What would you say if someone asked you to vacation…responsibly? While the notion of being a good steward of the environment is not new, an increasing number of millennials are applying it to international travel through eco-tourism. The principles which guide this vacation with a purpose include traveling to natural areas and setting their sights on having authentic experiences, participating in conservation opportunities, and (ideally) leaving a baby-sized carbon footprint. This type of sustainable travel can be found across the globe and we’ve put together a list of some of the best, and often remote, places to check out.
This South American country made headlines last year when they announced that nearly 95% of their electricity was powered by renewable energy. Their low carbon footprint and legalization of gay marriage and adoption – among other liberal policies – has generated quite a buzz in the eco-tourism community in recent years. The Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and an Instagram-worthy one at that) located on the banks of the Río de la Plata. Visitors can stay in Radisson Colonia del Sacramento Hotel & Casino and try their luck at the casino or take a break from sightseeing and go for a dip in their indoor or outdoor pool.
Just last year the tiny island nation – we’re talking smaller than New York City – in the Pacific Ocean created an ocean reserve more than 190,000 square miles in size. The new Palau National Marine Sanctuary will protect about 80 percent of the country’s maritime territory and keep it free from activities like fishing and mining. The pristine waters surrounding the archipelago are home to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 species of coral, making it a water-loving tourists dream vacation. Accommodations like the Palau Royal Resort offer private beaches and onsite snorkeling and kayaking.
Eco-tourists may want to put Greenland at the top of their vacation list. The icy wonderland is feeling the effects of climate change: Experts say that large chunks of the ice sheet – which covers 80% of the island – is melting. Greenland offers some unique opportunities to see the natural wonders of the world, from the magnificent Northern Lights to the Midnight Sun (when the sun stays visible for an entire day during the Summer). There is also the chance to dip into year-round hot springs or try dog sledding. Visitors staying in the town of Ilulissat can spend the night at Hotel Icefiord and, as you may imagine thanks to its name, it has a beautiful view of Greenland’s ice fiord.
4. Galapagos Islands
The archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is made up of 13 large islands and seven small islands and is home an extremely diverse array of species – many of which can only be found on the Galapagos. Ninety-five percent of the land area that makes up the Galapagos is protected by the Galapagos National Park Directorate and they take sustainable tourism seriously. All tours to the islands must follow strict guidelines, including conserving water, hiring local employees and agreeing to pay them a fair wage. Most tourists fly to the islands from the Ecuadorian city of Quito and either take a cruise or stay at a hotel, like the Finch Bay Eco Hotel, on one of the more populated islands.
5. Haida Gwaii
A remote chain of islands located off of British Columbia’s Northern coast, Haida Gwaii’s beautiful landscapes make it an ideal destination for nature-lovers. Previously known as Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii has a completely unique collection of land and sea species and subspecies for visitors to encounter, earning it the nickname “Galapagos of the North”. Visitors can enjoy activities like camping and hiking as well as a stop in at their art gallery and maritime museum. Stay at Masset’s North Beach Cabins and enjoy on-site water activities like parasailing and canoeing.