It is more important than ever to ensure that when we travel, we do it in a way that won’t have a detrimental impact on the places we are visiting.
It can feel completely daunting when you think about visiting the picture-perfect locations you dream of. Surely, there isn’t any way you can travel to pristine islands, beautiful forests, or amazing mountains without upsetting the biodiversity, damaging the local fora and fauna, and dumping tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Well, you couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many countries that are doing so much to enable the eco-conscious to visit their beautiful nations, enjoy everything they have to offer, and help you to leave everything as you find it, if not better!!
Not convinced? Well, here are 5 of our favourite places to visit in 2021 that are doing amazing work of delivering fantastic eco-tourism holidays and adventures.
1. Costa Rica
Nestled in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama to the north and south, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Costa Rica might be small in area, but it certainly punches above its weight in terms of sustainability.
Costa Rica has 12 main ecosystems, 5% of the world’s land-based biodiversity and 3.5% of its marine life. More than a quarter of its land are protected parks and reserves, 3 of which are UNESCO-protected.
It generates nearly 93% of all its electricity from renewable sources and is well on its way to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country in 2021, the bicentennial of its independence.
Costa Rica is the perfect holiday destination to learn and experience how sustainability can become part of a countries culture and traditions. At the same time, the infrastructure and tourism industry work hand-in-hand to ensure any tourists have a very small impact on the country’s beautiful land and biodiversity.
There are many eco-lodges, from full resorts to forest adventures, as well as guided tours with sustainability experts. All lodgings have a national rating which grades them based on their environmental credentials.
Costa Rica should be top of the list of any eco-traveller.
Forest covers 80% of the land in Finland (the most in Europe) and its lakes are crystal clear. There are 40 national parks, nearly 200,000 reindeer, over 1,000 species of flowering plants, and, according to the World Health Organisation, Finland’s air is the cleanest in the world.
Like Costa Rica, Finland has made a formal commitment to reach carbon neutrality, albeit by 2050. At the same time, it is also focusing on biodiversity, habitat conservation, water, and sanitation.
Visit Finland, the country's tourist board has launched its Sustainable Finland programme, which allows visitors to plan their dream trip, whilst ensuring it is ecological, socially, and culturally appropriate.
Within this overall focus on sustainability, Helsinki, the capital, has taken it further by committing to be carbon neutral a full 15 years faster by 2035. A big step towards this earlier date is by running its public transport on electricity produced by water and wind power.
There is so much to do in Finland all year round for the environmentally conscious traveller. Summer can be full of adventure, especially if you explore the bay city of Oulu as a base to explore the unspoiled countryside and tiny islands, with lots of hotels to choose from.
Then, of course, there is Lapland as the perfect winter wonderland to see the Northern Lights, cross-country skiing, Husky rides and so much more.
Palau is a group of over 500 Pacific coral and volcanic islands, between the Philippines and Guam. The Pacific Ocean here is crystal clear and supports a fantastic variety of marine life. The islands are covered in forests and surrounded by beautiful beaches, with an amazing breadth of biodiversity.
To maintain this perfect marine environment, no fishing is allowed around its coral reefs. This approach has led to the growth of many endangered species. This does, however, make for amazing diving!
Palau was ahead of the game when, back in 2017, it became the first destination in the world to make all its visitors sign an eco-pledge. This pledge comes in the form of a stamp in their passports and makes them promise to be good “environmental visitors” whilst they are in Palau.
This pledge ensures that everyone, visitors, and residents alike, are committed to ensuring that the impact of human activity is kept to an absolute minimum, to the benefit of the amazing natural environment.
There are approximately two dozen conservation areas that are looked after by the Palau Conservation Society. They provide fantastic beach holidays that are guaranteed to be sustainable and environmentally aware.
4. New Zealand
Thanks to a series of films, we all now know how stunning New Zealand really is. Whether you are looking for forests, mountains, glaciers, fjords, or beaches, New Zealand has it all spread over its two islands.
They are also committed to ensuring that this amazing natural beauty is maintained forever and are becoming an ever eco-friendlier nation. To cement this, they have announced that their public sector will be carbon-neutral by 2025.
Part of this process has been a move to geothermal power which, in 2015, accounted for 22% of its energy.
New Zealand has been leading the way in ecotourism, which allows you to experience all this amazing country has to offer, in a responsible and sensitive way. Large areas of the country are protected within various national parks, including Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Reserve.
You can explore the Maori heritage throughout the South Island, visit the many vineyards, or just marvel at the stunning scenery, all whilst staying in one of the many eco-lodges and hotels.
New Zealand must be on your dream list.
Iceland is one of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world. It leads the world in renewable energy and generates over 99% of its electricity from hydropower and 80% of its energy comes from geothermal. All of this helps to drive its ambition to become carbon-neutral by 2042.
It is committed to protecting its natural hot springs, fjords, and volcanoes, whilst fighting ocean pollution and supporting sustainable fishing practices.
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you plan to visit Iceland, there is always something to see and do. You can ensure you do it as environmentally conscious as possible by completing your diploma from the Iceland Academy © before you travel.
Whether its whale watching, the Northern Lights, the naturally heated pools of Myvatn Nature Baths, or exploring the amazing landscapes, you can do it all in an eco-friendly way by ditching the car and hiking, biking, or riding a horse instead.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to do in Iceland, you can always do it with an environmental conscious.
It would be totally remiss of us to not mention the fact that you will have to fly to visit each of our top 5 destinations.
Recent research from the Dutch Green Business Group shows that more than 14% of all greenhouse gases are related to travel. It is therefore important to ensure that you offset your international travel if you really are going to travel in an eco-friendly way.
There are many companies that will allow you to do this. They will calculate how many trees are needed to absorb the CO2 from your flights. For a fee, they will plant these trees in an environmentally conscious way.
For an intercontinental flight, they will typically plant 30 trees which will absorb 720kg CO2 every year.
Thankfully, ecotourism is growing as more countries, cities and hotels/resorts, as well as travellers, take their environmental responsibilities seriously.
You can still see the world and do it in a way that will not cost the earth.
We've shown you 5 areas that are certainly doing their part to preserve this wonderful home of ours, but there are lots more too.
Contact us for more information and to book your next eco-friendly dream holiday!