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GLACIERS

A blast from the past

Some glaciers are thousands of years old.

They give us a historical record of events on Earth.

Glaciers at Svalbard .
Photo: Visit Svalbard / Visitnorway.com
Glaciers at Svalbard .
Photo: Visit Svalbard / Visitnorway.com

Experience the mysteries of the ice on a glacier safari in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

Or visit another one of Norway's 2,534 glaciers.

Glaciers at Svalbard .
Photo: Visit Svalbard / Visitnorway.com
Glaciers at Svalbard .
Photo: Visit Svalbard / Visitnorway.com

Jostedalsbreen in Fjord Norway is the largest glacier in continental Europe, and a popular destination for summer skiing, hiking, snow shoeing, and ice climbing.

Doesn't it look peaceful?

Jostedalsbreen glacier .
Photo: Thomas T. Kleiven - VisitNorway.com
Jostedalsbreen glacier .
Photo: Thomas T. Kleiven - VisitNorway.com

Jostedalsbreen has many branches, including Nigardsbreen, known as the most easily accessible branch in Norway.

Hike, ride on the boat, or, better yet paddle across the emerald green glacier water in a kayak.

Glacial kayaking in Jostedalen .
Photo: Christine Baglo / Visitnorway.com
Glacial kayaking in Jostedalen .
Photo: Christine Baglo / Visitnorway.com

Allow yourself to be mesmerized by the powerful, blue ice walls!

Nigardsbreen glacier .
Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik / www.fjordnorway.com
Nigardsbreen glacier .
Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik / www.fjordnorway.com

Don't feel like going for a challenging hike?

Many magnificent glaciers are visible at a distance, including Svartisen in Northern Norway. 

Enjoying the view from a hammock is also an outdoor activity!

Svartisen glacier in Helgeland .
Photo: Emil Sollie / Brixton Frames / Helgeland Reiseliv
Svartisen glacier in Helgeland .
Photo: Emil Sollie / Brixton Frames / Helgeland Reiseliv

Put on your skis – in the middle of summer! 

Norway's summer ski centres are all located on glaciers. The Fonna Glacier Ski Resort in Hardanger is shown here. 

Skiing at the Fonna glacier ski resort .
Photo: Visit Hardangerfjord
Skiing at the Fonna glacier ski resort .
Photo: Visit Hardangerfjord

Never venture out on the ice alone, as glaciers can be extremely dangerous. 

Always explore the ice on a guided tour with proper safety equipment, for example here ....

...on the Tystig Glacier in Stryn.

Go skiing at Stryn Summer Ski Centre afterwards! 

Glacier hiking Tystigen .
Photo: Einar Løken / Fjord Norway / Visitnorway.com
Glacier hiking Tystigen .
Photo: Einar Løken / Fjord Norway / Visitnorway.com

Snowshoeing is another fun and challenging way to explore snow-covered landscapes. 

Folgefonna, Hardanger .
Photo: VG Partnerstudio/Visitnorway.com
Folgefonna, Hardanger .
Photo: VG Partnerstudio/Visitnorway.com

Enjoy lunch with a view, but be sure to do so at a safe distance. 

Big chunks of ice can fall from the glacier front without warning. 

Jostedalsbreen glacier .
Photo: Christine Baglo / VisitNorway.com
Jostedalsbreen glacier .
Photo: Christine Baglo / VisitNorway.com

Learn more! 

The Norwegian Glacier Museum in Fjærland is one of several museums where you can discover more about the glaciers that have shaped the Norwegian landscape.

Fjærland, Sogn og Fjordane .
Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com
Fjærland, Sogn og Fjordane .
Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com

Mighty mother nature

Always exercise caution when exploring a glacier or one of its branches up close.

Due to the glacier's deep crevasses, avalanches, and the constant and unpredictable movement of ice blocks, you must never go out on a glacier on your own. With professional guides and equipment to ensure your safety, hiking on a glacier in Norway is an unforgettable experience – a true adventure.

Even when it's hundreds of meters deep, glacier ice is always on the move and is strong enough to literally shape the Earth. It was the Ice Age glaciers that carved out Norway’s characteristic fjords, valleys, and steep mountainsides. Remnants of those prehistoric glaciers remain in place today. 

Some glaciers, like Tystigbreen and Folgefonna, are home to summer ski resorts with prepared slopes where you can ski and snowboard while getting a tan in a t-shirt. The meltwater produces lush valleys below, with rivers and fjords that have a distinct greenish glow.

