Folgefonna is actually many glaciers

Folgefonna actually consists of three glaciers: Nordfonna, Midtfonna and Sørfonna, as well as numerous tiny glaciers, altogether covering a total of 207 km2. Measurements show that the glacier is almost 400 metres at its thickest, and at its highest point annual precipitation is 5500 mm.

 Unforgettable

Like bread dough resting on an uneven surface, the glacier is slowly seeking lower ground. Glacier arms pour into the surrounding valleys, even forming icefalls where the terrain is particularly steep. The dramatic Bondhusbrea offers one such dramatic icefall – and the sight is unforgettable!

The story behind the national park

Folgefonna National Park was established in 2005. It is one of 46 Norwegian national parks. As the name implies, at its heart is Folgefonna, Norway’s southernmost and third largest glacier.

New developments

The gateways to Folgefonna National Park, as well as the many attractions and facilities in its vicinity, are continually being developed to enhance the experience of visitors. For up-to-date information, please inquire at one of the gateways or Tourist Information Offices. It may also worth your while to contact some of the professional activities providers that advertise on our website.

Wilderness preserves

Four wilderness preserves border the national park: Bondhusdalen, Buardalen, Ænesdalen and Hattebergsdalen.

Bondhusdalen foto: Jan Rabben
Bondhusdalen ©  Jan Rabben

 

What is a Norwegian national park?

Norwegian National Parks are our common natural heritage.  We set up National Parks to safeguard large areas of countryside – from the seashore to the mountaintops. For Nature’s own sake, ourselves and future generations.

National Parks boast magnificent scenery with varied animal and plant life, waterfalls, glaciers, lofty mountains, endless plateaus, deep forests and lush woodlands, and beautiful fjords and coasts. You will also find cultural heritage remains showing how the areas were used in the past. The National Parks offer a multitude of opportunities for thrilling encounters with natural history. Make use of our magnificent nature – on its own terms.

What does this mean?

Norwegian national parks are preserved areas of countryside that you may visit. There are no fences, no park rangers to ask, no opening hours, no entrance fee, but you will find information boards by the main gateways, marked paths and plenty of wonderful nature for you to explore!

Safety in Norwegian nature

Each year the Norwegian Red Cross conducts around 1000 rescue operations throughout the country, and the number of operations has tripled during the past ten years.

Many of the accidents associated with nature-based activities can be avoided by taking proper precautions. Make sure your preparation, knowledge of the area, and equipment, are all equally well suited for the trip. Get familiar with the Norwegian mountain code, nine simple rules to help you stay safe.

  1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected.
  2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions.
  3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings.
  4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips.
  5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others.
  6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice.
  7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are.
  8. Don’t be ashamed to turn around.
  9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary.

In a national park, you are Mother Nature's guest.

The first rule is to be considerate of life around you, including other human beings.

- Feel free to go wherever you want, on foot or on skis. Anything with an engine is basically banned. (See Access rights)
- Stop wherever you want, and camp for the night if you wish. But tidy up afterwards and take your rubbish home.
- You may light a fire, but remember the general ban on fires in woodland between 15 April and 15 September. Show consideration when you gather firewood. Never leave a burning campfire.
- You may pick berries, mushrooms and common plants for your own use. Show consideration for cultural heritage sites, vegetation and animal life. Take extra care in the breeding season.
- Fishing and hunting are allowed, provided it’s in season and have a fishing or hunting licence. Do not use live fish as bait – and never take live fish from one river or lake to another.
- You’re welcome to bring your dog, but between 1 April to 20 August it must be kept on a leash. Some municipalities have their own leash laws.

More information:

Right to Roam
Safety in the mountains

Ice and rock

The geologist is able to read the rocks and terrain features, deciphering a geological history that stretches at least 1.5 billion years back in time. Folgefonnhalvøya is a peninsula that has been exposed to powerful and varied forces.

Sediments formed on what was once ocean floor, and later congealed under enormous weight into metamorphic rock. Tectonic plates colliding or pushing past each other then folded the rock and pushed high mountains toward the sky.

The geologist is able to read the rocks and terrain features, deciphering a geological history that stretches at least 1.5 billion years back in time. Folgefonnhalvøya is a peninsula that has been exposed to powerful and varied forces.

Sediments formed on what was once ocean floor, and later congealed under enormous weight into metamorphic rock. Tectonic plates colliding or pushing past each other then folded the rock and pushed high mountains toward the sky.

The fjords and valleys that we see today were carved out by the massive icecap that covered western Norway and most of Scandinavia during not one but a series of more than 40 ice ages over the course of the last 2.7 million years. Geologically speaking, that is very recent! Today, the landscape is still being shaped – by the continued grinding of icefalls, and mountains that scale off and cleave due to repeated winter freezing and spring thaw, raging rivers, erosion and rock-slides.Ice as sculptor

Rosendal you can learn more about how to read the signs that reveal the history of magnificent Folgefonna. For an extended exploration of the fascinating interplay between ice and stone, consider hiking the Geological Path. This well-marked path goes from Nordrepollen, in the innermost reaches of the Mauranger fjord, to the glacier arm called Botnabreen.

