Jostedalsbreen as a tourist attraction
The glacier has attracted tourists for many years, and visitors have travelled to the area since the 19th century to experience the captivating glacier.
For a long time, in addition to being a tourist attraction, the glacier was also used as a travel route for both people and livestock. It is uncertain how far this sort of travel went back in time, but it was probably common long before the Black Death.
The first tourists
Modern tourism came to the area around Jostedalsbreen around the last half of the 19th century when Europeans «discovered» the fjords and glaciers of Norway. Mostly, the tourists visited Fjærland and Olden using ships. From here, they went by horse and carriage to the Bøyabreen and Briksdalsbreen glaciers. Today, the glacier outlets of Jostedalsbreen are among the most popular travel destinations in Norway, and more than 250 000 tourists visit Briksdalsbreen every year. Other popular glaciers are Nigardsbreen, Bøyabreen and Kjenndalsbreen.
When the glacier reached a new maximum extent during «the Little Ice Age» around 1750, its rapid advance destroyed farms in several places. The ice masses of Brenndalsbreen calved down on the Tungøyane farm in the Oldedalen valley, and Nigardsbreen destroyed the Nigard farm in Jostedalen. Stories told by people who experienced the terrifying glacier ice closing in on their farms and houses are written down for future generations. Famous painters from that time travelled around Jostedalsbreen, documenting the glaciers’ advance in beautiful paintings.
Life on and by the glacier
From the old days, people have lived and farmed in the valleys surrounding Jostedalsbreen. The valleys and hillsides in the area were important as hayfields, grazing fields, and fields where they picked leaves for animal feed. Mountain dairy farming was vital and extensive, and hunting and fishing were important ways to make a living.
The cultural landscape with farms, mountain farms, birch forests, and more bear witness to the fact that people have settled below the glacier over many years. Agriculture is thriving in the countryside around the national park. Only a few of the simple mountain farms that were used during the summertime have survived the reorganisation into full-scale modern farming.
Easy hiking trails or strenuous glacier hikes
The area around Jostedalsbreen has a lot of attractive hiking trails which are part of traditions, especially glacier and mountain hikes. In the later years, strenuous glacier hikes like the spring classic «Josten på langs», where you ski the length of Jostedalsbreen with a detour to the highest peak Mt. Lodalskåpa, have become increasingly popular. You will find many offers on glacier guiding on the outlets of Jostedalsbreen.
The old routes that tie the valleys surrounding the glacier together through the clefts Oldeskaret and Supphelleskaret are exciting hikes. Jostedalsbreen, and especially the easily reachable glaciers in Fjærland and the valleys of Briksdalen and Jostedal have long been popular destinations for tourists. In the valleys of Krundalen, Kjenndalen and Austerdalen, there are easy hiking trails leading towards the glaciers, with lots of variations in nature on the way worth exploring.