Called Briksdalbreen in Norwegian, the Briksdal glacier is one of the most easily accessed glaciers in the country. With ample opportunities for hiking as well as epic views of this simple-to-reach wilderness wherever you look, it’s no wonder that this natural wonderland draws visitors from across the globe to marvel at its majesty.
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What you need to know about the Briksdal glacier
Visitors will find the Briksdal glacier in Jostedalsbreen National Park, set in the region of Western Norway in the county of Vestland. It’s situated at the end of the Oldedalen Valley, around 25 kilometers south of the town of Olden, which is the main hub for tourists in the area, receiving 102 cruise ships in 2019.
The glacier formed some 2,500 years ago and covers an area of around 10 square kilometers from over 2,000 meters above sea level, descending down to the lake at 350 meters above sea level. Over the years, the Briksdal glacier has expanded and receded, with weather and climate affecting its size. When there is little snow and strong sun, it is usually expected to shrink. For example, from 1934 to 1951, the Briksdal glacier receded by around 800 meters (this revealed a glacial lake), expanding again between 1967 and 1997 by 465 meters.
The Briksdal glacier is an arm (possibly the most famous) of the larger Jostedal glacier, the largest glacier in continental Europe, with a total area of 487 square kilometers.
Travelers from all over the world make the journey to visit this epic slice of Norwegian scenery. With its soaring peaks and gushing waterfalls, this is a stunning part of the country’s impressive natural sights. There is much more to do in the area than gaze in awe at the glacier, however.
Hiking the Glacier
One of the most popular things to do at the Briksdal glacier is to hike. Surrounded by glacial mountains and rich with flora and fauna, it’s the ideal backdrop for hiking. There are several hiking opportunities in and around the Briksdal glacier area, some more difficult, others more accessible.
The most popular hike is the three-kilometer route from the Mountain Lodge to the glacier. This takes around 60 minutes and is relatively flat, providing ample chances to get close to the scenery and snap some photos. For something a little more challenging, the Mt. Kattanakken trail is one for those looking for a challenge; it involves heading up to a mountain ridge around 700 meters above sea level (around 4 hours).
Tourists have been visiting the Briksdal glacier for many years, well over a century. During the old days, the only way to get around was primarily by horse and carriages provided by local farmers. This tradition ended in 2004 and was replaced by Troll Cars.
These purpose-made buggies ferry tourists from the car park in Briksdal all the way to the glacier, where you’ll have the chance to disembark and explore for a while before heading back. The round trip costs 300 kroner return and runs between May and October (note, these need to be booked in advance).
See the Kleivafossen
With such an epic glacial landscape, naturally, waterfalls follow. One of the most famous is the Kleivafossen. This powerful cascade features a 37-meter drop formed from the meltwaters of the glacier itself. You can feel the force of this glacier by walking across a bridge; make sure to wear a waterproof jacket unless you want to be soaked by the spray. Kleivafossen is said to be the most photographed spot in the entire country.
Olden is the springboard for exploring the Briksdal glacier. This tiny village, situated in a bay at the end of the Nordfjorden, has a beautiful location in a green valley between steep mountainsides.
Only around 500 people live here throughout the year, yet in the summer months, the town becomes a major tourist hub due to the rich natural environment on the doorstep. Kayaking, bouldering, and hiking are all doable from here, but spending the day in town is also doable.
There are some cozy cafes to relax in, as well as some charming Norwegian architecture to admire, which includes the “old” Olden Church (1759) and the “new” Olden Church (1934).
Shop for Souvenirs
Looking for something to take home to remember your time at the Briksdal glacier? The Souvenir Shop is the place to go. Surprisingly, this is the largest souvenir shop in Norway. Here you can find traditional knit jumpers and local handicrafts, as well as food and drink to take home. You’ll find it next to the Mountain Lodge.
When hunger strikes, luckily, you will find a handful of eateries in the Briksdal glacier area where you can get a warm meal and relax in a cozy environment.
The Briksdalsbre Mountain Lodge
The Mountain Lodge is the landmark eatery in the Briksdal glacier area (you can also stay here). There’s a restaurant, a coffee bar, and a grill, so you have options here. There’s seating for over 500 people, meaning there’s always room for you to find a seat.
The coffee bar, the aptly named Cafe With A View, serves up a selection of hearty sandwiches, fresh mountain trout, and other hot dishes. The large menu also consists of coffee and cakes if you need a pick-me-up. And, as the name suggests, you’ll get a fantastic view across mountain peaks.
For something a little more off the beaten track, this eatery can be found two kilometers from the main Briksdal glacier car park. This family-run farm is a welcoming environment to tuck into a warm lunch after exploring the chilly landscape.
The menu here consists of fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s farm; dishes include meatballs, mashed potatoes, and homemade bread. It can be a bit difficult to find, but if you call ahead, the friendly owners will be able to help you with directions.
Where to stay near the Briksdal Glacier
To make the most of the dramatic glacial landscape here, there’s always the option to stay the night. While there isn’t a large selection of luxury accommodations around the glacier, there are, however, a good handful of comfortable lodges to spend a night or two in cozy surroundings.
These charming cabins are situated surrounded by nature and come complete with views out across the mountains and down the green valley. From here, the Briksdal glacier is just a few minutes away by car. Each cabin has its private kitchen and ensuite bathroom; there are several sizes available depending on your travel needs. The accommodation also has an onsite restaurant.
These simple, down-to-earth cabins provide a rustic space to relax and unwind after a day of exploring the Briksdal glacier. Location-wise, you’ll find the cabins just a short drive from the glacier, sitting in the green valley itself with sweeping views. Each cottage is well equipped with its kitchen and is spacious enough for a family or a couple.
Part of the huge Mountain Lodge complex, this central accommodation is a popular choice in the area. As well as the convenience of having restaurants and tour options at your fingertips, the accommodation itself is charming and well-appointed. Guest rooms boast views over the Briksdal river and range from studios to standalone cottages.
From Olden, it’s possible to take an hourly shuttle bus to the glacier area. There are also sightseeing buses that leave more regularly from Olden to the Briksdal area (complete with a guide). Reaching Olden in the first place can be done via express bus from Oslo, Bergen, and other major towns; there are three departures daily from Oslo. Check the Skyss bus website for details on booking tickets.
Those who want to rent a car to explore Norway will be pleased to know that it is possible to drive to the Briksdal glacier or near enough. From Oslo, it takes around 7 hours to drive the 500-plus-kilometer journey to Olden, the main jumping-off point for exploring the area. If you are starting in Bergen instead, the journey will take just under 5 hours.
Many people opt to book themselves onto a cruise that takes in the fjords while docking at various ports along the way. Olden is one of these harbors and sees cruise ships and regular ferries come and go throughout the year. Depending on what kind of boat you choose or your tour package, the length of time it takes to get from Oslo, for example, to Olden, varies.