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Last updated: 12 June 2024

Top Green Destinations: Sustainable Travel Spots for 2024

Explore the world's top sustainable travel destinations, where eco-friendly practices and breathtaking natural beauty come together.

Sustainable travel destinations, also known as eco-friendly or green tourism, focus on minimising the negative impact of travel on the environment while enhancing the well-being of local communities. This concept has gained traction over the past few decades as travellers become more aware of their ecological footprint.

Imagine waking up to the sound of waves gently lapping against the shore, knowing that your stay is powered entirely by renewable energy. Or picture yourself hiking through lush, untouched forests, contributing to local conservation efforts with every step. As travellers become increasingly aware of their environmental impact, the demand for sustainable travel options has never been higher.

In 2024, eco-friendly travel is not just a trend but a necessity, with destinations worldwide offering greener, cleaner travel experiences.

According to recent studies, over three-quarters of global travellers desire to travel more sustainably, and 90% of consumers seek eco-friendly travel options. This shift in consumer behaviour has prompted destinations worldwide to invest in sustainable practices, from renewable energy and waste reduction to community-based tourism and conservation efforts.

Sustainable Travel and Tourism

The travel and tourism industry contributes approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, sustainable tourism practices can reduce environmental impacts by up to 60%. 

Regarding regional impact, the Asia-Pacific and North American regions accounted for over 23 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2022. The tourism industry, encompassing lodging, transport, attractions, and more, plays a complex role in the climate crisis. For instance, tourism-related transport alone contributes significantly to global carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 5%. 

On a positive note, over 50% of global travellers now seek accommodations with significant sustainability innovations. This means that more travellers opt for sustainable options to reduce their environmental impact or to engage more deeply with local cultures. 

Additionally, a report by Booking.com revealed that 87% of global travellers want to travel sustainably. Case studies from destinations like Costa Rica and Iceland demonstrate the tangible benefits of eco-tourism, such as increased biodiversity and local economic growth. Moreover, about 69% of tourists planned to travel sustainably, a trend reshaping the vacation rental industry and encouraging property managers to adopt greener practices.

As the climate crisis intensifies, the industry faces increasing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint. For example, on average, sustainable accommodation options are 39% cheaper than non-sustainable ones. This growing awareness is reflected in the ecotourism market's size, which reached a whopping £135.34 billion. Moreover, the market is expected to grow to £195.57 billion by the end of 2024, indicating a robust interest in eco-friendly travel options.

Sustainable travel helps mitigate environmental impact, supports local economies, and preserves cultural heritage. Travellers can make a positive difference by choosing eco-friendly destinations while satisfying their wanderlust.

Top Sustainable Travel Destinations

Europe

  1. Valencia, Spain

Valencia, the European Green Capital of 2024, is committed to generating 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The city boasts 500 hectares of green spaces, improved mass transit services, pedestrian spaces, and 200km bike lanes, making it a prime destination for eco-conscious travellers.

  1. Iceland

Iceland leads the way in renewable energy production and offers sustainable adventures like glacier hikes and geothermal pool visits. Travellers can minimise their carbon footprint while experiencing Iceland's dramatic landscapes. The country emphasises the preservation of its unique landscapes. Hiking between tectonic plates, exploring waterfalls, and snorkelling in Silfra Fissure through Þingvellir National Park.

  1. Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg is recognised as the most sustainable destination globally for the seventh consecutive time. The city features the Gothenburg Green City Zone, aiming to eliminate emissions by 2030, and has a high percentage of eco-certified hotels.

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is known for its clean harbours, extensive cycling infrastructure, and ambitious goal to become the world's first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025. The city is a leader in sustainable urban development.

  1. Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux is making strides in sustainable wine production, with many vineyards adopting organic and biodynamic practices. The city also hosts eco-certified events and promotes sustainable tourism through initiatives like the Bordeaux Wine Festival.

  1. Lahti, Finland

Lahti, the gateway to Finland's Lake District, is recognised for its climate-friendly strategies and aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. The city offers numerous outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

  1. Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich is committed to reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions, with 90% of its power grid relying on renewable sources. The city promotes sustainable public transportation and eco-friendly tourism practices.

  1. Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Edinburgh is noted for its sustainable tourism initiatives, including a high number of hotels with EV charging stations and a focus on reducing the carbon impact of travel. The city encourages off-season travel to prevent overtourism. 

