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World's Best Ecotourism Destinations



Ecotourism is about enjoying the world we live in responsibly so future generations can do the same. 'Sustainability' is something of a buzzword, but it underpins the ecotourism ethos and stresses the importance of thinking ahead. Big issues like deforestation, pollution and waste removal can all be helped by small changes like recycling, supporting the right businesses and watching your energy usage. You don't have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy your holiday with a clear-conscience, but you do have to think about your actions.

To help you do that, we've made a list of the best places to travel with a clear conscience.

Australasia

Eco-friendly food, accommodation and activities in Australia and Asia aren't gimmicks, they're a way of life. There are so many great places to visit on this nature-loving continent that it was hard to just pick a few, but here are some of the highlights.

Sydney, Australia

Best known for its famous harbour, Sydney is also an environmentally-conscious haven. From the beautiful Blue Mountains to the Six Foot Track Bushwalk and the Pacific Coast Touring Route, it's the perfect place for explorers.

Sydney, AustraliaSydney, Australia

Where To Stay

Australia is one of the greenest countries in the world and there are more than 14 eco-friendly hotels in Sydney alone, but the Shangri-La hotelEarth Hour really makes them stand out. Everything they serve in their restaurant is made with local produce and they use water-saving devices and LED lighting throughout the hotel, so it makes a perfect base for eco-friendly adventuring.

What To Eat

Bloodwood is one of the most eco-friendly restaurants in the world. The name might not sound too appetising, but the food is superb, and the whole interior is made from recycled materials, creating a warm, homely atmosphere. Still, their dedication to sustainability isn't only reflected in the design; the seasonal menu serves locally-sourced produce and is packed with fruit, veg and cheese dishes.

Eco-Friendly Transport

The Sydney Cycle Strategy is working hard to get residents out of their cars. Previously, 25% of the city's pollution came from its transportation systems, which pushed the powers-that-be to develop a bike-friendly city. You definitely won't be the odd one out cycling around Sydney nowadays.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Tree Tops Adventure Parks should be high up your to-do list. There are obstacle courses for adults and children, and even an extreme night-time adventure. Despite being deep in the forest, the park will give you a beautiful view of Sydney's famous Harbour Bridge. Be sure to go on the canopy ride, you'll be among the treetops with a perfect bird's eye view of Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

Tree Top Adventure ParkTree Top Adventure Park

Darwin, Australia

Darwin's often been voted one of the best travel destinations in the world and its parks remain the city's top attraction. From the tropical waterfalls at Litchfield to the Aboriginal rock art galleries of the Kakadu, you're sure to find an experience you'll never forget. The city's so passionate about the environment that it's opened a renewable energy facility and is developing a range of methods to sustain their biodiversity, so if you want to have that dream holiday without harming the planet, this is the place to go.

Darwin WaterfrontDarwin Waterfront

Where To Stay

The Novotel Atrium is right in the city centre, overlooking the harbour. It has energy-saving LED lighting and guests and staff are encouraged to recycle with separate bins in the rooms and throughout the hotel. There's even an indoor tropical rainforest, complete with cascading vines and palm trees, for a refreshing, natural atmosphere.

What To Eat

Saffron is the perfect place to find eco-friendly dining with a touch of sophistication. With a focus on sustainability and innovative, but authentic Indian cuisine, this restaurant stands out among the others populating the city. The fresh produce comes from local farmers and all the seafood served is caught in Australia, where there are strict anti-poaching laws. There are ample vegetarian options too, and delicious Indian breads and desserts cooked from homemade recipes.

Eco-Friendly Transport

The best way to get around Darwin is by pedicab. While you can cycle, walk or rollerblade in most places, you won't always find these comfy, three-wheeled carts pulled by energetic drivers. It's the most natural way to explore the city's sights.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Who doesn't love watching movies under the stars? At Deckchair Cinema, you can grab dinner from a food vendor and pull up a deckchair in the fresh air to enjoy a movie on the big screen. The films can either be Australian or international releases, and there are plenty of classics thrown in the mix. The harbour-side location also has excellent sunsets, so get there early!