Receding glaciers

In Norway, as in the rest of the world, temperatures are rising due to climate change, and the glaciers are slowly melting. The total area covered by glaciers has decreased by 11 per cent in the last 30 years, according to the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO). Since the mid-1980s, as many as 326 square kilometres have disappeared. The ice is retreating most rapidly in the northern parts of the country.

You can reduce your carbon footprint by becoming a sustainable traveller. Stay longer and explore more when visiting an area. Buy locally-sourced food and goods and make informed and sustainable choices.

What is a glacier

Glaciers consist of layers of snow that over a long time are compressed into ice.

The ice masses make many glaciers move like very slow rivers.

Glaciers represent about 10 per cent of the earth’s land area and are considered remains of the last ice age.

The ice masses can become several hundred years old.

Glacier analyses give scientists important information about global climate change and future environmental scenarios.

Glacier dictionary

Front: The head of a hillside glacier.

Outlet: An arm of a main glacier.

Retreat: How a glacier melts, shrinks, gets shorter.

Jøkul: Ancient Norwegian term for glacier, still in use on Iceland.

Jøkulhlaup: A jøkulhlaup or Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) is a sudden release of water from a glacier. The water source can be a glacier-dammed lake, a pro-glacial moraine-dammed lake or water stored within, under or on the glacier.

Norway’s most popular glaciers

Jostedalsbreen

Situated in Vestland county in Fjord Norway, Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier in continental Europe, covering 487 square kilometres with ice up to 600 metres thick.

The glacier is split up into more than 50 glacier branches, such as the famous Briksdalsbreen and Nigardsbreen glaciers. The glacier is in Jostedalsbreen National Park and covers more than half of the park.

Briksdalsbreen

The glacier is a branch of the Jostedalsbreen glacier and is sometimes referred to as the Olden glacier. It is located in Briksdalen valley at the end of Oldedalen valley in Vestland county.

Nigardsbreen

One of the most easily accessible branches of the Jostedalsbreen glacier, located in Luster municipality in Vestland county.

Folgefonna

Home to the Fonna Glacier Ski Resort and part of Folgefonna National Park, Folgefonna is a collective term for three glaciers – Nordre Folgefonna, Midtre Folgefonna, and Søndre Folgefonna, all in the Hardanger region of Vestland county.

Svartisen

Svartisen in Northern Norway actually consists of two glaciers – Vestre Svartisen and Østre Svartisen. The glacier is part of Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park in Nordland county.

Hardangerjøkulen

The glacier is located in the Hardangerfjord region, on the northernmost part of the Hardangervidda mountain plateau. It has several glacier branches, including Blåisen and Midtdalsbreen, and its highest point is 1,863 metres above sea level.

Austfonna, Olav V, and Vestfonna

Located in the Svalbard archipelago, the Austfonna glacier covers 8,412 square kilometres and is Europe’s largest ice cap by area and the second-largest by volume. The ice extends to an elevation of 783 metres above sea level.

Olav V Land is a peninsula in eastern Svalbard. It is covered by the Olav V Ice field, which measures approx. 4,150 square kilometres. Vestfonna is an ice cap located on the western part of the Svalbard archipelago and covers an area of approx. 2,500 square kilometres.

Norwegian glacier centres

What is a glacier

Glaciers consist of layers of snow that over a long time are compressed into ice.

The ice masses make many glaciers move like very slow rivers.

Glaciers represent about 10 per cent of the earth’s land area and are considered remains of the last ice age.

The ice masses can become several hundred years old.

Glacier analyses give scientists important information about global climate change and future environmental scenarios.

Glaciers by numbers

2,534: The number of glaciers in Norway.

2,692 square kilometres: Glacier area in Norway (57 per cent in Southern Norway and 43 per cent in Northern Norway).

636 metres: The thickest ice has been measured in the Svartisen glacier.

20 metres above sea level: Where the Engabreen glacier ends; the lowest point of any glacier on the European mainland.

Not: all figures are subject to change.

Glacier hiking equipment

Crampons: footwear with spikes (stegjern in Norwegian).

Ice axe: a tool fastened to the wrist that is used to for climbing.

Rope: secures glacier hikers and ensures that the group stays together.

Glaciers by numbers

2,534: The number of glaciers in Norway.

2,692 square kilometres: Glacier area in Norway (57 per cent in Southern Norway and 43 per cent in Northern Norway).

636 metres: The thickest ice has been measured in the Svartisen glacier.

20 metres above sea level: Where the Engabreen glacier ends; the lowest point of any glacier on the European mainland.

Not: all figures are subject to change.

