5 Destinations for Environmentally-Conscious Travelers
The world has so many untouched and serene places that are truly magical. Every part of our world needs our protection and there are some destinations that do all they can to make a difference and preserve their natural beauty and biodiversity.
In the spirit of Earth Day, we want to share with eco-conscious travelers five unbelievably green destinations and share some tips on how to visit them in a responsible manner. Our five favorites include the icy blue continent of Antarctica, Belize with its rainforests and waterfalls, Costa Rica and its rich and unique flora and fauna, Norway with its clear waters and fjords, and Eastern European sustainable gem, Slovenia.
Antarctica is earth’s last true and least-touched wilderness. While you only get to reach its landmasses in the summer, many travelers come to view its beautiful wildlife via boat or cruise, particularly the Antarctic Peninsula stretching over to South America. The southernmost continent is virtually uninhabited and an entirely ice-covered landmass. You get to see the incredible icebergs, penguins, seals, whales, serene waters, iceberg-flanked passageways, but also Port Lockroy, a museum that used to be a former British research station, or the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor.
An interesting fact about Antarctica is that it is the only continent without a government. But even without government, the continent has adopted a sense of shared responsibility to protect its nature and wildlife. Within the private travel sector, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has been committed to promoting environmentally responsible practices.
Generally, ecotourism along with responsible travel possess certain characteristics, such as asking for conscientious low-impact visitor behavior, appreciation of the local cultures and biodiversity, support for local conservation efforts, sustainable benefits to the local communities, as well as educational components for both the traveler and local communities.
If you want to visit Antarctica, make sure you are working with an experienced travel agent advisor, as they will know to notify the authorities in advance. They will help you find out what kind of activities you can expect. Travelers should respect the environment, restricted areas, protection of flora and fauna, and prevent disposal of waste. These are just a few guidelines to follow when you travel to Antarctica, so let your travel agent help you with everything you need to see in this icy wonderland and leave behind nothing but footprints.
Belize is known for its dense jungle with exotic plants and animals, its impressive Barrier Reef, and rich marine life and wildlife. Its lush jungles are home to Mayan ruins, such as Altun Ha and Lamanai in the North, and Xunantunich, El Pilar, Caracol, and Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave in the Western part. Many of these ruins can be visited in person and even explored by foot. With a long Caribbean coast, Belize is very culturally diverse. Did you know that even German speaking Mennonites and people of East Indian, and Lebanese decent call Belize home?
“A haven for caving and outdoor adventure, this country has very strict environmental rules to preserve their natural environment as well as their Mayan ruins.” – Patricia Serrano Chungsathaporn (Protravel, New York, NY)
“Authorities in Belize are working very hard to sustain their environment. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world, not to mention its amazing rainforests and untouched green space.” – Ashley Les (Protravel, New York, NY)
In this sustainable destination, you get to explore the lush jungles and waterfalls, go swimming or snorkeling the reefs, discover your surrounding on horseback, or Soar over Belize’s rain forest by taking a Zip-line tour. Old Belize is a landmark, you should not miss. Here you can get an authentic experience and immerse yourself in Belize’s culture and history by visiting the Old Belize Exhibit, which will leave you feeling like you have just been on a trip back in time to numerous significant parts of Belize’s past.
You cannot leave Belize before you have discovered at least one of its magnificent caves in the Cayo district. Here, under limestone hills, lies a network of underground rivers, caves, and sinkholes. These caves can be discovered by taking a guided scuba diving or snorkeling tour through the tight passages to see underground waterfalls and stunning mineral-encrusted stalactites and stalagmites.