  1. The Azores, Portugal

Eco-tourism is a significant aspect of the Azorean economy, intertwined with the community's way of life and conservation efforts. The islands offer a variety of activities, from hiking and kayaking to wildlife watching, which attract tourists and educate them about local conservation initiatives. The Azores was the first island archipelago globally to be certified as a sustainable destination by EarthCheck, reflecting its global leadership in eco-friendly tourism practices. For instance, The LIFE AZORES NATURA project exemplifies the region's conservation efforts, covering 23 Special Conservation Areas and 15 Special Protection Areas, focusing on preserving species and habitats across all islands. 

Americas

  1. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is renowned for its rich biodiversity and commitment to conservation, with over 25% of its land protected as national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges. The country offers eco-lodges powered by renewable energy, community-based tourism initiatives, and numerous national parks that preserve natural wonders. The country focuses on sustainability and biodiversity conservation.

  1. Monterey, United States

Monterey is a hotspot for ecotourism, with local initiatives focused on wildlife conservation and sustainable dining practices. The area offers opportunities to explore natural landscapes and observe marine life.

  1. Vancouver Island, Canada

Vancouver Island's rich biodiversity is a testament to its unique climate and geomorphology. The island is home to ecosystems within the Coastal Douglas-fir, Coastal Western Hemlock, and Mountain Hemlock Biogeoclimatic Units, which represent some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the province. 

  1. Dominica, Lesser Antilles

Dominica aims to be the world's first climate-resilient nation. The island offers eco-resorts, the Waitukubuli Sea Trail for kayaking, and community-based tourism that supports local economies and conservation efforts. 

  1. Guyana

Guyana is a top destination for biodiversity and sustainable tourism. The country promotes community life and conservation through initiatives like the Guyana Tourism Authority, which supports local traditions and low-carbon lifestyles.

Asia and Oceania

  1. Bhutan

Bhutan prioritises Gross National Happiness over GDP and has implemented policies to protect its natural environment and traditional way of life. Bhutan's forests cover more than 70% of the nation, acting as a carbon sink by absorbing more carbon dioxide than the country emits. The country offers low-impact tourism initiatives that benefit local communities and preserve cultural heritage. By 2030, Bhutan aims to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions and produce zero waste, further solidifying its commitment to carbon neutrality. 

  1. New Zealand

New Zealand is committed to preserving its pristine environment through conservation and responsible tourism practices. The country offers sustainable experiences like exploring national parks and engaging with Maori culture.

  1. Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania is gaining recognition as a sustainable destination with its pristine wilderness areas, diverse ecosystems, and commitment to conservation. Visitors can explore national parks, support local eco-friendly businesses, and immerse themselves in the island's rich cultural heritage.

  1. Southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Southern Great Barrier Reef offers low-impact opportunities to experience this unique ecosystem. Eco-resorts like Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island, along with day trips and glamping experiences, allow travellers to explore the region while minimising their environmental impact. 

  1.  Singapore

Singapore, the world's first entire nation to receive sustainable destination certification from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, is a model of sustainable urban development. The city-state continues to offer new attractions, innovative low-impact accommodation options, and a dedication to sustainable development through its Singapore Green Plan 2030 goals. 

Africa

  1. High Atlas Mountains and Marrakesh, Morocco

Despite the recent earthquake, the region is resilient and offers sustainable travel opportunities supporting recovery efforts. Visitors can experience Morocco's rich culture while contributing to its rebuilding process.

  1. Tanzania

Tanzania is an excellent choice for wildlife conservation and safari adventures. The country's national parks, including the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, offer opportunities to witness wildlife while supporting conservation efforts.

  1. Rwanda

Rwanda is renowned for its conservation efforts, particularly in protecting mountain gorillas. The country promotes community-based tourism, which supports local economies and conservation initiatives. Moreover, the Volcanoes National Park saw a 38% increase in visitors, Akagera National Park saw a 24% increase, and Nyungwe National Park saw a 10% increase.  Rwanda's focus on high-end, low-volume tourism and conservation efforts has positioned it as a leader in sustainable tourism.

Other Notable Destinations

  1. Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Saba is a champion of sustainable tourism in the Caribbean, with initiatives like a solar park, comprehensive recycling system, marine park, and ban on single-use plastics.

