Traveling is one of the best ways to explore the world. You can go to different places, appreciate the varied sceneries and enjoy the culture and hospitality of the people who live there. There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of every tourist destination.
However, traveling has its environmental drawbacks if left unchecked. Tourism can take a toll on the natural landscape and seascape where travelers flock to. It is all too easy to see waste pollution such as single-use plastics that degrade what nature has developed into beautiful spots for thousands of years.
Such is what happened to places like the famed Boracay Island of the Philippines. It required the Philippine government to shut down the whole island for months to rehabilitate it back to the pristine paradise it is.
In comes sustainable travel. Some may think that this is a trend for millennials. But this is a real environmental policy that countries all the world over are slowly implementing. Sustainable travel or eco tourism pertains to a cycle of respect towards tourist spots and the locals living there. Most importantly, it is a type of travel that strives to be the least wasteful and most eco friendly.
As we start the third month of the year, most people might be planning both short-time and long-duration vacations. One of the best ways to give back to Nature is to have a sustainable travel bucketlist. The best and most cost-effective way to travel is to travel with the least environmental impact.
I asked different bloggers about which countries and places to visit for a sustainable travel bucket list. Get inspired with their recommended eco-friendly travel destinations. Find your next vacation here!
1. Norway – Joanna Logan of Backpack and Bushcraft
Norway is a beautiful country full of opportunities to explore on foot, skis or bicycle. With an abundance of snow-capped mountains and fairytale landscapes, it is easy to enjoy Norway in a sustainable way.
If you choose to explore the highly regarded Norway in a Nutshell route, you will also have the opportunity to cruise through the stunning Norwegian fjords which have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This spectacular journey from Oslo to Bergan, or vice versa, is guilt-free as you use public transport throughout AND the cruise ships in winter are electric.
With plans to transition to electric-only ships all year round, this is an initiative you can support at the same time as experiencing a truly unforgettable journey.
2. Freiburg, Germany – Hannah Golton of Hannah’s Happy Adventures
After spending a year living in Freiburg, Germany, I’m here to tell you why it’s one of the most sustainable cities you can visit. Not only that, but it’s one of the most beautiful.
This city has consistently been named the ‘Green City’ by various news outlets and voted as such by Germany itself. The public transport system in this city is outstanding – from many tram lines, to the great cycle lanes throughout the city. Bicycle is the most popular form of transport. And as a globetrotter, it’s no exception for you, as bicycle hire is available throughout the city.
One area is particularly famous for this – Vauban. When you visit take a trip on the tram to Vauban, and see how this part of the city has been specifically built to be eco-friendly. Furthermore, the supermarkets here are full of organic products, allowing you to live a sustainable life-style during your time here.
So add Freiburg to your bucket list, and spend some time in Vauban, to see how this city has become one of the most sustainable in Europe – and how you can become a part of it.
3. Ghent, Belgium – Babs of Next Stop Belgium
If you want to create a sustainable travel bucket list, don’t forget to add Ghent, Belgium to the list.
This gorgeous city feels like a fairytale with its cobblestone streets, old castle in the middle of the city and stunning architecture. It’s the perfect place for a romantic getaway!
However, there’s more! Ghent is one of the leading cities when it comes to sustainability. The city just won the UN’s Global Climate Action Award at COP25 for their pioneering food project Gent en Garde. This program includes less waste (asking for a doggy bag in the restaurants is encouraged), a local and fair food production and a social system where restaurants and supermarkets donate their surplus instead of throwing it away. Thursday Veggieday has been a common practice for the last decade resulting in a much higher percentage of vegetarians than the Belgian average.
Ghent has the largest low-traffic pedestrian zone in Europe, with easy access thanks to public transport but just as much by bicycle (there’s an easy rental system!) and on foot. It’s also easy to reach by train whether you’re coming from another Belgian city or from a neighbouring country.
Ghent is such an amazing city to explore, especially if you’re travelling with an ecological mindset!
4. Amsterdam – Karen Edwards of Travel Mad Mum
Amsterdam is an amazing place to add to your travel bucket list if you are looking for a fun, eco friendly destination. In fact, some of the things that Amsterdam is best known for is what makes it eco friendly. I’m talking classic Amsterdam things like bike riding and exploring the many, beautiful canals.
Bike riding is the absolute best way to explore Amsterdam and you’ll find locals and tourists zipping around Amsterdam this way. You can easily rent a bike from one of the many bike shops around the city. Almost all of them also have attachments for kids, either with a traditional kids seat or even cool looking clog attachments for your little ones to sit in.
Exploring the canals is also an eco friendly activity since all the boats there are electric! You can hop on a big tour boat or rent an eco boat from a small local company to explore the canals at your own pace.
If you really want to make your trip meaningful, you can even hop on a Plastic Whale boat tour, where you will be given nets to fish plastic out of the water during your tour.
If you are looking to visit a city that is moving towards sustainability, consider Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is taking huge leaps towards sustainability with the highest number of vegans per capita, restaurants turning towards fresh, locally grown produce , the huge number of green bikes available throughout the city, and by turning what used to be a landfill into a huge park!
Spend your days in Tel Aviv lazing at the beautiful beach or grab a green bike and explore the city. Make sure to visit one of the amazing vegan cafes that have popped up everywhere around the city or check out one of the restaurants that are getting their produce from the massive hydroponic gardens that are being set up on Tel Aviv rooftops!
You can also bike over to see the progress they’ve made getting the new park set up where there used to be a massive landfill. When the park in finished it will be 3 times the size of Central Park, and parts of it are already finished and in use. If you check it out, make sure to visit the Caroline and Joseph Gruss Observation Terrace, from which you’ll get amazing 360 degree views of the city.
6. Jyrgalan, Kyrgyzstan – Ellis from Backpack Adventures
A few years ago almost nobody heard about Jyrgalan. A small mining town in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan where almost everybody lost their jobs after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent closing of the mines. The community saw no future for their village untill with the help of USAID they started a community tourism initiative.
With such a spectacular location and such great opportunities for a range of outdoor activities it was not a surprise that the project was succesful. A number of great and friendly homestays now welcomes visitors to their village.
There are several sustainable activities you can do from self guided day hikes into the mountains to organized treks or horse back riding trips. Nearby you will find waterfalls, alpine lakes and panorama viewpoints. Basically wherever you go in Jyrgalan you are surrounded by incredible mountain sceneries.