3. Costa Rica
“It is so green! Costa Rica is carbon negative, [that means its carbon footprint is reduced to less than neutral, it is ultimately removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere rather than adding it. This status can be achieved by planting trees, generating green energy and improving energy efficiency.] In Costa Rica, the environment is a number one priority. Hotels are built around nature without affecting it and maintaining its natural space.” – Ashley Les (Protravel, New York, NY)
“Tortuguero National Park is one of the most impressive natural destinations in Costa Rica. With over 77,000 acres of rain forest, its biological diversity and ecosystems makes Tortuguero a true natural paradise. While its community only consist of a small village with about 1,300 people it is organized in such a way to develop local sustainability. This is accomplished by many initiatives like training for local guides, environmental education, provided environmental information to tourists, and regulating tourists on the park’s beach used for nesting by endangered sea turtles to mitigate negative tourism impacts. These and more programs provide environmental education to an important segment of the local community that is not traditionally reached through school or government development projects, and so allowing locals to participate in the tourism system.” – Elizabeth Burgos (Protravel, Encino, CA)
“Costa Rica is touted as the world’s premiere nature lover’s destination, venture off the beaten path to The Osa Peninsula to truly be immersed in nature.” – Patricia Serrano Chungsathaporn (Protravel, New York, NY)
“Corcovado National Park is the largest park in Costa Rica. It covers 13 major ecosystems including highland cloud forest, lowland rain forest, mangrove swamps, and jolillo palm forest, as well as coastal marine and beach habitats. Considered the crown jewel in the extensive system of national parks and biological reserves, National Geographic has called it ‘the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity.’ The park conserves the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline and one of the few remaining sizable areas of lowland tropical forests in the world. Corcovado is one of the most important natural destination for the richness of the biological resources it protects.” – Elizabeth Burgos (Protravel, Encino, CA)
When you think of Norway, majestic mountains, crystal clear fjords, dramatic waterfalls, and breath-taking glaciers will come to mind. With such natural beauty, it might not come as a surprise that Norway is doing everything in its power to preserve its landscape, wildlife, and communities for locals and visitors. While a large amount of its mainland is made up of national parks and protected areas, this does not mean you cannot discover this beautiful country on your own. Norway ensures that even within these protected and vulnerable areas, travelers can experience its stunning scenery for themselves.
Norway follows one simple guideline: conservation and preservation is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone enjoys the outdoors and unspoiled natural sites, so Norwegians take the preservation and use of the wilderness very seriously. The previous government made a great investment in renewable energy and policies to lower emissions from the transport sector. By 2030 – compared to 1990 levels – the country has vowed to cut emissions by 40 percent and it encourages the usage of electric vehicles.
When it comes to the eco-tourism sector, the country’s efforts of trying to live sustainably has influenced its travel industry extensively. As a part of its sense of shared responsibility, the Norwegian government strictly regulates fishing, hunting, and drilling for oil. Norway also marked the start of its national eco-tourism project in 2002. Through this project a quality standard label for national eco-tourism was created and is only given to companies that adhere to high eco-tourism principles. These principles include always ensuring that its impacts on nature, culture, and local environment are limited; offering nature-based experiences and those with learning opportunities so guests learn about of nature, environment and local culture; contributing actively towards the conservations of nature and cultural heritage; serving the local community; and paying attention to local cultures and traditions.
“Slovenia was voted the greenest country in the world, travelers would be wowed by the number of eco-friendly outdoor activities as well as sustainable wineries in the country.” – Patricia Serrano Chungsathaporn (Protravel, New York)
Patricia Serrano Chungsathaporn couldn’t be more right. Slovenia is celebrated as one of the most sustainable countries in the world. Evident through its forests, biodiversity, as well as its greatly protected natural and cultural heritage, the country also became the world’s first green destination in 2016. One of the ways to encourage and foster eco-friendly travel and conservation practices is through its “Slovenia Green” project. The project does not only encourage companies within the travel industry and destinations to adhere to environmental protection regulations but also to develop environmental standards and management.
Slovenia was also awarded by National Geographic with the World Legacy Award. This award is only presented to organizations or destinations that encourage sustainable travel and tourism. The country knows the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy nature. It has a strong culture of promoting sustainable efforts and development. Through its policies and measurements implemented during the past ten years, Slovenia’s current Sustainable Development Goals performance is very strong, particularly in areas including the environment and sustainable tourism.
Known for being a hiker’s paradise, Slovenia is rapidly catching up with the level of Europe’s most developed economies since its inclusion in the EU integration process. With the expert help of your trusted travel advisor, plan your next vacation to Slovenia and enjoy a week or two discovering a truly green destination.