British ecotourism company Responsible Travel released a list of its 10 favorite destinations for green eco-travelers; see what made the cut, plus our recommendations of what to do in each eco-friendly locale.
When considering your next big trip consider going to an eco-destination. What makes a destination eco?
Here are a few criteria that have to be met to earn the “eco” stamp:
- It’s built using environmentally sound methods and/or operates with alternative energy sources
- It minimizes human impact on natural habitats and promotes resource conservation
- It sustains the well-being of local people and/or indigenous communities
- It helps raise visitors’ environmental and cultural awareness
For a list of environmentally friendly tour operators, hotels, and more, visit the International Ecotourism Society website.
Here is our list with top 10 eco-travel destinations
Photo: Courtesy Prefeitura Municipal de Turismo, Bonito
Bonito, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, is one of the top ecotourism destinations suggested by responsibletravel.com ahead of the 11th World Responsible Tourism Awards.
This remote town in western Brazil is sometimes called Caribe do Centro-Oeste, due to its spectacular blue rivers, whose limestone beds act as a natural water filter. The town’s proximity to the Serra da Bodoquena National Park ensures protection of the area’s ecosystems, which are some of the oldest and most diverse on the planet. Resorts such as the gorgeous Santa Esmerelda are catching on to the eco-friendly trend.
Tourists can enjoy a wide range of spectacular beauties in the area, including waterfalls, crystal lakes, caves with stalactite formations and the surroundings of the Serra da Bodoquena national park, much of which is not open to tourism for conservation reasons.
The clarity of the water where travelers can practice snorkeling or scuba diving is due to the large quantity of limestone in the ground, which works as a natural filter leaving impurity on the bottom of lakes and rivers and making these some of the more transparent and clear in the world.
Photo credit: www.tablemountain.net Courtesy Cape Town Tourism
2. Cape Town
South Africa is a leader in responsible tourism and a mecca for Eco Travel. Named by Conservational International as one of the seventeen megadiverse countries in the world. The biodiversity is truly astounding. There are numerous conservation efforts and projects in OUSth Africa designed to protect the native species.
Cape Town is remarkable for its combination of natural beauty and captivating culture. The capital city offers easy access to beaches, forests, and mountains alike. Many restaurants source food locally, and reliable public transportation or the carbon-neutral Green Cabs make it easy to get around. Choose accommodations like the Grootbos Nature Reserve, which takes measures to preserve its land and the animals native to it. Travelers are welcome to go on a Cape Canopy Tour and zip across the Hottentots Holland nature reserve, imitating the majestic eagles in all but sharpness of eyesight. An exhilarating ride for anyone willing to share the sky with soaring birds to take in the absolute beauty of Western Cape from a much more thrilling perspective.
Photo credit: Pixabay
3. Birdwatching in Hangzhou, China
Hangzhou, tipped as ‘Paradise on Earth’, is China’s top eco travel destination. It is one of the few places in China where people can watch wild birds chirping in the downtown area. A perfect destination for nature lovers, at Hangzhou’s West Lake, you can glimpse the birds flying over the skyline. Home to dozens of historical sites, the wooded hills encircling the lake are studded with pavilions, towers, pagodas, and caves. The Xixi National Wetland Park in Hagzhou is teeming with biodiversity and a 180 bird species. It allows visitors an intimate glance at the Underwater Ecological Observation Corridor. And for hiking enthusiasts, the Bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi is a serene escape.
Photo credit: Flickr / Rennett Stowe
4. Blue Mountains, Australia
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, Australia’s Greater Blue Mountains Area is a popular ecotourism trip for Sydneysiders seeking to trade in the buzz of the city for the calm of the great outdoors. A mere 90-minute car ride from Sydney, the Blue Mountains (named for the blue hue cast by the eucalyptus oil produced by the region’s native trees) cover some 550 square miles of valleys, swamps, rocky outcroppings, and narrow canyons – topped off by stellar vantage points from which to ogle Australia’s beauty.
