10 Eco-Friendly Destinations You Shouldn't Miss
Ecotourism, sustainable travel, green travel - whatever you want to call it - it’s a growing industry. With almost 8% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions attributed to tourism, it is a pressing concern to reverse this trend if we wish to continue exploring the beautiful world we live in guilt free.
Here are 10 of the most eco-friendly destinations in the world, which are paving the way towards sustainability, and are perfect for a remarkable guilt-free trip.
1. Vancouver, BC, Canada
According to a study done by Siemens, Vancouver, BC is one of the most sustainable cities in North America. This outdoor wonderland vowed to cut carbon emissions by 33% by 2020, an ambitious goal for such a large city. Vancouver also boasts one of the best public transportation systems in North America, dramatically reducing greenhouse gasses. A famous hub for outdoor adventure and culture, this city of natural vistas and cityscapes takes full advantage of its oceanside location.
Vancouver’s mild climate and calmer winters (in comparison to other parts of Canada) and its proximity to mountains, rivers, oceans, and lakes make it a desirable spot for outdoor recreational activities. It’s a unique city, where you can visit snow-covered slopes, ideal for winter sports, and then comfortably go sailing and windsurfing on the same day.
The city’s linguistic, ethnic, and cultural diversity, has also highly influenced its media, art, and gastronomy. The city’s culture is evident in its museums, parks, beaches, and even in its events that seek to unite Vancouverites and visitors alike.
Titled a top place to travel and a city with an incredible quality of life, Vancouver is a blend of a green outdoor wonderland and a fascinating urban metropolis.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Right now 20% of Denmark’s energy comes from renewable sources. The goal is to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050. That is one of the most progressive sustainability goals in the world. Not only an eco-friendly city, but Copenhagen is also the cultural and nightlife hub of Denmark, making it a top travel destination. Simply let yourself be charmed by Copenhagen, Northern Europe’s coziest capital, packed with cafés, shops, sites and the best restaurants in Scandinavia.
From the winding streets of the beautiful old town and grand royal palaces, to the city’s cutting-edge buildings and attractions, Copenhagen is the perfect blend of old world and modern innovation. Hop on a bike or stroll the city on foot and take in its laid-back atmosphere and effortless sense of style. An open, green and liveable city, Copenhagen is also celebrated for its quality of life.
3. Wellington, New Zealand
New Zealand is wholeheartedly committed to sustainability, and leading the charge is Wellington. With such biodiversity and a vast array of ecotourism opportunities, New Zealand inevitably had to make the list. Wellington, in particular, is attempting to get rid of all fossil fuels by 2025, an ambitious yet necessary goal in order to maintain its ranking as one of the most sustainable cities in the world. It also offers a wide range of breathtaking scenery and adventure.
Surrounded by nature and fuelled by creative energy, Wellington is a compact metropolis with a powerful mix of culture, history, nature and cuisine. Fuel your visit with strong coffee and world-class craft beer – Wellingtonians are masters of casual dining, with plenty of great restaurants, night markets and food trucks. Relax at Oriental Bay, Wellington’s golden-sand inner-city beach and delve into the many museums, art galleries and theater shows that make up the city’s pulsing cultural scene.
If you’re into the outdoors, Wellington has action-packed adventure activities like mountain biking and sea-water kayaking, as well as beautiful walks around the harbor and surrounding hills. Try the visually stunning Makara Peak track, as well as the City to Sea walk, where you can experience the best of Wellington's waterfront. Ride the cable car up the hill to Kelburn for amazing views over the city.
Adventure, food, drink, and sustainability. What’s not to love?
4. Sydney, Australia
Australia as a whole tops many lists as a conservation haven. With the world’s largest reef, preservation of marine life and biodiversity has been a priority for many years. Large legislative measures have been taken in the last two decades to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Sydney, in particular, the largest city in Australia, is a driving force. A movement called Sydney 2030 is a cutting edge set of goals for the entire city, most of which have to do with improving environmental impacts and becoming an innovative and green conscious city. Not only eco-friendly, but Sydney is also one of the most spectacular destinations on earth.
This sunny city welcomes visitors with open arms, offering something for everyone. With some of the best restaurants in the world, a colorful and vibrant culture, world-class beaches, an exciting nightlife, and an impossibly cool and laid back atmosphere, this city is sure to steal your heart.
Where else could you head out to ride the waves in the morning, enjoy lunch above a stunning harbor and later peruse some of best boutiques and cafes on the planet during the afternoon?
Sydney is breathtaking and a must visit eco-friendly vacation spot.
5. Zanzibar, Tanzania
Zanzibar is at the leading edge of not only island and coral reef sustainability, but Africa’s sustainability as well. Since a paper discussing the issues of coral reef destruction, due to overexpansion and tourism, primarily in Zanzibar, was published in 1998, Tanzania has taken a dramatic step toward reef conservation and sustainability. In particular Chumbe Island Sanctuary has led the charge in trying to save the salvageable coral, although a lot of it is unfortunately beyond repair. Aside from the country’s green efforts, Zanzibar is also a breathtaking island getaway for any ocean enthusiast.
You’ll be hard pressed to find more picturesque beaches anywhere else in the world. Its world-class resorts, tucked between swaying palms and soaked in the tropical sun, offer the optimal relaxing getaway. In spite of its idyllic scenery, Zanzibar claims a dense and sometimes turbulent history. This eclectic archipelago has seen everything from a booming slave trade and a violent revolution, to the birth of Freddie Mercury. Due to its location, off the Tanzanian coast, Zanzibar became a primary trade hub in the Indian Ocean, bringing together Africa, India, and the Middle East. Each of these regions left its respective mark on Zanzibar, now home to a rich, intercontinental blend of culture unique to the island enclave, and a leader in sustainability.
