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.
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 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 the landscape or 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 not easy, nor is it quickly done. But it is definitely worth it.
In Norway, you can walk nearly anywhere you want. Outdoor recreation has become a major part of the national identity, and is established by law. You are free to enjoy the great outdoors – as long as you pick up your rubbish and show respect for nature.
There are a few rules and regulations to keep the unique right of access enjoyable for everyone. The main rules are easy: Be considerate and thoughtful. Don't damage nature and other surroundings. Leave the landscape as you would want to find it.
The right to roam (“allemannsretten”) is a traditional right from ancient times, and since 1957 it has been part of the Outdoor Recreation Act. It ensures that everybody can experience nature, even on larger privately owned areas.
Stay safe by following these simple rules of thumb:
The glaciers, mountains and waterfalls are all about raw, sublime power. On the other hand, natural wonders such as the northern lights, the fjords and quiet mountain plateaus highlight Norway’s serene qualities.
The soul singer Marvin Gaye sang that there “ain’t no mountain high enough” – but then again he never came to Norway. With almost 300 mountain peaks above 2,000 metres he would probably have found himself a suitable challenge.
You may climb them, marvel at them – even ski on them in the middle of summer. But you will not fail to feel the massive, untameable power inherent in the glaciers.
Seeing hundreds of thousands of gallons of water cascading down a cliff can be a strangely fascinating and humbling experience. Some of the world’s tallest waterfalls are found in Norway.
Wildlife safaris in Norway will bring you eye to eye with a myriad of unique creatures in their natural habitat. Join a safari and get close to animals like whales and king crabs, or even the shaggy survivors from the last glacial epoch – the musk oxen.