Deckchair CinemaDeckchair Cinema

Wellington, New Zealand

Sitting between rolling hills and boasting a harbour that comes alive at night, New Zealand's capital city is a vibrant mix of culture, art and nature. The array of cafes, galleries, theatres and attractions are endless. While it does have the skyscraper buildings and busy downtown area, there's something about Wellington that relaxes you and makes you feel completely comfortable.

Wellington, New ZealandWellington, New Zealand

Where To Stay

The boutique feel of the Bolton hotel is trumped by its location - right in the city centre and within walking distance of the stores, theatres and waterfront. Stepping into the hotel gives you a sense of serenity, looking out of the window makes you want to get up and explore New Zealand. The Bolton is among the first hotels to receive the Enviro-Gold rating from Qualmark - an indication of its dedication to environmental sustainability. Each room has recycling facilities, energy-efficient light bulbs and locally-sourced wines and water.

What To Eat

Logan Brown Restaurant has worked hard to become an eco-friendly eating establishment and, having won the Enviro-Mark Gold Certified Award, it's really paid off. The ingredients for dishes are carefully selected - from eco-friendly fish catching practices to the kind of soil that their fruit and vegetables are grown in, every care is taken to ensure that the environment is not harmed. Their five Conscious Consumers Badges (Composting, Fair Trade, Free Range, Recycling and Vegan Vege) are attributes that the restaurant is dedicated to upholding. Couple this with a full, delicious menu and it's bound to be a memorable culinary experience.

Eco-Friendly Transport

Wellington has an abundance of ways to get around, from cycling, skating and rollerblading to pedicabs. Most people walk or cycle to work, or use carpool systems, and there are many cycling routes throughout the city, as well as a bike buddy initiative that pairs people cycling in the same direction, so that you'll always have someone by your side. If you don't want to walk or cycle then you can make use of Wellington's Green Car Share, which lets you rent environmentally-friendly cars.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Wellington Botanical Gardens is dedicated to native plants and features a walkway through trees and colourful flowers. The Lady Norwood Rose Garden, playground, duck pond and Bolton Street Memorial Park will keep you occupied for hours. Take a picnic lunch, a frisbee and a book, and you'll be sure to have a great day out.

Wellington, New ZealandWellington, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Wellington might be the capital of New Zealand, but Auckland deserves just as much attention. Rolling green hills, renowned wines and excellent cuisine make this an idyllic city. Throw in the hospitality of the residents and you've got yourself a home away from home.

Wellington, New ZealandWellington, New Zealand

Where To Stay

The Jucy hotel operates a recycling program for paper, plastics and bottles, and encourages guests to make use of the recycling bins in their rooms. All the lights use eco-friendly bulbs and where most hotels run industrial washing machines every day for towels and sheets, Jucy will only service your room every fifth day to save water. The hotel even provides the guests with eco-friendly transport through the Cityhop car share.

What To Eat

You might not be in Japan, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some Japanese cuisine, especially if it's prepared with the environment in mind. Janken has an industrial, but cosy feel with custom-made wooden furniture. The restaurant uses as much organic produce as possible and the menu has vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options as well as macrobiotic desserts. Add free-range chicken, free-farm pork and grass-fed beef to the mix and you've got a delicious, healthy, ethical meal.

Eco-Friendly Transport

Auckland's environmental initiatives have ensured that their eco-friendly electric trains are faster, quieter and more energy efficient. Their buses are also becoming more eco-friendly, making it easier for you to enjoy longer journeys without worrying about harming the environment.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Eco-Zip is the biggest novelty on our list. In a bid to develop a tourist attraction that immersed travellers and locals in the native forests surrounding Auckland, three friends started a business where visitors can experience Flying Fox zip lines. Effectively, this means taking a cable car (Flying Fox) up and zip-lining down. Zip-lining through the beautiful forests of Auckland - does it get better than that? Alternatively, if you're more comfortable on solid ground, you can take a mini-tour of Waiheke Island.

