Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

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Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers
Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

Norway is home to some of the best hikes, and Buarbreen is no exception. During our three days in Odda, a municipality in the fjords of western Norway, we discovered this hike that leads up to the Folgefonna glacier field. Although we were unable to reach the actual glaciers because we didn’t have the proper gear to traverse a knee-deep ice-cold river, we had a lot of fun with this hike and found it to be a good balance of challenging and fun, with lush greenery and breathtaking views of the mountain and creeks throughout. We would recommend this hike to anyone who’s reasonably in shape, with the exception of young children, for reasons we’ll explain below. Here’s our experience hiking Buarbreen: a journey to the glaciers.

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

To reach Buarbreen, we drove down Route 13 toward Røldal from the Odda city centre. Route 13 is the main road that runs through Odda, so if you stay on the main road, it’s difficult to get lost. Follow the signs to Buer, and you’ll eventually reach a single lane dirt road that leads up to a large parking lot at the base of the hike. From there, the hike up to the glacier and back takes about three hours. The trail is marked along the way, and you will encounter some steep ascents throughout the hike, especially as you get closer to the glacier. The ascent is a combination of walking, stepping upwards, and at times climbing on all fours. For this reason, I would not recommend this hike for those with young children, as it will be difficult for younger children to get past the steeper parts, and it can be quite dangerous for them in poor weather conditions.

As we entered the park to begin the hike, we saw a sign with a dinosaur on it. We weren’t sure what to make of this and whether we should be on the lookout for dinosaurs as we hike to the glacier since the sign was not written in English. We ultimately did not encounter any dinosaurs, or any animals for that matter.

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

The first stretch is relatively flat and soon leads into a large, open field with rocks lined along the river. We saw many cairns along the edge of the river, which appeared to be built by passing hikers. While some avid hikers detest the building of cairns where it’s not done intentionally to mark the path, in this case I did not find any possibility that the cairns would mislead hikers to head in the wrong direction, so I did not see a problem with hikers wanting to stack some rocks near the water. One tip is that the water that runs through the river here (and any running water you find throughout this hike) is perfectly clean and safe for drinking, so all you need to bring for this three hour hike is one water bottle, and you’ll have many opportunities to fill it up along the way.

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Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

Once we passed through this open stretch, the terrain became more mountainous, and we found ourselves jumping over rocks and using our hands to balance ourselves against tree branches and occasionally push ourselves up the path on all fours. At some of the steeper inclines, you’ll find a rope running down the side of the incline that you can use to steady yourself and pull yourself up. The ropes are especially helpful in inclement weather. For instance, the constant downpour the day we were there made the inclines extremely muddy and slippery, and we would have slid down many mud ramps had the ropes not been there. The ropes were also helpful for maneuvering around large rocks where a footpath was not easily discoverable.

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

In addition to the ropes, there were also some man-made bridges to help us get across small creeks running down the mountain. Some of the bridges were made from a sturdy metal material whereas others appeared to be a mere plank of wood. We weren’t sure how sturdy these planks were, so we tried to cross quickly, without stopping to take too many photos like these.

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

While much of the earlier part of the hike took us through dense forestry, once we reached a clearing and had an open view of the mountain, we were blown away by the beautiful landscape. The rain and fog that day provided a dramatic effect for the views of the mountain. We stood there for a while soaking up the views in the rain.

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

At this point, we had a decent view of the glaciers. However, we were still a distance from reaching the top and contemplated whether it would be worth it to complete the hike in the rain. The terrain seemed to be getting more and more treacherous, especially in the rain, and I was mostly concerned with my camera equipment, which I was carrying without a case in my backpack (bad idea), which is water resistant but not waterproof. I wasn’t sure that completing the hike would be worth destroying expensive camera equipment that we would need for the remainder of our trip in Norway.

Around that time, a family of three appeared from higher on the mountain and advised us that they had made it to the top but were unable to reach the glaciers due to a knee-deep ice-cold river that separated them from the glacier field. As they were not prepared with adequate equipment to traverse this river, they turned around and hurriedly hiked back down the mountain to try and get out of the downpour. Since we learned it would be impossible for us to reach the glacier field anyway, we decided to turn back around at that point as well. We felt that we had seen enough of the mountain and were more than content with the breathtaking views we caught on our hike.

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Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

In order to actually walk on the glacier field, you’ll need to complete the hike with a guide. There are a variety of tours you can book through Folgefonna, including glacier climbs and even kayaking excursions through the glaciers. As we did not go with a tour group, we cannot speak to these tours, but we would definitely be interested in experiencing a glacier climb or glacier kayak trip with a tour guide should we return to Buarbreen in the future.

Our biggest tip for anyone interested in hiking Buarbreen is to be careful and stay safe! Weather in that region of Norway is extremely unpredictable, even in the summer months. We were there at the end of June, and we still had to wear several layers for this hike, and the rain, which completely soaked through our clothes, only made us colder. The rain also creates a lot of mud slides and makes some of the rocks and boulders extremely slippery. You should always be careful while walking over large rocks and test that they are not slippery before you walk across.

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

In terms of what to pack, we’d recommend bringing a waterproof backpack with a water bottle, camera, extra wool socks, some snacks if you think you’ll get hungry, and perhaps a dry shirt in case your shirt gets soaked through on the hike. We would recommend wearing a waterproof jacket and bringing waterproof pants as well. Hiking shoes would be ideal for this hike, although we hiked in regular leather boots and sneakers and were fine too.

