There is no question that when it comes to travel trends, sustainable travel is definitely seeing an uptake. It seems like more and more companies and more and more destinations are putting the focus on environmental, economic, and social impacts of tourism.
Planning a Trip in the time of COVID?Keep in mind that information found in this article may have been impacted by travel restrictions and other closures. Double check opening hours, tour providers and hotel status before you go. And don't leave your home without travel insurance! If you are looking for an insurance provider that covers COVID-19, we recommend SafetyWing. Get Medical and Travel Insurance starting at just $40/month and you can sign up even if your trip has already started!
There are many great options for those looking to plan a sustainable holiday, so we asked fellow travel bloggers to help us narrow down a list! Here are the destinations that made the cut!
Contributed by Anya from Road is Calling
In North America, Vancouver became one of my favourite destinations and no wonder why.
This city is exceptionally clean, green, boasts an extensive network of bike lanes, is extremely walkable, taken care of and has some of the friendliest people. And, I got absolutely amazed how willingly and responsibly residents adopt principles of sustainability. People are so passionate about the environment.
Local restaurants pride themselves on using only locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables as well as sustainable seafood (specifically those species that are on the list of Marine Conservation Society.) Streets are full of electric vehicles and buses.
Hotels around Vancouver adhere to a rule to use only eco-friendly bath amenities, purchasing organic and sustainable food products, provide products that conserve energy and are made of more sustainable materials.
What surprised me most was that fact that not only hotels try to go green. My husband and I visited Vancouver many times and most of the times we were staying in the apartments through Airbnb. We were absolutely astonished to find out how sustainable those homes were.
Besides some basic things like sustainable toiletries and cleaning supplies, owners of those homes also used LED light bulbs, had dual flush toilets, faucet aerators, energy-efficient appliances and even 5 or 6 different buckets for waste. In one apartment we had 7 different wastebaskets and were obliged to separate paper and cardboard, glass, plastic, batteries, oily products, and food from the rest of the trash.
I love Vancouver for many things. One of them is the fact that sustainability is embedded in everyone and everything in the city. I can’t wait to return to learn more new approaches, get inspired to live greener and just enjoy this incredibly gorgeous city.
Contributed by Allison from Eternal Arrival
One of the most sustainable destinations I’ve ever visited is Belize, which is giving Costa Rica a run for its money as the most sustainable country in Central America.
Belize has made tremendous strides recently in preserving its unique biospheres and has begun several anti-waste initiatives recently, such as a recent ban on single-use plastics which will go into effect in April 2019.
Most impressively, Belize’s Barrier Reef (the second largest reef in the world, stretching 200 miles long) was removed mid-2018 from the “endangered” list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to the impressive and innovative work on coral reef grafting and banning oil explorations in the region.
The local tour operators are also leaders in teaching reef safety and most tour operators communicate with their clients about the dangers of traditional sunscreen with the reef and provide their own reef-safe sunscreen for people to use.
Moving away from the coastline, there are a number of eco-lodges in the jungle interior of Belize, centred around Cayo District, where the lodges do their best to minimize energy consumption and use sustainable forms of energy whenever possible. Many of these lodges support local initiatives to provide schoolchildren supplies such as “Pack for a Purpose” which encourages travelers to leave some room in their suitcase to bring specified supplies from outside.
Furthermore, Cayo’s most famous tourist site, the ATM Cave, is similarly under protection, as it’s only possible to visit with a guide in a group of a maximum size of 8, and only around 120 permits are issued each day in order to preserve this place of immense natural and historic significance. Sunscreen and cameras are banned from use in order to protect the cave.
Contributed by Kacie from The Rare Welsh Bit
Often referred to as the Island of Spice, the Caribbean island of Grenada is becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable tourism destination. The various spices that Grenada is so well-known for are grown sustainably, enabling local farmers to earn an income while also providing a source of food.
Similarly, Grenada’s cacao flourishing cacao industry centres upon five bean-to-bar cacao estates. Again, the farmers use sustainable methods – planting more cocoa trees to replace any they cut down, for example. Grenada’s chocolate scene is a big attraction for tourists visiting the island, with the annual Grenada Chocolate Festival becoming more and more popular every year.
Last year, the Grenadian government introduced a ban on all single use plastics such as carrier bags, straws, plastic cups and plates, to be introduced by February 1, 2019.
In addition, a non-biodegradable waste control act calls for a total ban on the importation of polystyrene, a.k.a ‘Styrofoam’, with sale sanctions set to be imposed from March 1, 2019, and a complete embargo from April onwards.
These are just a few examples of how Grenada is positioning itself as a sustainable tourism destination, but if you visit the island for yourself, no doubt you’ll discover many more!
Isla Holbox, Mexico
Contributed by Stefania from Every Steph
Isla Holbox is a small island off the coast of Cancun, Mexico yet it couldn’t be further away from the chaos of Cancun with its clubs and bustling nightlife. No paved streets on the island, no cars, and a hippie, relaxed atmosphere. When you combine this with white sand beaches, palms and incredible sunsets, doesn’t it make it a true paradise?