Eco-zip in AucklandEco-zip in Auckland

By Caelyn Woolward

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Africa

The state of Africa's natural resources makes a classic case-study for the emergence of ecotourism. As a continent, it has faced famines, the extinction of several species, civil wars and environmental disasters. The toll on its ecology, wildlife and people has been severe. Ecotourism across the continent represents a new way. If you do a basic search for packages, tours or hotels at any major destination, you'll be hard pressed to find a decent establishment that doesn't publicise its eco-friendly practices. It's our job to support worthy tourism ventures and use discretion before spending our money.

Namibia

Namibia's Dali-esque landforms and intense climate set it apart from the traditional vision of Africa. Namibia is no longer an obscure destination that saw few visitors because of its lack of infrastructure. Now ecotourists, wildlife enthusiasts and serious campers are being drawn in. The blend of cultures making up its population (San, Damara, Ovambo and German) adds to the overall diversity and the Kalahari Desert that folds along its western perimeter has a diverse cultural history, along with some of the most interesting fauna and landforms in Africa.

Along the hauntingly-named Skeleton Coast, the cold South Atlantic Ocean provides a stark contrast to the seemingly endless desert plains facing it, while north of the capital, Windhoek, the Etosha National Park is home to the world's largest population of black rhinos, a species that has teetered on the brink of extinction for the better part of thirty years. As a result, conservation around Namibia has become a united effort.

Namibia is finding that, on one hand, the tourism industry stimulates the economy, but on the other, it drains local resources like water (which is precious to local farmers) and puts a strain on the country's power supply. So ecotourism is something that really works, not only for the animals and environment, but also the people of Namibia.

NamibiaDesert landscape, Namibia

Where To Stay And Getting Around

The reason we're lumping these together is because transport and accommodation are closely linked in Namibia. Camping is, hands down, the best way to see the country and to get a feel for its different areas, but you'll need a sturdy vehicle. You can go a long way between game parks and cities without seeing people, and the environment can be harsh. Admittedly, a four-wheel-drive vehicle isn't very eco-friendly, but for safety's sake you need to be practical. The Namibia Cardboard Box Travel Shop offers a comprehensive list of routes, tips and suggestions for people wanting to visit Namibia.

Camping in NamibiaCamping in Namibia

What To Eat

Unless you're staying at a hotel or a resort, it's best to stock up on food at a supermarket or one of the local markets. One of your big concerns should be what to do with food wrappers and such once you've finished eating. If you're on a day trip or camping, have a system prepared for keeping your rubbish until you find a bin back in the city.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Hiking at the Fish River Canyon will blow your mind; it's one of the deepest of its kind in the world. There are also natural hot springs at the camp sites nearby, where people can relax and enjoy the peace and beauty around them.

Activity in NamibiaGo hiking,swimming or running in Namibia

Zambia

Two decades ago, the Republic of Zambia was poorer than Zimbabwe and hardly featured on the African tourism radar, despite offering direct access to Victoria Falls and more open space for its size than almost any other African nation. Today, the economy is growing steadily, development is happening as quickly as bricks are laid and the tourism sector is humming. It's one of the most rapidly-developing countries in Africa and some incredible ecotourism opportunities are popping up, riding the wake of the nation's success. It's a proper African experience in terms of seeing the "Big Five", catching Tiger Fish and Bream along the Zambezi River and sipping G&Ts as the sun sets on another perfect day.

ZambiaWatching the sunsets in Zambia

Where To Stay

There are two ways to go about a Zambian eco-trip. The first is to stay at an eco-lodge or hotel, which is more costly, but comfy. The second is to go with a company like African Impact, which provides travel and volunteer packages throughout Zambia. You'll be assisting with projects like the Chimpanzee and Wildlife Orphan Care program, or the national drive to plant trees.

