It’s summer, and you know what that means – everybody is on some sort of vacation! It’s time to get started planning your late summer nature travel before the weather turns and fall is upon us. Maybe you’re dreaming of a more sustainable vacation than last year’s… staying at an eco-friendly accommodation, learning about local cultures, and being one with nature.
If you’ve been looking for a unique and thrilling trip to someplace with lush green forests, tropical vibes, or mountain wilderness, read on for some new ideas. Some of the destinations might surprise you!
Best Destinations for Eco-Conscious Travelers
1. New Zealand
New Zealand is a breathtaking natural wonderland that beckons travelers with its awe-inspiring and untouched natural beauty. From the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps to the pristine lakes of the Fiordland National Park, every corner of the nation’s islands is a testament to wilderness conservation and natural beauty. Over 20% of the nation is covered in national parks and reserves.
Over the past two decades, the government of New Zealand has prioritized putting the environment at the forefront of new policies and initiatives. A country fully aware of its traditional and indigenous ties to the natural world, New Zealand also relies on its environmental beauty to bring in tourism money. Because of that, they’ve consistently been a global leader in environmental protection policies. Around 40% of the country’s energy supply comes from renewable sources.
In New Zealand, you’ll be able to witness the glow of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, take a boat through the Milford Sound, or visit the many natural hot springs and geysers. Their ecotourism industry is quite advanced and prepared to give tourists an incredible eco-friendly experience!
2. Costa Rica
Whether you’re looking for lush rainforests, tall mountains, or stunning beaches, Costa Rica is your spot. The country is a world-renowned ecotourism spot, famous for its plethora of eco-friendly accommodation options and adventure activities. From hiking trails to jungle landscapes to river rafting and scuba diving, Costa Rica is an eco-adventurer’s real paradise. There are even volcanoes to see!
The country focuses on leveraging its vast greenery and relaxed lifestyle into an incredible experience for tourists – ever heard of the Pura Vida? More than a quarter of Costa Rica is made up of National Parks, and their energy sources are pretty renewable, too. The wildlife in Costa Rica includes a whopping 6% of the entire world’s biodiversity, making this an incredible spot for biology lovers.
If you’re planning to visit Costa Rica, be sure to take advantage of the ecolodges situated across the country. There you’ll be able to immerse yourself in what Costa Rica’s natural world has to offer while feeling great about aligning your travels with your sustainable ideals. There are luxury and budget-friendly options for any travel configuration.
Slovenia is such a hidden gem, situated in the heart of Europe. Don’t skip out on visiting the emerald waters of Lake Bled, surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks. Or what about the underground marvels of Postojna Cave? Slovenia’s landscapes are a feast for the senses and are so often underrated.
Slovenia also happens to be a pioneer in the field of strategic sustainable tourism development. More than half of the country is covered in forests, making it the second greenest country in Europe behind only Finland. Offering incredible local cuisine, and plenty of slow travel itineraries, Slovenia is well-known as one of the most sustainable countries in the world.
Whether you’re taking in the vibrant colors of Triglav National Park’s wildflower meadows, admiring waterfalls and crystal clear waters, or hiking somewhere in the Julian Alps, you can feel good about visiting a sustainable nature destination.
4. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are a treasure trove of breathtaking natural beauty. Here, you’ll find an extraordinary array of wildlife, from playful sea lions to giant tortoises. The air is filled with the sounds of hundreds of bird species, like the iconic blue-footed boobies and the graceful albatross.
Ecotourism in the Galapagos Islands represents a shining example of sustainable travel at its finest. They have placed a strong emphasis on preserving the local ecosystem, encouraging tourists to participate in meaningful and responsible tourism practices. By adhering to guidelines and regulations, travelers have the opportunity to explore the islands’ landscapes while minimizing their environmental impact.
From guided nature walks to snorkeling excursions, ecotourism in the Galapagos Islands allows visitors to appreciate and protect this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site for years to come.
Borneo, with its lush rainforests, is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. It offers breathtaking sights like the majestic Mount Kinabalu and the vibrant orangutans swinging through the treetops. The coastline of Bako National Park will amaze beach lovers, as well. Borneo is split between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, and it’s one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet.
If you’re dying to get a glimpse of the monkeys endemic to the area, you don’t have to worry. Ecotourism in Borneo is thriving, thanks to major conservation and protection efforts. Protected islands and coral reefs, orangutan rehab centers, and winding caves await in Borneo.
Because of Borneo’s social values related to traditional knowledge and sacred sites, the people know a thing or two about conservation. They’re focused on creating resilience to climate change and nurturing the region’s natural capital for all to enjoy. If Borneo has become your #1 travel destination, be sure to stay in eco-accommodations, and comply with local regulations on adventure activities.