Holbox is part of Mexico’s largest ecological reserve, Yum Balam, and their people have tried until now to keep the island a sustainable environment and promoting the island to travelers interested in ecotourism.
Holbox Island is nowadays facing pressure to develop (and over-develop) the island, the same way it happened for Tulum for example. Fortunately, a sustainable tourism development committee was appointed in order to protect the island’s resources.
Swimming with whale sharks is one of the best things to do in Isla Holbox (it’s only possible to do it June to September), and the best part is that Holbox is one of the few places left in the world where you can do this in a sustainable way. There are strict regulations in place not to harm the animals in their environment, and only a few people per day are allowed to swim with these beautiful giants.
Contributed by Maya from Travel with the Smile
Chile is currently one of the world’s leaders in sustainable adventure tourism. Since 2012, when the Adventure Tourism Development Index awarded Chile one of the highest spots, the forward-thinking government started a lot of sustainable initiatives.
The biggest one being the recent creation of 5 new national parks along the scenic road Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia. The Tompkins Conservation founded by Doug Tompkins and his wife Kris handed over more than a million acres of land they purchased over the years for conservation purposes. It is the largest donation of private land in Chile’s history. Together with the government’s donation, the protected lands became national parks.
With the Pumalin National Park in the northern part to the Yendegaia National Park in the south, all 17 national parks are now part of the newly formed Route of Parks, connecting over more than 1,500 miles throughout Chile. It was a highly anticipated project of rewilding and conservation.
Puerto Narino, Colombia
Contributed by Niina from Bizarre Globe Hopper
Tiny village deep in the Colombian Amazon is a trailblazer in sustainable tourism in Colombia. In Puerto Narino, no motor vehicles are allowed – besides an ambulance and garbage truck. The roads are merely concrete walkways connecting brightly painted wooden houses and the riverfront. Riverboats are the only means of transport, which connect Puerto Narino to nearby indigenous villages and the biggest Colombian town in the Amazon, Leticia, 85km downstream.
The whole village is devoted to recycling. Rainwater is collected for gardening and electricity comes from an eco-friendly generator, which is shut down after midnight. Every morning, the villagers gather to clean the streets and public areas. Plastic and other waste are even woven into baskets and creative souvenirs.
There’s also a brilliant conservation and education center called Natutama, which showcases sustainable practices and the mythology and two local species: pink dolphin and manatee. The latter has sadly been hunted almost to the extinction. Thanks to this community-driven information center, the manatee numbers in Puerto Narino have doubled.
Puerto Narino is a great base for independent Amazon adventures: day tours can take you spotting pink and gray dolphins, hiking in the Amazon, swimming in Tarapoto lake, birding, or fishing.
Contributed by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná in Brazil, is widely considered to be one of the most environmentally friendly cities in South America. When it comes to urban planning, transportation and sustainability, Curitiba has become a role model for other cities on the continent.
Its excellent public transportation network has helped to minimize the number of cars on the road, and the tube-shaped bus stops have become an emblem of the city. There are dedicated bus lanes, which makes traveling by bus one of the quickest ways of getting around town.
If you take the elevator to the top of the Torre Panorâmica (Panoramic Tower) and admire the sweeping views of Curitiba, the first thing you’ll notice is just how many green spaces the city has. Many of these parks are strategically situated around rivers and lakes. The parks essentially act as buffer zones between the flood-prone rivers and the city’s urban infrastructure.
Parque Barigü is one of the largest parks and is the place to go if you want to meet the locals. Since there are no beaches near Curitiba, residents come here instead to go biking, rollerblading, or just enjoy a picnic.
Contributed by Daniel from Layer Culture
If you are in Colombia and looking for a great spot for sustainable practices, you can’t miss out on Minca. Located in the Northern Highlands of the country, Minca holds a special place for anyone interesting in visiting biosphere reserves, national parks and other protected areas. Minca, which is a small village that can be explored in 10-15 minutes is named as the ecological capital, and not to mention, the perfect gateway, to the nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The sustainable development of Minca has been positive over the years and today it’s easier than ever before for travellers and backpackers to explore the nearby waterfalls and jungle hikes. You can also stop by at local farms and learn about organic coffee and chocolate production.
All in all, no matter what you plan to do whilst travelling in Colombia you can ensure that Minca’s objective is to be an environmentally friendly place and you can expect to meet like-minded travellers whilst there.
Minca is easily accessible from Santa Marta and you can get there by bus which leaves from the market area daily, do not miss out on this sustainable destination.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Contributed by Thea from Zen Travellers
Located over 900km from the nearest coast, the Galapagos Islands are a world apart. Isolated from much of the world, the Archipelago with its iconic endemic species such as giant tortoises, Galapagos sharks, and the finches that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, remains one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet.
This isolation hasn’t spared the Galapagos Islands from the ravages of introduced species and pollution. Given that tourism makes up a large portion of the region’s economy and driven by a desire to preserve their delicate ecosystem, the Governing Council of Galapagos voted in 2018 to implement an Archipelago-wide plastic ban.
