipality of Stryn, was the victim of two devastating landslides in 1905 and 1936, claiming the lives of 135 people.
  • The towns of Loen, Olden or Stryn, are a good base for the many trails in the park (5 hours’ drive from the city of Bergen).
  • The main information centre of the Jostedalsbreen National Park is in Oppstryn (Stryn town). It has a small Viking Museum, indoor exhibitions, a film about the area, a botanical garden, a small geological park and a panoramic restaurant. There is also a tourist information office in Fjærland and Jostedal.
  • July and August offer the best conditions for the uninitiated hiker. Proper equipment, knowledge of the terrain or an experienced guide are required for safe walking (there are many crevasses on the glaciers). Also beware of avalanche risks.
  • The ski tour between Stryn and Fjærland, along the Jostedal glacier, is one of the most popular itineraries in the region.

Where to eat

  • Lustrabui Bakery
    (tasty pastries)
  • Café Go'beten
    (home cooking)
  • Stryn Kaffebar & Vertshus
    (very pleasant place)

Where to go

  • Geirangerfjord
    (a pearl of nature)
  • Ålesund
    (fishing town)
  • Trollstigen
    (spectacular route)

Where to stay

  • Jostedal Camping
    (well-equipped campsite)
  • Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel
    (charming hotel)
  • Hjelle Hotel
    (historical house)

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