Becky Hart | Jun 20, 2023
Are you eager to get away from the hustle and bustle of your own city and explore interesting destinations in a responsible, eco-friendly way?
Sustainable travel lets you balance your own amazing experience with making sure you only have a positive impact on the people and environment at your destination. For a responsible tourist, self-awareness is key, and choosing where to spend your holidays can help you on your path to sustainability.
Because every country and region has its own policies, it’s hard to determine which destinations are “greenest.” Still, a bit of research can help you focus your energy — and money — on the areas that are most important to you. To get started, here are our picks for some of the most eco-friendly destinations in the world.
If you want to be surrounded by untouched nature, you can’t go wrong with New Zealand. This country is stepping up its eco-friendly practices. They even took a sustainability commitment, and it’s clear they are trying to orient their industry toward the preservation of wildlife and the environment.
So, where should you start? Try the glow-worm caves in Waitomo. You’ll see natural limestone formations and become mesmerized by glow-worm clusters and cave decorations.
Astro-tourism is also a big thing in New Zealand, and if you want to gaze at the stars and see the Southern Cross formation, take a trip to the Waikato observatory. Birdwatching on Stewart Island or exploring geothermal rock formations are also some great, sustainable ways to make the best of your trip.
As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and home of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia has plenty of motivation to improve its eco-friendly reputation. You’ll see many of these efforts on Tasmania, Australia’s island state.
Freycinet, along the coast, offers many exciting things to see and do, including visiting the popular Freycinet Marine Farm, which grows succulent oysters around Coles Bay.
Tasmania is home to 19 national parks despite being only about the size of Switzerland or the U.S. state of West Virginia. At Freycinet National Park, you can experience the splendid Wineglass Bay Lookout with stunning views, turquoise waters, and, if you time it right, dolphins and whales on their migration. The hike is on the more strenuous side, but you won’t regret the effort.
This Pacific nation is made up of 300 islands, making it particularly susceptible to climate change. To help counteract negative environmental impact from tourism, it launched Ol’au Palau. The rewards program allows visitors to “pay” for exclusive experiences with points they earn by participating in sustainable activities like regenerative tourism projects and eating sustainably source food.
Palau also banned reef-toxic sunscreen in 2020. Many coastal areas are taking similar steps to protect their waters and ocean wildlife. Avoid releasing toxins into the water by choosing sunblock without chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene.
This little French Polynesian island offers dreamy beaches like Les Tipaniers and Tema’e, where you can enjoy sunsets with the locals and get lost while gazing at the horizon. You can even try fun activities like kayaking in a glass-bottom boat to explore coral gardens or visit the Lagoonarium, a protected area of the lagoon where you can feed fish and snorkel. No wonder this island is a great honeymoon idea.
Multiple luxurious hotels on Mo’orea, including InterContinental Resort and Spa Mo’orea and Manaa Beach Resort & Spa Mo’orea, have earned EarthCheck certification. This serves as proof of commitment to sustainability and low environmental impact.
This Southwest U.S. city is renowned for its skiing, but its remote location makes it tough to reach. Taos Ski Valley responded by creating Taos Air, a private, carbon-neutral airline. The goal is to make it easier and more sustainable for skiers to reach the resort’s slopes.
Taos Ski Valley also makes its impact — or reduces it, depending on your perspective — by reducing overall waste and water usage. The Blake Hotel, with its commitment to reducing single-use plastics and using geothermal heating, among other initiatives, is LEED-certified.
Portland has long been heralded as one of the hipster — and sustainability — capitals of the West Coast. Don't let this urban city fool you.
For ethical eats, visit one of Portland’s most popular eateries, Bamboo Sushi. Normally, sushi is notorious for its adverse effect on the ecosystem, but by focusing on local ingredients, Bamboo Sushi holds the title as the world’s first sustainable-certified sushi restaurant. For other environmentally friendly food, try stopping by one of Portland’s many food trucks for fresh ingredients and extensive vegetarian options.
While Portland has plenty of green spaces — it’s known as the City of Roses, after all — Tryon Creek State Park, is just 15 minutes south of City Center. Its 645 acres are home to extensive biking trails, areas for horseback riding, and a three-mile bike path.
If you’re more of a city-dweller at heart, you can still make environmentally friendly choices by shopping for locally made or gently used items at urban retailers like SCRAP, a nonprofit thrift store.
Copenhagen is attempting to become the first completely carbon neutral capital city by 2025. To meet this lofty goal, Copenhagen has invested in an extensive — and incredibly efficient — public transportation system. On top of that, nearly 40% of Denmark’s population bikes to work each day, and the city’s bike-share program makes it easy for tourists to join in.