Visitors to the islands will need to bring their own stainless-steel straws, takeaway containers, as well as reusable plastic bags and utensils as they will not be handed out by local businesses. Drink containers that also recommend bringing a water bottle with a filter since businesses are not supposed to sell single-use containers either.
In addition to a plastic ban, many of the area’s best sights require a local naturalist guide to accompany you before you may visit. These guides receive mandatory, standardized training and are educated in responsible tourism methods.
During some of the excursions I took while visiting the Galapagos, I saw guides steering too eager tourists away from animals to enforce the 2-meter rule and watched some of them pick up people’s garbage while touring about. Their dedication to both keep their home clean and ensure that animals remain undisturbed is nothing short of inspiring.
Contributed by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
Guyana is slowly but steadily opening up to international tourism, and in doing so it is trying to position itself as one of the best destinations for eco and sustainable travel.
With less than a million people living in the country, most of them in the capital Georgetown or along the coast, much of Guyana remains untouched. A whopping 80% of the country is covered by rainforest, and the government recognized the need to protect its natural resources and its environment before irreparable damage to it is caused.
Guyana is also moving towards achieving 100% clean energy supply by 2025.
Efforts to protect the territory don’t only come from the government of Guyana, however. Local indigenous communities living in the Amazon basin have made it a point to preserve their environment and their culture.
They have opened up to tourism in an effort to create opportunities for the younger generations that won’t cause exploitation of the environment, and have done so by way of small community lodges where all members of the community can find employment and where tourists get to fully experience life in the rainforest.
Mind you, traveling to Guyana is not easy nor comfortable. But you will be rewarded with breathtaking views, real experiences, welcoming people and a once in a lifetime trip.
Historical Villages of Portugal
Contributed by Julie Fox from Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal
The Historical Villages of Portugal, aka Aldeias Históricas in Portuguese, is a network of 12 villages in Central Portugal that have been specifically selected for their historical significance and charm.
Most of them were once strategic border towns established to prevent invasions into hard-won Portuguese territory. As such, ruined castles and fortifications abound, as do local crafts and produce. Their origins can often be traced back much further, revealing Roman artifacts and both Jewish and Moorish heritage.
While each village is unique, their development as tourist destinations is governed by one organization, which promotes them as 12 destinations in 1. Realistically, given their dispersed locations, most visitors are unlikely to visit more than 2 or 3 villages during one trip but there is a Grande Rota walking and cycling trail connecting them all.
Sustainability is key for the Historical Villages of Portugal. Local people have been involved from the outset and are invested in and proud of sharing their heritage, especially since this kind of cultural tourism brings tangible benefits to isolated and under-populated parts of Portugal.
Aldeias Históricaswas the first Portuguese destination to receive Biosphere Destination certification from the Responsible Tourism Institute in 2018.
My favourites among the 12 Historical Villages include the Flintstone-esque village of Monsanto. Famed for its gigantic boulders, its hilltop castle overlooks vast plains. I’m also fond of Sortelha, a medieval citadel of golden granite, steeped in legends.
Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Stockholm, the beautiful capital of Sweden, is a wonderful example of a green city and a sustainable travel destination. Stockholm was awarded the first “European Green Capital” title, in 2010.
At least 40% of Stockholm is covered by parks and gardens. Isn’t that awesome? What’s more, the air is really pure, and its beautiful waterways are so clean that you can swim in them.
The city heavily discourages motoring in the city, with the imposition of a steep parking toll. Its public transport system is both robust and efficient, and a great way to traverse the city, for both residents and visitors. You can use the underground, trams, buses, ferries, or trains. Or you can bike or walk!
Stockholm’s underground is, in fact, a tourist attraction unto itself, because of the beautiful art everywhere. Buses here run on biofuels, made from waste materials and sewage. The city plans to be entirely free of fossil fuels by 2050.
Carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced significantly, more than 25% per resident, in the last few years. Stockholm is currently designated an “EU lighthouse city,” and if the cutting edge initiatives being implemented here are successful, they will be copied over to other European cities in the future.
With everything that is being done in Stockholm to keep it clean, green, and beautiful, you will love visiting this amazing Northern European destination!
Bristol, United Kingdom
Contributed by Josh & Sarah from Veggie Vagabonds
As travellers, and particularly travel bloggers, I think we have a responsibility to encourage sustainable forms of travel to help protect this beautiful world. Because of that, we’re always looking for new sustainable destinations and Bristol has to be one of our favourites.
Bristol is one of the UK’s leading sustainable cities and was granted European Green Capital in 2015, the first city in the UK. For visitors, you can stumble across a number of urban farming initiatives and green spaces within the city. It’s also really easy to notice a huge majority of eateries and independent shops have adopted low waste, ethical practices.
The city has a thriving food scene with many opting for sustainable, locally sourced food options. It’s also got a vibrant vegan community who are doing their bit to make food more ethical and environmentally friendly.
To get around it’s the perfect place to cycle, albeit a bit hilly, and you’ll find great cycle paths which take you around the city and into the surrounding countryside. It’s also the home of the first Poo Bus in the UK, powered completely by poo!
