Why Norway’s commitment to eco-travel is good news for the eco-conscious

Ecotourism isn’t a mere trend in Norway — it has been the constant tourism framework. After all, Norway has some of the world’s most spectacular natural attractions. Ecotourism promotes responsible and sustainable travels that leave flora, fauna, and cultural heritage untouched by the damaging effects of destructive tourism practices.

If you are aiming to minimize your carbon footprint while travelling across Norway, have no fear. There are many ways to make sure that your travels are unintrusive, sustainable, and responsible. Here are some ways:

Travel like a local

In Norway, the best and greenest way to go around is via public transport. Rush hour in Oslo or Bergen isn’t as hectic as it is in large cities like London and Tokyo, and commuters can rely on the fact that Norwegian train routes are some of the most scenic in the world.

The Bergen, Rauma, and Nordland Railways are excellent scenic routes for stress-free eco-travels, and the Ofoten Line is a great way to take a peek into Sweden without leaving Norway. Other public transit options are local ferries, which are not only used to transport vehicles and merchandise across islands, but are also for commuters and travellers to conveniently island-hop the ports of Bergen, Ålesund, Kristiansund, Trondheim, and Bodo.

Aerial View of Bergen Old Town, Norway
Aerial View of Bergen Old Town, Norway

Visit sustainable destinations

The country has a long list of sustainable destinations too. Femund Engerdal is a region situated between the border of Sweden and the Norwegian cities of Trysil and Røros, and is known for its 67 mountain peaks and two national parks. Its northernmost region is home to the Sami people, known for their long-standing tradition of reindeer farming. Located in the southernmost part of Norway, Lindesnes and Åseral is popular for Under, the world’s largest underwater restaurant, as well as the Lindesnes Lighthouse, and tours of the Støa Leketøyfabrikk, a wooden toy factory that has been in business since 1928.

For the more adventurous nature travellers, there’s Lysefjord, known for its stunning vistas of the country’s most distinctive-looking fjords, as well as the world’s longest wooden staircase, a two-hour climb of 4,444 wooden steps that will take you 740 metres above sea level, giving you sweeping views of the peninsula. Lastly, there’s the traditional town of Røros, a medieval town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is best known for its locally produced foods, which develop a distinct and unique taste because of unconventional growing and production methods. Graze on beer, fish, cheeses, baked goods, and fine cuts of meat and cold cuts here.

Go electric

Electric car and bike rentals are now a popular option to move around Norway, and with more than 10,000 charging stations scattered across the land, road trips are no longer out of the question.

Greenmobile and eMobility are the major e-car rental companies in the country, and you can find charging stations on www.ladestasjoner.no. A number of hotels also have designated charging stalls in their car parks, so call ahead to make sure yours has one. Some examples are the Radisson Blu Plaza, the Klaekken Hotel, Hotel Alstor, and the Holmen Fjordhotell.

Travel traditionally

You can even take your sustainable transit up a notch by going totally green while experiencing some truly unique Scandinavian activities — such as river rafting, dog sledding, and sleigh rides — which make use of no electricity at all.

Hiking tours are also very popular, with some tours lasting several days. Try the Hardangerfjord tour, which incorporates a one-day cruise into your itinerary for a look at the region’s mountains, waterfalls, and orchards. Or opt for the Sognefjord tour, which features Norway’s biggest and deepest fjords. If you’re up for it, check out the Preikestolen tour, a three- to four- day guided hike through some wild coastal scenery, culminating in a visit to Pulpit Rock, a plateau some 600 metres above sea level, which offers soaring views of the town of Strand.

Sognefjord, the largest and deepest fjord in Norway.
Sognefjord, the largest and deepest fjord in Norway.

Travel with eco-certified travel providers

Eco-certified travel providers help tourists minimize their carbon footprint by maximizing the use of existing public transport systems. These travel companies provide guided tours by walking, biking, or taking the public train and electrical fjord cruise boats. They don’t use fleets of tour buses and consistently tout that the key to environmental conservation is the participation of everyone.

Sourcing an eco-certified travel provider isn’t difficult; just look for the Eco-Lighthouse/Miljofyrtarn symbol on their website or office. Checking out the list of winners of the annual European Sustainable Tourism Awards is also a great idea.

Check in at eco-labelled accommodations

Tourism in Norway is heavily influenced by green initiatives — its tagline is Powered By Nature, which is why environmentally certified hotels are now the norm. These accommodations follow stricter requirements than mandated by European laws, and are known for low energy consumption and sustainable practices such as creative food waste and leftover management. These hotels and inns also make extensive use of sustainable energy sources such as windmills, solar panels, and a connection to the local hydropower provider.

When booking a Norwegian hotel, keep an eye out for the green tussock (tuft of grass symbol) next to the hotel’s name on visitnorway.com. This signifies that the hotel is an active and compliant member of Green Travel: Ecotourism Norway.

The Svart Hotel, which will open near the Svartisen Glacier in Holandfjorden in 2021, will be the first energy-positive hotel in the world. It will sustainably generate more energy than it can use, which will be returned to the national energy grid. For the adventurous, the Preikestolen Base Camp is a good option for those seeking unusual accommodations. They offer treehouses, hammocks over water, and even tents installed onto a cliff face, for that truly unique experience. Those who want homier lodging options should check out Eplet Bed & Apple, a friendly guest house and fruit farm that is a short bike ride away from seals and waterfalls.

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