One of my favorite things that we did on our entire time in Norway was hike on the Nigardsbreen glacier. Glaciers are so incredible and magnificent and Nigarsbreen is no different. The hike on the glacier allowed us to get up close and personal with the glacier, seeing beautiful blue and white ice that was constantly changing.
This guide includes all the info you need to know to do the Blue Ice Hike at Nigardsbreen in Norway.
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*****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 is the largest glacier in mainland Europe (-breen means glacier). Norway created Jostedalsbreen National Park in 1991 to protect this beautiful ginormous glacier. There are several different arms of the glacier.
Nigardsbreen is one of the arms of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. In the 1700’s the glacier grew a lot, but in recent years, the glacier has melted significantly. As the glacier melts, it creates beautiful formations in ice that are constantly changing.
How to get to Nigardsbreen
Nigardsbreen is closest to the little towns of Mjolver and Gjerde (there is a small Joker grocery store and an old gas pump). It is around 5 hours and 300km to Nigardsbreen from Bergen. It is around 6 hours and 375km from Oslo.
To get to the parking lot for the glacier, after you pass the visitor center, you will have to pay for a toll road to reach the glacier. There is a kiosk where you can pay by card before entering the road. It is only a few dollars. There are many parking spots and bathrooms at the glacier parking area.
Seeing the Glacier without a Guide
You can walk up to the glacier without a guide. There are two options to get to the glacier. You can take a boat ride to cut off part of the hike and continue hiking up to the glacier or you can hike straight from the parking lot. The boat ride costs a few dollars per person and cuts off around 1.8 miles. If you want to walk all the way from the parking lot, it will be around 2.4 miles round trip.
If hiking to the glacier, you can get close enough to see it up close. There are signs and ropes close to the glacier advising you where to not pass if you are not on a tour or have appropriate gear. Be sure to follow all signage and rules in the area. It is beautiful to see the glacier up close, even if you are not walking on the glacier.
How to Walk on the Nigardsbreen
Unless you are a glacier professional, you must have a guide to walk on the glacier. There are several different guiding companies that offer tours for their guiding services on the glacier. There are many different options with different price points, varying lengths of time, and for different skill levels.
The Jostedalsbreen National Park website lists several of the different tour operators that offer their guiding services on the glacier. We personally used the company Jostedalen Breforarlag and thought that they were fantastic. They were really professional, affordable, and the group sizes were not very big when we went.
Tour options and length
Each company has their own tours that vary, but there are a few different types of tours available. When choosing a glacier tour, be sure to check how long you will actually be on the ice because the walk to the glacier from the parking lot is quite long and large chunk of the tour will be doing a hike that you can do without the guiding company.
All of the tours provide you with gear and teach you how to use a harness, crampons, and an ice axe, even if you have never used them before.
Blue Ice Hike
The Blue Ice Hike is the most popular option on the Nigardsbreen glacier. It is called the “blue ice hike” because the ice in this part of the glacier is very clean and appear very blue, especially in the sunlight. Each company has a few Blue Ice Hike options in different lengths and physical fitness levels.
Short Blue Ice Hike
There are a few Short Blue Ice Hike options depending on how short you want your hike to be. The Short Blue Ice Hikes are good for those that may have younger children or that may not be able to walk 4 hours in a row. The Short Blue Ice Hike gives you the opportunity to step on the glacier, walk around a little bit, and walk down. You will likely be on the ice less than an hour.
Long Blue Ice Hike
We did the Long Blue Ice Hike and thought it was the perfect length. I had read reviews prior that some people thought it was too long, but honestly I thought it was the best length possible. We were on the ice around 2.5 hours. There was a break in the middle where we could walk around on part of the glacier, rest, and eat a snack. A perk of doing the longer glacier tour is that you can go farther out onto the glacier and will see more parts of the glacier.
Special Blue Ice Hike
There is a tour that in addition to hiking on the glacier, teaches you more glacier skills such as ice climbing and rappelling into a crevasse. It is only offered during a specific window in the summer. Check with a guiding company for more details.
Important to know for any planned glacier hike, the glacier is constantly changing, so every tour is slightly different. As the ice melts, the path changes. Depending on when you visit, there may be cool ice crevices for you to walk into, or you may be only on the surface. During our Blue Ice Hike, there was an incredible little ice canyon we walked into. Our guide said that it appeared around a week prior and would probably only last two more weeks before completely melting away or becoming too dangerous to access.
Do I need to be physically fit to hike on the glacier?
The glacier hikes at Nigardsbreen require some level of physical fitness. We found that Norwegians are very physically fit people in general, so there weren’t very many warnings about how physically fit you need to be for different activities.
We felt that the long blue ice hike required a certain level of physical fitness as you are walking uphill and up a glacier with spikes on your feet pretty constantly for 2 hours and then down 2 more hours. The glacier is also quite cold and the tour continues even if it starts raining, making it even more difficult.
Be sure to check with your guiding company if there is any question as to what physical fitness level is needed for the tour.
Time of year for visiting Nigardsbreen
The time of year you visit Nigardsbreen Glacier will determine what tours are available during your visit. Due to the changing nature of the glacier, especially as the seasons change, different guided tours are offered at different times of the year. The Blue Ice Hikes are offered from around mid-June to mid-September. The Glacier Skills Courses are offered more in July to end-of-August. The Blue Ice Cave trips are only offered in the winter since the glacier is too unstable in the summer to walk under the glacier.
Our Blue Ice Hike experience
As mentioned previously, we did the Long Blue Ice Hike with Jostedalen Breforarlag and it was absolutely perfect. We loved every minute of the hike.