In 2013, Norman Carr Safaris opened Chinzombo, an eco-lodge located in the South Luangwa Valley. "The lodge is comprised of six villas made entirely of recycled or recyclable materials and could, should the need ever arise (the river overflows, for instance), be picked up and moved - it has such a minimal carbon footprint", says Peggy Healy Parker of Montgomery Communications.

For those who don't know his name, the legacy of Norman Carr is carried on through the Safari group named after him. He was a British conservationist who played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Rhino Trust, an organisation that was absorbed by the World Wildlife Fund in later years and continues to do invaluable work protecting rhinos from poachers in Southern Africa and Asia. He was, in many ways, one of the pioneer eco-tourists.

ChinzomboChinzombo Ecolodge

Another great option is to rent a houseboat on Lake Kariba. The petrol used to power the boat isn't good for the environment, but it has a lower footprint than your house at home, and the lake itself is like something out of a dream; it looks like an ocean surrounded by khaki hills and bush camps, and guarded by crocodiles.

What To Eat

There's no shortage of markets and restaurants that support the community and stock locally-sourced produce. Be mindful of what you're buying and don't be scared to ask questions (any lobster on the menu isn't from the closest river and there are many reasons not to try shark-fin soup).

Eco-Friendly Transport

While Zambia is growing rapidly, there's still a lot of empty space between major towns on the north and south side of the country. Getting from Lusaka to Livingstone is either a long bus ride along a very bumpy road, a medium-distance car ride through terrifying traffic or a short, potentially expensive aeroplane ride. None of these is a particularly eco-friendly mode of transport, but your options are limited.

The main alternative you have is to cycle; this sounds like a wild stretch of the imagination, but people do it all the time. The southern half of Zambia is quite safe (your main worries are traffic, animals and malaria-carrying tsetse flies), so don't count out a cycle tour.

Eco-Friendly Activities

The wildlife in Zambia is amazing. You can get closer to exotic animals than you ever imagined on guided walks at one of the many game parks, where elephant 'hides' allow small groups to silently observe animals from a small hut.

On the other hand, Zambia's rainy season runs from October to May, which is the ideal time to see Victoria Falls (The Smoke That Thunders) in flood.

Victoria Falls ZambiaVictoria Falls Zambia

Tanzania

Tanzania has the whole package: Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest peak in Africa), Serengeti National Park (where the epic Wildebeest migration terminates), Zanzibar (possibly the hippest island in Africa) and a selection of game parks that people spend their whole lives dreaming about visiting. A combination of the country's infrastructure and scenery make it easy to enjoy on a tight carbon budget, but the popularity of this power-house country has led to it becoming relatively pricey. That said, it's one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world, with rarities that you'll never forget. If it was three times as expensive, people would still go.

Serengeti National Park, TanzaniaSerengeti National Park, Tanzania

Where To Stay

The Singita Mara River Tented Camp is an off-the-grid facility that uses a custom solar power grid to generate what little electricity is needed to keep things going. In their own words, it's "the epitome of sustainable tourism and consciously seeks to eliminate the unnecessary use of energy and non-biodegradable materials. Inside the camp, bohemian chic sets the tone for cool relaxation. Spun natural fabrics, canvas, stone and raw leather blend with Maasai primary colours and elegant art pieces by young African designers and craftsmen".

Singita Mara River Tented CampSingita Mara River Tented Camp

What To Eat

Tanzania isn't exactly the cheapest destination in Africa. Fine-dining options (made from locally-sourced produce and animals) are widely available, but at a premium. The best option is to buy from local markets and stores where you can still get ethical produce, but at a friendlier price.

Eco-Friendly Transport

African taxis are intense and not very eco-friendly, but that's how people get around. Unless you're in Tanzania on a cycle tour or have a hired car, your only other option is to take a shuttle.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Once you've hiked Kilimanjaro, spotted animals at one of the many game parks and sunbathed on a beach in Zanzibar, there are still plenty of things to do in Tanzania. If you're there for an ecotourism holiday, the ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara should be at the top of your list. These crumbled port towns tell the story of the ivory and slave trade centuries ago, at a time when the novelty of Africa's heritage was traded at a premium.

