Home Destinations Svartisen Glacier – The melting giant of Norway

Svartisen Glacier – The melting giant of Norway

by Victoria

Visiting Norway in summer offers a myriad of hiking opportunities along the whole length of this Northern European country. The natural beauty of Norway is well known throughout the world. During our trip there, one of the most impressive hikes that we did was to the Svartisen Glacier.

Svartisen Glacier is located in Nordland county, a large county that covers most of the Northern part of Norway. It is the second largest glacier in Norway and, at 20 m elevation, is also the lowest lying glacier in mainland Europe, making it perfect for many nature based activities.

Svartisen Glacier

The most visited part of Svartisen is the glacier tongue Austerdalsisen, which can be reached through a relatively short, yet wonderful hike.

The starting point of the hike (Svartisen Rana) is located about 32 km north of the city of Mo i Rana, which is the last major population center in Norway before entering the Arctic Circle.

As far as we were aware of, there is no public transportation available to the starting point of the hike. So, the only option is to either drive with your own car or take one of the excursions offered by the tourist info office in Mo i Rana.

When arriving at Svartisen Rana, hikers have to first cross the Svartisvatnet Lake by boat. Tickets can be purchased at the cafe/ticket office there. We were a bit taken aback by the relatively steep price of NOK 250 per person (€25). But this is Norway after all, one of the most expensive countries on this planet.

Svartisen Lake

We strongly encourage any potential visitor to check the boat schedule in advance since the service is quite limited, even during the high season. It is necessary so that hikers can plan their walk and still manage to catch the last ferry back to Svartisen Rana.

Failing to do so would certainly mean spending the night outdoors at the other side of the lake, something that I wish would not happen to anyone unprepared.

The hike

After arriving at the other side of the lake on that warm and sunny summer day, the much anticipated hike can begin. The trail itself is relatively short at 3 km each way with only gentle slopes, which is doable for most people.

The trail to get to the glacier is well established and well marked, so hikers could not get lost. As we walked further, there was a noticeable difference in the rocky ground. It became more barren and more scarred.

Rocky surface where the glacier used to cover

We spotted some writings on the rocky surface as well, with dates from the summers of 1975, 1990, 2000. It is not difficult to understand what these dates mean. They marked the extent of the glacier in those years. The barren and scarred rocky surface bears testament to how much bigger the glacier was and how much it has retreated, exposing the inhospitable rocky surface underneath

It was shocking to see that when we reached the mark from 1975 that the glacier edge was still not visible, over 1 km away around the corner. What lied ahead of us was a lake instead, formed by the collected glacier meltwater. Right there, the effect of climate change stared at us.

Lake created by the glacier runoff

We did mention that the trail is 3 km long, didn’t we? Well, that information was surely outdated since we had to walk longer to get to the glacier’s edge due to the glacier retreating.

As we got closer to the bright white-blueish giant of a glacier, it felt surreal to witness. The air felt noticeably colder despite the bright sun shining above.

The giant glacier

Intermittent loud cracking sound reverberates through the air as we could see the continuous and unstoppable stream of water dripping from the icy giant, clearly struggling under the summer heat. Such a humbling encounter with the impressive glacier.

The melting piece of ice
The rocky surface used to be all covered by ice

We then hurried back to catch our return ferry trip, witnessing again those sobering writings on the rocks, reminding us of the consequence of our footprint on this apparently fragile planet.

Sam and Tammy are a couple from Indonesia who love to travel simply. They also have a youtube channel named One Backpack Each, reflecting their traveling philosophy of simple travel, carrying only what they need in a backpack.

After giving up their job in The Netherlands, they are currently travelling full time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hike to Svartisen Glacier is a part of their month-long trip in Norway, which can also be found in their youtube channel.

“We are driving through the length of Norway from Kristiansand to Nordkapp. Such an amazing country with unparalleled natural beauty. We are nature lovers and every hike that we did was simply amazing and breathtaking! Now that we’ve seen Norway, we want to see more amazing nature from other places in the world!”

“Travelling during the pandemic possesses its unique challenge and difficulties. It can at times be quite stressful to keep up with the ever changing entry requirement and local rules. But we took it slowly and tried to make the most out of our trip. Some silver linings have been the blissfully quiet destinations and discounts/offers by many restaurants and tour operators or museums.” – The couple said

Thanks Sam and Tammy for those amazing photos and writing on this experience at Svartisen Glacier with us. Subscribe them on their youtube channel One backpack each and don’t forget to share your trips via info@wetravelguides.com, or our Facebook/Twitter.

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