Whether it’s wandering the cobbled streets of the historical Stone Town, sailing the iconic dhows across the balmy seas, or reclining on the beach with a piña colada, any traveller can experience Zanzibar’s flair deserving of the title “the Spice Islands.”
6. Costa Rica
Costa Rica has widely been regarded as a world leader in ecotourism. Excelling at economically supporting locals, rehabilitating past deforestation, and vowing to get rid of all carbon emitting vehicles in the next 10 years, they are stars in sustainability. The country is essentially an eco-lodge paradise set in Central America.
Check out San Jose, the capital and launching point to any Costa Rican adventure, whether you choose to only stay the night, or stop by for several days, San Jose is sure to offer you a colorful and exciting experience. Visit Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco for a jungle adventure chock full of hiking and wildlife. Stop by the beach and stay at the world-class Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula for stunning beachy green vacation getaway.
Costa Rica is the ecotourism capital of the world, and rightfully so. If a sustainable journey is your main priority, visit Costa Rica - it will surely provide the adventure of a lifetime.
Belize has been criticized in the past for its destruction of coral reefs, and massive deforestation. Its reefs were given the elite status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but later, in 2009, they were put on the “danger list.” Since then, in December of 2017, Belize has turned most of its reefs into protected areas and stopped all offshore oil drilling, a dramatic shift from just a decade earlier. Now, it is an ecotourist, adventurist, and ocean lover’s hotspot.
Looking to go to Belize? Check out Ambergis Caye, the largest island in Belize, and home to the second largest coral reef system in the world. The diving and snorkeling opportunities here are endless.
While Ambergris’ many scenic sites make it a popular tourist destination, strict environmental conservation laws ensure that the island’s natural beauty remains conserved. Inland hikes and nature walks lead visitors to limestone caves, waterfalls, Mayan ruins, and an array of wildlife including monkeys, ocelot, and hundreds of bird species. There are also many kinds fishing spots ranging from deep sea to fly, with reef fishing - only in permitted reefs during certain times of the year- being the most popular.
After days filled with nature excursions, visitors can enjoy a fabulous meal in town, and join in on the nightlife. Downtown streets close off access to cars so markets can be set up for late night shopping. Ambergris Caye has multiple beach bars, live music spots, and even a few lively clubs where music plays until the sun comes up.
8. Hong Kong, China
This might seem like a shocking addition to the list; however, in a study done by Arcadis in their Sustainable Cities Mobility Index in 2017, Hong Kong ranked #1. The success is largely attributed to the popularity of public transportation and the proportion of private cars in the streets to population. In recent years, there has also been movement to make Hong Kong more green in other ways, an important aspect of sustainability. Not only this, but Hong Kong is also growing in popularity as an attractive vacation spot.
Hong Kong is a melting pot. Ancient history intertwines with ultra- modern civilization. Visitors and expats from all corners of the world intermingle with locals. Authentic restaurants sit door to door with international chains. Yet even with this outside influence, Hong Kong has retained a character and a feeling that is truly it's own.
Hit up an exciting festival, hike a winding mountain trail, catch a colorful show, take a break at a peaceful temple, wander an ancient, walled village - the issue will not be finding things to do in this magnificent city, but rather being able to fit everything in.
One of the most fascinating destinations in the world, this fast-paced, buzzing and colorful city is definitely worth a visit, and will enlighten all of your senses. You can also check out this post on our blog on how to live like a local in Hong Kong.
9. San Francisco, California, USA
Earning the #1 spot as the most eco-friendly city in the United States, San Francisco is at the forefront of sustainability initiatives. From zero emission buses and vegan restaurants dotting the city, to solar paneled roofs, San Fran is both uniquely itself and uniquely green. Not only is it one of the most intriguing cities in the US, it is the most green, making it a must visit for the eco-conscious traveler.
From the bright red and ironically named Golden Gate Bridge, to the ominous Alcatraz Island, to the intriguing mixture of architecture, people and sights, San Fran is nothing short of spectacular. With the vast Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Francisco bay on the other, this hilly peninsula city is nothing short of breathtaking. Take a walk on the wharf or through any of the unique neighborhoods and you’ll understand why so many love to call San Francisco home.
Take a quick day trip up to the Napa Valley for a beautiful getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, and indulge in some of the world’s best wine. Hop on a boat in the San Francisco Bay and see the Golden Gate Bridge from the water for a relaxing day trip and a change of perspective.
The city is almost too quirky to describe, it’s one of those places that you need to see to believe. Nothing is off limits, visit with an open mind and and no inhibitions and you will surely not be dissapointed.
10. Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa
The Shamwari Game Reserve is at the cutting edge of wildlife conservation. Over the past 25 years, over 25,000 hectares of land have been consolidated and rehabilitated allowing for the beautiful wildlife and biodiversity in this region of southern South Africa to thrive. Shamwari is a wildlife conservation success story and continues to change the way other game reserves approach preservation.
The epitome of excitement, the Shamwari Game Reserve provides you with the very best of African wildlife viewing. Expert guides will lead you through the reserve in search of some of the continent's most famous creatures.
While on safari you'll have the chance to marvel at lions, elephants, rhinos, and many more fascinating species as well as learn about the local flora which makes up the stunning landscapes you'll be immersed in.
Although the wildlife is without a doubt the main attraction, Shamwari also features tranquil settings where you can sit back with a book or enjoy a relaxing massage. Here you'll also find delicious cuisine and and turquoise pools, perfect for an afternoon dip.
These are just some of the destinations in the world that are changing the way we think about sustainability and travel. A trip to any one of them will surely change your perspective on ecotourism.
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