Jotunheimen is Norway's most famous mountain area, most of which is protected as a national park. This mountain range includes the highest summits in Norway (and Northern Europe) and some of the wildest alpine areas in Norway. While a few summits are only accessible by climbers, most of the area can easily be hiked by most visitors with proper boots and fitness. Glaciers can only be traversed with a guide and proper equipment. Jotunheimen is a prime area for back-country skiing in late winter, spring and early summer.
The name "Jotunheimen" has its roots in Norse mythology, and literally means "The home of the giants" (the mountain range was previously referred to as "Giant Mountains"). Jotunheimen is part of a long, virtually continuous line of mountains separating East Norway from coastal and fjord districts of Middle Norway and West Norway. Hardangervidda and Dovrefjell are other important parts of this great barrier. The western most part of Jotunheimen sits at the intersection with the great Sognefjord and the fjord's adjacent valleys. The eastern part of Jotunheimen rises gradually above the mountain plateau west of road 51. Road 55 marks the northern limit of Jotunheimen, while roads E16 and 53 mark the southern limit.
To the north-west Jotunheimen merges seamlessly with Breheimen along road 55 (Sognefjellet road). Hikes in Jotunheimen can be combined with Breheimen without any transport. Around Beitostølen there are more moderate elevations and less wild landscape that is not part of Jotunheimen proper, this more mellow terrain continues almost to Lillehammer and hikes east of road 51 can be combined with Jotunheimen. North of Ottadalen valley (beyond road 15) is Reinheimen national park that stretches from the mellow mountains in the east the wild west.
Placenames often reveal shapes and landscape. Many summits in Jotunheimen have "-tind" as the last part of the name. The word "tind" indicates that the summits is sharp and pointed. "Pigg" is also a distinct summit, but less sharp/pointed than a "tind". Edges/ridges often have names like "-egg" and "-rygg". More rounded and less pronounced mountains are often called "-hø(e)". Glaciers are usually called "-bre(en)" and shown clearly as white-blue areas on the map. "Fjell" means mountain and can be used as names of individual summits or wider areas. Lodges or small settlements often have suffix "-bu", "-heim", "-hytte", or "sæter" and "-støl/stul".
Several English and German noblemen used to visit Jotunheimen in late 1800s and early 1900s to explore the mountain area, and climb the mountains. The Norwegian poet Vinje named many of the peaks in the western part of the park and is justly celebrated with a monument near Fondsbu DNT Hut. The Norwegian national playwright Ibsen set one of the most famous scenes in his classic Peer Gynt on the dramatic Besseggen Ridge in the eastern part of the park. The Besseggen Ridge has become one of the most visited natural attractions in Norway with 1–2 people passing any given point every 2–3 minutes in high summer – not a place for solitude! The eccentric Englishman HC Slingsby popularised the area through his trip reports published in the Scottish Mountaineering Journal in the 1880s and 1890s. He also published a classic book-length account entitled Norway: the northern playground. Three in Norway (by two of them) (written by Lees and Clutterbuck, 1882) is a classic travelogue about a long summer and early autumn spent mostly around Gjende lake.
Jotunheimen has alpine mountains, glaciers with lakes and small rivers. Utladalen canyon, the deepest valley in Norway, runs like a deep crack between Western and Eastern Jotunheimen.
Flora and fauna
This is a high mountain area with very few trees, mostly heathery terrain with some bushes.
Rapid weather changes can occur, there are lots of snow in the winter due to the high altitude, the summer is nice with up to over 25 °C (80 °F) when there is good and sunny weather. Note that at higher altitudes deep snow can remain from winter until midsummer. The hiking season varies, but usually starts in late June, while July–August are the best months. Visitors should obtain specific information about snow conditions if they plan to hike in June. Utladalen valley is largely lowland and can be visited in May.
Jotunheimen can be accessed from north, south and west. Roads 51, 53 and 55 runs around the perimeter of Jotunheimen. From Oslo it is about 380 km to the north (Lom) and about 230 km to the south (Beitostølen) or 265km to Tyinkrysset.
There are no roads within the boundaries of the national park.
- Road E16 (Filefjell mountain pass) runs on the south edge of area.
- Road 51 (Valdresflye pass) runs on the eastern side, this road climbs to about 1400 meters and allows a high starting point.
- Road 55 (Sognefjellet pass) runs on the western edge, this road climbs to almost 1500 meters and allows a high starting point. Close to Galdhøpiggen and the great summits in Hurrungane.
- The private road to Juvasshytta climbs to 1800 meters and gives a relatively short walk to Galdhøpiggen, there is also a summer skiing resort.
- Road 53 (Årdal-Tyin road) offers good access from low starting point in Årdal (Utladalen valley in particular) and from Tyin lake a high starting point.
- Road 252 to Eidsbugarden, summer only, no asphalt. One of the departure points deepest within Jotunheimen.
- Nor-Way Bussekspress (express buses). Most express buses running through the region are operated by this company. Connections to Oslo, Lillehammer, Sogn, Trondheim and Nordfjord.
- Valdresekspressen (express coach), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Route (Up to five daily departures): Oslo-Hønefoss-Valdres-Beitostølen-Gjendesheim-Leirvassbu (only summerseason to Gjendesheim and Leirvassbu) and Oslo-Hønefoss-Valdres-Tyinkrysset-Tyin-Årdal. .