Ruins of Kilwa KisiwaniRuins of Kilwa Kisiwani

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Americas

Ecotourism in the Americas is a big deal; not because it's necessarily more advanced or sophisticated than other parts of the world, but rather because it's desperately needed. Both North and South America have been burdened with intensive commercial and residential development. There's a growing demand for ecotourism opportunities that will allow visitors to experience the scenery, wildlife and cultures of the continent, which is the best way to motivate businesses to alter their practices.

'Big Sur', Central California

Driving along California's famous Pacific Coast Highway, you see a coastal landscape that's unpolished and gnarled with toothy cliffs jutting into a grey ocean. Redwood forests and wildflowers decorate the hills, which crane all the way back to the interior regions where the mountains offer a different experience than most people expect from this part of the country.

In terms of ecotourism, the climate and landscape lends itself to low-impact travel, especially along the coast. Summer doesn't get too hot and winter isn't too cold - unless you're inland. You'll often see people cycling or driving the coastal route that starts near the border of Oregon and heads down to the region known as Big Sur, camping or staying at eco-friendly lodges.

Pacific Coast of CaliforniaPacific Coast of California

'Big Sur's a protected stretch of the coast that runs through about 90 miles of the country's most exquisite scenery. You won't find nightclubs, shopping centres or fancy restaurants here. The trees, the beach, the waterfalls and the quiet are the main attractions. Its reputation as a natural oasis is reinforced by law - visitors aren't allowed to pick flowers, hunt or even collect seashells.

From San Francisco, it's a three-hour drive, which takes you through a number of beautiful spots that are worth visiting along the way. While driving a car isn't the most eco-friendly mode of transport, you'll see more hybrid vehicles and bikes on the roads in California than most other states. The boundaries of where it begins and ends aren't clear, but once you're there, you'll know - it'll feel like arriving in the Australian Outback.

Where To Stay

Accommodation in Big Sur is limited because of the strict laws protecting it from being over-developed. Most people who go there end up camping, which is hands-down the most environmentally-sound way to travel. However, if your days of fighting with tent poles and sleeping on ground mats are over, there is another, far more comfortable way:

The Post Ranch Inn is a sanctuary within a sanctuary. Every aspect of the lodge was planned with the environment in mind, from the materials used to build each of the 39 rooms to the implementation of a bio-degradable cleaning system and the construction of a solar array that minimises the use of electricity.

There are no televisions in the rooms, just windows that offer breathtaking views. More than just preserving the landscape, the owners of the Post Ranch Inn have also found a way to combine species protection with beautifying their property: "the grounds provide habitat for the endangered Smith's Blue Butterfly, California Red-Legged Frog, Western Pond Turtle and California Condor. A long-time leader in responsible tourism, Post Ranch's goal is to create a distinctive, luxurious guest experience that melds seamlessly with environmental and social stewardship," they explain.

The Post Ranch InnThe Post Ranch Inn

What To Eat

There is an amazing restaurant at Post Ranch Inn called Sierra Marr.. It's at the top of a hill, with incredible views of the ocean and the hillsides. The restaurant also happens to be an award-winning, fine-dining establishment that boasts a world-class menu inspired by Big Sur itself.

Eco-Friendly Transport

Bring a good pair of hiking boots and your comfiest sandals. Everything worth doing is outside and doesn't require much in the way of transport. If need be, the hotel has hybrid vehicles for guest use and offers a shuttle service, but for those who rent cars and drive down from San Francisco or Los Angeles, it's nice to have one handy for day trips and excursions to places like Carmel by the Sea and Monterey.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Big Sur is a back-to-basics sort of place, where people enjoy the beach, hiking, star gazing, bird watching and swimming. Post Ranch Inn offers morning yoga classes followed by guided tours of the hills and beaches. There are a few keynote areas to explore, which makes for full days and relaxing evenings.