For nature lovers, you’re spoiled for choice and within 30 minutes of Bristol. The Cotswolds, Cheddar Gorge and Bath are on your doorstep. These spots are great for culture, climbing and hiking and are an enjoyable cycle away.
Contributed by Grace from The Idyll
Wildflower meadows, lush forests, and pristine beaches – Estonia is a natural beauty. It’s also a country that makes eco-conscious travel relatively easy. The fairytale capital of Tallinn is compact and easy to navigate on foot. So compact, in fact, that I didn’t need to use transport until I left Tallinn to explore the rest of the country.
Beyond the city, there are eco-spas, national parks, and organic farms to explore. Wild food cooking workshops celebrate the forest heritage of Estonia and canoeing and cycling tours are wonderful ways to see the landscape.
Estonia is a country that actively strives for sustainability. The nation’s eco-friendly reputation is largely thanks to its focus on protecting natural habitats, promoting renewable energy, and reducing air and noise pollution. In 2013, Estonia became the first country to install an electric car charging network on a national scale. And in 2018, the government made public transport free for all of its citizens.
The Natural Way is a new organic tourism quality label for sustainable services and organic land is continuing to increase. Meanwhile, community-based development projects aim to increase local ownership in the tourism industry, so things are set to get even better.
Contributed by Jeanne from Learning to Breathe Abroad
In 2007 the city introduced its Vision for Ljubljana 2025 which is to ensure that Ljubljana becomes a sustainable and ideal city by 2025. In line with this Vision, the city has implemented more than 1700 projects focused on sustainable energy, zero waste, environmental protection and a decrease in traffic.
These projects have resulted in 73% of apartments in Ljubljana being heated by the city’s district heating system using natural gas, air pollution in the city is 40 times lower than it was 20 years ago, tap water is drinkable without pre-treatment, urban bee-keeping is on the rise and it has the highest share of separated waste that is collected, at 63%.
To this end the city is earned numerous awards, being voted the European Green Capital in 2016 and winning the Sustainable Tourism Award in the 2019 European Capital of Smart Tourism competition. It received the WTM Responsible Tourism Award in 2017 and was voted Best Destination for Sustainable Travel in Europe category in 2018.
The most remarkable thing about this city is the lack of motorized traffic. The entire historic centre has been pedestrianized, so gone are the fumes, the noise and the congestion. Instead, the streets are lined with restaurants, cafe tables and popup stalls and visitors can aimlessly wander the streets appreciating the incredible architecture without having to watch their step.
Small electric carts, called Kavalir, shuttle visitors around the old town, while those more able-bodied make use of the self-service bike-sharing system to traverse the 230km of bicycle lanes. Parks and forest comprise incredible three-quarters of the city, truly making Ljubljana the greenest city in Europe.
Contributed by LC from Birdgehls
As more and more travellers flock to Svalbard and its biggest town of Longyearbyen, efforts are being made to keep local tourism sustainable.
The archipelago is home to a delicate ecosystem and the emphasis is on protecting the area’s biodiversity while allowing visitors to make the most of their trip. One of Visit Svalbard’s main sustainable policies is to assist local companies in achieving environmental certification.
Tourism companies are encouraged to conduct activities that have the least possible negative impact on the environment, climate, nature, culture and local communities. As a result, Svalbard and Longyearbyen have earned a place on the ‘Global Top 100 Sustainable Destinations’ list since 2016.
Efforts of the local community towards sustainability are impressive. Although dogs are permitted in Longyearbyen, you need a permit to own one. Cats are banned, as the archipelago is home to many species of Arctic birds and protecting them is of paramount importance.
Svalbard houses one of the world’s largest seed banks, the Global Seed Vault, which contains seed samples of many countries around the world – a sort of insurance for humankind. If some sort of environmental disaster or international crisis were to take place, these seed banks would allow humanity to continue to feed themselves.
Most impressive is local chef Benjamin L. Vidmar’s efforts to reduce the waste being shipped from Longyearbyen to Norway. He founded a company known as ‘Polar Permaculture’ and went on to construct the Arctic Dome Greenhouse. The goal is for Polar Permaculture to produce enough food for the entire town of Longyearbyen and compost all of the community’s organic and biological waste, making the town truly self-sustaining.
Contributed by Margherita from The Crowded Planet
Whenever I’m asked about the best sustainable destination I’ve ever visited, my answer is always Finland. That is because, as a local once put it, “there’s no sustainable tourism – all tourism is sustainable” – meaning that in Finland, being ‘eco’ is not a niche, it’s a way of life.
Naturally, this also extends to all things travel and tourism. Public transport is excellent and affordable throughout the country, and travelling on foot is highly encouraged, with a set of norms known as ‘Everyman’s Right’ giving people the right to cross, camp, and forage on all publicly owned land.
Practices like recycling, limiting the use of plastic and eating fresh, seasonable ingredients are common practice everywhere, from large cities like capital Helsinki to smaller places like Salla on the Russian border.
I think what makes Finland such an eco-friendly destination is the bond that Finns have with nature. It is not seen as something to exploit for profit, but as a true ‘mother’, a place to retreat to for comfort and wellbeing. I guess that is why it’s one of my favourite countries!
