Insight – The Swedish law of wanderlust

The Swedish law of wanderlust

Swedish ice-climbing instructor Markus Nyman warms up his students with an off-piste ski tour, snaking past pine trees so thick with powder that locals describe them as “snow ghosts”. They’re only a few minutes’ slalom from the main chair lift that takes alpine adventurers to the top of the slopes of Duved, a 17th-Century village 640km north of Stockholm.

Formally enshrined in the Swedish constitution in the 1990s, this veritable national law of wanderlust means that Swedes and foreign visitors alike can ski, cycle, skate, swim, camp and – yes – even pick-axe up frozen waterfalls anywhere in Sweden that isn’t on or near private property. And since 97% of the nation is uninhabited and very few trails or beaches are private, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to explore: two-thirds of the country is covered in forest; there are 30 national parks and more than 4,000 nature reserves (together covering an area greater than neighbouring Denmark); nearly 270,000 islands and thousands of kilometres of bike paths.

Embracing Sweden’s great outdoors has also been a growing trend amongst foreign tourists in recent years, with nature-based adventures and events among the top-five activities for global visitors in 2019, according to Visit Sweden, the country’s national tourism organisation. In the 10 months prior to the pandemic, around 60% of international overnight stays were to destinations outside Sweden’s capital. The global flight-shaming movement ­– started by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg –­ also boosted regional travel prior to Covid-19 restrictions, with a high demand for coastal and rural holidays from Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and Germans keen to explore the Swedish countryside by train, ferry or car, rather than travelling further afield.

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