Glacier hiking equipment

Crampons: footwear with spikes (stegjern in Norwegian).

Ice axe: a tool fastened to the wrist that is used to for climbing.

Rope: secures glacier hikers and ensures that the group stays together.

Find your glacier adventure

Glacier adventures in Norway
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Hammocking + Romsdalseggen ridge hike with Hotel Aak
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Rogaland Arboretum
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Blegja - the highest peak in FjordKysten
Store Batalden rises 492 m straight out of the sea, and it is the highest peak on the islands surrounding Florø. Read more
Store Batalden
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Djupadalen
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Hiking trip to Slogen (1564 m.a.s.l.)
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Månafossen and Friluftsgården Mån
Access: follow road FV502 from Egersund to Eigerøy. Then follow the signs leading to Ytstebrød. Read more
Hiking to Ytstebrød
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Lifjell from Dale
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Wilderness camp 3 days: Kayaking, glacier walk and hike - Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions
Kayak trip next to a glacier, glacier walk, hiking tour and camp life is some of the things you will experience on this Wildlife Camp. Welcome! Read more
Wilderness camp 4 days: Kayaking, glacier walk and hikes - Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions
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Hike to the top of Langfoss waterfall
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Trollstigen hike - Kløvstien Path (858 m.a.s.l.)
In the steep mountain walls at Rullestadjuvet you can see some of Northern Europes largest potholes; several meters in diameter. Glacial potholes are… Read more
Glacial Potholes at Rullestad
Climb the classic tower of Innerdalen, 1.452 meters above sea level! Innerdalstårnet,is a majestetic mountain in Innerdalen. The Innerdalen, is a… Read more
Climbing the tower of Innerdalen
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Hiking: Tjuatoten (50-1098 masl)
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Hålandsvatnet
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Bispevatnet
Take the road from Høyanger village to Siplo skiing Centre, continue to the dam. You start by the dam. (600 m.a.s) The first leg to the first cairn is… Read more
Bergefjell
Steinsfjellet is a great viewpoint 227m above the sea. From the top you have Panorama views of Haugesund and the North Sea, and it is a great starting… Read more
Steinsfjellet Haugesund
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Veraland and Ims
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Maudlandsområdet
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Hiking trip to Rundebranden (300 masl.)
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Glacier summer skiing
Top training conditions with well-groomed trails in beautiful and magnificent nature! Welcome to Sognefjellet Summer Ski Center. Read more
Sognefjellet Summer Ski Centre
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10 largest glaciers in Norway
Austfonna
Austfonna is an ice cap located on Nordaustlandet in the Svalbard archipelago. It is the largest ice cap by area and the second largest by volume in…
Austfonna
Olav V Land
Olav V Land is a peninsula in eastern Spitsbergen Island in Svalbard. The only larger ice cap in the Svalbard Archipelago is Austfonna in…
Olav V Land
Vestfonna
Vestfonna is an ice cap located on the western part Nordaustlandet in the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. The glacier covers an area of about 2,500…
Vestfonna
Jostedalsbreen, Sogn og Fjordane
Jostedalsbreen
This is the largest glacier on mainland Europe, covering an area of 487 square kilometres. The glacier is a part of the Jostedalsbreen National Park…
Jostedalsbreen
Three people sitting on a rock near the Svartisen glacier, Northern Norway
Svartisen
Norway’s second largest glacier, Svartisen, stretches over 370 square kilometres and has a full 60 glacier arms. One of the most famous glacial arms…
Svartisen
People walking on Folgefonna glacier, Hardanger, Norway
Folgefonna
Norway's third largest glacier. In 2005 Folgefonna National Park was opened, Folgefonna is known for its dramatic and beautiful scenery. Here you will…
Folgefonna
Blåmannsisen
Blåmannsisen is the fifth-largest glacier in mainland Norway. It is located on the border of the municipalities of Fauske and Sørfold in Nordland…
Blåmannsisen
The Hardangerjøkulen glacier is the sixth largest glacier in mainland Norway. It is located in the municipalities of Eidfjord and Ulvik in Hordaland… Read more
Hardangerjøkulen
Myklebustbreen
Myklebustbreen, also called Snønipbreen, is the seventh largest glacier in mainland Norway. It is located in the municipalities of Jølster, Gloppen,…
Myklebustbreen
Okstindbreen
Okstindbreen
Okstindbreen is the eighth largest glacier in mainland Norway. The 46 square-kilometre glacier lies in the Okstindan mountain range in the…
Okstindbreen
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