8 Interesting Facts about Jostedalsbreen

Did you know that the largest and arguably most amazing glacier in mainland Europe is located in a Scandinavian country?

These enormous bodies of ice are always fascinating natural wonders to admire, but this particular glacier in northern Europe is something very special for several reasons.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Jostedalsbreen or “Jostedal Glacier,” an enormous body of ice in Norway.

1. It’s located in the southwestern part of Norway

Jostedalsbreen is the Norwegian name of a gigantic glacier called “Jostedal Glacier.” It’s the largest glacier in continental Europe and is located in one of the most fascinating places in Norway.

It’s situated within Vestland, a county in Western Noway that was only established on January 1, 2020. The glacier lies right in between the two major cities of Bergen in the south and Trondheim in the north.

Bergen is the second-biggest city in Norway after the country’s capital city Oslo and the capital city of Vestland as well.

This county in Western Norway is dominated by huge fjords, including the Nordfjorden, Sognefjorden, and Hardangerfjord. There are also several glaciers, including the monster of a glacier described in this article.

Jostedalsbreen facts
Jostedalsbreen in Norway / G. Lanting / Wiki Commons

2. The glacier covers an enormous area

Calling this glacier a monster isn’t an exaggeration as it covers a large chunk of the northeastern part of Vestland.

Jostedalsbreen covers a total area of 487 square kilometers (188 square miles). This size makes it the largest glacier in continental Europe.

This is, however, still nothing compared to the largest ice cap in Europe, Vatnajökull or “Vatna Glacier” in Iceland, which covers an area of 7,900 square kilometers (3,100 square miles).

Jostedal Glacier facts

3. The highest point is at nearly 2,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level

The glacier is located within the communities of Luster, Sogndal, Sunnfjord, and Stryn, which are all small towns in Vestland.

The highest point of the glacier is called “Høgste Breakulen” which is located on the border of the towns of Stryn and Luster in Vestland county.

This point is located at 1,957 meters (6,421 feet) which is quite high, considering several fjords cut into the landscape just nearby.

Jostedalsbreen highest point
Near the glacier’s highest point / Kai Spurkland / Wiki Commons

4. Several branches of the Jostedal Glacier reach the valley below

The phenomenon of massive chunks of ice that flow down the slope of mountains into the valley can be admired in New Zealand. The Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are great examples of this.

The same remarkable natural wonder applies to Jostedalsbreen. The main glacier features approximately 50 glacier arms which flow right down to the valley below. Some flow to a height of just 300 meters (980 feet) above sea level

Some of the best examples are:

  • The Nigardsbreen and Tunsbergdalsbreen in Jostedal
  • The Briksdalsbreen near Olden
  • The Bøyabreen near Fjærland
  • The Kjenndalsbreen
  • The Tindefjellbreen near Loen
  • The Austerdalsbreen
Austerdalsbreen
The Austerdalsbreen / Jörg Hempel / Wiki Commons

5. How long and thick is Jostedalsbreen?

The glaciers flow from a height of nearly 2,000 meters above sea level to areas down in the valley situated at just 300 meters above sea level.

This means that Jostedalsbreen is an incredibly long glacier as it has a length of approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles).

This massive body of ice is also very thick as it reaches a thickness of up to 600 meters (2,000 feet) in some areas near the top.

Jostedalsbreen length
The amazingly thick glacier / Zairon / Wiki Commons

6. The cold temperature isn’t what keeps this glacier alive

So how is it possible that this glacier flows to areas where the temperature is rather enjoyable during the summer months?

After all, at a height of just 300 meters above sea level, the temperature can easily rise to over (20°C (68°F).

The reason why this glacier is so persistent is not because of the extremely cold temperatures but because of the heavy snowfall in the region.

Because of the relatively warm temperature in the valley, the glacier’s ice melts quite fast in its snouts.

Jostedalsbreen origin

7. The glacier has lost significant amounts of ice in the past decades

As global warming gradually increases the temperature all across the planet, glaciers are becoming endangered natural wonders all over the world.

The Jostedal Glacier in Norway isn’t any different as several of the glacier’s arms have lost significant amounts of ice. According to one report, a branch named Briksdalsbreen lost about 50 meters (160 feet) of ice in just a few months in 2012.

Luckily, the glacier is so immense that it’s still fairly safe to predict that Jostedalsbreen isn’t going anywhere soon. This is good news if you want to admire this remarkable feat of nature during a visit to Norway.

Brikdalsbreen
Brikdalsbreen / Sergey Ashmarin / Wiki Commons

8. It’s the centerpiece of a National Park that features several natural wonders

The local government turned this pristine piece of nature into a national park in 1991 called the ” Jostedalsbreen Nasjonalpark” or “Jostedalsbreen National Park.”

The park was greatly enlarged in 199 and covers a total area of 1,310 square kilometers (510 square miles). Over half of this area is covered by the massive glacier, which is quite astonishing.

The national park features 3 museums and a visitor center so you can learn all about its most amazing attraction.

Another remarkable attraction is the ruins of a farm that was overtaken by the glacier in 1750. Because of the fast melting rate, it has been uncovered once after nearly 3 centuries of being trapped inside this massive chunk of ice.

Jostedalsbreen nasjonalpark
The visitor center of the National Park / T. Müller / Wiki Commons