In Peru, the wonder of Machu Picchu awaits, nestled amidst the Andes Mountains. Wildlife enthusiasts can encounter magnificent creatures such as the elusive jaguar, vibrant macaws, playful river otters, and gentle giant river dolphins. There is so much flora and fauna to discover in Peru, on top of the cultural experiences available to tourists.
Engaging in ecotourism in Peru allows visitors to experience firsthand the harmonious blend of vibrant ecosystems while supporting local conservation efforts and embracing the warm hospitality of the Peruvian people. Their food isn’t so bad, either! It’s consistently named the world’s best culinary destination.
There are plenty of ways to travel through Peru while also reducing your environmental impact. Responsible travel companies are out there, but sometimes it’s just a matter of finding them. Be sure to stay conscious of the ethical, social, and environmental pillars of sustainability when planning your trip to Peru–by keeping them in mind, you’ll be able to plan a well-rounded ecotourism experience.
The vast and untamed wilderness of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina beckons with its towering glaciers, rugged peaks, and enchanting fjords. In Patagonia, one can go on exhilarating adventures such as hiking through the iconic Torres del Paine National Park. Visitors can go kayaking in the pristine fjords, witness the mesmerizing beauty of Perito Moreno Glacier, or spot diverse wildlife like guanacos, Andean condors, and Magellanic penguins.
There are many efforts to make travel to Patagonia as sustainable as possible. By educating tourists on the principles of sustainable wilderness hiking, the region has maintained its untouched appearance and wild feel. There are even local conservation efforts you can participate in if you choose to visit.
Climate change, forest fires, and waste management issues are a struggle in the region (as they are in many parts of the world, to be fair). Before you go, understand the region and the problems it faces. By taking time to learn about the environmental challenges there, you’ll be better equipped to plan a fantastic ecotourism adventure through its mountain peaks.
Bhutan's pristine landscapes and serene monasteries offer a glimpse into a spiritual realm, where you can witness the beauty of the Himalayas and immerse yourself in the warmth of Bhutanese hospitality. This is, after all, the only country in the world that measures gross national happiness.
It’s also the only carbon-neutral nation in the world, and it keeps its tourism numbers down for the sake of quality over quantity. A network of ecotourism farmhouses has funded the conservation of the glacial valleys, allowing you a glimpse into another world.
When visiting Bhutan, you’ll be taken aback by both the natural and cultural beauty of the land and its people. With plenty of sustainable travel options, you’ll be able to explore with a clear conscious as well.
9. Alaska, United States
The rugged terrain of Denali National Park and the stunning fjords of Kenai Peninsula hosts an abundance of Alaskan wildlife, including grizzly bears, humpback whales, and bald eagles, making it a haven for ecotourism. To see Alaska, you’ll most likely be booking multiple guided tours and excursions. Do your best to research guide and tour companies, and support only the most sustainable and ethical ones.
To travel sustainably in Alaska, prioritize responsible outdoor practices by following Leave No Trace principles, respecting wildlife and their habitats, and supporting local businesses that prioritize sustainable practices.
Alaska Natives leading their own narrative in tourism is part of a larger effort to integrate Indigenous perspectives and maintain cultural accuracy. By embracing Alaska Native values, such as stewardship of the land, we can support regenerative tourism. This promotes a more authentic experience for visitors that values both wildlife and indigenous perspectives.
In Kenya, the vast savannahs of Maasai Mara and the iconic Great Rift Valley reveal a rich tapestry of wildlife, where the roars of lions and the hooves of wildebeest create a symphony of natural wonders to behold. Ecotourism thrives here, as thousands flock to the African country each year for their famed safari trips.
Conservation in Kenya plays a vital role in protecting its biodiversity and iconic wildlife, such as elephants, elk, and rhinos. Efforts include establishing national parks and reserves, implementing anti-poaching measures, and promoting sustainable practices to ensure the long-term preservation of Kenya's natural heritage.
Ecotourism Kenya (EK) is spearheading sustainable tourism governance in Kenya by providing practical guidance and implementing a voluntary certification scheme, recognizing over 100 accommodation facilities as 'Green Destinations' for their commendable sustainable practices.
To learn more about sustainable travel in Kenya and how the industry is changing over time, check out this awesome piece by World Footprints.
Charting the Path Towards Truly Sustainable Travel
Traveling sustainably is not merely about choosing destinations labeled as eco-friendly; it extends far beyond that. Truly sustainable travel means minimizing your impact and waste wherever you go. While opting for sustainable locations is commendable, it's crucial to cultivate a sense of awareness and environmental consciousness no matter where your journey takes you.
Embracing a sustainable mindset involves respecting local cultures, minimizing your carbon footprint, and supporting local communities. It's about immersing yourself in the natural beauty of a place while leaving it untouched, ensuring future generations can experience its wonders too. By adopting sustainable practices and spreading awareness, we can pave the way for a harmonious coexistence with our planet, even as we explore its diverse landscapes.
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