- Øst-Vest Xpressen (express coach), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Route (One departure per day): Bergen-Voss-Lærdal-Tyinkrysset-Fagernes-Lillehammer. .
- Snowmobile (snowmobile), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Connections: Tyin-Tyinholmen-Eidsbugarden (Fondsbu) and Beitostølen-Bygdin. In summerseason there is a local bus-service on those two routes. .
- Bus through the Sognefjellet mountain pass from Sogndal and Luster to Otta and Lom, operated by Nettbuss (updated 2016).
Fees and permits
If you want to fish, there is a small fee. Contact the local tourist information for more details. Hiking, skiing etc. is free, but in many cases you will want to join a tour or hire a guide.
The only way to travel within Jotunheimen national park is by foot or by cross-country skis. The DNT (the Norwegian Trekking Association) has a network of hiking routes with accommodation in Jotunheimen.
Roads 51, 55 and 53 runs around the perimeter of the national park. The full circle takes several hours by car. Outside the boundaries of the park there are roads partly into area, for instance the private tollroad to Juvasshytta (dead end), the public road to Eidsbugarden (along Tyin lake), the private Tindevegen between Årdal and Turtagrø (in Luster), and the roads to Spiterstulen lodge and Leirvassbu lodge (both dead end).
In summer season there are passenger boat services on Gjende and Bygdin lakes.
A fabulous alpine mountain area; probably the best in the whole of Scandinavia. There are countless glaciers, emerald lakes, summits and steep cliffs. Most of the area is protected as national park or landscape park.
While the national park itself is not available by car or bus, mountain ranges can be seen from roads at the perimeter: E16 and county roads 51 (Valdresflya) and 55 (Sognefjellet). The private road Tindevegen between Turtagrø and Årdal perhaps offers the best view as it runs on the western edge of the Hurrungane group (western Jotunheimen).
Here you can go hiking both on foot in summer and by cross country skiing in the winter. There are several possibilities of guided glacier hiking and guided climbing in the high mountains.
In Jotunheimen you can hike or climb several alpine mountains. Many visitors hike from lodge to lodge and include the odd summit along, or scramble to summits as a day hike from a lodge. Because of remaining snow the hiking season begins relatively late, typically from mid June. In some years and some areas hiking is best postponed to July. The cross-country or back-country skiing lasts into May and often into June, depending on weather and on how much snow remains. A summer ski resorts at Juvasshytta beneath Galdhøpiggen operates from late spring and into summer until snow is gone.
The most complete online resource is UT.no, some popular hikes and climbs are mentioned below.
- 1 Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain in the Nordic countries at 2469m above sea level. Galdhøpiggen the highest mountain in Europe north of the Alps. The standard route is a moderate day hike (about 7 hours) from Juvasshytta across a glacier; it must be done with a guide. Guiding begins in early June depending on snow conditions. The more demanding route is from the Spiterstulen lodge.
- Second highest is 2 Glittertind with 2464m. A technically easy but demanding hike from the Glitterheim lodge.
- 3 Besseggen is a narrow edge with steep drops on both sides. It is one of the most popular day hiking routes in Jotunheimen. Many striking photos of Jotunheimen are from Besseggen. The full circle includes a boat ride and takes 8–10 hr. Available from mid June to early October.
- 4 Vettisfossen waterfall has Norway's highest undisturbed drop at about 300 meters. The waterfall was protected by law in 1924. Vettisfossen can be visited by hiking through the Utladalen valley. Utladalen is Norway's deepest valley as it cuts deep into the bedrock south of Hurrungane. There are several other fine waterfalls along the route.
- 5 Store Skagastølstind at 2405 meters is the third highest summit and reachable by climbing only. Part of Hurrungane group in western Jotunheimen, the wildest part of Jotunheimen at the inner end of Sognefjordn.
- 6 Store Austabotntind in the western end of Hurrungane group is one of the finest summits i Jotunheimen. Relatively easy as a climb but exposed, so climber's gear is needed.
What you bring with you, or buy at the local hotels in the park. Try elk burgers or reindeer steak.
Water from rivers and streams is generally safe and of high quality. Rivers lower than settlements and farms should be avoided. Streams flowing from barren high mountains have good water. Glacial melt water may irritate some stomachs.
There are several places where you can get accommodation in the mountain, both full service mountain hotels and self service cabins. Visit DNT (the Norwegian Trekking Association) for more information.
Wild camp. Not more than three days in a row on the same spot and at least 150 meters from buildings.
Always bring a map (1:50,000 or 1:75,000) and a compass – even if you have a satellite navigator (GPS) – and pay attention to the local weather forecasts. Always remember to tell where you go and when you expect to arrive there, to someone who has enough info to summon help if you do not show up. Talk to locals if you are in doubt. While a national park, there are generally no guards or fences, visitors are expected to take care of themselves. Jotunheimen is mostly above the treeline and the surface is rugged with rocks, boulders, snow and glaciers; sturdy boots are needed to walk safely and weather can be cold and rough even in midsummer.
For hiking over glaciers you need a guide unless you are experienced enough yourselves. The same applies if you are going on other types of demanding hikes or do not know what to expect. Note the risk for avalanches