The world has become much more eco-conscious in recent years. For travelers in years gone by, that would have meant a shortage of options for luxury travel and holiday destinations. Now, however, eco-travelers have plenty of choices, and it can be challenging to know which option to choose!
It’s also interesting that while some countries have been eco destinations for a while now, there are some new countries, regions, and experiences that could soon become synonymous with the still-growing trend. Eco-friendly travel can sometimes mean different things for different countries, and that’s a significant part of the education that forms part of eco-vacations.
It’s no secret that flying half-way across the world, even if it is to an eco-holiday, isn’t fantastic for anyone’s carbon footprint. However, if you can find actual eco-conscious locations closer to home, you’re doing even more for the environment and your well-being. As such, a recent survey from the International Society of Tourism shows that over 99% of respondents agree that eco-tourism is a fast-growing industry.
Here are some of my favorite stand-out eco-friendly holiday hotspots that I know will prove popular with every type of traveler, not just those looking for a green experience.
New Zealand’s natural landscape attracts visitors from all over the world. However, tourism can have a damaging effect on different countries and regions in different ways. In New Zealand, they’re working hard to encourage more eco-conscious travelers by offering various options for visitors that complement the natural resources, wildlife, and landscape. The trick is doing that while also ensuring the country is still welcoming and has something for everyone who plans a visit.
The population of New Zealand is under 5 million and makes up just 0.06% of the global community. However, the inhabitants of the country have managed to create a wide variety of eco-tourism destinations. These places attract visitors from near and far.
- Hiking the Tongariro Crossing that as made famous in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
- Whale and dolphin watching in Kaikoura.
- Visiting the wildlife protected in Fiordland National Park.
- Diving in Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve.
As an island, New Zealand has an abundance of sea-based attractions. People treat wildlife with care, and workers teach tourists about the natural environment. Professionals teach visitors how to improve and preserve it. For some parts of New Zealand, that is what eco-tourism now means.
It’s also interesting to know that as with other regions, some things you can visit in New Zealand are simply unavailable anywhere else in the world. That means that teaching everyone possible how to preserve and support those different eco-systems will being benefits that should last for years.
Slovenia is a country that is made up mainly of forests and agricultural land. That combination makes it the perfect country to visit and enjoy things in a way that enhances that natural state and also makes for an enjoyable break, away from the hustle and bustle of tech centers, many of us work or live in every day.
Slovenia’s capital city of Ljubljana was named the world’s first green destination in 2016, and that’s very much down to the sustainability of so much of the activity that takes place there. That includes:
- Cars banned from the center of the Ljubljana.
- Excellent waste management systems.
- The government is encouraging businesses to buy only locally-grown food ingredients.
The near 60% of forest that covers the country is a natural benefit to the ecological balance. Meanwhile, with more than 30% of the country remaining as agricultural land, that’s another big tick for the health of the natural landscape and Slovenian’s consumer behavior.
This information all translates into a beautiful eco-destination for travelers who can enjoy camping in one of the hundreds of camping and glamping spots across the many forested areas. Cyclists can also take advantage of the quieter roads and glorious landscapes. Meanwhile, tourist farms are growing in popularity. Visitors can choose from options where only all their produce is from the farm or where the whole family can get involved in seasonal activities such as fruit picking or looking after the animals.
Other eco-friendly elements offered in abundance in Slovenia are the use of the natural geothermal areas for heat and the promotion of holiday resorts that have their own water source and use solar power extensively.
The Central American country is working hard towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2021 and is also famed for impressing with its renewable energy uses. Some 26% of Costa Rica is protected in national parks and reserves, which will help ensure the country retains its breath-taking scenery and un-spoilt views.
Home to an impressive number of eco-lodges that are sustainable and use local produce, Cost Rica is firmly on the eco-tourism map and is set to remain there. Deforestation in many other countries is something that Costa Ricans have worked hard to protect against. To this end, they’ve ensured their rain forests are popular destinations that are more beneficial to the country’s finances than they would be if the natural wood resources were sold. Ziplining is thrilling, but even more so when you do it through dense vegetation and a plethora of wildlife that indigenous to Central America.
Whale watching and an annual whale festival promote the natural beauty that makes up this fascinating country. To help ensure this form of tourism is always available, no less than 64 rules are in place for tour operators who run whale watching trips and experiences.
Hiking is another popular option, although, with such a variety of terrain available across the country, it’s no real surprise. Meanwhile, you can combine a love of hiking and coffee as you visit one of the Arabica Bean coffee farms where you can learn from the experts how to tell a great coffee from a good one.
Spas that utilize the natural flora, fauna, and resources are also in high demand, with the option to finish tour Costa Rican visit with a chocolate tour. With all of this managed sustainably and in one country, Costa Rica is undoubtedly a country that will be remembered by all visitors for the excellent use and preservation of its natural resources.
