West of the ‘Home of the Giants’ – Jotunheimen – you find the Home of the Glaciers: Breheimen National Park. Carved out by the massive force of ice, Breheimen boasts over 2000 meter high mountain ranges that reflect in pristine lakes and are embraced by lush valleys.
Breheimen is where the largest glacier on Europe’s mainland resides: Jostedalsbreen. In its gigantic sea of ice you find two stony islands. Nunataks is what the Inuit call these glacial atolls that seem to float over 2 kilometer high in the sky.
With Lundadalen and the mountain of Tverrådalskyrkja as the other over 2000-meter tall giants, Breheimen is a very tempting place for hikers. The park offers more than 300 kilometers of marked paths as well as a couple of (self-service) huts to spend the night.
Breheimen’s nature is often called Zensational. Meaning that it features a spectacular movie of mountain peaks, glaciers and valleys accompanied by a soundtrack of silence.
Reindeer and Wolverines
If you want to walk with the wild, you do have a good change to do so in Breheimen. In the Ottadalen wilderness, herds of wild reindeer roam the lands like they have done for thousands of years. They are joined by deer in the valley and moose in the East of the National Park.
Keep in mind you’re not the only one looking for wildlife. You can count on being spotted yourself by the smart and shy wolverine, by golden eagles, falcons, buzzards and by the rare white-backed woodpecker.
The Ice Age has left Breheimen a landscape so varied it makes all a plant’s dreams come true. From high up in the mountains, down the slopes to the valleys and into the forests, flora is abundant with cypripedium calceolus – lady’s-slipper orchid – and the svaklokke being the stars of the Flower Power movement.
Breheimen’s history started when the gods created Norway. It was then shaped by ice and handed over to pre-historical hunters. Farmers cultivated parts of the fertile land – they still do – and fishermen stood under waterfalls to wash away the scent of the trout they caught.
In the Breheimen region you find magnificent stavkirke churches of nearly 1000 years old. Ancient roads lead towards these houses of worship. Roads that were also used for trade and social gatherings.
Breheimen glaciers have been on the move for millennia. During the Stone Age they advanced. In the age of the Vikings – a thousand years ago – they retreated. For centuries, hunters, traders and famers crossed these glaciers. It is an experience of a lifetime. One you can still do today, accompanied by a local guide.
Breheimen National Park is a place where you can travel back in time. Just follow the paths down valleys and over peaks. Camp anywhere you like or sleep in one of the self-service huts. Hunt and fish just as our ancestors did, the only difference being a permit. Visit one of the organic farms or just become one with nature and let the scenery decide which trail you follow.
Glaciers, ice caps, mountains, rivers and valleys. The climate of Breheimen is as varied as its landscape. Around Jostedalsbreen it can be both wet and cold. To the east cold is as common as winters are long and precipitation is low. The Ottadalen valley near the town of Bismo (Skjåk) is cast in a ‘rain shadow’ coming of the Breheimen mountains. The result being a large chance of wet feet as well as extremely fertile valley soils.
Breheimen National Park (NP) is literally stuck between a rock and a hard place: Jostedalsbreen and Reinheimen NP in the North and Jotunheimen NP in the South.
The most popular access points to the National Park are Lundadalen, Grotli, Sota, Høydalen, Nørdstedalen, Mørkridsdalen, Sognefjellet, Vigdal, Vanndalen and Vivatjønni (Jostedalen).
Be aware that blocked roads in winter limit the access to the National Park area. A road that usually remains open during this time of year is the one from Lom to Stryn. Between Sogndal and Stryn, to the West of Jostedalsbreen, you are normally also on the safe side.
The rest of the roads open up as late as May every year to start closing one by one, potentially, as early as the end of September. Best is to always check weather and road conditions before heading out.
In the park you can set up camp anywhere you like or use one of the self-service huts. Check on the status of these huts before you leave and in case you camp, always clean up your rubbish.
For those of us who feel that sleeping in the wild is all about staying in a wooden structure while enjoying a luxurious bed and having a gourmet dinner, you find that Norway’s number 1 boutique hotel, Herangtunet, is only a few hours drive away…