Buarbreen is an excellent half day hike that is a lot of fun due to the rocky terrain and offers breathtaking views. It’s doable for anyone who’s reasonably in shape and does not require special training beforehand. We hiked Buarbreen the day before our big hike to Trolltunga, and if you’ve heard that Trolltunga is the most physically demanding hike that many people have been on, rest assured that Buarbreen is much less intense than that.

Hiking Buarbreen: A Journey to the Glaciers

Hi, I'm Diana, the big sister in the sister duo. I left my job as an attorney in March 2017 to pursue the work-from-anywhere/travel-everywhere life aka The Dream. I blog about off the beaten trail travel destinations, adventure travel, immersing in local cultures, and publish plenty of travel guides for all you who are too lazy to plan your own trips. I've traveled to 61 countries to date, and some of my recent adventures include hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, visiting a child I've sponsored for over 10 years in Rwanda, and exploring the Middle East.

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23 Responses
  1. I went to Bergen a few years ago for a couple of days and ventured up to the fjords for a day. It was such a long day and I wished we had spent more time there. I love hiking and I have never heard of Buarbreen but I wished I had because it looks beautiful even with all the rain. I agree with you in regards to people have to be careful because the rocks are slippery. I have seen people slip before when I have hiked in Wales. Lovely post and even though it rained alot for you it has not put me off hiking their myself 🙂

    1. Thanks, Mel! Funny story – as we were galavanting down the mountain past the other family that was hiking near us, my sister completely wiped out down a muddy hill right in front of me and the other hikers. I could tell the other hikers were trying so hard not to laugh, but I lost it. It was a soft hill, so I knew she wasn’t hurt, but it provided us all with some great comedic relief as we were all soaked and cold from the rain. But yes, it’s always a good idea to be careful, especially while walking on the rock surfaces as those can be very slippery and will hurt if you fall. Hope you get to go back there one day and spend more time hiking! 🙂

  2. The Dinosaur-sign says “what animal is this?” lol. It has most likely been left there after a group of Scouts or schoolkids (on a field trip) on an orientation run w/quizzes and games 🙂 …Or maybe there are actually dinosaurs there? I’ve never been to Odda, and I’m from Norway. From Stavanger. Looks like you had a great time hiking. The Norwegian nature is beautiful – not bragging just because it’s my country 😉

    1. Haha good to know, thanks for translating that for us! We really wanted to go to Stavanger when we were in Bergen/Odda but we just didn’t have enough time. I still want to return and check out Stavanger one day though! And you should definitely check out Odda 🙂

  3. Too bad you didn’t make it all the way to the glacier, but still looks like you had a great time exploring and being outdoors. I applaud you for making it that far in those weather conditions, I’m not sure if I’d do the same (but then again, I am a big baby)

    1. Haha, we were surprised too by how much fun we had hiking in the rain. I was a bit weary about going on the hike at first too, but once you’re wet, it doesn’t get much worse than that, so you just get used to it and keep going!

    1. Hey Lydia, if you hike all the way up to the glaciers it should take you 3-4 hours roundtrip. We only hiked for about 2 hours or a little longer since we didn’t reach the top. I would reserve 4 hours just to give yourself more leeway for taking photos, etc. Have fun! 🙂

  4. I thought at the beginning you were saying it wasn’t suitable for young children due to the dinosaurs 🙂 Then I realise it was due to the rocks and planks over the ice cold rivers.
    Thanks for sharing another one of your wonderful hikes in Norway.

    1. Haha that’s funny, Kathy. If there were dinosaurs, it wouldn’t be very suitable for me or you either. 🙂 I probably would’ve fallen off the rocks in shock if I didn’t get eaten first.

  5. Amazing girls! Although you didn’t reach to the glacier, these views are breathtaking.. and looks like you had a great time hiking 😀 your pics make me want to be in Norway just now haha

    1. We had a blast! Hopefully next time we can go back and sign up with a tour to reach the glaciers. Whenever I flip through my Norway pics, it makes me want to be in Norway right at this moment as well!

  6. This looks like a lovely hike, too bad you didn’t have boots to go see the glaciers! The photos are stunning! I can imagine how chilly it must have been however when your hiking your body heat from the exertion would most likely keep you warm. Would love to go check this place out. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks, Jimmy & Tina! You’re exactly right about the body heat – we didn’t feel cold as long as we were moving, but after we finished the hike and sat back in the car with our wet clothes, we had to crank up the heat pretty high to stop shivering from the cold. Hope you guys get to experience this hike one day. 🙂

  7. Norway looks amazing. I would have never known to visit Buarbreen so thanks for sharing your information, although I don’t know if I’d be able to cross on some of those ropes, but I’ve sure that hard work was worth it.

    1. Hey Alouise, thanks for reading! We’ve found that most people visiting that area only know about Trolltunga, a much more intensive hike, so we are very happy to share about Buarbreen with our readers! It was really such a fun hike, and the rugged terrain and ropes made it even more fun. It felt like climbing around a playground as a kid. 🙂

  8. The landscape is so beautiful! I love your photos. I prefer hiking in warmer climates (I’m from the Caribbean) but this post has inspired me to think outside the box and try a hike in mild snow…we’ll see.

    1. Hey Melissa, that’s understandable if you’re from the Caribbean that you’d be weary of hiking in cold climates. Sometimes it is really warm in Norway in the summer… it’s just hit or miss. For instance, a couple of days after this hike, we were walking around Oslo with a tank top and shorts on because it was so hot! With the right clothes, you can have fun even in cold weather. 🙂

    1. Haha I’m so glad everyone’s getting a kick out of the dinosaur sign like we did. I’m starting to think we should plan a follow up trip where we repeat this hike in dinosaur costumes…

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