Contributed by Halef and Michael from The Round The World Guys
Oslo is one of the world’s most sustainable and eco-friendly cities and was recently crowned the 2019 European Green Capital.
When you arrive at Oslo Gardermoen International Airport, the warm wooden construction and green live plants welcome you to the city. And when you step out of the airport, you can feel it right away – the city’s air is fresh and clean, simply because Oslo produces the lowest CO2 emissions of any European city.
While Norway is a wealthy country due to its oil production, it’s ironic that Oslo also has one of the highest per capita ownership of electric cars and green vehicles. And if you choose not to drive there’s always public transport.
Oslo’s public transportation is extensive and efficient. Consider getting yourself an Oslo Pass during your visit, which includes free public transport within Central Oslo, as well as free admission or discounts to many popular museums and attractions in the city.
Oslo has plenty of “green” activities. It’s blessed with beautiful vistas surrounding the city, and residents are encouraged to go out and play in the city’s green backyard. Hiking the wooded landscape, eating at vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and kayaking the Oslo Fjord all combine to make Oslo an active city with a very small carbon footprint.
Contributed by Ania from The Travelling Twins
Iceland turns every expectation on its head. Sitting in the gulf stream, it’s not nearly as icy as you might expect, but this is only the beginning. Iceland was formed as molten rock leaked through a widening gap between tectonic plates – well after the last dinosaur died. This gap is still opening, and hot water literally flows (and explodes) from its rocks every day.
How does this make Iceland sustainable? Most electrical power comes from geothermal wells and the rest from hydroelectric turbines. Note that “most” plus “the rest” equals “äll.” In other words, 100% of Iceland’s power is delivered without fossil fuels or nuclear fission.
However, for me, the biggest joy comes from the tap. Iceland’s tap water comes from springs filtered by underground strata. It is some of the World’s purest, and none of it is wrapped in plastic. Water delivered without bottles saves the planet’s oceans from receiving many tonnes of waste every year.
Iceland’s glaciers are measurably shrinking with global warming. However, Iceland’s people are proud that they contribute very little to that environmental damage.
Contributed by Ellie & Ravi from Soul Travel Blog
Named as the world’s first sustainable country, Slovenia is one of the few countries in the world to have established a sustainability rating system – not only for its hotels and accommodation but also for its cities and destinations. Destinations are judged according to GSTC backed criteria and must have their very own ‘Green Coordinator’ appointed.
We fell in love with the watery landscapes and sheer backdrops of Lake Bohinj – a serene alternative to the (over) popular Lake Bled. Bohinj is beautiful to visit at all times of the year but comes into its own during spring when the slopes of the Julian Alps behind are carpeted in wildflowers. To have Bohinj all to yourself, come during winter.
Bohinj has also worked to ensure its local communities are supported through tourism through creating the Bohinj Brand—’Bohinjsko from Bohinj’. The brand is a signal to visitors that the product has been created locally, in partnership with local communities. The brand covers products ranging from food products and teas to arts and crafts and general souvenirs, and are available in a number of restaurants and gift shops in the town.
Bohinj is also home to Bohinj Park Eco Hotel – which was Slovenia’s first eco-friendly hotel. If your muscles are sore from too much hiking, we highly recommend some time in their natural pools and spa!
Contributed by Sam from Alternative Travelers
Berlin is one of the most sustainable cities in Europe, starting with The Reichstag, the most eco-friendly parliament building in the world. The city invests in clean energy, transportation, and boasts thousands of acres of green spaces. Many of these have been repurposed from previous uses, such as railway depots, rail tracks, and even a former airfield, Tempelhof Field.
Getting around sustainably is easy in Berlin using the robust public transportation system comprised of trains, subways, trams, buses, and even ferries. The city is very bikable, with many bike share programs and an extensive network of bike paths and routes. In terms of car sharing, Berlin has the highest number of providers.
Lower your carbon footprint and eat healthy in the numerous restaurants focusing on vegetarian, vegan, organic, and local foods. There are also many projects, including apps, restaurants, and stores, that distribute food that would have been wasted otherwise.
Berliners generally are very eco-conscious, a city-wide lifestyle that has its roots in wartime and poverty. Now, you’ll find chic sustainable shops, community farms, upcycling projects, flea markets, organic farmers markets, and more, simply by roaming the city streets. There’s so much to explore for the green traveler in Berlin!
Banteay Chhmar Community, Cambodia
Contributed by Soumya from Stories by Soumya
Banteay Chhmar is a small, inconspicuous dot on the map of Cambodia. Not many people know that it houses some of the most beautiful ruins from the Angkorian era. And even fewer are aware that Banteay Chhmar is trying to resurrect its lost beauties through a sustainable tourism effort in association with the Global Heritage Fund (GHF).
The temples of Banteay Chhmar are older than the Angkor Wat and were subjected to loot and pillage for a very long time. No doubt, when restoration efforts began the task facing the GHF team was humungous. That was when people of Banteay Chhmar decided to get involved not only in the restoration process but also in making tourism a sustainable and viable effort for the entire area.
