Folgefonna: a glacial desert in western Norway

Made up of three distinct glacier plateaus, Folgefonna is a remarkable wilderness area in the heart of Norway’s fjords. Located to the east of the Hardangerfjord, the frozen landscape provides a wonderful contrast to the lush fjords and valleys.

Vast glaciers have created the beautiful landscape of Fjord Norway for many thousands of years. Folgefonna from Norway helps to visualize exactly how they happened.

Folgefonna glacier and canyon in Norway

Today there are far fewer glaciers in Norway and most that exist continue to retreat. In 2005, Folgefonna was granted national park status to help protect the group of three glaciers and their surroundings.

Folgefonna Overview

Folgefonna is a collective name for three glaciers: Nordre (north) Folgefonna, Midtre (central) Folgefonna and Søndre (south) Folgefonna. The latter is the biggest. Together they cover an area of ​​about 200 square kilometers.

The largest outgoing glaciers, Blomstølskardbreen, Bondhusbreen and Buarbreen, offer several viewpoints and opportunities for hiking and even summer skiing.

Folgefonna is much more than its glaciers. The surrounding mountains and valleys feature calm lakes and waterfalls fed by meltwater from glaciers. As for wildlife, grouse, golden eagles and red deer are some of the species that inhabit the park.

Where is Folgefonna?

Folgefonna is much further south than you might think. It is sandwiched on the Folgefonna peninsula between the Hardangerfjord and the Sørfjord. To the east is the vast Hardangervidda National Park.

Jondal, a popular base for visitors to the park, is around 96km by car from Bergen, although this includes a ferry crossing over the Hardangerfjord from Tørvikbygd. From Oslo, the journey to Folgefonna is approximately 350 km.

Hiking in Folgefonna

Although appearing solid and safe, any glacier is a dangerous place. An adventure here should only be attempted with a qualified guide and full safety gear.

Blue Ice Hikes: Since 1994, Folgefonni Breførarlag have organized blue ice tours in Folgefonna. You will be taken to the Juklavass section of the glacier, known for its blue ice. Depending on the wishes of the group, the hike can stick to flat ice or venture into more challenging crevasses.

Blue ice glacier in Folgefonna, Norway.

Although crampons, an ice ace, harness, rope and mountain boots are all provided, remember to pack sunscreen and sunglasses and be prepared for a five-to-five hike. six hours covering up to 6 km. Even on cloudy days, the reflection of glacial ice can be dazzling.

Ice-free hikes: Get a hiking map from one of the local supermarkets in Jondal. The 4.2 km Vassenden-Vatnasete hike is a relatively easy way to explore the region’s landscapes, including Lake Vatnasetevatn.

The four-hour round trip is possible from May to October, but be sure to pack plenty of food and water as cell phone coverage is poor. The hike can be made more demanding by following the signs to Dåren or Vatnasete, or combined with a fishing trip.

Bondhusvatnet Lake in Folgefonna National Park.
Bondhusvatnet lake.

Another popular destination is Lake Bondhusvatnet in the shadow of the arm of the Bondhusbreen Glacier. Once much larger, the glacier was one of the first places visited by the wave of English tourists in the mid-1800s.

Kayaking Glacier Hikes

For a unique perspective on the glacier, Folgefonni Breførarlag also organizes a six-hour guided adventure tour on a glacial lake. Expect about 2 miles of soft kayaking and some shore steps.

Fonna Glacier Ski Resort

Few ski resorts in the world are only open during the summer, so people of all nationalities take advantage of the unique season at Fonna Glacier Ski Resort.

A daily ski pass costs 405 kr, with ski or snowboard equipment hire available for a fee. The 5km cross-country track offers some of the best views in all of Norway, but is flat enough for the inexperienced to enjoy.

Fonna glacier summer ski resort in Norway.
Fonna summer ski resort.

Go Fjords operates a summer ski bus from Bergen. The price includes transport by bus and ferry to the resort, a day pass, ski rental and approximately 4 hours on the slopes.

Folgefonna Tunnel

Opened in 2001, the fourth longest road tunnel in Norway passes under the Folgefonna glacier. Its total length is just over 11 km.

Not only has this reduced the time it takes for locals to travel from one side of the glacier to the other, it has also reduced travel times by car from Bergen to Oslo.

Where to stay near Folgefonna

When visiting Folgefonna, it is best to spend the night in one of the few small towns and villages within a short drive of the park. You can of course also go wild camping nearby, but make sure you understand the rules that apply.

Jondal

On the eastern shore of the Hardangerfjord, Jondal is a popular base for visitors to the park. The 19th century half-timbered church of Jondal which has the appearance of a much older church.

Village of Jondal in Norway
Jondal.

Akjerhaugen Village Park features a mound of Bronze Age stones, while the Jondal School Museum (open by appointment) reveals what remote school life was like in 1903.

In the heart of Jondal overlooking the port, the gleaming Hotel Jondal is a must. The hotel cafe is a popular place to wait for the local Hardangerfjord ferry with a coffee and a slice of apple cake.

odda

On the other side of the glaciers, Odda is another popular choice. Best known as a base camp for the trek to Trolltunga, Odda is also a great place to visit Folgefonna.

While much of the tourist information about Odda naturally focuses on Trolltunga, the small town is well located for hikes on the eastern side of the national park, including Buardalen and Holmaskjer.

Have you been to Folgefonna? What is your favorite activity in the region?

About George Dailey

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