Sweden’s right of public access in a nutshell
Sweden is a natural wonderland free for all to enjoy. The right of public access allows you to indulge in almost any form of outdoor recreational activity – from hiking and riding, to swimming and berry picking.
Sweden’s idyllic nature is varied and vast – spanning flower meadows, deep forests, archipelagos, mountains and countless lakes. The freedom to roam – or “allemansrätten” as this ancient rural code translates to in Swedish – allows you to go on relaxing hikes, long cycle rides or thrilling mountain treks. Swimmers can swim, boaters can boat and berry pickers can fill their baskets. You’re even allowed to stay the night under the stars should you wish to pitch up a tent. This generous set-up is unique to Sweden, though it exists to varying degrees in a handful of other northern and central European countries.
One of the most thrilling aspects of Sweden’s public right of access is that the delicious treasures of nature are free for all to feast on. Mushrooms, blueberries and lingonberries thrive in Swedish forests, and you’ll even find nuts in some regions. You’re welcome to collect these; and flowers, too – as long as they’re not protected. All orchid species, for instance, are protected in the entire country and must not be picked. Further information on protected plants and blooms can be found here: Which plants are protected?
Before setting off with basket in hand, bear in mind that no picking of berries, flowers, mushrooms and nuts (or anything else for that matter) is allowed in national parks or nature reserves. And while you’re allowed to pick some flowers for yourself (though not protected species) – digging up plants or picking blooms to sell is forbidden.
Four-footed friends are welcome in the wild, too, but dogs are not allowed to run loose in the countryside during birthing and hatching season – 1 March to 20 August. During other times of the year, dogs must be kept under full control in order to protect wildlife.
There are other rules to observe, but in some cases regulations are vague due to their centuries-old nature. The general rule of thumb among Swedes regarding the freedom to roam is: “do not disturb and do not destroy.” Part of this principle, which is based on common sense, is not to leave rubbish in nature. Unless bins are provided and there are signs indicating that the site is serviced, please take every scrap of litter with you to help preserve the natural wonderland of Sweden.
Take a dip or set sail – freedom to roam applies to water, too
Sweden is studded with beautiful, clean lakes, from north to south. And since right of public access applies to land and water alike, you’re free to enjoy a swim or set sail almost anywhere – including the spectacular archipelagos. Fancy staying a night or two on a boat? Feel free to do so. Just like on land, right of public access exclusions apply.
Here are a few points to bear in mind before entering Swedish waters:
- You may moor a boat temporarily or enjoy a swim off a jetty, providing it doesn’t adjoin the grounds of a house.
- Boating and swimming in bird sanctuaries and nature reserves is often prohibited.
- Jet-skis are only permitted in public navigation channels and designated areas.
Camping in the Swedish wilderness
Fancy waking up to birdsong in the unspoilt Swedish wilderness? Take advantage of the right of public access and pitch up a tent for a night or two. Providing you don’t disturb the landowner or cause damage to nature, you’re free to choose your spot.
For a makeshift outdoor toilet, find a spot far from any trails or camping sites, and dig it into the ground. And make sure you don’t leave any paper behind. Make a habit of carrying plastic bags and a small spade, which will enable you to bury any evidence.
Points to bear in mind before pitching up your tent:
- Make sure the site in question is not near houses, part of farmland or used for grazing.
- Large groups must obtain the landowner’s permission.
- Tents are generally not allowed in sports-grounds, national parks or nature reserves parks – but each municipality has its own rules – and indeed exceptions. You’ll find information on noticeboards or at the local tourist office.