Protests fly over ‘wild camping’

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Norwegians are calling it “wild camping” this summer, to describe cases where tourists park their motor homes or set up tents in places where they can avoid fees and use facilities for free. Campers spotted in graveyards on scenic Lofoten have set off protests from residents and the tourist industry alike.

Ticks have now been documented as far north as Lofoten, and at elevations of nearly 600 meters. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Residents of Reine in scenic Lofoten are losing patience with tourists and campers who behave disrespectfully and camp in cemeteries or too close to private property. Most want to avoid paying anything for their accommodation, even though the Norwegian krone is weaker this summer than it’s been for many years, making Norwegian prices somewhat less shocking. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

“It’s downright audacious and utterly lacking in respect,” one Lofoten resident claimed on national TV, after seeing two tents set up conveniently close to the public restroom at a church’s graveyard at Reine, the scenic community at the southwestern edge of the mountainous Lofoten archipelago. “Wild camping has become a big problem.”

Campground owners have earlier complained about the drivers of expensive motor homes who use their facilities but then drive off without paying, to find some place where they can park for free intead of paying a fee that’s the equivalent of around 20 euros. The practice has caught some Norwegian campgrounds by surprise, since camping vans often must pay for septic disposal and other services abroad as well, and a much weaker Norwegian krone has made currency exchange rates the most favourable for foreign tourists in years.

Now Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) is reporting about campers with tents who’ve been found spending the night in local cemeteries. Local resident Tore Holmen said he was visiting the grave of his father in the churchyard at Reine when he came upon two tents set up nearby, inside the graveyard area itself.

“That’s just not acceptable,” he told NRK. “It shouldn’t be necessary to post a ‘no camping’ sign at a churchyard.”

Campers washing amidst graves
Another tent was set up just next to the church itself, prompting protests from local resident Nina Larsen. “I’ve heard from several people that they’ve seen campers use the cemetery’s water faucets (installed for the use of those planting flowers at gravesites) to wash themselves in the morning,” Larsen said. “I live right near the church, and have seen tents set up there many times.”

She also counted no less than 18 tents set up at Munkhaugen, a popular outdoor recreation area in Reine. “I thought to myself, ‘where will all these people wash, deposit their trash or go to the toilet?'” Larsen told NRK. “Wild camping is a problem on Lofoten. People are taking advantage of friluftsloven (the national law that allows public access and camping just about anywhere in Norway).”

There are restrictions, however, including bans on camping too close to a private residence and on camping for consecutive nights. “Many foreign campers perhaps think they can set up a tent anywhere,” Elisabeth Dreyer of the local tourism promotion agency Visit Lofoten told NRK. She can understand that local residents are upset by campers and tourists who lack respect and consideration.

“We of course don’t want to discourage tourism, it’s important for the region,” Dreyer said, “but we can’t come in conflict with the local residents either.” She’s proposing a form of “camping police” for the area, who could guide tourists to acceptable areas where they can spend the night. “We have to do something, because there shouldn’t be a need for folks to camp in churchyards or people’s gardens,” she said. Berglund

  • Understandable the concern over freedom camping, but Norway has weak supply of camping areas apart from during June and July and could do much better on that. As well there is often lack of public toilets for travellers and many commune in popular tourist areas could provide those facilities. Business in tourist areas would be stronger if there were better services, for longer periods to support visitors.

    • frenk

      What Norway needs is some sort of ‘camping police’…dressed all in black…..with mustaches…including the female ‘camping police’…..
      This will strike fear into the camping world……how dare these people camp outside designated camping areas???!!!!????

      What next for Norwegian society….where do they go after this………?

    • inquisitor

      This should have been a priority for Norway to attract tourism for its nature. There are some American parks and recreation set-ups that could easily be emulated,

      • frenk

        Tourists are not that welcome in Norway…..

    • Andrew Overbury

      I do a lot of camping and touring around Norway and the rest of Europe and I can say that campsites in Norway are seriously lacking in all areas, poor facilities, poor ground etc, yet they charge more than proper holiday parks in Europe that have immaculate facilities, entertainment, swimming pools etc. The opening times of June and July are a serious restriction too. Hardly inviting for tourists. I have a caravan and would use it more locally at weekends if there was a decent facility nearby, but there isn’t.

      • frenk

        Mmmmm…….sounds like you have ‘great expectations’……

        • Andrew Overbury

          Not great, just a clean toilet block, hot showers, safe electricity supply, anything else is a bonus. I don’t need all of the things that the “Holiday Parks” supply, most Norwegian campsites are in stunning locations, it’s they lack the basics as above, if you choose to stay for a few days or more you would like more than a converted, 20 year old, shed for a shower.