Hiking in the hillsHiking in the hills

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Playa Del Carmen is a vibrant coastal town at the far end of the Yucatan Peninsula, below Cancun and opposite the famous diving island of Cozumel. It's a busy little place that sees lots of foot traffic every day, thanks to the cruise ship port. Still, Mayan Ruins, the jungle and miles of hypnotic beach are all just a stone's throw from the town centre.

Playa Del Carmen beach resortPlaya Del Carmen beach resort

Playa Del Carmen is a vibrant, quaint coastal town at the far end of the Yucatan Peninsula, below Cancun and opposite the famous diving island of Cozumel. It's a busy little place that sees big foot traffic every day, thanks to the Cruise Ship port, but within an arm's length of the town you have access to Mayan Ruins, the jungle and miles of hypnotic beach.

Where To Stay

The Sandos Caracol Eco Resort and Spa is the ecotourism equivalent of a luxury resort with all the bells and whistles. It's been built with the utmost respect for the environment; all 957 rooms are solar/wind powered and there are several ongoing environmental initiatives that range from planting trees to protecting sea turtles. There is also a strong emphasis on providing guests with an authentic, culturally-integrated program of activities that educate and entertain, while benefitting the Mayan community.

Sandos Caracol Eco ResortSandos Caracol Eco Resort

What To Eat

There is an open-air Mayan Market where visitors can buy fresh fruit, vegetables and a wide selection of the best Mexican food you'll ever consume. The Ceviche (a cold seafood dish with fish, citrus juices and herbs) is to die for. Around the town you'll also find very reasonably priced food stands (mostly family-owned) where your tacos or tostadas are prepared right in front of you. The Sandos Resort also has a gourmet vegetarian restaurant, Salvia, which specialises in raw food and gluten-free options.

Eco-Friendly Transport

Playa Del Carmen is a smaller town, so you'll be able to walk from A to B for the most part. For longer excursions, there are buses and taxis, as well as a ferry that will take you to Cozumel.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Playa Del Carmen lends itself to a broad mix of outdoor activities and entertainment. Bike tours of the Mayan ruins at the Xcalacoco archeological site are a must. Although these ancient temples are the main attraction, you are biking into a tropical forest that is inhabited by exotic birds like toucans and iguanas. One of the unique features found in Playa Del Carmen is the cenotes - sinkholes that are formed in the limestone bedrock. The natural cenotes were used for spiritual ceremonies (mostly relating to sacrificial rituals) by the ancient Mayans, which is interesting to think about when you're doing cannonballs into the water.

Hatching sea turtleHatching sea turtle

From March to September, guests at the Sandos Eco Resort and Spa can watch the hatching of endangered sea turtles at the resort. Sea turtles are sensitive to any change in their environment, so the work done there is essential for their long-term survival and it's magical to see the babies hatch and find their way into the ocean. You can take the experience a step further by going snorkelling with the turtles - just don't touch.

Panama

While Central America has had a serious commercial boom over the last two decades, Panama has flown quietly under the radar, but Panama City's tardy entrance into the brave new world of tourism has meant that local businesses have benefited from early mistakes made in places like Costa Rica and Mexico.

A sizeable portion of the country is protected from development, ensuring that the rain forests, beaches and local customs are preserved. It's a great long-term business model for a country that plans to keep people coming back for precisely those reasons. It's not a big country, but it's packed with natural beauty and startling contrasts; to one side you have the Caribbean Sea, peppered with islands and beaches to Instagram until the cows come home. The other side that faces the Pacific Ocean is a watersports haven, and has become increasingly more popular by hosting events like the World Surfing Games in Santa Catalina.

Panama IslandsPanama Islands

Where To Stay

As we said, Panama isn't a big country, so first-time visitors owe it to themselves to see as much of it as possible. XPLORA Panama Tours offer a nine-day itinerary that covers "the best of panama", including the famous canal (probably the only thing most people knew about Panama up until two decades ago), the striking Guna Yala and San Blas islands, Santa Fe's amazing waterfalls and wildlife, and Panama City. It's a locally-owned, locally-run business that offers small group tours focussing specifically on Panama's culture, nature and adventure. They're proudly affiliated with the International Ecotourism Society, which is reflected in the details of their products. As far as accommodation goes, they use a mix of small and family-run hotels that suit the different regions and destinations you'll visit.