The hike started from the parking lot where we met our guide and the other members of our group. They fitted us for our crampons and gave us an ice axe and gloves. From the parking lot, we took a boat across the glacier lagoon to cut off part of the hiking time. If you take the tour, the price of the boat ride is included in tour price, but if you are just hiking to the glacier and not on a tour, you can take the boat for the equivalent of a few dollars.
Once arriving to the other side of the glacier lagoon, we hiked up the rock slowly and steadily until we reached the glacier. Not too long ago, the glacier covered the rock here, but has rapidly melted over the last few years, leaving the glacier further away from the glacier lagoon.
Eventually we reached the start of the glacier and the large river of swift moving water that rushed out from under it. We were taught how to put on the crampons (sharp pieces of metal that fit onto the bottom of our shoes to grip the ice), put on climbing harnesses (to be roped together), and donned our ice axes.
We started on the ice and had a steep walk to get onto the glacier. Once on the glacier, it was mostly gradual up and down walking over the ice. I absolutely love the sound of the crampons crunching into the ice. The ice was many shades of blue, white, and gray. When the sun shined onto the ice, it turned bright blue in some places.
Even though it wasn’t very cold off of the glacier, on the glacier was quite cold with a cold wind whipping across the ice. We had fleece sweaters and rainjackets on, along with warm pants.
About half way through our time on the glacier, we stopped in a larger flat area to rest and have aa snack. We explored around all the little blue water streams made up of melting glacier. The water streams along with embedded rocks made for unique patterns and colors in the ice.
My favorite part of the entire glacier hike was near the end where we walked into an ice cave. Part of the glacier had melted away in a way that you could walk down into a cave made of ice. Inside the ice was bright blue in a shade of blue I could have never imagined to see in nature. Inside you could hear the loud sound of dripping water and falling chunks of ice.
From the ice cave, we hiked back off the glacier and headed back to the glacier lagoon. We were really lucky in that even though it was supposed to rain all day, it only started raining when we boarded the boat to get back to the parking area.
Overall the tour was around 5.5 hours and was worth every penny.
Tips for Hiking Nigardsbreen
Be prepared for all different types of weather
The glacier tour will run whether it is rain or shine, so make sure you are prepared for both. Since the tour is almost 6 hours long, if you get wet, especially in the beginning, it will be a long and cold tour. So, make sure you have clothes to keep you dry and warm throughout the entire hike.
The glacier may also be colder than you expect. I don’t have a definite number, but it felt like the difference in temperature from the parking lot to the glacier was at least 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder. I started the hike with just my base layer on, but on the glacier I wore 2 additional warm layers and was still chilled at times. Make sure that you have clothes will keep you warm.
Be physically prepared
The Blue Ice Hike does require some physical fitness. The amount of physical fitness you need really will depend on the length of hike that you choose, but there is a lot of up and down and distance in the hike. Make sure that you rest well the night before and are also hydrated. While there is a stop on the hike to have a snack, we essentially skipped lunch since the hike started after breakfast and ended around 4pm.
If wanting to take pictures on your phone, wear a fanny pack
This may seem like a strange tip, but if you are wanting to use your phone to take pictures, having it in a fanny pack is the best option. On the glacier, you will be wearing a climbing harness to tether you to other hikers for safety. This makes it hard to access the pockets in both your pants and jacket. You also want to make sure that it is secure (and not able to freely fall out) since if it falls on the glacier and into a crevasse (and there are many), then you will never see it again. Wearing it in a fanny pack will make it quickly accessible throughout the hike.
If you don’t have a lot of experience on ice or snow, one thing you will quickly learn is that the ice reflects the sun really well. Make sure that you wear sunscreen on your face, even in the cold, because the sun will hit your face twice as much, from the sun itself and the reflection of it from the ice and snow. Don’t be like us and make this mistake a few too many times lol.
What to wear on the Blue Ice Hike
- Long wool socks
- Long pants (preferably waterproof)
- Base layer
- Fleece or sweater
- Puffer coat
- Neck gaiter
Things to bring on the Glacier Hike
- Extra layers
- Rain gear
- Water bottle (you can refill your water on the glacier)
Where to stay near Nigardsbreen
There are several different places to stay near the Nigardsbreen Glacier. We personally camped, but there are non-camping options too.
There are a few options for camping in the area. We stayed at Jostedal Camping, which is a nice campground that is less than 10 minutes from the Nigardsbreen parking lot. The campground host is super nice and helpful. The bathroom facilities are good and there is a nice common area for when its cold and rainy outside.
If you are traveling around Norway in a camper or van, there are plenty of roadside spots for staying overnight on the road close to Nigardsbreen.
If you’re not camping or staying in a camper van, there are some different lodging options. The most highly rated are Jostedal Hotell and Villa Fjellheim. Both of these are super close to the Nigardsbreen parking area.
Things to do nearby Nigardsbreen
Jostedalsbreen National Park
Nigardsbreen is just one part of Jostedalsbreen National Park. The national park is huge and has many different branches of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. Check out the Jostedalsbreen National Park website for more information about all of the many things to do in the national park.
This is a glacier museum that is close to the entrance road to Nigardsbreen. The museum is newer and also has a café and gift shop. There is an option to pay to see the museum of the glacier, which would be interesting if you would like to learn more about the glacier.
Austerdalsbreen Glacier Viewpoint
The next main branch of the glacier that is accessible by a hike from the Tungestolen DNT hut. The hike is 6.7 miles roundtrip and brings you to an incredible viewpoint of the glacier. The hike has around 1,000 feet of elevation gain, but is a pretty gradual gain. Austerdalsbreen is a branch of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. For more information on hiking to the Austerdalsbreen viewpoint, check out my Austerdalsbreen blog post.
Other posts you may be interested in
Overall this is my guide to the Blue Ice Hike on Nigardsbreen glacier. Please let me know any comments or questions you may have in the comments down below!
Thanks for reading!