A handful of national parks and reserves comprise the area, hosting dozens of trails through breathtaking terrain loaded with unique flora (don’t miss the ancient Wollemi pine, one of the world’s rarest species) and fauna (some 400 species, including koalas, call the Blue Mountains home). Rock climbing, mountain biking, rappelling, canoeing, and horseback riding are just a few of the activities – aside from bushwalking – to enjoy here in the wild. Of course, the prospect of relaxing and breathing in the fresh mountain air at one of the area’s many eco-friendly lodges and cabins can be equally enticing.
Photo credit: Chris McLennan
5. New Zealand
New Zealand is a spot that’s difficult to fully take in during a single trip. Its varied terrain is home to diverse plants and wildlife and makes a beautiful backdrop for hiking, biking, and camping. New Zealand is also one of the most popular destinations for luxury ecotourism, offering comprehensive tours and fancy accommodations with no harm to the environment.
Photo credit: Tea Fields in Kerala. Photo: Midhun Subhash via Wikimedia Commons
6. Slow Travel in Kerala, India
Kerala’s spellbinding rivers and lush fields have deservedly made it one of those eco-travel destinations you must see in your lifetime. In fact, Kerala Tourism has won the award for world’s best responsible tourism project at the World Travel Market London. Kerala’s landscape is as fragrant as it is beautiful. With its hills covered in sweet-smelling spices and gorgeous-looking plantations of tea, every inch of Kerala seems to bear witness to arresting beauty. Travelers can slowly take in and admire Kerala whilst traveling by kettu vallam (tied boats) along glimmering backwaters or take to the road to enjoy delicious cuisine and coffee in the urban areas of the state.
Photo credit: Namibia via Pixabay
7. Wildlife Adventures in Namibia
Namibia’s name is derived from the world’s oldest desert, the Namib. With its golden grass and singing rivers, Namibia easily gathers what the best and most awe-inspiring characteristics of Africa in one stunning place. It can also boast of being one of the best places to watch African wildlife as there is an abundance of elephants, rhinos, lions both in private reserves and freely roaming the African prairies. Namibia offers value for money as camps are priced in Namibian dollars, a currency tied to the South African Rand, rather than the U.S. dollar like many southern African safari destinations, which means your wonderful 5-star trip can be taken at a 2-star price.
Photo credit: Schalz
This Caribbean island is home to the world’s oldest legally protected rainforest. The Main Ridge Forest Reserve contains a diverse mix of wildlife, including a whopping half of the island’s aviary population (birdwatchers, have your binoculars ready). While many parts of the island (including endangered reefs) have sustained significant damage from hurricanes, the Forest Reserve’s World Heritage Status keeps it well protected.
Photo credit: Jose Letelier Hernandez
9. Extreme Adventures in Bariloche, Argentina
If you are one who loves some extreme sports with their eco travel, then Bariloche might be the perfect destination for you. Bariloche can boast of an incredibly vast ecosystem- from snowy Andean mountains to thick green forests and glimmering lakes- and this means the fun is almost never-ending! You can have a refreshing time kayaking across crystal blue waters in a guided kayaking tour. If you are partial to a wilder side of adventure traveling then don’t fret – Bariloche’s winds are perfect for paragliding and you´ll never be disappointed with the breathtaking view and stunning mountain ranges seen from far above. Bariloche’s gorgeous landscape will definitely keep you mesmerized wherever you go and if you decide to go trekking for a change then there is no shortage of mountain paths and vistas for you to admire.
Photo credit: Nick Thorne
10. The Lake District National Park
Home to 12 of England’s largest lakes, this sprawling parkland contains a diverse sampling of British flora and fauna. For human visitors, there’s hiking, boating, and nature exploration, as well as free guided bike and walking tours. In 2006, representatives from various protection agencies joined forces to found the Lake District National Park Partnership, which oversees maintenance and preservation of the park’s 80,000 acres of land. They are currently seeking a bid for World Heritage Status, which would ensure even more protection. The Park also offers many opportunities for volunteer work so that visitors can be sure they’re leaving its forests as beautiful as they found them.