Today while hiking up on Guratinden I was thinking about writing this post.
I am a tour guide in northern Scandinavia for the last 10 years, mainly hiking on the Lofoten Islands in summer time. Best thing with my job is to share the beauty of nature and the unique Scandinavian culture.
In the first years hiking with groups on the islands it almost felt as we were alone on the trails. We almost never met other hikers except of local inhabitants of course. Every summer when I came back to the islands the trails were the same as the year before and still in good condition. They had time to recover during autumn and spring.
This changed rapidly the last three years!
Do not get this wrong – this is not about blaming somebody! This is about reminding of the responsibility we all have as travellers.
The increasing number of visitors on the Lofoten Islands is a good thing! I hope for the region to develop tourism as a new primary industry, to secure the future for the people living there and for the world to see this unique place.
And here comes the “but” – but on sustainable conditions! No future without sustainability!
As every tour guide in Norway knows – there are very few marked trails in Norway and starting points often are difficult to find. Years back, tour descriptions for the islands where almost non-existent or only in Norwegian language – which was fine for me as I am Swedish. Locals had “marked” trails with their very own signs (like boxes, wooden marks or something”) and the Norwegian hiking society had done some “T” marks as well. If people wanted to go hiking they needed a guide or at least advice.
Social media and internet websites started to deliver information – from hiker to hiker…
Over the years I did randomly look at the website rando lofoten and noticed the development on tour descriptions and followers. Serveral hiking books for the Lofoten Islands got published 3-4 years ago. I like the idea of more tour descriptions and in first place information’s about safety and ranking difficulties, starting points and other practical hints. Some of the books contain useful and careful information but others not.
In these books several of the hikes I had done in years were recommended with sometimes too succinct information. The trails started to grow, became difficult to hike on wet conditions and lots and lots of new paths appeared. Suddenly you could find garbage, poo and toilet paper behind big rocks - where we before could have a break protected from the wind. Luckily for me and my guests experience I had some alternative tours which were “not in the books”.
This spring I saw the post on your website about your new book Hiking on the Lofoten Islands. My first reaction was “Oh no!”. I planned to buy the book as soon as I would arrive in Leknes to see which of my planned hikes needed to be adjusted.
And now – finally the reason why I write this post:
I bought the book, I read the book - from first to last page - and I LOVE IT!
Sounds probably funny to you after all my criticism. But it is the truth.
Your hiking book is a real guide – advice from experienced guides to travellers of all kind. A guide who gives GOOD advice before and during the trip, REALISTIC and WELL PICTURED descriptions and most important EDUCATIONAL information’s about how to behave in the arctic nature.
The increasing numbers of visitors are not made by books – it is a result of a long marketing strategy from Norway and the incredible big influence of social media.
The books and websites provide the travellers with ideas of where to go and what to do – but in the same time they are our only chance to explain the sensibility of the arctic nature and to influence the travellers who choose to explore the islands without a personal tour guide.
I hope lots of people are going to buy your book and read your website.
I hope they read it carefully and enjoy it - as I did.
I hope everybody downloads your GPS tracks and act on your recommendation to stay on the tracks.
I hope all visitors respect the local rules and show respect to each other and in first place towards the local people.
I am looking forward to meet lots of well informed and well prepared hikers on many of my favourite trails.
And finally, I hope we – ALL TOGETHER – keep the Lofoten Islands as beautiful as they are!
P.S.: I need to add that also in our profession as tour guides you can find “black sheep” with low experience and the lack of local understanding. It would be therefore great to meet you some day to share experiences and to develop a professional tour guide community.
Wow... First of all, many thanks for this post! It's great that there are people who truly worry about the Island. I have never been to Lofoten and plan to visit it this Fall or next May. For sure, I will remember your words and will do my best to take care of the Island while my hike.
I'm happy that the Island is becoming more popular among travelers. But, on the other hand, it is a little bit sad because of we, hikers, love such places for being off the beaten track. However, beautiful places should be visited by those who love nature and admire such places.
Once again, thank you for the post!
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