Norway has a huge number of lakes, some of them are popular swimming spots and may even have small piers but the majority are just regular lakes in the forest. How can I know if one of these lakes is safe and allowed to bathe in? Are there dangers that a non-Norwegian might not realise e.g. a dangerous algae or similar?

  • How familiar are you with lakes in other parts of the world and which part of the world would that be?
    – Willeke
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 18:00
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    What exactly do you mean with 'safe'? Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 18:15
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    Hi! I am European but I am not experienced in lake swimming. I know of course that such activities are never entirely risk free and that e.g. you have to be careful with the water temperature (as in many other countries) but I mean more things in or under the water that might not be obvious before you get in e.g. any dangerous bacteria that can make you sick, strong currents, common plants that entangle you, industrial pollution. Not all of these seem likely to me but I am not very familiar with Norway that is why I am asking :) Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 18:34
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    Apart from obtaining a list of safe and permissible lakes (if there is one) an obvious answer is to swim in lakes where local people already swim. If you get into trouble then there is also a better hope of rescue. Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 19:02
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    I would never bathe in a lake but I might swim in it. Environmental damage from soap and such isn't a joke.
    – gktscrk
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


You can swim in pretty much every lake in Norway. There are some lakes that are used for drinking water, but these will have signs saying that swimming is illegal.

  • Any dangerous bacteria that can make you sick: Nope

If you're not in an urban areas of close to pasture you can actually drink the water straight from the rivers (or even from the lakes if there is some circulation)

Some lakes and rivers (especially in northern Norway) have high concentration of lead due to military activity in the area. But don't worry, you won't stumble upon those lakes by chance. And there will be large signs saying it's polluted.

Blue-green algae might be an exception, but there are no records of people being ill from exposure to it in Norway. FHI (Norwegian health institute) states that the water is safe if you can see the bottom at 1 meter depth.

  • Strong currents: Not really, but there will always be currents close to rivers or water falls

  • Common plants that entangle you: Nope.

  • Industrial pollution: possibly a few places, but generally no. There are lake close to old factories, where the factories used to dump waste straight into the lake, but that doesn't happen anymore. Some lakes might still be a little bit polluted, but not enough to make swimming unsafe. You might not want to drink the water though. I would probably not swim in small lakes in very urban areas (such as Lille Lungegårdsvann in Bergen), but I've seen someone doing on a dare.

I don't know a single lake in rural areas I wouldn't be comfortable swimming in, and I've lived in many different places.

  • do a google search on "blue-green algae norway" .... no lakes are safe 100% of the time
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 12:24
  • Fair enough. I hadn't heard of that incident. On the other hand, the Norwegian health institute (FHI) has no records of humans being I'll from blue green algae in Norway. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 13:37
  • @CGCampbell +1 on that. Below a certain latitude - south of the central mountain massive - there may be algae blooms in lakes, and even coastal waters. This is fairly rare, and it is usually well communicated. However. There are no - to my knowledge - reported cases of people being seriously harmed by cyanobacteria.
    – Stian
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 13:38
  • @StianYttervik "it is usually well communicated" - I would think that is exactly what the OP is looking for. HOW is it so? Is there a website? are lakes posted? Is it best to do word-of-mouth?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 13:50
  • In the Mjøsa-case, everyone living near the lake got an SMS. Word of mouth is probably the best. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 14:22

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