 

Møsevatnet – © Svein Opdal

foto Jan Rabben

 

 

 

Wildlife in the national park

There are a great variety of ecosystems between the icy expanses of the Folgefonna glacier and the sheltered, tempered waters of the surrounding fjords. As you move from habitat to habitat, you will see signs of the wildlife that thrives there.

Red deer are abundant in the valleys and woodlands, as are the pine marten. This fascinating little predator avoids open places and prefers to hunt at night and at dusk – lest it fall prey to the golden eagles and rough-legged buzzards that patrol the skies above the peninsula.

Bring your binoculars!

The region hosts a varied birdlife; if you’re a bird-lover, be sure to pack your binoculars and bring a good zoom lens for your camera. Ptarmigan, snow bunting and meadow pipits are common at the higher altitudes. Further down in the woodlands you may come across black grouse and capercaillie.

Every now and then a rockslide clears a new swath through the upper forests. The white-backed woodpecker, which has become rare elsewhere in Europe, favours this habitat of decomposing trees, in which it finds nourishing larvae.

 

Ptarmigan, © Jens Ripel

 

Dippers and wagtails

A bird that is heard but rarely seen is the cuckoo – you’ll know if it is nearby. Also distinctive are the songs of the chaffinch, with its faster and faster descending notes, concluding with a sharp tone, the plaintive tree pipit, and the song thrush, perhaps the most melodic bird heard in these tracts.If you’re lucky, you may see an intrepid little bird diving into river rapids for food. This is the white-throated dipper, Norway’s national bird. Don’t be surprised if it is joined in its hunt by the grey wagtail, which may well be nesting on the nearby cliffs.

 

 

White-throated dipper – © Jan Rabben

The flora of Folgefonna National Park

You will be surprised how much the vegetation of Folgefonna varies from place to place. This is due to the many microclimates – temperatures, precipitation and exposure vary greatly even over short distances.

The mountainous parts of the peninsula, most of whose bedrock is acidic, is dominated by a few hardy species: dwarf willow, common heather, three-leaved rush and mountain birch. Near the edge of the glacier, arctic cotton-grass, moss bell heather and rufine sedge are well suited to tackling the extreme temperatures and heavy snowfalls.

Colouring a mountain

The highest peaks may seem barren of life, but look more closely and you will see splotches of lichen. One of the most eye-catching is a yellow-green map lichen that can colour a whole mountain! Don’t be surprised if you see moss campion, alpine bartsia, pyramidal and starry saxifrage clutching the steep rock faces above the screes and boulder-fields.

Botanical oases

If you want to visit a botanical oasis, head for Skjeggesnuten or Sauanuten, where a rich alpine flora thrives because of the calcareous bedrock.

Many streams carry water down from the snowmelts and the glacier. A large number of ferns grow near the spray zones of waterfalls and on the weather side of the peninsula.

Moist and lush

Down by the fjord and in the moist western woodlands, the vegetation is quite lush. Typical coastal plants include foxglove, bog asphodel, cross-leaved heather, hard-fern, lemon-scented fern and great wood-rush. In this temperate climate, however, their habitat extends all the way up towards the treeline.

 

 

Cotton-grass – ©

 

 

Greplyng – ©

 

Culture and history

The soil unveils layers of fascinating history. Flint arrowheads and the ashes of ancient campfires indicate that the first Norwegians hunted 10,000 years ago, just below the retreating icecap.

By the village of Herand, there are pre-historic petroglyphs with sun symbols and boats – yes, at a very early date the fjord became the main thoroughfare of western Norway.

Fjordside hamlets and villages

Many of the farms date back to pre-Viking times. The old hamlet Agatunet shows that Norwegian farming was once a more cooperative effort. Did you know the first apple seeds were brought to Hardanger in the 12th century by Cistercian monks? Fertile soil, long summer days and an organic approach to farming explain why our local fruit is so tasty! During the harvest season fruit and berries are often sold by the roadside. The local culture is so honest that if the sales booth is unmanned, you can just help yourself and leave payment in the bowl.

Viking heritage and archaeological finds

Many archaeological finds have been made at site on the Folgefonna peninsula. Here and there are information boards that cast light on the “history” of the landscape. As you explore villages and hamlets, you will also notice that the most common roofing material is slate, which has been locally quarried since time immemorial.

Hardanger is legendary for its boat-building traditions. Some designs have changed little since the Vikings – you don’t improve on perfection.

Ancient paths

In Folgefonna National Park and the surrounding area, you can hike a network of well-marked trails. Some of these are century-old trackways, such as Keiserstien (the Kaiser’s Path, named after Kaiser Wilhelm who once walked here) and Isstien (the Ice Path, on which ice was transported down to a dock on the fjord, carried on boats to provide the refrigeration needs of coastal towns and villages). Elsewhere you follow the drove-paths on which centuries of farmers have brought livestock up to the summer pastures. Yet other paths, to and through scenic highlights, are established by generations of nature enthusiasts and the Norwegian Tourist Association.

 

Agatunet – © Arnstein Karlsen

 

 

Båtbyggarmuseum – © Herand Landskapspark