Jostedalsbreen National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in Norway. Jostedal Glacier (aka Jostedalsbreen because -breen means glacier in Norwegian) is the largest glacier in mainland Europe and is absolutely incredible. Sharp blue ice shrouds ginormous gray mountains, the ice seeming bigger than the mountains themselves.
It is one of the lesser visited national parks due to its accessibility. Unlike many of Norway’s national parks that you can easily drive through to see parts of, Jostedalsbreen requires a little more work. There are some small parts of Jostedalsbreen that you can drive up to, but most of it requires long hikes or guided tours on the ice.
This guide contains several of the most accessible ways to view Jostedalsbreen, including ways to see the glacier from the road, but also including hikes that you can do in a few hours.
***I use Jostedalsbreen (versus Jostedal Glacier) throughout the post because it is referred to as Jostadalsbreen throughout Norway and on any signage or guidebooks you will read).
****Note: This post may include affiliate links to products I recommend. I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) from purchases from these links. But no worries, I only include links to products that we have tried or truly recommend!
*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
About Jostedalsbreen National Park
Jostedalsbreen National Park was founded in 1991 and has since expanded. The park encompasses the glacier and land surrounding the glacier. This glacier is huge and has over 50 “arms” or branches to it. Since there is obviously not a road through the glacier, the only way to get to other arms of the glacier is to drive around the glacier and the huge mountains that separate it’s various arms. It can take hours to drive between different parts of the park, but it is well-worth checking out various sides of the glacier as they all differ.
Parts of Jostedalsbreen National Park
Nigardsbreen at Jostedal
Google Maps Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/VbXD1fBqs7Lxa94W7
Nigardsbreen is one of the main areas of Jostedalsbreen National Park and the area that most people visit who are visiting the national park. There is the Breheimen Visitor Center with specific glacier exhibits. There are also people here that can help you plan a glacier hike if you didn’t plan one previous to arriving to the glacier.
The Nigardsbreen branch of Jostedalsbreen can be seen from the road and you can drive even closer to it and park beside the glacial lagoon. There is a hike or a boat ride with a shorter hike for you to get up close to the glacier. If you want to hike out onto the glacier, there are several guiding companies that you can book various tours with. We booked the Long Blue Ice Hike and thought it was worth every penny. We loved getting to walk on the glacier up close and personal. It really let us see how huge and magnificent this glacier is and we were only on a tiny piece of it.
If interested in more specifics about Nigardsbreen at Jostedalsbreen National Park, my post on Nigardsbreen has all the information including the different options and things to do around Nigardsbreen.
Google Maps Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/MSc9dQdfFBBFJtWz9
Boyabreen is one of the easiest viewpoints of Jostedalsbreen. Right off the main road, Route 5, between Boyum and Skei (closer to Boyum) is a parking area for the Boyabreen viewing area. There is parking off of each side of the widened dirt road to the viewpoint.
You likely can see the glacier from your car on a clear day, but I recommend walking the 100 meter walk to the glacial lake below Boyabreen. The clearest views of Boyabreen are from the glacial lake, plus there is a gorgeous blue lake. Around the lake, there are picnic tables to have a lunch or relax on the edge of the lake with the view of the glacier.
Boyabreen is way up on the mountain and unfortunately has retreated quite far from the viewing area, but there are tons of waterfalls cascading down the mountain below the glacier and flowing into glacial lagoon.
At the Boyabreen area, there is a restaurant and snack bar in the summer called Brævasshytta. It is closed in the winter and off-seasons, but when open has a great view of the glacier from the inside. Eating here would be an especially good choice if it was pouring the rain, but you wanted to sit and see the glacier.
Near the Boyabreen glacier viewing area is one of my favorite little towns we visited in Norway, which is the town of Fjaerland. Fjaerland is known as Norway’s book town and is full of little bookshops and book huts throughout the town. If interested in Fjaerland, check out my Fjaerland blog post.
Google Maps Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/ReQRi46gR2f4AHBr6
Austerdalsbreen is a lesser visited arm of the Jostedalsbreen glacier, but is absolutely spectacular. Hiking to Austerdalsbreen was one of my favorite things that we did on our entire trip to Norway. Unlike Boyabreen, to see Austerdalsbreen, you’ll have to hike several miles. However, the hike is relatively flat and much easier than the majority of Norwegian hikes (that usually seem to go straight up the side of a mountain).
The hike to Austerdalsbreen starts from Tungestolen where there is a gorgeous DNT hut. There is ample parking at the Tungestolen area at the trailhead. This is also an area that many people decided to “wild camp,” so if you’re traveling around Norway in a van or tent, this would be a great place to stay.
The hike is an out-and-back hike, where the turn around spot is the glacier viewpoint. The glacial arm is long and expansive. This glacier viewpoint was also much less crowded than most of the other glacier viewpoints we visited since it requires a hike and the trailhead for the hike is about an hour down a narrow road and is off the beaten path. If you’re a hiker and love glaciers, then you will love this hike. My Austerdalsbreen Blog Post highlights more details of the hike and things you need to know about getting to the hike.
