Living a more eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle is an important goal for many these days. One way to travel more sustainably is to choose the right destination. These options are some of the “greenest” and most captivating you can visit.
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Iceland is not only one of the world’s most stunningly beautiful countries, but it’s also one of the most environmentally friendly. All of its electricity and 85% of its total energy consumption are supplied by geothermal and hydro resources. It’s also instilled sustainable fishing practices and has been making major efforts to fight against ocean pollution. While you’re there, you can enjoy gazing at countless geothermal features and beautiful waterfalls, strolling black sand beaches, soaking in natural hot springs, hiking to glaciers and much more.
Finland is at the top of the list when it comes to “green” countries, along with its Scandinavian neighbors who have similar priorities when it comes to preserving forests and conserving power. A little over a third of its power comes from renewable sources, and the nation also works hard to protect endangered species like the world’s rarest seal, the Saimaa ringed seal. It’s the most forested country in Europe and offers lots of opportunities for enjoying nature, including nearly 40 national parks. The capital, Helsinki, boasts numerous historical sites like Suomenlinna Fortress and Helsinki Cathedral.
The Republic of Palau is made up of over 200 coral and volcanic islands in the South Pacific. It’s the quintessential tropical paradise fantasy with clear turquoise waters filled with abundant marine life and vibrant coral reefs thanks to the country’s dedication to sustainable tourism practices. Its reefs are no-fishing zones and the diving here is world-renowned, including Jellyfish Lake on Eil Malk island, a saltwater lake that is now isolated from the ocean but provided a perfect environment for a jellyfish explosion.
Slovenia is filled with forests, with 60 percent covering this country, and it makes preservation a high priority. In 2016, it was named the first Certified Green destination in the world with a score of 96 out of 100 sustainability factors like air quality, water and waste, wildlife and green businesses. Nestled in an alpine valley along the Ljubljanica River, the capital city of Ljubljana is often ranked as the most beautiful in Eastern Europe. It’s laid-back, slightly quirky, incredibly romantic and walkable. Stroll the cobblestone streets lined with hip, trendy bars and charming cafes, art galleries and museums, and visit it hilltop castle to learn about Slovenian history in the interactive museum.
Costa Rica has been a the forefront of eco-friendly and green tourism, a popular destination among both sustainability and nature enthusiasts. It boasts the largest percentage of protected areas on the planet, with abundant wildlife, rainforests, unspoiled beaches and volcanoes. More than 98% of its electricity comes from renewable sources and the country supports 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Visitors will also find lots of eco-friendly lodges, resorts and boutique hotels that have been acclaimed for their conservation efforts.
New Zealand has a lofty goal of being totally free from fossil fuels by 2025 by working to better utilize the abundant geothermal energy sources instead. The country is synonymous with ecotourism, with a wide range of unique and awe-inspiring natural wonders, from fjords and glaciers to pristine beaches and ancient forest. In Fiordland National Park there are nearly mythical landscapes inhabited by all sorts of wildlife, with the sea engulfing the glacier bringing opportunities for close encounters with penguins and bottlenose dolphins. Enjoy gazing at countless cascading falls and taking part in everything from sea kayaking to diving.
An archipelago made up of nine islands located 800 miles off the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic, the Azores are beautiful islands with lush mountains and valleys, volcanoes and thermal hot springs, waterfalls and wild coastlines. They offer exceptional whale, dolphin and bird watching while being known for their environmentally conscious way of life. You won’t find any mega-resorts here and most of the food is locally sourced, unique to the island you visit. Flores Island is named for its abundance of flowers, particularly hydrangeas – it’s also a standout for waterfalls and sunsets.
One of the world’s most biodiverse countries, Ecuador is home to over 5,000 species of mammals and a wide range of thriving ecosystems, including the Galapagos Island and a large swathe of the Amazon. In 2008, its new constitution including rights for the environment and for humans. Eco-tourism is on the rise with a wide variety of experiences from close encounters with marine iguanas, sea lions and the Galapagos giant tortoise to the remarkable flora and fauna in the Amazon.
This mountainous country that’s frequently voted as one of the world’s “happiest,” is also one of the greenest. Conservation is a big part of the culture and as its official slogan says, Norway is “powered by nature,” with lots of green initiatives promoting responsible tourism. Enjoy stunning fjords and glacial landscapes along with city attractions. In Oslo, the European “Green Capital” of 2019, you’ll find lots of green spaces as well as world-class museums and galleries that can rival anywhere else on the European art trail.
Isle of Eigg, Scotland
One of the Small Isles in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, the Ilse of Eigg is renowned for its nature, panoramic views, history, culture and archaeological finds from the Jurassic period. And, 95% of the energy used by just under 100 residents comes from renewable sources: the wind, sun and water. In 2010, the island won the prestigious Ashden gold award for energy efficiency and it’s frequently been hailed as a model for sustainable energy of the future. It covers just 12 square miles, with gorgeous beaches, including the Singing Sands.