7 of the Best Eco-Friendly Vacation Destinations
Ecotourism has been getting a lot of attention lately, which is great. However, finding a fun location that will allow you to do something good for the environment requires a lot of research, and you might not necessarily know where to start. To help you out, we asked Niamh Walsh, editor at HolidayPirates.com, to give us her top eco-friendly vacation destinations . . . and you might be surprised at her picks!
"Not only is Costa Rica incredibly beautiful, with a rich flora and fauna, but it's also known for its eco-friendly boutique hotels," explains Niamh. "In fact, the country is known for its pro-sustainability stance, with 75 percent of its energy being generated by hydroelectric dams. On your trip to Costa Rica, make sure to try the delicious coffee (Fair Trade, of course) and learn about banana production, which is responsible for bringing money back into the local community. You can also book a tour to the Punta Islita, part of the World Parrot Trust, where you can see the Macaws native to Costa Rica."
New Zealand is the perfect destination if you're a fan of outdoors-y activities. "You and your friends can grab some tents and explore the vast plant and wildlife by hiking and cycling through the country," says Niamh. "Alternatively, if you feel like you want to connect with nature in a more luxurious fashion, you can find a wide selection of eco-friendly travel packages, from extensive tours to wonderful hotels, which pose no danger to the surrounding environment."
Bulungula River Mouth, South Africa
If South Africa has been on your travel list for a while, now's the time to go. However, instead of heading for the hustle and bustle of Cape Town and Johannesburg, Niamh recommends you "leave the main road and travel to Bulungula Lodge, which is located at the place where the Bulungula River meets the Indian Ocean. This stunning location is owned by the local community and is completely solar- and wind-powered. Not only will you be able to completely disconnect from your everyday life, you will also be able to enjoy rainwater showers, canoeing, and night after night spent gazing up at the starlit sky."
If you are contemplating a trip to Norway, make sure to head to the town of Røros, which was named the sustainable destination by the Norwegian Tourism Board. According to Niamh, "This Norwegian town also has some of the most amazing local cuisine, with specialties including reindeer, trout, and local cheese. While there, make sure to go dog sledding, with the Alaskan Husky Tours being Norway's first recognized ecotourism business.
"As a massive 90 percent of the island is a combination of various national parks, it's no surprise that the Galápagos Islands take the protection of the ecosystem very seriously," says Niamh. "While the nature is gorgeously preserved, the number of tourists allowed to the Islands is limited, so it might take a while for you to visit, but once you do, make sure to go snorkeling and exploring the Islands on foot."
For an under-the-radar, eco-friendly Scottish destination, try St. Kilda in Scotland. "The location is absolutely breathtaking, as well as full of ancient mysteries, which can be discovered in the ruins around St. Kilda," explains Niamh. "If you are a big fan of the sea, then you can support the local community by signing up for an ocean tour. It's also worth mentioning that the Outer Hebrides, where St. Kilda is located, is UK's only dual UNESCO site holder, for both natural and cultural attractions."
According to Niamh, although Slovenia isn't a destination you would typically think of as being eco-friendly, it actually is "one of the most eco-friendly locations on earth. The capital, Ljubljana, was voted Europe's green capital in 2016 by the European Commission, and it boasts the claim of being the first city to begin the zero waste movement. Explore the city on buses, which run on natural gas; head to the country and the farms, which can give you an insight into the local community; or, if you fancy some solitude, head for a hike in the Alps."