In addition to the wonders of Norway's largest glacier, Jostedal, the little towns and villages of Olden, Loen, and Stryn are good bases for trips on the Nordfjord, which is the only fjord to rival the scenic wonders of Sognefjord. The panoramic Nordfjord, with its deep-blue waters, penetrates inland from the coast for 100km (62 miles) before it abruptly halts at the glacier itself. If you have a car, you can drive the length of the north bank along Rte. 15 almost to the head of the fjord at Loen. This is one of the grand motor trips of the fjord country. In the distance are snowcapped mountain peaks, and along the way are many grazing pastures, fjord farms, and rock-strewn promontories.
Jostedalsbreen National Park
Jostedalsbreen is an ice plateau, spreading across 487 sq. km (190 sq. miles) dominating the inner Nordfjord district and stretching out in the direction of Sognefjord and the majestic Jotunheimen mountains. Sprawling northeast from Rte. 5 to Rte. 15, it plunges a total of two dozen "arms" into the neighboring valleys.
In certain parts, the mammoth ice mountain is 400m (1,312 ft.) thick, reaching up to 1,950m (6,396 ft.) above sea level. Wildlife includes reed deer, elk, brown bear, and smaller creatures such as hares and elusive squirrels.
For years until the advent of modern engineering, the glacier formed an almost impenetrable barrier between the east and west of Norway.
Beginning in 1991, Norway placed the glacier under the protection of the Jostedalsbreen Nasjonalpark (Jostedalsbreen National Park).
Before setting out, visit the Jostedalsbreen Nasjonalparksenter at Oppstryn (tel. 57-87-72-00), lying 15km (9 1/4 miles) east of the town of Stryn. Exhibits tell you everything you ever wanted to know about glaciers -- and a lot more. You're treated to a panoramic history of the glacier from "attacks" by meteorites to avalanches. We found a highlight to be wandering through the Arctic Garden, with 325 species of endemic plant life. The center is open May to September daily 10am to 4pm (June 18-Aug 13 10am-6pm), charging NOK80 ($16/£8) for adults, NOK45 ($9/£4.50) for children.
The Jostedal is noted for its glacial "arms," sometimes called "tongues," which shoot out into valleys, flowing from the plateau glacier. The most famous of these glacial tongues is Nigardsbreen. This section is a remnant of the ice sheet that covered Norway 10,000 years ago.
The well-preserved moraine landscape looks much as it did centuries ago, or so scientists believe. Biochemical dating has also found that many moraines date from the "Little Ice Age" that culminated only about 250 years ago. At that time, a deterioration in climate made the Jostedal glacier grow, as its tongues surged forward, damaging farms and vegetation in the valley. The Nigard valley and the Nigard glacier are still studied by scientists every year who keep a watch on it.
Nigardsbreen is one of the most popular areas for climbing and walking, a virtual ice-blue wonderland of deep crevasses and oddly shaped pinnacles. From May until mid-September, walks are possible. During the other months, weather conditions are too harsh.
At Nigardsbreen you can visit the Jostedal Breheimsenteret at Jostedal (tel. 57-68-32-50), which is designed in the shape of twin ice peaks divided by a crevasse, nicknamed the "Glacier cathedral." In addition to a film on the glacier, you can see exhibits about the formation and continued movement of this awesome ice block here.
The center is open May to September daily from 10am to 7pm. Before June 21 and after August 20, hours are daily 10am to 5pm. Admission is NOK50 ($10/£5) for adults, NOK35 ($7/£3.50) for children 10 to 14.
In Jostedal, you can hook up with Jostedalen Breførarlag (tel. 57-68-31-11) for guided glacier walks, including a short trip across the Nigardsvatnet and a hike along the glacier arm. This walk carries our most enthusiastic endorsement, and it's one of the most dramatic in terms of winter wonderland scenery in the fjord district. Tours take 1 hour, costing NOK200 ($40/£20). Three-hour walks on ice are also possible in summer, leaving at 12:15pm daily and costing NOK475 ($95/£48) per person. From June 30 to August 20, there is an additional afternoon departure leaving at 10:15am.