Banteay Chhmar’s Community Based Tourism (CBT) came into existence. Today, the entire tourism process is managed by locals. This includes accommodation, food, conveyance, tour guides, cooking and music classes, and special festivals. 100% of the income is shared with the community. This has resulted in substantial growth of annual incomes in the area.
In order to enjoy the lost temples of Banteay Chhmar, all you need to do is book a tour on the CBT website and arrive in this sleepy, little village. They will take care of the rest.
Da Bac, Vietnam
Contributed by Emily from Wander-Lush
With some parts of the country falling victim to over-tourism, it’s terrific to see sustainable alternatives taking off in Vietnam.
Located in Hoa Binh Province, around 3 hours by car from Hanoi, Da Bac District is absolutely one of Northern Vietnam’s hidden gems. A few years ago, three villages in the area banded together to kick start tourism in their communities. With the help of Australian NGO Action on Poverty, they launched a social enterprise called Da Bac Community-Based Tourism (CBT).
Some members of the CBT access loans to transform their properties into homestays. Others get involved by helping out with cooking, transport, hiring out canoes, selling handicrafts and tea, and acting as trekking guides.
Visitors can travel between the villages by trekking or on a motorbike, passing through Da Bac’s stunning valleys and along the edge of a natural lake.
Most of the Da Bac CBT members belong to the Dao Tien and Muong ethnic groups. They get to keep a fair share of the profits of tourism and have control over when and how many visitors come into their villages. The CBT also encourages people to preserve elements of their culture and keep the environment clean.
After living in Hanoi for a year and seeing most of the country, my visit to Da Bac was one of the most rewarding travel experiences I had in Vietnam.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Contributed by Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads
Traveling and working as a dive instructor I have seen the massive negative impact of humans on beautiful tropical islands all over the world. The small island Koh Tao in Thailand is known for great diving with about 500 000 tourists coming here every year to learn the skills to explore the underwater world, this places big environmental stress on the island.
I did not expect to find such a fantastic concentrated sustainability effort by businesses, particularly dive centers in Koh Tao to reduce their negative impact on the island.
Standing in line at 7-eleven supermarket I was very impressed when a gentleman had to come back to carry groceries to his car since stores on the island no longer give reusable plastic bags.
Plastic straws are another culprit causing so much unnecessary pollution that has been completely banned on the island. “Get Involved Koh Tao” is a body that was formed by many different dive schools, they work on different eco conservation projects, with multiple beach cleanups, reef clean ups and eco-lectures every month.
“Trash Hero Koh Tao” is another organization working hard through clean up and recycling programs to reduce pollution on the island.
There are many more individual efforts by businesses on the island that make a significant impact, training in marine conservation, plastic free bars, free gear for divers during underwater clean ups, the coral gardening project building new artificial reefs and a very impressive recycling center converting organic waste into soaps and detergents. We were very impressed with all the sustainability efforts made by the whole island community and the beaches of Koh Tao should remain pristine for years to come.
Contributed by Abbie from Speck on the Globe
Bhutan was far and away one of my favourite destinations that has sustainability at the forefront of their plans for tourism in the country. Bhutan, measuring their index by the Gross National Happiness, carries that philosophy throughout all aspects of life in the country. Two of the four pillars of their government involve sustainability and environmental concerns.
Wildlife in the country is protected, which means that endemic species can thrive. Because the Royal Government commits to keeping at least 60% of the country’s forests preserved, there is a safe eco system for the flora & fauna of Bhutan. With such care put into the environment, each resident is committed to keeping their home green. With a population so concerned with the eco systems, it’s no wonder they are a carbon negative country.
To ensure that the visitors of the Kingdom of Bhutan are as respectful there is a daily fee for tourism, part of which has a sustainable development charge. It may seem like premium prices, but when you are committing to things like 100% organic agriculture by 2020, or waste free by 2030, it seems worth the cost.
Contributed by Gordon from Short Holidays and Getaways
There is virtually no garbage, litter or rubbish on the streets of Japan, making it a very sustainable destination to visit. As Japan is a small island, and very densely populated, the land is precious and needs to be conserved. The separation of rubbish when recycling is known as bunbetsu, and this is one of the first things that children at school learn about and that all Japanese do know about and which they strictly adhere to.
They also learn about Mottai nai, meaning wasteful, and how not to be. The Japanese have a name and shame system for people you do not recycle correctly. You may well get the red sticker of shame. If you put the wrong thing in the wrong ‘clear’ bag, you may find your rubbish left on the sidewalks with the red sticker. This will have an explanation as to why you have ‘failed’, and this is for all to see. The Japanese do not like to be shamed at all. Japan has no choice but to be a sustainable destination, and frankly, they put the rest of us to shame. The irony, however, is that they over package everything else.
Contributed by Dave from Jones Around The World
Bali is simply one of the most magical islands in the entire world. There’s an atmosphere that can be difficult to explain, but it really is a place that inspires wonderful change. I’ve been living in Canggu for two months now, and one of the things I’ve noticed here is that everyone & everyone PLACE is committed to sustainability. It’s impossible to find a restaurant that will service plastic straws, and the grocery stores don’t even give out plastic bags.
