The amazing nature in Norway attracts more and more visitors from all over the world. But that’s not the only thing that makes Norway so unique. Have you heard about the ‘allemannsretten’ (English translation: everyman’s right)?
In Norway, allemannsretten (or freedom to roam) means that you can make up your tent or park your camper van for the night almost wherever you like. Allemannsretten evolved from a customary into a formal written law in 1957 with the implementation of the Outdoor Recreation Act.
Related: Freedom to Roam in Scandinavia
In his key message to George Washington in 1852 Chief Seattle said that nobody can own ‘the freshness of the air’, ‘sparkle of water’ or ‘blueness of sky’. Land is something that could belong to anybody.
Simply defined, allemannsretten makes it legal in most cases for people to walk through any piece of undeveloped private property without first obtaining the owner’s permission. You can even camp on someone else’s private property for one night, provided that you’re polite and stay at least 150 meters away from any buildings.
However, there are still some points for you to be aware of:
From 15th of April to the 15th of September campfires are not allowed in forest areas. You must not block any roads or entrances and you must not leave any garbage behind. In addition, you must respect “no parking” or “no camping” signs and farm land should only be crossed when covered with snow.
Related: A Wild Land
As human beings we are merely particles in the grand scheme of nature and we should thus regard all nature’s elements – down to each needle of a pine tree – as something sacred, something we are to share equally amongst ourselves.
Allemannsretten is giving hikers and campers a really relaxing element. No need to hurry finding an open camp site before the night comes and you´ll save some serious cash by not paying for a camp site. However, the biggest benefit is freedom.
People coming from other parts of the world may be surprised by the lack of wired fences and ‘keep out’ signs. In Norway, land owners are not allowed to prevent free movement, so these kinds of signs would be illegal in most places.
Related: Hitting the Walking Trails in Scandinavia
Allemannsretten is an important part of the cultural heritage in Norway. Since ancient times, Norwegians have had the right to roam freely in forests and open country, along rivers, on lakes, among the skerries, and in the mountains – irrespective of who owns the land. Very often you will find already made and used fire places on wild camp spots or you can look out for your own spots to stay for the night.
People in Norway, and that includes visitors, are allowed to harvest nature’s bounty – which means not only saltwater fish, berries, mushrooms and wildflowers, but also the sensory impressions of the whole outdoor experience. When it comes to access to uncultivated land, Norway is one of the most liberal countries in the world.
There are, however, some restrictions:
If you are close to the ocean and you want to fish from the shore line, you are good to go. No permission is needed. You will have a big chance to catch your dinner! Make sure you only keep the fish which is above the minimum size. However, if you want to fish in a fresh water lake or river, you need a permission and buy a so called “fiskekort” (fishing card).
You can swim in all lakes, rivers or in the sea, with the exception of lakes that are drinking water reservoirs. Most likley you will find a sign marking drinking water reservoirs at the beginning or end of a lake close to the road.
If you want more information, Miljødirektoratet (Norwegian Environment Agency) has issued an excellent and practical guide about the ‘the Right to roam in Norway’.
The local nature in Norway becomes your playground, your home, your source of food and your gym. Just as allemannsretten originates from the love for nature, conversely, it reinforces it – when we respect it.
Everyman’s Right in Norway, compiled by Tor Kjolberg