PanamaSee exotic wildlife in Panama

"In Panama City we use the new tower of Torres de Alba Suites, with modern and comfortable suites that even have a washing machine inside of them. For Guna Yala/San Blas we stay with our friend Juan Garcia at Cabaas Ukuptupu, a simple family-run hotel surrounded by two Guna communities", they explain. The Guna are a Panamanian/Colombian community that have inhabited the area for centuries. One of the remarkable things about their culture and language is how they retained their identity through the Spanish Colonial Era and a constant changing political climate.

"It is important to note that travelling to Guna Yala is like travelling back in time, therefore the accommodation here is very primitive (bucket and barrel shower system, no TV, no A/C, toilets outside the rooms)" XPLORA continue, "but this is part of the cultural experience, and we only stay one night there. For comfort when exploring the countryside, we stay at Hotel La Hacienda in Santiago, and for some Panamanian flavor, we use the basic Hotel Santa Fe, with amazing views and a perfect location close to the National Park; and in the lovely town of Boquete we stay at Isla Verde, a very comfortable small hotel with beautiful gardens and excellent restaurants in walking distance."

If you are backpacking independently through Panama, you'll find a host of affordable hostels and hotels that welcome friendly tourists.

What To Eat

You're heading to the right place if you like exotic fruit and seafood, both of which you'll find in vast quantities around Panama. Bananas, papaya, pineapple - it's all the tropical fruit that costs a few extra pennies at Tescos. Local markets are affordable and you'll find them in all regions. There's no magical secret to eating eco-friendly food here; let common sense and discretion guide you.

Eco-Friendly Transport

Public transport is safe, reasonable and widely available around Panama. If you're a fan of trains, the Panama Canal Railway goes from Panama City to Colon and back, great for day trips. While this might not be eco-friendly transport, you'll be doing the environment a favour by keeping the number of individual cars off the road.

Eco-Friendly Activities

Your Panamanian holiday is really divided into three main regions: the tropical rain forests of the highlands, the Caribbean coastal stretch and the Pacific side. Within these three, you'll be hiking, exploring caves, diving or snorkelling, surfing, observing wildlife and doing a lot of this by foot. The part of your trip that won't be eco-friendly will be travelling between these regions.

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Europe

The European group of countries may not cover the same portion of the planet as continents like Africa and Asia, but you won't find a more diverse selection of cultures and climates anywhere in the world. Thankfully, those countries are becoming more and more willing to co-operate and share that small space, and the European Union has been driving its members for more environmental policies, so there are plenty of eco-friendly places to explore close to home.

Stockholm, Sweden

Each of the 14 tiny islands that make up Scandinavia's capital city has its own character and strolling over any of its 57 bridges will give you a taste of another one of the city's many flavours. Still, no matter which district you visit, you'll find the height of modernity and sophistication; so, of course, Stockholm is a leader in ecotourism. In fact, almost 90% of Stockholm's homes now run on geothermal energy and the city won the EU Commission's Green Capital Award in 2010. Visiting the city is a fantastic, culturally-enriching experience and you can see it all without harming the environment.

Explore StockholmExplore Stockholm

Where to stay

Fancy escaping the busy modern world to the tranquility of nature? Then you need to go to The Kolarbyn Ecolodge just outside of Stockholm. It has no electricity, no showers and no carbon footprint. Instead, you'll be sleeping in the hotel's forest huts, wood-lined dug outs in the ground covered over with growing plants, where you'll be warmed by stone fireplaces and sheepskin rugs through the night.

