To use something is not the same as consuming it, as prominent Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss once said. Norway’s national parks provide a perfect example of this.
“Miljøvern” is a Norwegian word that became fashionable in the 1960s. It translates as “preserving nature”, and in later decades eco-philosophers like Arne Næss and NGOs such as Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in our Hands) and Norges naturvernforbund (Friends of the Earth Norway) have been increasingly influential in the political landscape.
From the get-go, one of the main issues for the environmentalists was the establishment of national parks. The green activists were victorious in 1962 when Rondane became the first national park in Norway. In addition to preserving rare vegetation and animal life, the idea was to open the parks for recreational purposes as well as maintaining the landscape for future generations.
Today there are 44 national parks in Norway, seven of them located on Svalbard. Again, this does not mean that these exemplary expanses of nature are closed to visitors – several of them, like Rondane, Jotunheimen and Hardangervidda, even offer arrangements for outdoor activities with a network of marked paths and trails and overnight accommodation in either staffed lodges or self-service cabins.
However, in some especially vulnerable areas, paths and accommodation are minimal in order to limit the impact of tourism on the wildlife. Nearly 85 percent of Norway's national parks are mountains, from gently rolling high plateaus to sharp peaks, ravines and glaciers.
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Norway is a country of outstanding natural beauty, with dramatic waterfalls, crystal clear fjords, majestic mountains, and spectacular glaciers. Preserving this landscape, its communities, and the way of life is essential for locals and visitors alike.
Norwegian philosophy is very much that conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Enjoying nature and the outdoors is considered a national pastime, and this is reflected in our attitude towards the preservation and use of the wilderness.
Whether it’s hiking in the mountains or biking on an idyllic forest road, Norwegians try to leave as small a footprint as possible. Leave it as you would like to find it is the mantra, regardless of whether you are a guest in nature or in a small fishing village.
Quality of life is what it is all about, not only now, but for the time to come as well. It’s about recognizing that everybody else are just as important as ourselves, and taking steps to implement that thought in all aspects of life. It’s neither easy nor quickly done. But it is definitely worth it.
As long as you understand and follow a few basic rules and regulations, you are free to walk almost everywhere in the Norwegian countryside. Outdoor recreation is an important part of the national identity, and access to nature is considered a right established by law.
The so called right of access (“allemannsretten”) is a traditional right from ancient times. Since 1957, it has been part of the Outdoor Recreation Act. It ensures that everybody can experience nature, even on larger privately owned areas.
The main rules are easy: Be considerate and thoughtful. Make sure you pick up your rubbish and show respect for nature and people – in other words, leave the landscape as you would want to find it.
The right to roam applies to open country, sometimes also known as “unfenced land”, which is land that is not cultivated. In Norway, the term covers most shores, bogs, forests and mountains. Small islands of uncultivated land within cultivated land are not regarded as open country.
Norway is an incredible place to explore, with untamed mythical landscapes, mountains, valleys, and fjords. Before you enter the outdoors, get familiar with the nine simple rules of the Norwegian mountain code to help you stay safe.