Staying in Central America, Belize is another eco-tourism hotspot that should attract your attention for all the right reasons. To help balance the economic need for tourism but a desire to protect their beautiful country, the Belize Government is encouraging community-based projects that can support an eco-tourism industry.
Its forests are protected as are its waters, which is home to the Belize Barrier Reef – the second largest in the world. Offshore oil drilling within 1 kilometer of the Barrier Reef was banned in 2015, adding to the importance of this natural attraction. These actions speak volumes about the long-term green ambitions of the small coastal country.
To help balance Belize’s biodiversity, tourists can enjoy sustainable and well-managed:
- Scuba diving.
- Bird watching.
All of these experiences, and more, are offered in a way that’s sympathetic to the natural landscape. They are also sustainable for the future of the country, while still providing an experience of a lifetime to visitors.
With such a large population, India might not seem like a natural eco-tourism destination. However, as tourism is the third-largest foreign exchange earner in the country and travel is enjoyed by ‘staycationers’ as well as overseas visitors, investment in eco-tourism makes sense, for the country’s economy and the protection of its natural resources, biodiversity, and wildlife.
For some, India is a country that is well-known for its high level of waste and use of plastic packaging, not to mention the sweatshops where you can find fast-fashion. However, things are changing, and with Eco-Lodges and hotels springing up across the regions, as well as government promotion of reusable plastics and local produce, India is undoubtedly working hard to climb up the ranks of eco-conscious travel destinations.
Kerala is just one part of India that has a varied choice of eco-friendly vacation options. That includes:
- Kerala backwaters, where you can take a cruise on a houseboat.
- Munnar in Kerala, home to forests, tea orchards, and the rare Neelakurinji flower.
- Thenmala, offering a variety of activities in the region’s breath-taking forest canopy.
- Eravikulam National Park, offering visitors the chance to see endangered species, Nilgiri Tahr and also the Lakkom Water Falls on the Pampar River.
West Bengal is another region that’s emerging as an eco-tourism destination of choice in India. This interest is born from a desire to protect and promote the region’s endangered wildlife and also some rare and essential plant life too.
By educating people from the region who can then share their knowledge with visitors who wish to see the lush vegetation and spectacular wildlife that naturally lives in the area, the promotion of sustainable eco-tourism is the obvious choice.
Denmark’s capital city of Copenhagen is another eco-tourism destination that is worth a visit. The town is full of eco-conscious inhabitants:
- Some 52% of people who live in Copenhagen commute to and from work by bicycle.
- Of the hotel rooms in the city, 71% are eco-certified.
- Renewable energy is also significant, accounting for 72% of sources used across the city.
- Copenhagen sends only 2% of the city’s waste to landfill.
That offers real insight into just how seriously this city takes eco-friendly options to ensure sustainability is the first consideration and not a last-minute thought.
As a visitor to Copenhagen, you’ll experience sustainable organic food as a natural choice rather than an expensive ‘nice-to-have.’ But that’s far from the only way you’ll experience sustainability across the city and its surroundings.
Cycling has long been a popular activity across Denmark, and in the city ranked most cycle-friendly, renting a bike is easy to do, no matter what size bike you need, or where in the town and outskirts you want to visit. As you cycle around the city, you’ll notice the architecture is certainly eye-catching. That’s because much of the design is based on eco-friendly practices and sustainable materials. Not to mention using renewable energy where ever possible.
Another travel destination for eco-conscious travelers is the province of British Colombia in Canada. Known as the greenest province in the country, British Colombia is home to a variety of eco-friendly elements:
- Green jobs.
- Sustainable architecture and buildings.
- High levels of energy efficiency.
- Affordable organic food.
It is also a fantastic vacation for those who love adventure mixed in with their forward-thinking eco-friendly approach to life. Visitors can ski, hike, horseback ride, or enjoy the waterways by rafting or canoeing. Meanwhile, camping is another accessible and sustainable activity that allows vacationers to enjoy the wildlife of the region.
As you can see, eco-tourism does mean something different in almost every country that is developing the industry. That means that whether you have a definitive idea of what eco-tourism is or you’re just keen to experience eco-friendly travel in all its guises; there’s something for everyone in almost every part of the word.
It’s also worth me pointing out that just because I haven’t mentioned a country, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an eco-holiday option. States, including the US and the UK both, have pockets of eco-tourism that have been popular for many years. Meanwhile, Iceland is also well-known for its sustainability and protection of its natural environment.
Cuba, Ecuador, and the Azores are also up-and-coming places for travelers who want to take in some eco-friendly sites and experiences. However, even if you plan to stay closer to home, most countries and regions now offer some form of an eco-friendly option that will impress most travelers’ desires.