In the morning, chop your own wood, fetch your own water from a natural spring, catch your own fish, cook your own breakfast over a campfire you built yourself and then let the hotel staff take you on a nature walk where you'll see beavers, moose and bears. Then there are free outdoor activities to enjoy and even a sauna floating on the lake.

It's not exactly glamping, but it's the most rustic, natural hotel possible, and guests see having stayed the night there as a badge of honour.

What to eat

Every year, the bustling city of Malmo hosts an organic food fair that really shouldn't be missed. If a teeming market filled with stalls selling exquisite gravlax (raw salmon and dill) and gubbrora (egg and anchovy salad) sounds like a happy place for you, then this will be the experience of a lifetime.

Back in Stockholm, any friend of the planet is going to enjoy dinner at Herman's. The restaurant prides itself on offering environmentally-conscious, planet-friendly health food that's still delicious. Their signature vegan buffet is influenced by a huge range of different cultures from TexMex to Indian and the diverse colours make it a beautiful sight.

Eco-friendly transport

The three largest cities in Sweden - Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo, respectively - all have networks of cycle lanes and a plethora of places to rent out bikes. It's the best way to get around all three cities and peek cycling time is from April to October.

If you're going further afield, most of Sweden's public transport runs on renewable energy sources and there are plenty of places to hire hybrid or electric cars in all three cities.

Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia is still a developing country, which means it's quiet, authentic and, above all else, cheap. Over half the country is still rural, but its capital is evolving fast, so gives you access to nightlife and modern trappings even while you're close to the country's history and culture. This is why Estonia was named Lonely Planet's best value destination for 2016. Best of all, the country has appointed an ecotourism association, ESTECAS to ensure its identity and natural resources are preserved.

It's the perfect time to take in Estonia before it becomes the next big holiday destination and you have to share it with the rest of the world.

Tallinn, EstoniaTallinn, Estonia

Where to stay

The Lehtla Holiday Home is a group of luxury log cabins dotted around the seaside village of Karala. They're not quite the Hilton, but they're comfortable, private and welcoming; not to mention they're powered by solar panels. Staying here, you're in easy reach of everything Estonia has to offer and just a short walk from coastal hiking routes that are perfect for seal spotting.

What to eat

Most Estonians live on a staple diet of meat and potatoes, but Kohvik Inspiratsioon turns the natural, organic produce of this incredible country into delicious raw, vegan food like quinoa, spinach pasta and hummus, in a fine-dining setting. It's essential for any eco-tourist.

Eco-friendly transport

Need to get around Tallinn? How about free public transport? It's the largest city in the world to offer tram, bus, ferry and train services without charge to protect the environment from too many cars on the road. Just by being in the city, you're helping the environment by encouraging other cities to do the same.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam is famous for being one of the most progressive, tolerant, relaxed cities in the world. As such, it's no wonder that the forward-thinking, laid-back residents are all about protecting the planet. The city has set itself a challenge to cut its carbon emissions by 40% before 2025, and it's introducing wind farms, solar panels and electric cars to get there.

Amsterdam, HollandAmsterdam, Holland

Where to stay

It's one thing to recycle waste in your hotel, but it's quite another to make furniture out of it! Well, that's just what the Conscious Hotel Vondelpark has done. The tables in the rooms are made from recycled cup holders, the bathroom counter is made of paper, the hotel runs entirely on renewable energy and there's a "living wall" of plants in the lobby.

Still, you don't need to compromise on your health for the sake of the environment. The hotel offers a delicious, light organic breakfast and it's right next door to a gym.

What to eat

If there's one thing the Dutch love, it's a vegetarian restaurant, if the number springing up around the country are any indication. There are at least 15 in Amsterdam alone. We don't have space to go over them all here, but suffice to say the health-conscious won't be lacking something to eat.

Eco-friendly transport

Once again, Amsterdam residents are at the forefront in the eco-revolution. 75% of traffic on the streets of the city is by bike, but the green transport options don't end there. Pedal boats, canal bikes and trams are just a few of the eco-friendly options for getting around the city.

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Last Updated: April 2016