One of the multiple arms of Jostedalsbreen Glacier (the largest glacier in Europe) this is a very impressive way to experience a glacier with kids. Right in the heart of Norway’s fjord district, the massive ice formation that is Nigardsbreen Glacier is surrounded by huge rock faces, a stunning glacial lake and magnificent vistas as good as anything you will see anywhere in the world. If you are in Norway with kids, this is a memorable family holiday activity that should not be missed.
Even driving into the vicinity of the Nigardsbreen Glacier is an impressive experience. The surrounding glacial lakes alternate between being as flat and still as glass and meandering rivers perfect for white water rafting or kayaking. All along the road are sky-high waterfalls that plunge down massive rock faces all leading towards the huge Nigardsbreen.
The glacier itself can be viewed from the road but it becomes more and more amazing the closer you get. Even if you don’t plan to do an actual glacier walking tour with kids, you can walk right up to the mouth of the glacier to experience the sheer scale of the formation and hear the noisiness of the melting, moving ice. [To learn more about glaciers head to the Norwegian Glacier Museum, just a short drive from Bøyabreen Glacier. To read more, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
From the carpark it is about a 45-minute walk to the start of the actual glacier. For any adults of reasonable fitness it is quite easy. School-aged children will likely enjoy scrambling, jumping and being off the beaten path. Babies can be easily transported in baby carriers. But if you are trying to take small toddlers it can be quite difficult and slow to negotiate over the large boulders. You will need good walking shoes (preferably proper hiking boots) as the path could be quite slippery when wet.
There is a boat that commutes backwards and forwards across the glacier lake at regular intervals and provides a good second option for those who prefer not to attempt the entire walk to the glacier with kids. It can be found at the small jetty between the end of the carpark and the start of the pathway. Taking the boat will bring you significantly closer to the glacier where the rocks are a little easier to climb. You can either opt to just stay on the boat for a round trip (it only lasts a few minutes) or get off, take your snapshots, then get back on again when you are done.
Glacier walks for kids are available and there is a special Blue Ice Family Walk that will take kids as young as 6 years old. While it can be warm enough in the summer to view the glacier in a simple tee shirt, the tour companies require all glacier walkers to wear proper hiking boots, long pants and long sleeved tops (not tees). It is advisable to bring appropriate wet weather and sun protection clothing in a small backpack just in case.
Breheim Activity Centre, just off the main road into Nigardsbreen, has a small museum and can provide information to visitors to the area.
Food & Accommodation
There are no food facilities at the glacier itself.
Nigardsbreen Lodge, (Fjellheim, 6871 Jostedal, Norway, Tel: +47 4177 4747) just outside the visitor’s activity centre, has basic bed and breakfast accommodation (kids under 2 stay free, facilities are shared and extra beds cannot be added to the rooms) and serves hearty homemade meals to visitors including members of the public who are not staying at the lodge. If being in the fresh air at the glacier has created an appetite, it is pleasant afterwards to sit in the gardens for a bite to eat. There is no menu as such – the staff will just tell you the two or three options the kitchen has created on the day. They also serve soft drinks and wine.
There are clean toilets at the end of the carpark before the pathway to the glacier. Thereafter there are no facilities so bring your own food and drinks with you. Many families will pack sandwiches and fruit and pick a spot to sit on the boulders along the walk to take in the views. [For more travel tips on travel-friendly foods, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
There is a minimal toll charged for entrance for the car to the carpark. It is worth paying this otherwise you will be walking quite a long way from the visitors’ activity centre to the glacier itself. The credit card machine at the entrance is not always working so carry coins with you.
The path to the glacier is full of large boulders so you will need good walking shoes with proper grip in the soles. Hiking boots are perfect. In the summer you can easily walk in just a tee shirt and shorts, but if the wind picks up you will need wet weather gear. Because the walk is quite a distance, it is a good idea to pack a day pack with a raincoat, even on a sunny day, just in case.
To read more travel tips on Norway with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story about the city that inspired the Disney film Frozen, Bergen.