Briksdalsbreen (the Briksdal Glacier)
One of the most dramatic natural sights of Norway, this glacier is reached from the large village of Olden by taking a signposted panoramic road for 24km (15 miles). The route winds its way to the double glacial "arms" of the Briksdalsbreen and Brenndalsbreen ice masses. The Briksdal glacier is not only the most accessible, but also the most stunning glacier. Nearby residents grew alarmed in the 1990s when it advanced by 300m (984 ft.), but it now seems to be retreating.
The water flowing from the glacier forms a trio of lakes in the valley, which have a dramatic emerald-green color. For a part of the jaunt up the glacier, you can take a two-wheeled cart pulled by a stolkjerre, one of those sturdy-footed fjord horses.
Along the way you'll pass by a thundering waterfall. At the end of the track, hikers may wander deeper into the glacier mass to a height of 1,700m (5,576 ft.), a distance of only 346m (1,135 ft.) above sea level. In summer, the glacier can be seen "pupping" -- that is, giving birth to smaller chunks of ice that fall from the mother lode.
Rides are available from Oldedalen Skysslag (tel. 57-87-68-05), costing NOK200 ($40/£20) for adults and NOK115 ($23/£12) for children, for the 15-minute jaunt.
The best organized tours are conducted by Briksdal Breføring (tel. 57-87-68-00) at the Briksdalsbre Fjellstove at Briksdalsbre, a small hotel. A 3-hour hike on the ice costs NOK350 ($70/£35). In summer, there are five departures a day, beginning at 10am, with the last one setting out at 4pm.
Stryn was put on the map by British fishermen coming to catch salmon in its waters back in the 1860s. Since then it has grown and developed into a major resort in the fjord district. The Stryn Sommerskisenter (Summer Ski Center) lies on the Tystigen branch of the Jostedalsbreen. This area offers the country's best summer skiing and is a popular setting for photographers capturing beauties skiing in their bikinis. Its longest run stretches 2,100m (6,888 ft.), with a drop of 518m (1,699 ft.). In addition, some 10km (6 1/4 miles) of cross-country ski tracks are offered. Lift tickets for 1 day cost NOK360 ($72/£36), and ski equipment is available for rent. For more information, call the center at tel. 92-25-83-33.
The road to the ski center, Gamble Strynefjellsvegen, is one of the most dramatic in central Norway, with hairpin curves. It goes past waterfalls, glacier arms, or tongues, and opens onto panoramic vistas at an altitude of 1,139m (3,736 ft.).
This little resort makes a great launchpad for jaunts to the Briksdal glacier . In town, you can visit Singersamlinga (tel. 57-87-31-06), which displays the artwork of William Henry Singer of Pittsburgh, a famous American millionaire. Singer and his wife, Anna Spencer, spent summers in Olden from 1913 until the late 1930s. He was fond of painting landscapes of western Norway. The house can be visited by appointment by calling tel. 57-87-31-06. The cost is NOK40 ($8/£4) for adults, or NOK20 ($4/£2) for children.
A small fjord farming hamlet, this is a summer resort with many outdoor pursuits. It is also the site of some of the best accommodations in the area.
From Loen you can take one of the most scenic trips in the area to the beautiful Kjenndal Glacier, lying 17km (11 miles) along a glacial lake, the Lovatnet. This is the least visited of the glaciers.
You can take a boat, the Kjenndal, going up Lovatnet from Sande and costing NOK200 ($40/£20) per person, including a return bus from the Kjenndalstova Kafe (tel. 91-84-87-67), a cafe-restaurant with some of the most panoramic views of the area. The cafe is close to the Kjenndal Glacier, so you can soak in the backdrop of cascading waterfalls as you enjoy your freshly caught trout. Closed October to April. From the cafe, it's a 2km (1 1/4-mile) hike to the glacier's face.
Boats depart Sande from June to August, leaving daily at 10:30am.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.