Skalabreen and Mount Skala
Google Maps Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/HRfqyHJyufB4oiuGA
Mount Skala is the tallest mountain in Norway. The hike to Mount Skala is a long tough uphill hike that ends at the Skala Hut, which is on the edge of a branch of Jostedalsbreen. You cannot see the glacier from the bottom of the valley as the hike begins, but you will be able to see it from the top. Unlike other glacier viewpoints, if you hike up Mount Skala to see the glacier, you will also get incredible views of the surrounding mountains and valleys since you are so high up.
The hike is 16 kilometers round trip and has many many stairs. Some make this a day hike, while others choose to stay the night at the Skala hut which is absolutely gorgeous DNT hut. You can reserve a bed in this hut on the DNT website. There are actually two huts here and legend has it that the older cylindrical stone hut was actually used as a tuberculosis sanatorium in the 1800’s (it unclear if this legend is true or not).
We reserved beds here and were all prepared to stay at the hut here, but turns out we visited too early in the season and the hike would have been very difficult and still covered in a ton of snow, making it dangerous with the lack of winter gear we had. The amount of the snow on the trail in June really depends on how heavy of snow cover came in the previous winter. If you want to stay here, plan on July or August (and not in June like we did).
Google Maps Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/dk6wgNPCsFzGa5LH9
Brikdalsbreen is another arm of the Jostedalsbreen on the northern side of the glacier. Over the last 50 years, this glacier has went through many periods of rapid growth and recession. To view Brikdalsbreen, there is a 5 kilometer round trip hike where the turn around point is at the glacial lake below the glacier. As of 2023, you could get a ride on a ATV-like vehicle to the lake, but it unsure if that will be an option in future years.
Jostedalsbreen National Park Visitor Center
Google Maps Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/tffPBbhzpy4HawaU8
In the peak season of summer, the Jostedalsbreen National Park Visitor Center is open on the northern side of the glacier. The visitor center has a gift shop and exhibits on the glacier and the national park itself. Since the national park itself is free to visit, the visitor center exhibits are not free and you must pay to see them. The gift shop is free to visit though.
Not part of the visitor center, but in the visitor center parking lot is a delicious bakery brand called Matstova that I recommend checking out if you like warm sweet baked goods.
Things to do in Jostedalsbreen National Park
Hike on Jostedalsbreen
Hiking on the glacier is the best way to experience the glacier and the national park. Unless you have a ton of experience with glaciers and navigating on them, you need to be on a guided tour to hike on the glacier. Glaciers are super dynamic and ever changing, so go with the experts. Depending on what part of the glacier you are visiting, there are different guiding groups that organize and lead tours.
Check out my Nigardsbreen blog post for more details on booking and going on a glacier hike tour.
Go on a Hike
Even if you don’t want to hike on the glacier, I recommend going on a hike to see the glacier up close and feel how large the glacier really is. Each of these glacier viewpoints get you to varying distances from the glacier itself, but to me the Austerdalsbreen Glacier Hike is the best hike to get up close to the glacier.
Picnic with a view of Jostedalsbreen
If you want to enjoy the glacier from a distance or have little ones that you don’t want to bring too close to the glacier, I recommend the Boyabreen Viewpoint as there is minimal walking and picnic tables along the lake with great views of the Boyabreen arm of the glacier.
Stay at a DNT Hut
To make your experience in Jostedalsbreen even more exciting, consider staying in a DNT hut. The Norwegian Hut system is incredible and unlike hut-hiking systems we have seen anywhere else.
The Tungestolen DNT hut can be almost driven to and is great if you’re wanting a gorgeous hut in a nice place without wanting to walk too far.
The Skala Hut requires a steep and difficult hike, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding valley and glacier.
Tips for visiting Jostedalsbreen National Park
Check driving times if visiting multiple pieces of the glacier
Jostedalsbreen National Park is huge and doesn’t have roads cutting across through the park, so the only way to get around is by driving around. It can take hours to get to different parts of the park. It took us three days to go to three different glacier viewpoints in the park. If you plan on visiting multiple arms of Jostedalsbreen, make sure that you know how long it will take you to get between them and have appropriate accommodation planned.
Bring extra food and water
Since some of the glacier hikes and viewpoints are in more remote areas, make sure you have extra food and water with you. Travelling across Norway in general it is good to have extra food and water since towns with stores can be far apart and stores tend to have limited hours. The locations on the south side of the Jostedalsbreen National Park are definitely more limited in stores and places to buy food or water.
Have the right gear
If you are traveling Norway, you likely already know that the weather can be unpredictable and turn from sun to rain quickly. Make sure that you are prepared, especially if hiking to the glacier or on the glacier. Wind comes of the glacier arms, carrying the cold air with it, making the area surrounding the glacier typically much colder than the areas not close to the glacier.
A Note on Time of Year You Visit
We visited in mid-June which ended up being the earlier part of the summer season. It was great because places were less crowded (but how crowded does it get even in the high season? I don’t know), but also it meant that some places were just opening for the season or weren’t open yet. Prices are actually higher in the off-season than in the “high season” so lodging prices were higher in places as well. Since we visited in earlier season, some of the guided glacier hikes weren’t operating yet and some trails to glacier arms were not safe for travel (the Mount Skala Trail). If planning to visit Jostedalsbreen National Park, make sure that the places you plan on visiting are open or safe prior to getting there.
Other posts you may like
Overall this is my guide to the Jostedalsbreen Glacier. I hope that this guide helps you!
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Thanks for reading!