10 sustainable travel destinations for eco-friendly adventures

Oluwatosin Jegede

Are you eager to explore the world responsibly? Look no further than sustainable travel destinations. In a world where tourism accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions, choosing destinations that prioritize the planet is more important than ever.

This approach not only helps reduce environmental impact but also supports the vital $1.5 trillion travel industry in a sustainable way. This year, set your sights on these top sustainable travel destinations, each offering unique experiences with a conscious footprint.

Must-visit sustainable travel destinations

1. Costa Rica

Costa Rica stands as a leader among sustainable travel destinations. It boasts the world’s largest percentage of protected areas, making it a paradise for those who cherish nature. This Central American gem, with its stunning array of wildlife, lush rainforests, and volcanic landscapes, supports an impressive 5% of the planet’s biodiversity.

It’s a land of 20 natural parks, 8 biological reserves, and 800 miles of captivating coastline. Remarkably, in 2016, 98.1% of Costa Rica’s electricity was generated from renewable sources, showcasing its commitment to sustainability. The country is dotted with eco-friendly boutique hotels and is celebrated for its conservation efforts, contributing to its status as one of the happiest countries globally.

2. Slovenia

Nestled next to the Italian Alps, Slovenia is a hidden gem of sustainable travel destinations. About 75% of its electricity comes from hydroelectric dams, presenting a guilt-free experience for travelers. Its capital, Ljubljana, won the title of European Green Capital in 2016. This is due to its eco-friendly initiatives like natural gas-powered city buses and an urban electric train.

Nearly half of Ljubljana is green space, making it an ideal spot for eco-conscious travelers. Slovenia offers a plethora of sustainable activities, from swimming with sea turtles to exploring eco-friendly farms that provide insights into local life. These experiences not only delight travelers but also support the local economy.

3. The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands, situated over 600 miles from Ecuador’s coast, are a unique entry on the list of sustainable travel destinations. This remote archipelago, home to many exclusive species, was the world’s first Natural World Heritage site in 1978.

Today, about 90% of its land is a national park. The Galapagos attracts nature lovers with its rare species and world-class diving and snorkeling opportunities. However, to preserve its pristine condition, tourism is carefully regulated, with strict measures for recycling, energy, and water conservation. These efforts ensure that the Galapagos remains an unspoiled haven of biodiversity for future generations.

4. Borneo

Borneo, a paradise of biodiversity, is one of the best sustainable travel destinations you can visit. This island, teeming with rare species and vibrant ecosystems, places sustainability at the forefront. Eco-goods and services boost its local economy, making it a model for ecological responsibility.

Organizations like Borneo Eco Tours, Sukau Rainforest Lodge, and Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies (BEST) Society adhere to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Borneo is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, snorkelers, scuba divers, trekkers, and adventure seekers, making it a must-visit for those who love nature while respecting its delicate balance.

5. Bhutan

Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom nestled in the Himalayas, is a jewel among sustainable travel destinations. This country has remained one of the least visited in the world, purposefully developing its tourism to protect its natural resources and cultural heritage.

Visitors are charged a daily fee, which includes accommodations, food, transportation, and a guide, ensuring a sustainable exploration of the country. Bhutan’s commitment to sustainability extends to its law mandating that at least 60% of the country remain forested for future generations. Impressively, Bhutan absorbs more carbon than it emits.

6. Peru

Peru, a staple on many travelers’ bucket lists, offers much more than the famed Machu Picchu. With about 25,000 plant species, 30% of which are unique to Peru, it’s a hotspot for biodiversity.

The Manu Biosphere Reserve, Tambopata National Reserve, and Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve are among the world’s largest protected rainforest areas, all located in Peru. The government regulates tourism in these areas to protect them, although deforestation remains a challenge.

7. Patagonia

At the southern tip of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is a natural wonder among sustainable travel destinations. Home to Torres del Paine National Park, it boasts glaciers, lakes, snow-capped mountains and is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Patagonia’s azure lakes and meandering forest trails make it one of the most pristine places on Earth. Trekking and horseback riding are recommended for exploring this ecosystem sustainably, ensuring minimal impact on this breathtaking landscape.

8. Botswana

Botswana is a dream destination for wildlife enthusiasts and a shining example of a sustainable travel destinations. Home to 40% of Africa’s entire elephant population, Botswana offers unparalleled wildlife watching. The country has dedicated 38% of its land to national parks, reserves, and wildlife management areas, not only conserving its natural heritage but also creating vital job opportunities for locals.

It’s pioneering in eco-tourism with solar-powered boats and electric vehicles for game viewing, aiming for a completely emission-free experience. Eco lodges, solar lighting, and recycled water systems are on the rise, making Botswana a top pick for environmentally conscious travelers.

9. New Zealand

New Zealand’s breathtaking landscapes, from glaciers and fjords to volcanic plateaus and subtropical forests, make it a must-visit among sustainable travel destinations. Almost a third of its land is reserved for national parks, reserves, and heritage sites, preserving its ecological heritage.

Destinations like the White Island, Mount Cook National Park, Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, and Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Reserve offer unique insights into the country’s natural beauty. Eco-friendly accommodations like The Resurgence near Abel Tasman and eco-tours like Driftwood in Marlborough enhance the sustainable travel experience, ensuring minimal environmental impact.

10. Vietnam

Vietnam rounds up the list as a top sustainable travel destination. Known for its sunny climate, rich culture, exotic foods, and affordability, Vietnam is more than just a beautiful destination. It boasts protected national parks, stunning coral reefs, and one of the world’s largest lagoons.

Eco-adventures like the Best Sapa Biking Tour, Best Ha Giang Trekking Tour, Cao Son Eco-adventure, and tours in Babe National Park and the Mekong region offer immersive experiences in Vietnam’s diverse landscapes. These activities not only cater to adventurous travelers but also support local communities and conservation efforts.

Read also: Regenerative tourism: how to travel while improving nature

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