Sustainable travel destinations are places that put the health of their land first. They look after their green spaces, work towards being carbon-neutral, and focus on developing sustainable tourism rather than mass tourism.
Sustainable tourism means ensuring that the diverse wildlife and ecosystems will remain for future generations to enjoy. Some profits from tourism go towards maintaining and recovering natural places.
If you want to visit innovative cities surrounded by sprawling green space without worrying about your carbon footprint, then this list is for you. Here are our top 10 sustainable travel destinations for 2021.
In 2020, Finland was voted the happiest country in the world for the 3rd year running (despite the often harsh weather). Finland prioritizes work-life balance, has great healthcare, equality, benefits, and fair income distribution. Oh, and absolutely stunning landscape, so it’s no wonder they take such great care of it.
Finland is aiming to cut its dependency on imported fossil fuels by 50% by 2030. Helsinki, the colourful capital of Finland, plans to be carbon neutral by 2035.
Finland is one of the best sustainable travel destinations because the country actively develops and promotes sustainable tourism. Visit Finland awards the Sustainable Travel Finland label to destinations and companies that meet their sustainability standards, therefore making it easy to plan your eco-conscious trip. Finland’s tourism website offers plenty of advice for exploring the country in a sustainable way, and suggests tourists take a “Sustainable Finland Pledge”.
Costa Rica is a country of unimaginable beauty. Even though it is a small country, it makes up 5% of the world’s land-based biodiversity which Costa Rica takes protecting very seriously. So seriously in fact, that 25% of the territory is preserved by the National System of Conservation Areas.
The vibrant landscape includes rain forests, crystal-clear beaches, volcanoes, and plenty of other natural wonders. All of which you can explore guilt-free; Costa Rica aims to be the first carbon-neutral country in the world by 2021.
Sustainability is deeply embedded in the local way of life. You’ll see it everywhere you look. For example, souvenirs made of renewable materials, the clean cities, and locally-grown produce.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The stunning Galapagos Islands in Ecuador face numerous threats including climate change, over-fishing, and population growth on the islands. However, Ecuador actively works to protect the islands from irresponsible tourism. It was also one of the first countries to recognize the rights of nature in its constitution, which is why it frequently ends up on lists of sustainable travel destinations.
95% of the land area is protected because the ecosystems are so fragile. Tourists can only visit those areas in limited numbers and with certified guides.
Travellers focused on sustainable tourism who want to visit a lively, colourful place will love the Galapagos.
Sweden, the home of environmental activist Greta Thunberg, holds the #1 position on the Global Sustainability Index. Over 54% of energy consumption in Sweden is from renewable resources, and they have a goal of 100% by 2040. The efforts for continuing on this path to complete sustainability isn’t just on the government’s shoulders; rather, it’s a big part of their culture. Swedes keep the environment in mind with almost everything they do, such as how they shop to how they commute.
Many people in Sweden grow up with a great respect for nature, which also contributes to their drive for improved sustainability. A big part of this is the easy accessibility to every stunning spot the country has to offer with their Right to Public Access law. It gives people the right to enjoy the countryside, whether they are camping, kayaking, hiking, or mountain climbing, even if the land is privately owned (with limitations, such as staying away from dwellings).
Switzerland is constantly putting new eco-friendly innovations to work which is why it is one of the most sustainable travel destinations in the world. The country is covered with efficient public transport options to use during your travels. Switzerland is a global leader in waste management — it recycles 50% of its household waste.
The Swiss take protecting their beautiful country seriously, which is why more than 30% remains covered by forest. Sustainability-conscious travellers can get around the country by low-emission means, stay in car-free resorts, and explore everything from blue glacial waters to high mountain summits.
Bhutan is a small country in Asia tucked between China and India. The Buddhist kingdom has a dramatic landscape with fortresses and monasteries scattered throughout the mountains. It has only been recently that Bhutan started attracting tourists so it remains a unique experience off the beaten path. A sudden increase in tourism can often cause countries to put financial gains above environmental protection. However, that has not been the case for Bhutan. Respecting and protecting the natural world around them have always been priorities for the Bhutanese people.
Sustainability is a prevalent part of new tourism plans. The constitution mandates that the carbon-neutral kingdom maintain at least 60% of its landmass as forest. This prevents over-development.
Slovenia, especially the capital city Ljubljana, is speeding towards a green future by jumping in with big changes. Ljubljana’s city centre has moved away from cars and is instead focusing on making transportation friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians. It is the first EU capital to take part in the zero-waste program.
The landscape of Slovenia is covered in green vegetation with natural treasures dotted throughout. Locals are protective over their stunning country and work to preserve it for future generations. As a result, Slovenia was the first country to be declared a Green Destination of the World.
Slovenia awards green tourism companies with a Slovenia Green Label so that tourists can easily pick businesses that have been recognized for sustainability and quality.
Singapore is racing towards sustainability with its innovations and new regulations. Despite being so densely populated — 5.7 million people in an area just over 700 square kilometres — it is considered the greenest city in Asia.
Understanding that a growing number of people are calling urban centres home, Singapore recognized that the current model was unsustainable. So, they got to work turning Singapore into a garden city. As a result, it brings an abundance of nature into the urban environment for happier and healthier people.
Though they are still playing catch-up with renewable resources, they excel in water sustainability. Their long-term plan is to close the water loop and be completely self-sufficient, and they are well on their way.
Bikes, windmills, and water are likely the first things that come to mind when you think of the Netherlands. It is not difficult to understand why the Netherlands would be spotted on a list of the top sustainable travel destinations. It’s easy to travel around the Netherlands sustainably without much planning as a result of its emphasis on low-emission transportation.
Sustainable modes of transportation are a way of life in the Netherlands. Currently, surprisingly little of their energy comes from renewable resources. However, they are working towards zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Iceland is a country so fairytale in appearance that it’s hard to believe it’s real. The Nordic country has thermal baths, glaciers, mountains, black sand beaches, and huge waterfalls to name a few. If you want more ideas, check out this list of 15 adventurous things to do in Reykjavik.
The topography that gives Iceland its rugged beauty also contributes to its sustainability. Volcanos generate an abundance of geothermal energy which 5 geothermal power plants tap into. They turn the natural resource into clean energy for the entire country. Almost 100% of electricity in Iceland comes from geothermal power or hydropower.
Over the past decade, Iceland has seen a huge boom in tourism. This has helped them recover from a major economic crisis, however, they haven’t been given much time to develop a plan for sustainable tourism to deal with the influx. Consider avoiding peak season and remember to leave no trace when you’re enjoying Iceland’s magical natural wonders.
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