30 Top Eco Destinations

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Responsible travellers are continually seeking destinations where they can minimise their impact on the environment and improve the lives of the locals. While we can’t list every eco hot-spot in the world, here’s our pick of some of the best.

1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

See the world as Charles Darwin did as you wander through the home of giant tortoises, fur seals, marine iguanas, and comical blue-footed boobies.

2. Costa Rica

Named the world’s most natural conservation area, almost a third of this eco-heaven is protected as wildlife refuges, biological reserves and a marine park described as an “underwater Serengeti.”

3. Belize

With more than 87 different ecosystems, ecotourism is the lifeblood of this country. Legendary for its rainforests, Mayan temples and animals ranging from jaguars to howler monkeys.

4. Brazil

From the Amazon, the largest rainforest on earth, to the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetlands, Brazil is jam-packed with quality eco and cultural experiences.

5. Guyana, South America

Relatively unknown, Guyana is home to the famed Karanambu Ranch, which saves orphaned giant river otters, poached for their velvety coats, and releases them back into the wild.

6. Antarctica

Antarctica is still the world’s last great wilderness, except it’s no longer the domain of the intrepid explorer, as it’s now possible to get there in five-star luxury.

7. Tasmania, Australia

Australia has many amazing eco destinations, but the whole world officially compares the quality of its air to that found in the north-west corner of Tassie.

8. New Zealand

100% Pure says it all, but the dazzling starlight above Lake Tekapo is set to become the first piece of sky to be World Heritage-listed.

9. Vanua Levu, Fiji

If Gilligan had been a conservationist, the Jean-Michel Cousteau resort on Vanua Levu would have been the perfect place for his ‘three-hour tour’ to wash ashore.

10. Brunei

Synonymous with raw, unspoiled nature, more than 70% of Brunei is covered by primary rainforests, which its government has taken great strides to protect.

11. Thailand

Volunteering an extra pair of hands or teaching a little English can change a child’s life in one of Thailand’s orphanages, and change you forever.

12. Laos

With two World Heritage sites, 20 national parks, 49 ethnic groups, 650 bird species, and a bunch of affordable eco-lodges, this tiny eco-nation punches well above its weight.

13. Thenmala, India

India’s first planned ecotourism destination, this village in the forests near Kerala is taking green travel to heart with local youths trained to educate visitors about ecotourism.

14. Bhutan 

Often regarded as a shining example of tourism development, this country only wants quality travellers willing to pay the price to visit, and it’s worth every dollar.

15. Sikkim, India

Haven of the musk deer and the snow leopard, the mystical aura and legendary mountains and landscapes are the hallmarks of this tiny north-eastern Himalayan state.

16. Kamchatka, Russia

No-one was allowed to visit this top-secret region during the Cold War, and the result is a pristine wilderness with abundant wildlife that gets fewer visitors than Antarctica.

17. Dubai

Not just skyscrapers and shopping, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve has put five per cent of the emirate under official eco-protection and created one of the world’s best ecotourism models.

18. Madagascar

This ecological ark contains some of the weirdest plants and animals on the planet, but sadly deforestation means they may not be around for much longer.

19. South Africa

From rural home-stays that benefit local communities to luxury eco-lodges and volunteer conservation projects – plus more wildlife in one day than you’ve seen in your lifetime.

20. Rwanda

Tourism has brought mountain gorillas back from the brink in this Central African nation, because fortunately they are now worth more alive than dead.

21. Gabon

Africa’s last great expanse of rainforest almost disappeared until 13 new national parks were created, revealing an untouched Africa just as Stanley and Livingstone found it.

22. Ethiopia

Considered the greatest spiritual-historical site in the world, Lalibela is astounding; as are the virtually untouched Simien Mountains here in the birthplace of humanity.

23. Switzerland

Switzerland is so eco-conscious it sneers when any car manufacturer talks “green”. The public transport system here works like clockwork, so very few residents own cars.

24. Norway

While other European countries aim to cut their carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, Norway has upped the ante to 30 per cent.

25. Sweden

The second country in the world to introduce an eco-tourism charter; think northern lights, mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows, forests and lakes and you get the picture.

26. Ireland

Everything about Ireland is green – and even more so with the Greenbox partnership, where once divided communities are collaborating to preserve the area’s natural and cultural heritage.

27. Croatia

Croatia has focused on ecotourism to differentiate itself with its neighbours with culinary tours that are poles apart using locally-sourced organic food and family farm stays.

28. British Colombia, Canada

Grizzly bears, moose, whales, lakes, forests, mammoth mountains and profound indigenous cultures are just some of the reasons to keep exploring this outdoor-lover’s seventh heaven.

29. Calgary, Canada

Forget cowboys and stampedes, this city rated #1 eco-city in the world based on water quality, waste removal, air pollution and lack of traffic.

30. Honolulu, Hawaii

More than high-rises and loud shirts, believe it or not, this city gets the gong for the #2 eco-city in the world for its good eco-management.

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