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Jotunheimen National Park, Norway

Introduction

Jotunheimen National Park is one of the most popular parks in Norway. Many people find the hiking trails and fishing here to be excellent and the scenery is just as striking as the park is home to the highest mountains in northern Europe. As a national park few people live here permanently, but the park regularly has visitors who spend a couple nights in the park as it is accessible from most major cities with a little patience. Its appeal is greatest for the outdoor adventurer as cross country skiing trails, hiking trails, rock climbing, and cycling are all popular.

The Jotunheimen National Park covers much of the Jotunheimen Mountain Range, which was primarily sculpted by glaciers. This past makes the mountains very scenic and these glaciers left behind a number of alpine lakes in the parks, most notably Lake Gjende. Among the most impressive peaks in the park are Galdhøpiggen (8,100 feet (2,450 meters)) and Glittertind (about 15 feet (5 meters) shorter), which are the two highest peaks in Norway.

Jotunheimen National Park is also home to a huge number of animals, including deer, lynx, reindeer, elk, fox, trout, grouse, eagles, and many more. The plant life is also impressive, but much of the park is above the tree line so many of the plants are small shrubs and flowers, although birch trees dominate much of the lower ground.

History & Background

The geological history of the Jotunheimen Mountains dates back millennia as this mountain range is the tallest in Norway and all of northern Europe. 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 people seem to have been nomadic or semi-nomadic, but over time these people settled 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.

In the 1400s the people in these mountains opened trade routes to Bergen as this was the only city in the region that had access to outside goods via trade. This linked the people with Bergen, the north, and even the outside world as goods from abroad arrived to the region in growing numbers.

Despite the growth in contact and trade, the region never really grew in population and those who called the mountains home primarily remained herders. This simply life and lack of people continued into the late 1900s when Norway established the modern national park. This ended settlement in the region, but also encouraged the building of numerous tourist facilities that exist today to cater to the large tourist crowds, who come from both Norway itself and abroad.

Jotunheimen National Park Today

Being a natural protected area, the people in Jotunheimen National Park varies, but they all tend to have a love of nature in common. These visitors, who come for a day, a week, or even a full year come to experience nature. This desire and call to the wilderness seems to be close to the heart of most Norwegians, who seek out this great expanse of wild land. It seems to be an almost primal, religious, or freeing experience as many visitors feel transformed by the landscape's beauty and natural state.

The park has also motivated writers and leaders throughout Norwegian history. In fact these mountains have inspired numerous pieces of Norwegian literature and music as many of the country's most famous authors and composers found great inspiration from these mountains.

Natural Wonders

Galdhøpiggen: The tallest mountain in Northern Europe, this mountain stands at 8,100 feet (2,500 meters).

Glittertind: This mountain is the second highest mountain in Norway, standing just 15 feet (5 meters) lower than Galdhøpiggen.

The Knight's Leap (Ridderspranget): A canyon carved out by the Sjoa River offers natural beauty; it is named after a legend about a knight who leaped across the gorge.

Lake Gjende: This lake offers boat rides and incredible views of the surrounding mountains as it is perhaps the heart of the park.

Vettisfossen Waterfall: Water plummets over 900 feet (275 meters) over this tall waterfall, probably the park's most impressive.

Historical & Architectural Sights

Lom Stave Church: In the park entrance city of Lom, this is one of the most impressive stave churches in Norway. It was built in the 1100s and is located in the town of Lom. For more information visit their website at: www.lom.kommune.no.

Museums & Information Centers

Fossheim Steinsenter (Kommunelaekjaren i Lom): This museum is a geologist's dream as it's home to numerous precious stones and minerals.

Jutulheimen Bygdemuseum: This open air museum in the park entrance city of Vaga is a great example of the local culture and how people have lived in this region for centuries.

Lom Bygdemuseum: This open air museum in the park entrance city of Lom is a great example of the local culture and how people have lived in this region for centuries. For more information visit their website at: www.gudbrandsdalsmusea.no (Norwegian only).

Activities

Memurubu-Gjendesheim Trail: This 6-8 hour hike is a great hike to see the diversity of the park, from Lake Gjende to sweeping mountains vistas. There are dozens or other hiking trails available in the park as well.

Sognefjell Mountain Road: This scenic drive through Jotunheimen National Park is an incredibly scenic tour of the park. It is also home to the highest mountain pass in Norway.

Transportation

The best way to explore Jotunheimen National Park is by private car, but to reach the park's borders there are a few options. 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. These buses, both from Otta and other major cities in southern Norway, service a number of destinations within the park itself, giving travelers a number of options. 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.

Airport: The closest airport to the southern part of the park is the Fagernes Airport located in the town of Fagernes, on the south side of the park. The airport provides mostly chartered flights, although a few public flights are also available. The airport code is VDB and the airport's website is: www.fagernesairport.com. For its location or directions, see the map below.

A second airport, which is closer to the western side of the park in the Sognefjord region is Haukasen Airport, which is located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the town of Kaupanger. There are only a couple flights to and from Oslo and Bergen to this airport; all flights are operated by Wideroe (www.wideroe.no). For its location or directions, see the map below.

Train Station: The closest train station to the park is located in the town of Otta. For train times and schedules, the website is: www.nsb.no. For its location or directions, see the map below.

Bus Station: There are numerous private bus companies that service the park from major cities, like Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim, and small nearby towns like Otta.

Local Transportation: There are numerous bus routes within the park and from town to town near the park. Most of these are run by private bus companies, including Nor-Way Bussekspress. Having your own transportation, hiking, or biking are more convenient methods of transportation within the park itself.

Official Websites

Jotunheimen National Park: www.visitjotunheimen.com
Kingdom of Norway: www.visitnorway.com

Map & Directions

This page was last updated: March, 2013