Jotunheimen National Park. Mountain Range in Norway, Europe

Jotunheimen National Park

Mountain Range in Norway, Europe

Besseggen Photo © Steffen Sauder

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Jotunheimen National Park

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Gjende - Jotunheimen National
Gjende - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by GdeFon
The high peaks and glaciers of the Jotunheimen National Park, untouched, wild, and beautiful make for Norway’s best-loved wilderness destination. Jotunheimen translates as "The Home of Giants" in Norwegian and offers Scandinavia's most beautiful vistas and dramatic walks. Jotunheimen National Park, which was established in 1980, covers 1,151 sq km area of mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, glaciers, and luxuriant valleys. The purpose of the park is to protect wild, distinctive, beautiful, and basically undisturbed landscape with flora and fauna on the transition from eastern to western mountain nature.

The most popular hiking area in the country, with everything from short strolls to multi-day hut to hut epics, is ideally suited also for cross-country and alpine skiers, cyclist,s and climbers who enjoy the experience of basically undisturbed nature and fresh air. Dogs are welcome as well, just remember to keep your dog on a leash between April 1 and August 20. The national park is a protected area.

However, climbers and hikers are, by no means, limited to marked paths. Norway has a special law granting everyone the right to unobstructed hiking anywhere in forest and mountain areas, regardless of ownership to the land, as long as you leave nature in the same condition as when you arrived. Thus, for example, wild camping is possible basically everywhere, the only restrictions being the immediate area around the huts.

Beitostølen, Norway - Jotunheimen
	National Park
Beitostølen, Norway - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Christian Reusch


Jotunheimen, Norway - Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen, Norway - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Jeff
The geological history of the Jotunheimen Mountains dates back a millennia as this mountain range is the tallest in Norway. However, the settled history of the lands is much more recent as the ancestors of today's Norwegians began to arrive to the region as the icebergs receded only a few thousand years ago. The earliest visitors to Jotunheimen were reindeer hunters and botanists.

Over time these people adapted and these lands became sparsely settled. Most of the people that lived in the region were shepherds or the like, as the farm lands were few and the altitude and latitude of the region meant farming was an unpredictable livelihood. This simple life and lack of people continued into the late 1900s when Norway established the modern national park. Since 1980, the parks have been made increasingly accessible. Trails have been marked, ski routes flagged, and unmanned huts and cabins have been built for overnight stays.

The alpine history of Jotunheimen can be traced back to 1820 during which the first ascent of i.e. Falketind and Nordre Skagalstølstind. The first ascent of Galdhoepiggen was made in 1850 by Steinar Sulheim.

Sunset over the Fannaråkhytta
	(tourist retreat) - Jotunheimen National Park
Sunset over the Fannaråkhytta (tourist retreat) - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by onurati

Things to do

The roof of Norway has endless possibilities for nature and adventure lovers. Summer activities include rafting, climbing, fishing, canyoning, glacier walking, horse riding – even alpine skiing down the Galdhoeppigen.

	Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Smtunli


Hiking routes lead from charming valleys and past blue lakes, plunging waterfalls, and 60 glaciers to the top of all the peaks in Norway over 2,300 m, including Galdhøpiggen (the highest peak in northern Europe at 2469 m), Glittertind (2,452m) and Store Skagastølstind (2,403 m). The routes are very well marked, but a map is handy for a curious mind. Detailed maps of the area can be bought at the Norwegian Trekking Association, local bookshops or local tourist information offices. But best of all, a hike in Jotunheimen combines pristine wilderness with the most luxurious huts, many featuring private rooms, hot showers, and restaurant meals, as well as flexible route options, and side trips. If you don’t like hiking alone, you can hire a mountain guide. Several activity companies and trekking associations offer organised tours in the national park. Weather ranges to extremes so waterproof jacket and pants, good hiking shoes, and warm, breathable insulation, hat, and gloves are recommended. Water is available by the countless mountain streams, so no need to carry a lot of water with you.


