By Soren Rivero
It’s no secret that travel is a heavy contributor to destruction of ecosystems around the world. Some places are even more susceptible to environmental impacts simply because of how their infrastructure and tourist attractions are set up.
On the other hand, there are plenty of places that make for super eco-friendly travel thanks to the efforts of conservationists. In honor of Earth Day, here are 8 eco-friendly travel destinations in 2022!
As a recently inducted destination of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s model list, Norway has long been a staple destination for eco-friendly travel.
Norway’s climate is notorious for being incredibly chilly and dry. The land itself is caked in snow-capped mountain peaks and glorious fjords, but is also a prime destination for ‘gray industries’ such as fishing, hunting, and oil production. Within the past few years, changes have been introduced that set heavy restrictions on these industries, making it one of the more eco-friendly countries in Europe. The beautiful landscape of this country makes it easy to participate in activities with an already-low environmental impact, such as hiking, canoeing, climbing, and surfing. The country is also introducing more and more green hotels and sustainable travel methods via electric trains and boats.
What better way to tell Mother Earth that you love her than spending a vacation immersed in a country that holds around 6% of the world's biodiversity?
It’s a well-known fact that Costa Rica is a great place to travel with low environmental impact. The country is roughly 25% national parks, complemented by other natural wonders like volcanoes and gorgeous beaches. There are dozens of eco-friendly lodges, green wellness centers, and eco-friendly tours set up around the country, most of which even donate to reservation groups. Costa Rica also made an attempt to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world by 2021, though the devastating events of COVID-19 set it back a bit.
Similar to Costa Rica, Peru holds an incredible amount of biodiversity. As surprising as it might seem due to the size of the country, Peru is actually one of the top five most biodiverse countries in the world. A great place to witness all of this would be Manú National Park. The park is protected by the state government and is home to thousands of different species of animals and plants alike. It also looks like it came straight from a Jurassic Park film, so that’s a plus, right? Please Note: Dinosaurs are not included in the biodiversity.
Another great eco-friendly option in Peru would be the country’s (arguably) most prized possession: Machu Picchu. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, making the attraction and the surrounding environment a nationally-protected site. Government officials have made the conservation of this beautiful and archaic sanctuary a number one priority since its induction, so be prepared to follow rules and regulations when you visit.
If you put on your trusty spectacles and closely examine a world map, you’ll see a cluster of islands in the mid-Atlantic ocean. These are the Azores Islands, an autonomous region of Portugal made up of nine islands.
The environment of the islands are dramatic and avant-garde on their own. Volcanoes that still erupt to this day and rolling green hills paint the landscape with an assortment of different colors and textures. What makes it even better is the region’s dedication to conserving the beauty by refusing to overpopulate this wondrous land with architecture and people. A few years back, the government set restrictions on beds and flights available as soon as tourism began skyrocketing. Azores Islands’ government also put into effect policies meant to promote the use of renewable energies. Talk about an eco-friendly travel destination, right?
New Zealand is an oceanic country divided into two large landmasses, but did you know that the country also hosts around 700 additional islands?
Most of the population lives in the northern landmass, though the southern part and other islands welcome visitors to see its incredible landscapes. Over 20% of the total land is covered in natural beauty, with 14 national parks dedicated to conserving that magnificence. One of the country’s many slogans is ‘100% Pure New Zealand’, which shows their dedication to reducing carbon emissions as much as possible.
Biking, swimming, diving, and hiking are popular activities to do in New Zealand and are among the best eco-friendly things to do in New Zealand. You’ll also want to hire a tour guide to take you through one of the fascinating Glowworm Caves— they’re truly a sight you’ll never forget.
This next one is going to be a little tricky to navigate, and some of the facts will surely surprise you.
Antarctica is an extremely eco-friendly continent to travel for many reasons. One, it is only accessible between the months of November-March, in which it can only be visited by boat. This already eliminates the high carbon footprint accumulated by plane travel. Next, the country has dozens of restrictions set in place to protect the environment. Some of these include:
- No smoking unless in a designated area
- Stay five feet away from animal life at all times
- No eating off the shore
- Ban on taking anything, even if it's just a pebble
Tourists can embark on trails led by tour guides and even take a dip in a hot spring on Deception Island! While Antarctica might be hard to get to (not to mention being ridiculously cold), it’s by far one of the top eco-friendly destinations in the world. A trip to this winter wonderland should definitely be on your bucket list — just don’t forget to pack your scarf and mittens.
We have now reached our first (and last) eco-friendly city in the United States.
Much of the United States is covered with bustling urban cities filled with businesses, car-packed highways, and dazzling lights that never cease to stop shining. The rural parts of the United States are also popular for oil and gas production and animal agriculture— two industries with very heavy impacts on the environment.
Denver is an outlier here. Mayor Michael Hancock is a huge advocate for battling climate change and has inspired many of the citizens in the area. He supported the U.S. reintroduction back into the Paris Climate Accord, which was successful under the Biden Administration in 2021. Many voters (as well as the Mayor) supported Ordinance 300, requiring buildings to install either solar panels or rooftop gardens. The parks and ski resorts in Denver also make for outdoor activities with a low environmental impact. A great place to start would be visiting and volunteering at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest urban national wildlife refuges in the United States.
Finally, we have Iceland, the only country in the world who gets about 70% their electricity and heat solely from renewable sources. The country is often regarded as the cleanest energy consumer around the world, making it great for eco-friendly travel. Eating healthy in Iceland is also super easy as the land has abundant supplies of fresh fish and extremely clean water. Geothermal greenhouses have also recently been introduced to Iceland, making the land suitable to grow plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables without negatively affecting the environment.
The population in Iceland is rather sparse compared to other countries in Europe. Some people might feel uncomfortable going to Iceland because of its cold weather, similar to Antarctica. But ironically, the country is fairly warm (even more so than Greenland) and filled with diverse plants and animals. Some say it’s called Iceland simply because of a viking tactic to sway off intruders…
Regardless, there are plenty of eco-friendly activities to do in Iceland. These include hiking, biking, snorkeling, and rafting. Green hotels are available, but camping is highly recommended as it saves the environment AND is incredibly fun!
So which eco-friendly destination will you choose? While you decide, you can check out this general guide to sustainable traveling in the meantime!