The Nigardsbreen Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Norway. Hike to its viewpoint or book a guided glacier-walking tour to see this stunning ice scenery.
12 things to know about visiting the Nigardsbreen Glacier in Norway
I have to admit, I was a bit on the fence about hiking to the Nigardsbreen glacier. I knew this is a touristy spot and a popular day hike in Norway. After a streak of circumstances, I didn’t start hiking late into the afternoon.
By then all tourists, tour groups, and boats were gone and even though it was the height of the season we were the only other car in the parking lot. My friend and I ended up hiking to Nigardsbreen glacier viewpoint in complete solitude.
If you would like to add this place to your Norway itinerary then I recommend that you read my article about everything there is to know about this hike.
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1. Nigardsbreen hike: the stats
- Distance roundtrip: 5 km / 3.2 mi
- Time required: 2 hours
- Total Ascent: 180 m / 590 ft
- Type of hike: Out and back
- When to go: June – October
- Parking: 61.67194, 7.23533
2. About Nigardsbreen glacier
Nigardsbreen is an arm of Jostedalbreen glacier which in turn is the largest glacier in Norway and continental Europe. In 1985 the Nigardsbreen Nature Reserve was created to protect the glacier arm and its surrounding. The reserve borders directly with Jostedalsbreen National Park.
The glacier lies at the end of the Jostedal valley. The nearest town is Gaupne which is 30 minutes drive away.
It is one of the most visited glaciers in Norway, but sadly just like many glaciers in the World, Nigardsbreen isn’t immune to the effect of climate change and shrinks in size year after year.
3. The map of the hike to Nigardsbreen
Above you can see the path I followed from the car park to the summit. I measured the distance, elevation gain, and route with my Garmin Fenix 6S pro watch.
4. How difficult is the hike to Nigardsbreen?
With only 180 meters (590 feet) of elevation gain the hike to Nigardsbreen is relatively easy. It is still a mountain hike though, so easy doesn’t mean you can tackle it wearing sandals.
There is quite a bit of rock hopping in the first half of the hike and a part of the trail leads through smooth rock slabs. They can get quite slippery in wet weather. Staircases have been placed in tricky sections.
Navigation on the trail to Nigardsbreen is very easy with plenty of waymarks from start to finish.
5. When can you hike to Nigardsbreen
The toll road to the parking lot is usually open from late May/early June to October. During winter time it closes and cross-country ski tracks are set up.
During winter time the glacier and its crevasses are covered in snow and it is not safe to venture out there on your own unless you have plenty of mountaineering experience.
6. How to get to the trailhead of the Nigardsbreen hike
The best way to get to the trailhead is to drive. There is a huge parking lot right near the start of the trail.
Bear in mind that the last 3 kilometers of the road between the Breheim visitor center and the parking lot are on a toll road.
There is an automatic gate that opens once you pay the fee. Cards are accepted and the current fee for cars, motorbikes, and motorhomes is 90 NOK.
If you are looking for bathroom facilities, there are toilets in the Breheim visitor center and at the parking lot near the trailhead. There are no facilities directly on the trail and not many places where you can go off the trail and hide.
7. Optional shuttle boat to shorten the hike
The optional shuttle boats operate on the nearby lake Nigardsbrevatnet between June and September, cutting the distance and time of the hike by half.
No reservations are required and they operate on a first-come-first-served basis. A roundtrip fee is 75 NOK per adult and 50 NOK per child.
To get on the boat you just line up near the departure dock at the end of the parking lot and wait for enough people to join the trip. The boats don’t have a regular schedule. They operate on demand throughout the day and the journey only takes a few minutes.
8. Nigardsbreen trail description
The start of the trail is at the northern end of the parking lot. An information board has been placed near the trailhead to educate tourists about the trail, and the proper hiking kit.
The first half of the hike runs along the shore of Lake Nigardsbrevatnet. The trail is undulating and there are plenty of rocks to hop on to avoid your feet getting wet.
Be aware of the no-stopping signs due to rocks falling off occasionally from the nearby mountains, particularly after rainfall.
You can skip this part of the trail and take the shuttle boat, which I wrote about in the previous paragraph.
The second half takes you through the glacier moraine up to the viewpoint of the Nigardsbreen glacier. This path can be quite slippery as you walk on rock slabs smoothed by ice and water.
Around halfway up, you will cross a suspension bridge above the Jostedola river which takes its beginning only 100 meters higher.