Traditionally, summer climbing season begins in July. With the exception of June and July when temperatures tend to keep above freezing point, and stone fall danger is higher during the daytime. Despite July being the warmest month, it is also often wet, so June and August probably have better weather. There are some pure snow/ice routes that are usually in reasonable condition during the summer. Winter conditions are at its best during spring. The best rock quality is found on the peaks between Gjende and Bygdin. Short sport crags are found at Vågå and Lom and superb ice fall climbing is found especially in Laerdal, Utladalen and Valdres on spectacular ice falls if the weather is cold enough for them to freeze properly.

Besseggen - Jotunheimen National
Besseggen - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Steffen Sauder

Sognefjellet Road.

Drive down the scenic Sognefjell Road (Rv55), which is the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe and is one of Norway's national tourist routes. Put simply, it's one of Norway's most beautiful drives. It connects Lustrafjorden with Lom and was constructed in 1939 by unemployed youths. The snow, sometimes, doesn't melt until early July, although the road is usually open from May to September.

Summer skiing

Galdhøpiggen Summer Ski Center lies at 1,850 m on the icy heights of Norway's highest mountain. The modern ski resort with all facilities, and a spacious cafeteria is a stunning spot for summer skiing. The main season runs from June to mid-November.

Flora & Fauna

Despite the long, dark and cold winters, the endless mid-summer nights and the brutal force of the seasons, Jotunheimen is blessed with an abundant variety of flora and fauna. Jotunheimen holds the altitude record for a large number of Norway's mountain flora. The beautiful glacier crowfoot is the highest growing flowering plant, thriving at 2,370 meters on Glittertind, only 100 meters below the summit. In the beautiful Utladalen you can find seas of mountain birch, mountain pine, black alder, elm, and hazel. In other parts of the park, you’ll find plants that survived the last ice age, including alpine rock cress, hairy stone-crop, and alpine catch-fly.
The national park is also home to different animals. All four members of the deer family (wild reindeer, elk, red deer, and roe deer) live here as does the wolverine, lynx, and polar fox. Trout can be found in the lakes and rivers. Bird-life is abundant as well here, grouse, golden eagle, and gyrfalcon are the most special of all the birds that live in the park.

Jotunheimen -
	Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by hendry_670

Getting there & Around

The area lies in the heart of Norway, centrally located between Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, and easily accessible by public transport. Jotunheimen lies approximately 240 km northwest of Oslo and approximately 260 kilometers northeast of Bergen.

By Bus

The area is served by bus routes several times a day to Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Måløy. Bus companies Nor-way Bussekspress and Fjord1 operate daily services from Skjåk and Lom. Bus drivers accept major credit cards, except for the segment from Spiterstulen to Lom.

By Train

Trains run to Otta from a number of cities, including Oslo and Trondheim. Otta is close to, but not in the park so from there you can get a bus to the park itself. The bus/train does not always meet at a convenient time, so be sure to check the schedules.

By Car

The drive from Oslo takes approximately 3 and a half hours, the drive from Bergen or Trondheim takes approximately 4 hours. Some of the public roads in the area are also closed in the winter. This goes for Valdresflya between Gjendesheim and Bygdin which is closed November - April and Sognefjell mountain road between Bøvertun and Turtagrø which is closed September - May. The other roads are usually kept open, but might be closed during bad weather.

Being a large park, once in the park bus is the best means of transportation unless you have a bike or a good pair of hiking boots. There are also ferries on Lake Gjende.

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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Apr 03, 2015

Pictures of Jotunheimen National Park

Jotunheimen, Norway - Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen, Norway - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Jeff

Bessvatnet - Jotunheimen National Park
Bessvatnet - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Steffen Sauder

Skarsnøset mountain peak - Jotunheimen National Park
Skarsnøset mountain peak - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by My Past

Jotunheimen #4 - Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen #4 - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Thomas Mues

Jotunheimen - Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by color line

Jotunheimen, Cessna 172N - Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen, Cessna 172N - Jotunheimen National Park. Photo by Signe Karin


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