Many of the city’s main attractions, from the Nyhavn entertainment district to Tivoli Gardens are easily accessible on foot. As you explore, you’ll likely notice a number of parks throughout the city. Thanks to Copenhagen’s sustainable planning, 90% of residents and visitors can walk to a green space in 15 minutes or less.
No matter where you are in Copenhagen, keep an eye out for environmentally friendly architecture. Many buildings are equipped with green roofs to help with runoff and reduce the impact of carbon emissions. And if you’re looking for lodging, finding an environmentally friendly room in Copenhagen might be easier than finding a traditional one, since the majority of Copenhagen’s hotel rooms hold an eco-certification.
Slovenia is often overlooked in favor of other European countries, which is a real shame considering Ljubljana is one of the most beautiful, sustainable cities in the world. It won the 2016 European Green Capital award, and it’s been popular ever since. Bicycling is the preferred mode of transportation, and the rivers are so clear and nature so verdant that it feels like a lovely little slice of heaven.
Take one of the many culinary tours, check out the Triglav National Park, try their delicious Maribor wine, and take a boat trip to see Lake Bohinj. You certainly won’t get bored.
Vienna has made a bold commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2040. The Austrian city is doing this by making changes in housing — covering roofs in vegetation and solar cells — and producing renewable energy.
Where travelers will see a difference is Vienna’s push towards urban farming and sustainable agriculture. With restaurants focusing on using more local food, you’ll find more fresh foods that are unique to the area.
Improved public transportation also makes it easy and eco-friendly to get around town with less environmental impact.
This picturesque archipelago might be small, but it’s certainly ambitious. Their aim is to rely 100 percent on completely renewable energy by 2030, so if you’re looking for a green paradise, this is where you’ll find it. Located about halfway between Iceland and Norway, the islands have favorable conditions for setting up wind farms and solar panels. And the Faroe Islands even have sustainable fisheries.
Regardless of these practices, the Faroe Islands are simply gorgeous. You definitely won’t lack for peace on this remote location, but you also won’t lack for entertainment. From uniquely delicious food, to live concerts inside grottos, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Community-based tourism is becoming synonymous with green tourism in Brazil. In many areas, locals are making focused efforts to encourage visitors to experience natural wonders and indigenous cultures respectfully.
The Atlantic Forest extends across 17 Brazilian states. That’s nearly 35,000 square miles, or about the size of the U.S. state of Maine. With that much room to roam, you’ll find rainforest, caves, rivers, and trails to explore.
Some Quilombolas communities — made up of the descendants of escaped slaves — provide guide services, teach traditional agriculture and cooking, and give visitors an immersive experience you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Chile is a very long country. Because it extends across so many lines of latitude and is nestled between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find a range of climates and, therefore, biodiversity.
Human intervention, however, has put some of that biodiversity in danger. Fortunately, it’s also human intervention that can turn things around. Groups like Fundación Rewilding Chile is working to restore natural spaces and reverse the risk of wildlife extinction.
Torres del Paine National Park is probably the most well-known preserve in Chile, and Patagonia is making a name for itself as one of the most eco-friendly regions in South America. Whether you want to have less of an environmental impact when you travel or you want to get involved in preservation activities, look for accommodations that cater to the eco-minded traveler. Explora Lodge in Torres del Paine, for example, is designed to have a small footprint, but it also organizes conservation experiences for guests.
Singapore is a fantastic case study in sustainability. Although 100% of the population is considered urbanized, Singapore holds the title as Asia’s greenest city and is the only country in the world to include green construction requirements in its legislation. Developers and builders must commit to replacing any greenery displaced by construction.
The Gardens by the Bay is home to a series of enormous vertical gardens, called “supertrees.” The towering green spaces are filled with more than 200 plant species and almost 163,000 unique plants, all of which are intended to reduce carbon emissions and beautify the city.
The Singapore Botanical Gardens are another testament to the city-state’s commitment to conservation. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 202-acre gardens are a favorite venue for researchers and families alike.
No matter where your eco-travels take you, protect your trip with travel insurance. Contact a licensed Seven Corners sales agent or get a quick quote online. Travel insurance helps remove the stress of the unknown when you just want to enjoy a reinvigorating stay at an eco-lodge or dedicate yourself to a conservation project.
Grace Lower, Nina Simons, and Rebecca Brown contributed to this blog. Grace has written extensively for Seven Corners about her travels as a college student, both in the U.S. and abroad, and enjoys teaching English as a Second Language. Nina is a lifestyle blogger and travel enthusiast with a knack for finding ways to be both eco-friendly and luxurious while you explore. Rebecca is a freelance translator whose work thankfully provides ample opportunity to travel.
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