Top 10: Most Sustainable Travel Destinations
The seasons are turning. In just a few short weeks, things will start getting warm. That means it’s time to plan some holidays. To encourage you down the right path, in this list we take a look at some of the most sustainable travel destinations in the world.
From the mountains to the rainforests to the sea, Costa Rica offers a plethora of natural destinations for visitors. The country knows how to leverage these advantages to attract tourists, and has turned its tourist campaign into one based on ecotourism – summed up in the slogan ‘Pura Vida’ (the ‘Pure Life’). More than a quarter of this country – majestically located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea – is given over to national parks. The land also contains about 17% of the world’s animal species. And it’s not just the natural wonders: a full third of Costa Rica’s electricity is powered by hydropower.
Famously the only country in the world to measure gross national happiness, this isolated Buddhist kingdom is nestled high in the Himalaya. Startling facts come into focus as you investigate this small nation: it is the only carbon neutral country in the world, and it tries to keep visitor numbers low for fear that the onslaught of tourists will spoil the land. The country’s Royal Society for the Protection of Nature ensures that the glacial valleys (which are the biggest tourist draws) keeps things maintained. Funding for these efforts has been helped by the establishment of a network of ecotourism farmhouses. Idyllic.
Scotland has taken the initiative with the need to combat the changing environment and, having been the host country of COP26 in 2021, was the first nation in the world to sign the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency initiative, a measure encouraging the tourism sector to reduce its carbon footprint. Rewilding has taken a front seat on the agenda here, drawing tourists to the majestic splendour of the highlands. To know what to visit, follow the nation’s Green Tourism certification scheme.
The natural world is Rwanda’s biggest tourism draw – specifically mountain gorillas. The protection of their habitat in the northwest of the country is front and centre in the government’s conservation efforts at Volcanoes National Park. Community tourism in the Great Rift Valley is also driven by such destinations as Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge which helps support the local population and seeks to transform former poachers into conservation partners.
Despite being one of the lesser traversed corners of Europe, Slovenia is resplendent in natural beauty: the Julian Alps, Lake Bohinj, Lake Bled. The country has leaned into these advantages by creating new trails, better signposting and even the digitalisation of maps for hikers and skiers.
Eighty percent of this country in the north of Europe is forested, and its air and water are considered to be among the clearest in the world. The government has ensured that it remains a draw for eco-tourists by establishing the Sustainable Finland programme, which points tourists in the right direction, such as the northern forests of Lapland, where the Northern Lights can be spied through the trees.
New Zealand relies on its natural beauty to bring in the tourist dollar. Cognizant of its advantages in this realm, the country has become a leading light in the world of sustainability. The relatively emission-free power source of geothermal accounts for over a fifth of the nation’s overall energy intake. The government has emphasised keeping the place green and made sustainability the forefront of government policy for the last two decades.
This island nation - like all island nations - must contend with the front lines of climate change. Prime Minister Mia Mottley (who has spoken at a COP event) is well aware of the country’s predicament and has been pushing for green transition. As a member of the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, the nation works to ensure that tourism businesses are supplied with the right sustainability resources.
Another island nation, Madagascar recently became the first country to experience a climate change-induced famine in the nation’s south. It knows the dangers that lay in wait. It also knows that its natural beauty is its biggest draw for many, with plenty of distinctive ecosystems and wildlife. To help the situation are companies such as Earth-Changers.com, which seeks to raise awareness by selling volunteerism trips.
San Diego, California
With its beautiful beaches and status as a green pioneer, it’s no surprise that one destination in California would get on this list. San Diego, in the south of the state, has taken the lead. The city has a Climate Action Plan, and a contraction of clean tech jobs that is nearly double the average. The city also has a zero waste plan of which it can boast. The plan calls for total waste diversion by 2040. As of this writing, the city is also on the cusp of being run by 100% renewable energy.