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The 7 best sustainable ecotourism destinations

The time has come to travel more considerately – and these countries are showing us how

Karen Edwards
Written by
Karen Edwards

If there’s one thing the pandemic gave us, it’s the time to consider how we contribute to the ongoing battle against climate change. The truth is, travelling does come with an environmental and, often, cultural cost – but by choosing to travel more responsibly and sustainably, you can help to balance the negative impacts of tourism.

As individual travellers, this means being culturally aware before we set foot in the country, acknowledging the history – good and bad – of a place. Choosing destinations that have already adopted locally-beneficial initiatives, such as investing in the surrounding communities or pledging to look after nearby ecosystems, is equally important.

Take the time to book through ethical operators, who proudly showcase their commitment to eco-conscious and community-led programmes. After all, championing the places pushing for better tourism is a great way to show governments that consumers support sustainable travel too.

Here are seven destinations that have already signed up to a more considerate way of life: all of them are well worth a visit as the world reopens.

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The best sustainable tourism destinations

Championing sustainable farming in Wales

The UK’s domestic tourism industry is booming – and although Welsh tourist favourites such as Anglesey, Snowdon and Pembrokeshire have had an overwhelming summer season, they have remained true to their roots in safeguarding local business. Away from the city chain hotels and pubs, you’ll find most community-run restaurants and general stores serving locally grown, seasonal produce. Meals out are often a sumptuously fresh farm-to-table experience – which means that not only are profits going back into the community, but also the region’s sustainable farming practices are being supported.

Discover the best things to do in Wales

Costa Rica’s carbon-neutral campaign

With more than 25 percent of the nation already declared a conservation zone, it’s no wonder Costa Rica is leading the world in tackling the climate crisis, by generating 98 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources. With stunning white-sand coastlines and oceans filled with marine life (plus, rainforests dense with vegetation and endemic wildlife species) that need protecting, the country is striving to be carbon-neutral by 2050. If you want to experience nature-friendly activities such as jungle hikes, dolphin-watching and sea kayaking, Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula combines wilderness and well-deserved pampering.

Discover the best things to do in Costa Rica


Marine conservation programmes in Sri Lanka

This tiny teardrop island in the Indian ocean is a marine wildlife haven, with ocean giants such as blue whales found breeding along the south coast. As a result, visitors have been drawn to the area en masse, with whale watching tours struggling to meet demand during peak season – leading to overcrowded boats chasing the whales away from the coastline. Thankfully, the past 18 months have raised the platform of community projects, such as Oceanswell, which organises community clean-ups, advises businesses about the dangers of pollution and overfishing, and promotes responsible whale watching.

Discover the best things to do in Sri Lanka

Slovenia’s big push for green tourism

Showing it is serious about embracing a sustainable approach to tourism, Slovenia has introduced a national ‘Green Scheme’ – a certification programme that encourages hotels, tour operators and restaurants to embrace more eco-friendly practices. The 11-step process to join the scheme includes producing regular environmental reports, forming a ‘green team’ to raise awareness and being reassessed every three years. The benefit is that the national tourist board will actively promote companies who enrol. Ljubljana, the capital, is already on the list, while a full list of restaurants, accommodation and attractions can be found online

Discover four Slovenian getaways that are great for the planet


Bhutan’s bid to prevent loss of culture and overtourism

Until 1974, the Kingdom of Bhutan remained closed to tourism. Then one day, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck declared Bhutan open to visitors. Today, only those who have booked guided itineraries through approved operators can enter. Permits are charged at a peak-season nightly rate of $250 (approximately £180) per person, which includes a 37 percent tax that goes towards improving infrastructure and strengthening the healthcare and the education systems. This strict policy mean tourism is controlled, with local life largely untouched by its impact. Blue Poppy Treks and Tours organise bespoke trips through stunning mountain passes, valleys and cultural centres – with guides sharing their valuable knowledge throughout. 

Investing in the community in Botswana

As one of the most convenient locations to spot the ‘Big Five’, Botswana’s infrastructure has long been under pressure to meet the demands of the world’s safari market. Thankfully, the team at Great Plains Safari have been practising a positive approach for decades, taking care to minimise impact and invest in community-based opportunities to help local villages thrive. One such initiative is a kids’ conservation camp, where children are invited to week-long courses to learn about their surroundings, the value of conservation and the role of environmental tourism.


Italy’s long history of ‘agritourism’

Over the past 30 years, Italy has been growing its agritourism industry. Now, more than 20,000 operating farms have signed up to the initiative. From farm stays in Calabria to traditional country retreats in Tuscany, the profits earned from agritourism go straight back into communities, who usually wouldn’t benefit from Italy’s mass tourism market. Meanwhile, guests can enjoy tranquil countryside with fresh, homemade food served at mealtimes and the opportunity to connect with local families. The project endorses sustainable farms, especially those that invest in soil, land and wildlife conservation.

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