While the island of Bali itself does have a plastic/trash problem, beach cleanups are common every week, and everyone in Canggu gets involved. It really is inspiring to be surrounded by people who really care about the environment, and are striving to make changes in their individual lives for sustainability. What I love is that it’s become such a hot issue here, that the island of Bali just banned plastic bags (starting soon), which I think is a necessary step for the future! Now, we just need the rest of the world to follow! #SayNoToPlastic
Contributed by Ruben from Gamin Traveler
Siargao is one of the most beautiful tourist destinations and a gem that should be treasured in the Philippines. It is a teardrop-shaped island in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao where huge mangrove forests and beautiful, clean white-sand beaches with clear, blue waters exist. This paradise is also known for its huge waves which are loved by surfers and tourists.
Just like in any other tourist destination, tourism can also create negative effects on the local community and pollution is one of those. Irresponsible tourists often leave different kinds of garbages that are harmful to the environment and its wildlife. However, in Siargao, it is being prevented from happening.
The local government and volunteers strictly implement responsible tourism in Siargao. Luckily, foreigners are also conscious of their environmental footprints whenever they visit the area. Beaches are always clean, except during weekends where a lot of tourists visit. There are volunteers that organize beach cleanups, however, a lot of people are interested in joining the program. Did you know that Siargao is the first town in Surigao del Norte to ban single-use plastic bags? This is an effort to reduce waste in the area and protect its beautiful beaches and mangrove forests.
Those are just some of the sustainable efforts in protecting the island and conserving its beauty. We hope that people in every tourist destination in the world take action in making sure that we just don’t enjoy the beauty of our environment but also protect and take care of it.
Contributed by Chandresh from Family On The Wheels
Located on India – Bangladesh border, this village has been awarded as “Cleanest Village in Asia “in 2003 by DISCOVER INDIA and since then it has been living up to its title. Located in Meghalaya State in India, the inhabitants have gone the extra mile and you can see the impact the moment you step in the place.
Bamboo dustbins right outside each home collect all type of waste including fallen tree leaves. While bio gradable waste is converted into manure, all other waste is 100% recycled and reused. With Zero Tolerance for smoking, littering, and the use of plastic bags, this village has set an example for the world to follow.
Switching to Solar lights and rooftop plants is helping them turn 100% carbon neutral place. Putting Rainwater harvesting system by creating natural basins right outside each home is making them self-sustainable.
Mawlynnong is also a unique example of women empowerment where the wealth of family is transferred from mother to her daughter and ids get their mother’s surname instead of men.
For travelers, this place offers a UNESCO world heritage site in form of “Living Root Bridges ” These bridges are naturally made in the span of 20-30 years by connecting roots of rubber tree among each other over river streams.
The Singalila National Park
Contributed by Somnath from Travel Crusade
The Singalila National Park is the most important eco forest zone and the gateway to many important trekking expeditions in Eastern Himalayas.
Extinct species of wildlife like red panda, cheetah, makau and jaguar are found in this corner of the country. The National Park is covered by distinct species of wildlife and plants and is now a sustainable tourist destination in East India. Places like Sandakphu, Phalut and other trekking routes are easily accessible from the zone and can be reached in a day or two by trekking along the zone.
The National Park is covered by high altitude lakes and important places like Maneybhanjang, Tumling and Garibas. The place attracts a lot of adventure enthusiasts and trekkers from the country and foreign tourists and is now an important and sustainable destination in Eastern India. The Park is covered by dense and thick forests and steep and winding roads that make it difficult to traverse across the terrain. The forests are covered by various species of rhododendrons and wildlife and shrubs which are found only in this corner of the country.
Tourists come to view the stunning appearance and the mesmerizing landscape of the region that makes it memorable and a fortune venture to last for a lifetime.
Contributed by Rahma from The Sane Adventurer
Muscat, the capital city of Oman unlike the other neighbouring capitals has focused on maintaining the vintage vibe of Arabia with its simple yet urban architecture and low raised buildings. Along with sticking to its traditional roots, Muscat’s infrastructure is surprising the most eco-friendly in among all the Arabian Gulf countries.
Surrounded by the sea and mountains, the city of Muscat has long stretches of ‘Green Belts’, with date tree plantations running across all the major roads and intersections. The plantation along the roads is aimed for reducing the pollution caused by the cars. This has helped the city, which was ranked in the Top 10 pollution free capitals in Asia in 2017.
The city is now gradually moving towards installation of energy-saving LED lights on the roads to cut down the overall electricity consumption and heat generated by traditional lamp posts.
The port area of Muttrah, which is also the main tourist hub in Muscat is now lit up with energy-saving LED light lampposts. This is one of the reasons that despite being situated amidst a desert,
Muscat is being able to maintain less warm summers and sustain a cleaner, cooler and pleasant environment for the residents.
Contributed by Pashmina from The Gone Goat
Globalization has erased traditions and skills but not in Yazd, Iran’s mud town. People are trained to be ecological, rather than technological. With cement causing damage to earth’s fertile layer, the topsoil, the houses in Yazd, showcases how building with mud mortar of sand and unbaked bricks is refashioned to live sustainably.
