No Camping - Friday Photo #342

Friday Photo #342 – Tourist Overload

Photo: No camping or camping? Skagsanden beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 16, 2019. 00:58

It is July in year XXXX and once again the newspapers of Lofoten and Norway are filled with stories of the tourism overload which occurs each summer as the motorhome armies of the continent head north to fill every single parking space available for the whole of the summer. Somehow they seem shocked each year, but it is nothing new. Though with each year the numbers grow, and yet little is done on the Norwegian side.

And so each summer, there comes a point of frustration among the locals. This year they have added a few new ‘no camping’ signs to some of the popular parking areas and supposedly the parking lot which turns into a de-facto campground in Å will have an 18 hour parking limit (in the fjord region down south they are now limiting the parking to 2 hours in some popular destinations). But as you can see in this photo taken at 01:00, where there were around two dozen motorhomes/campers in the parking lot, just 200 meters from an official (paid) campground, little seems to be done to enforce the few rules. And so the locals continue to grow frustrated.

But such is the cycle of life here in the North, the free playground for Europe. Nothing will change soon, only more restrictions mostly affecting us that live here, not the occasional visitor for a few days each summer. And next July I’ll be writing another similar post…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
ISO 800
f 5
1/100 second
WB Daylight

2 replies
  1. Lukasz Lukomski says:

    So what would be a solution? More managed traffic? More control? Introduce heavy tourism taxes that would support infrastructure? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not questioning anything you say. Over the years of travelling I’ve turned into a postmodernist tourist (I’d never call myself a traveller). I don’t see places as snapshot of my visit there but I try to see it through the eyes of local population, who have to live there through all seasons and all conditions. And even though it is different for most of the world, where if you’re a) a tourist and b) a European, it means you’re vastly richer than most of the population – as Norway doesn’t really need tourism that much. So visiting other parts of Norway? I’d have to blame you for that a bit – at least on my part 😉 couple of years ago I was looking for a getaway place for my solitary photography trip and finding your website pushed me for Lofoten instead of Faroes. I fell in love and I’ve been going every year, bringing friends over etc. And I see this every year, as more and more people come. How to deal with it? Do I avoid Lofoten to ease the pressure? Do I go there but be reasonable, support local economy and leave no trace? It happens all over the world (Venice, Dubrovnik, Prague).

    • Cody says:

      Hi Lukasz,

      It’s a big question, and not just for Norway, but many other places as you mentioned. I’m not quite sure what the solution is myself. Perhaps a combination of regulation (unfortunately), taxes, and education. But the current rate of use, even on some of the popular hikes and camping areas is unsustainable for much longer without serous damage to the natural areas that people are coming to experience.

      From the Norwegian side, they have been naive to market Lofoten and other areas so heavily, without providing the financial support to build the infrastructure for all the people that have now come. It also seems overly complicated to actually get anything done here as there are too many different agencies/authorities involved and the way budgets are made. It’s not like tourism is new to Lofoten, but the local response to better control the situation has been painfully slow in my opinion. It was mainly a local effort in recent years to raise the funds for the new Reinebringen Sherpa stairway through donations – so far 7.000.000 NOK has been spent on the project, which is still not complete.

      The roads on Lofoten are small and narrow, especially between Hamnøy to Å, and to Henningsvær. Should the local residents be subjected to huge traffic jams and dangerous conditions daily do to 1000’s of oversized motorhomes from the continent? Should there be a vehicle size limit in some areas for non local traffic? Or maybe a shuttle bus system should be set up like occurs in some of the US national parks that have become overcrowded (Zion NP for example). Rügen in Germany is attempting to use a hop-on hop-off bus system for visitors to alleviate traffic, although they have the benefit of funding this with a tourist tax, which the Norwegian government does not allow Lofoten to implement.

      Overall, an improved public transport system would be a great improvement for everyone. Currently it is impossible to reach some of Lofoten’s best known destinations without a car, and then the necessary parking – Haukland beach, Uttakleiv beach, Unstad beach, Eggum, and many more of Lofoten’s most popular locations. This is a failure in my opinion.

      Part of the solution is better education of visitors, even for simple things as pointing people to proper parking areas – or that you can’t just park on the road because the parking lot for your hike is full already. But also about the rules of Allemansretten and proper outdoor ethics. And also there seems to have developed the idea that Norway is just ‘free.’ So parking areas, even the few areas with ‘no camping’ signs have turned into de-facto campgrounds. This is disrespectful for the local community.

      In recent years there as be a large effort to set up necessary sized trash bins in more rural locations, though these quickly fill. But as a visitor, no one bought their now trash in Flakstad, Uttakleiv, Unstad, Eggum, etc. So as convenient as it might be to throw away your trash at every parking lot, if your trash is coming from Leknes/Svolvær, simply taking it back there can reduce the overall stress on Lofoten’s rural areas. It might sound like a small thing, but if an extra 100-300 people a day are throwing trash away at isolated locations, it fills up quickly (The trash for residents is only collected once a month, just FYI).

      The same applies for toilets – many of which have been build in high impact locations in recent years – but as a tourist, how would you know that the septic tanks need to be emptied on a daily basis in some locations because they are in rural locations and not connected to sewer systems and mainly build into pure rock. So awareness/education of the visitor from the Lofoten side and trying to use city based toilets as much as possible can reduce the strain here. And many more toilets are still needed in key locations.

      So I think there needs to be more support from the Norwegian side. And more understanding and awareness from the tourism side – that if you’re driving from Germany with a motorhome full of cheap food while camping for free in every parking lot and turnout, and still utilizing trash cans, toilets (or nature), and other free services – that a little needs to be given back as well…


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