The viewpoint was set up very close to the glacier. Too close to my liking to be honest. Having read about many accidents of tourists being crushed by ice because of getting too close to the glacier I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
Unless you are on a guided tour, don’t even think about crossing the safety barriers!
TIP: Go in the late afternoon after the crowds disperse and have the whole place to yourself.
9. Guided trekking tours on the Nigardsbreen glacier
I have done a guided glacier trek on the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia and it is still one of the coolest things I have ever done on my travels.
If you would like to get up close and personal with the Nigardsbreen glacier and venture out directly on the ice, then you can book a guided trekking tour.
Prices for a guided hike range from 545 to 1380 NOK per person and the hikes take anywhere between 3-6 hours to complete.
10. What to bring and wear on the hike to Nigardsbreen
Patagonia down jacket
Even though my friend and I hiked to Nigardsbreen Glacier in the second half of July during a very warm week, we still put on our hats and jackets once we got to the viewpoint.
You can definitely feel the ice-cold air coming from the glacier. I currently own this Patagonia down sweater hoody It has a very nice fit and Patagonia is an environmentally conscious outdoor brand that I am a big fan of.
I own a couple of pairs of hiking boots: high and low-ankle ones. For this hike, I opted for my Salewa Wildfire Approach Shoes.
They are very sturdy yet don’t weigh a lot which makes hiking a lot more enjoyable.
I tend to use them on easier trails, via ferratas, or when it is hot outside (which is hardly ever the case in Norway).
A pair of heavy-duty outdoor hiking pants are a must-have when hiking in Norway.
A long pair of pants will shield you from mud, scraps, and ticks (yes there are ticks in Norway).
I am a big fan of the outdoor hiking trousers from the Swedish company Revolution Race. They are dominating the European market and have some of the best price-to-quality product ratios.
Sunglasses with UV filter
If you are only hiking to the glacier viewpoint and back and it’s a cloudy day you might get away without sunglasses.
However, if you will be joining a guided tour on a glacier then a pair of Julbo Camino Sunglasses will come in very handy. Cloudy or not the light reflecting off a glacier is very bad for your eyes.
11. Where to stay nearby
If like me you are traveling around Norway in a campervan then I highly recommend staying at the Sandvik campsite in Gaupne. It’s in a lovely setting and has nice facilities. It will be a great place to explore other nearby hikes which I will get to in the next paragraph.
If you are traveling in a regular car, below are a few hotel choices nearby.
Great and central location in Gaupne with easy access to the road leading to Nigardsbreen. The Sandvik campsite is operated from the reception of this hotel.
Seaside cottages with beautiful views over Lustrafjord
Closest To The Hike
This is the best option if you want to stay directly in the Jostedal valley and the Nigardsbreen day hike
12. Other activities and hikes to experience nearby
A very popular day hike with the best views over Lusterfjord. Fed with water from glaciers of the Jostedalsbreen (including Nigardsbreen) Lusterfjord has beautiful turquoise color, particularly on a sunny day and you can see those colors from the summit hike to Molden.
A great off-the-beaten path albeit a slightly longer alternative to the Nigardsbreen hike. The Austerdalsbreen glacier viewpoint is, at least in my eyes, the most beautiful glacier viewpoint in Norway. I don’t think it will stay under the radar for much longer.
Sognefjellet Scenic Road
The Sognefjellet Scenic Route runs between Gaupne in the South and Lom Municipality in the North. For over 100 kilometers the road follows exquisite landscapes and crosses Northern Europe’s highest mountain pass. With plenty of viewpoints to stop and take photos, this is a must-do scenic route that features on some of my Norway road trip itineraries.
Thanks for your information it is really fantastic. Please, can you tell me the name of the excursion you chose to the glacier ( I saw 4 in the company you recommended and I do not know what to chouse); how many hours do you walk on ice? If you are a good hiking but not in ice, it is posible to do your own hike? I want so much walk as long as I can on ice but I do not know if I can
I cannot drive, how can I go ( taxi to expensive for me) from Gaupne to the visitor Centre?
Hi Maria. Thanks for visiting. It depends on your budget and your fitness level. I think the first one called “Short Blue Ice Hike” is a good one to start. you get to spend 1.5 hours on a glacier.
You can’t go out and walk on the ice on your own. You have to do it with the company and a guide. You can only walk on your own until the viewpoint of the glacier.
As for buses. There are buses that go from Songdal called ‘glacier bus’ which operate during the main season. I am not sure if they stop in Gaupne but I imagine they do since they go past Gaupne anyways. Nor-way.no is a good website to look for bus connections.