  1. Greenland

Greenland is taking steps to safeguard its territory and growing tourism industry, focusing on renewable energy and sustainable tourism development. The country offers low-impact adventures like camping on ice sheets and the Northern Lights.

  1. Aarhus, Denmark

Aarhus features a compact city centre that promotes walking and cycling. The city operates on 77% renewable energy and aims for carbon neutrality by 2030.

  1. Chumbe Island, Tanzania

Chumbe Island is home to the world's first marine protected area, offering eco-friendly accommodations and activities like snorkelling along pristine coral reefs. The island's ecolodge is a model of sustainable tourism.

  1. Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm aims to be fossil-free by 2040 and is a leader in renewable energy. The city has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and offers many eco-friendly activities, from green tours to sustainable dining options.

  1. Bali, Indonesia: Beauty and Sustainability

Ulaman Eco Retreat stands out with its holistic approach, combining luxury with rustic charm and sustainability. The retreat utilises solar and hydro-powered fixtures and promotes eco-friendly practices, ensuring a minimal carbon footprint. Bali Eco Stay and Sun Sang Eco Retreat further exemplify Bali's commitment to eco-tourism by offering secluded bungalows and green stays that respect and preserve the natural environment.

  1. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galápagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site with strict regulations to protect its unique biodiversity and ecosystems. The Islands, a beacon of biodiversity, have long captured the imagination of conservationists and eco-tourists alike. These islands, home to an incredible array of species found nowhere else on Earth, face the delicate balance of welcoming tourists while preserving their unique ecosystems. Additionally, initiatives like the Plastic Pollution Free Galápagos programme address the global issue of plastic pollution, demonstrating methods that can be applied to coastal national parks worldwide.

  1. Baltic States

The Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia are recommended for their meditative natural landscapes, perfect for hiking, with paths comprising "Europe's longest meditation practice.”

Tips For Green Travel

Eco-friendly travel, or sustainable or green travel, involves conscious choices to minimise environmental negative impacts. Adopting eco-friendly travel practices can make a significant difference, whether you're a frequent flyer or an occasional vacationer. 

These tips will help you reduce your environmental impact while exploring the world. These strategies will ensure enjoyable and environmentally responsible adventures, from packing light to choosing sustainable accommodations.

Practical Tips for Sustainable Travel

  1. Pack Light: Packing light reduces the weight of your luggage, lowering the fuel consumption of planes, cars, and buses. Opt for multipurpose clothing items and avoid over-packing by considering the weather and activities planned. 
  1. Use Digital Documents: Digital boarding passes, tickets and itineraries are used to reduce paper waste. Many airlines and hotels offer digital versions of these documents, which can be accessed on your smartphone.
  1. Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations: Look for hotels and lodgings with green certifications, such as LEED, Green Globe, or EarthCheck. These establishments implement sustainable practices like energy-efficient lighting, water conservation, and waste reduction.
  1. Opt for Sustainable Transportation: Whenever possible, choose trains, buses, or carpooling over flying or driving alone. Book non-stop flights to minimise emissions from takeoffs and landings if you must fly. Consider airlines with carbon offset programs.
  1. Avoid Single-Use Plastics: Bring a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, and utensils to reduce plastic waste. Many destinations now offer refill stations and incentives for using reusable items.
  1. Support Local Businesses: Engage in cultural excursions and activities that benefit local communities. This not only supports the local economy but also helps preserve traditional ways of life.

Want to know more about green travel tips? Learn more from our article on "50 Green Tips for Travelling.”

Future Prospects

The global ecotourism market is expected to reach £341.18 billion by 2028 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.5% during the forecast period. This growth underscores the increasing importance of sustainable travel and the potential for significant economic, environmental, and social benefits as the industry evolves.

These eco-friendly gems demonstrate the potent blend of preservation and tourism, anchored by a collective commitment to safeguarding our planet for future travellers. Their stories, rich in sustainable living and responsible exploration, allow us to reimagine our travel footprints as positive forces in the world.

In conclusion, as we continue to witness the expansion of the sustainable tourism sector, it is clear that both travellers and the industry are recognising the critical role of eco-friendly practices in shaping a more sustainable future. This ongoing shift is essential for protecting the environment and ensuring that travel remains a source of enjoyment and enrichment for future generations.

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