Norway’s ‘Home of the Giants’ Is for You, Too

The Besseggen ridge juts from the earth as a curved spine of sharp, dark-gray stone and carves its way between two blue lakes in Jotunheimen, one of Norway’s many spectacular, wild national parks.

“Jotunheimen” translates as “home of the giants,” and everything here is oversize, including the lakes. They are separated only by a narrow slice of the ridge yet have very distinct colors: Gjende is a long sweep of aquamarine; Bessvatnet is a dark royal blue.

Besseggen, a worthy destination for its otherworldly beauty alone, is also immortalized in national lore. Norway’s tourism board claims that Thor, the ill-tempered Norse warrior king, forged it by slamming his hammer into the earth.

Henrik Ibsen, the country’s most celebrated playwright, described the ridge at length in his fantastical “Peer Gynt”: “Nigh on four miles long it stretches sharp before you like a scythe,” exalts the main character riding a reindeer over it.

Every summer, tens of thousands of tourists walk the length of Besseggen. For all its popularity, the eight-hour walk is strenuous, even mildly dangerous: You may pass limping hikers with bloodied knees and twisted ankles. Even summer can be cold here, and as the sun drains from the sky, so does the color from the frigid stragglers’ faces.

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