In 2017, the Global Energy Award was conferred to Yazd for its advantages in conserving and making optimum use of energy in view of its architecture. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site known to have the oldest community in Iran, the Zoroastrians.
The city of Yazd is a living testimony to intelligent use of limited available resources in the desert for survival. Walking around the city, you will notice how wind catchers, minarets and domes of the monuments and mosques offer an outstanding insight into the historic city.
What makes it essentially quaint and sustainably beautiful is the pavilions, fountains, pools and plantings and the Persian Garden which is meant to represent Paradise on Earth. Here’s why a visit to Iran is a must.
Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
Contributed by Jyoti & Nirmal from Story at Every Corner
Namibia arguably hosts some of the most precious natural wonders of our planet. Namib-Naukluft National Park has the oldest, highest and most gorgeous red sand dunes. But that’s just the beginning! The dried salt pans, the petrified trees, the flora and the fauna from an entirely unique ecosystem. With millions of years of extremes climate conditions and with little resources, the native life forms in Namib-Naukluft NP have adapted and evolved to create their own species.
Luckily the Namibia government is making great strides in protecting the wealth of natural wonders the nation inherited. The government has protected 17% of the country for conservation including iconic treasures such as Namib-Naukluft NP, Etosha NP and Skeleton Coast.
The Department of Environment and Tourism is “increasingly focused on the development of new conservation ideas and management practices. These have sought to link conservation and sustainable development and to improve the quality of life for all Namibians.“ More details on the government’s website.
As visitors, the government and community’s efforts were obvious to us on our trip. There is only one lodge in the National Park and one campsite at the entrance. There is one very well kept road and few well-marked areas for visitors to enjoy and unbelievably magic of the Namib desert.
The lodge completely blends into the natural setting and is powered by solar energy. It was built only 10 years ago, to be sustainable from the ground up. I read the department’s beautiful magazine that shows similar efforts in sustainable tourism and how it rewards the employees on a good effort, at national parks around Namibia.
In the entire trip, I did not see a piece of trash anywhere! Neither did I see any cleaning crew. Together, the government, community and visitors are being respectful of nature. The education and mindset are going a long way in preserving this unique ecosystem in and around the protected lands.
Namibia is one of the most sparse and youngest nations in the world. There is lesser pressure on natural resources and more contained human activity. It’s awesome to see this young country set aside so many resources to plan, educate and preserve the environment so we can all cherish and visit for generations to come.
Contributed by Paulina from Paulina on the Road
Cape Verde is one of the top upcoming travel destinations. The archipelago in the heart of the Atlantic seems to have an island for every taste: Santo Antao is for hikers, Sal Island and Boa Vista are for beach lovers and Mindelo has that busy city vibe.
However, Sal and Boa Vista are quickly becoming destinations of mass tourism. Both islands are dry and almost deserted. Water scarcity is a huge problem whereas tourists can take long showers in their all-inclusive resorts.
Since a few years, Cape Verde is making considerable efforts to become a sustainable beach destination. They learned from their experience in Boa Vista island and are forbidding large hotel resorts in beach islands like Maio. Investors are checked in-depth before they can build a hotel on an island.
Special attention is paid to Cape Verde’s turtle population. Some of the turtles can be found nowhere else in the worlds. That’s why several towns in Maio, Sal and Boa Vista are organizing turtle nesting tours in order to inform about different species. Learning about turtles is now one of the most popular activities in Cape Verde.
Luckily the tourist management board realized that only by teaching and preserving, the islands of Cape Verde can maintain their enchanting beauty.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
Contributed by Emma from Small Footprints, Big Adventures
Uluru is the heart of Australia and one of our main tourist attractions. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was World Heritage listed for outstanding natural values in 1987, and for outstanding cultural values in 1994. It remains one of only a few places in Australia to hold a dual-listing.
The national park was handed back to its traditional owners, the Anangu, in 1985. Since then Anangu has jointly managed it in conjunction with Parks Australia, with a view to preserving the aboriginal culture and the natural environment while providing excellent opportunities for visitors to learn and enjoy the park. Park rangers run free guided walks around areas of Uluru daily, and they really are outstanding cultural and historical lessons.
There are also now many tours and ways to experience Uluru that does not rely on climbing it, such as cycling around the base, camel and Segway tours, scenic flights and helicopter rides, skydiving and motorcycle tours! And just hiking around Uluru and Kata Tjuta is a wonderful way to experience them.
Ayer’s Rock Resort has been owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation since 2011, and the township is operated in a socially responsible way. Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia operates the resort for the Land Corporation and they focus strongly on indigenous employment and training, as well as supporting local aboriginal communities.
Free daily workshops at the resort further enhance traveller’s understanding of Aboriginal culture, art and food, and the surrounding natural environment.
The resort has several solar fields which produce 15-30% of its average requirements, taking advantage of the plentiful outback sunshine. Recycling services could be better though: only PET plastic, cans and bottles are collected for recycling, with all other waste going to the resort’s landfill site.