UPDATED: “Welcome to Lofoten,” but follow some rules, read signs and brochures now greeting tourists who flock to the scenic archipelago in Northern Norway during the summer months. Residents and officials have resorted to issuing a “Code of Conduct” in several languages after growing weary of tourists’ garbage, illegal camping, invasion of private property and even failure to use public toilets.
Lofoten has experienced a huge increase in tourism in recent years, setting off reports over both an initial lack of infrastructure to handle it and bad behaviour on the part of many visitors. Steps have thus been taken to try to control the influx, better accommodate it and protect Lofoten’s natural beauty.
There’s been a notable increase in road improvements, information for motorists and sheer availability of lavatories. This past weekend saw the reopening of the summit known as Reinebringen, known for its especially panoramic views over Lofoten’s islands, after three years and more than NOK 7 million in improvements to make it safer following a spate of fatal accidents.
“We’re glad Reinebringen is back in a safer and more easily accessible form,” Svein Helland of Destination Lofoten told state broadcaster NRK. “But we ask folks to still be careful.”
The locals are also asking visitors to show more cooperation and consideration, and follow their new rules. Lofotvettreglene, the “Code of Conduct” aimed at urging tourists to show more consideration for their surroundings, is now found in most all tourist brochures and in places frequented by visitors. At the historic and important Lofoten Museum at Storvågan in Kabelvåg, both a sign and piles of copies of the rules were prominently placed and on offer at the museum’s first exhibit, in four languages.
It shouldn’t be necessary, but visitors are reminded to throw their garbage into garbage cans, to respect private property and to avoid disturbing birds and other wildlife. They’re also told to “use established toilets.” If none are immediately available, tourists are asked to either do what’s necessary in the sea or dig a hole in the ground and then cover it up afterwards.
There were numerous indications, however, that many tourists continue to ignore the first item on the 10-point Code of Conduct: “Use designated camping areas.” At Haukland, a popular white sand beach not far from Leknes, a large sign in both Norwegian and English clearly reads “No camping,” yet tents were set up all around it. Their presence showed that the “No camping” rule is not enforced, or that the rule is interpreted as banning tents only on the sand itself, and not on the grass around it.
Parking lots were packed last week with motor homes and cars just outside the historic fishing village of Å, situated at the end of the state highway that connects Lofoten’s major islands. At the even smaller fishing village of Nusfjord, where attempts have been made to close off the area to tourists, the family now controlling its future has limited access to just two bus loads of tourists a day.
“Folks living there have experienced tourists walking right into their homes, or standing on their front steps,” Caroline Krefting, whose family bought the entire village, recently told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). The Kreftings have invested around NOK 20 million in renovating buildings in Nusfjord, known as one of the oldest and best-preserved fiskeværene (fishing villages) in Lofoten with original robuer (cottages used by fishermen). The goal is to create a quiet and controlled resort with fewer visitors to preserve the history and solitude of the place.
DN reported that a recent public opinion poll on Lofoten revealed that residents still think there are too many tourists in the western portions of the archipelago, at popular spots like Nusfjord, Reine and Henningsvær. The Krefting’s decision to turn down requests from cruiseship operators to accept more busloads of tourists can be costly, but necessary.
“Some people say we’re crazy, that we’ll lose money on this,” Krefting told DN. “But the most important thing we can do here is to make sure that visitors can experience the real Nusfjord and the history it carries with it.”