Top Sustainable Travel Destinations for 2017

Posted by on December 28, 2016 · 1 Comment  

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017

It’s become an annual rite of passage for travel writers to pick their favorite travel destinations for the coming year. Since we here at Discover Corps are committed to the concept of Sustainable Travel (travel that benefits the local ecology and economy of a place), we thought it would be fun to ask our favorite travel blogging experts to share their favorite eco-friendly destinations. Check out these mini-guides to the Top Sustainable Travel Destinations for 2017:

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Antarctica
Emperor Penguins in Antarctica, photo by Mike Jerrard

Antarctica

Antarctica is one of those rare experiences where the destination is the adventure in itself. One of the last untouched destinations on earth, the continent is absolutely pristine!

A hundred years ago, no more than a handful of people had ever journeyed to Antarctica. Today,  expeditions are available to the average person seeking an exceptional adventure. Conservationists have been working together with leading governments for years to enact international conventions which prioritize the protection of the continent and its wildlife from disturbance. In terms of sustainable tourism, this government-free land ironically seems to be one of the best managed in the world.

Cruises usually leave from Punta Arenas, Chile or Ushuaia, Argentina and set off for the South Shetland Islands. Once there you’ll experience spectacular glacial lagoons, dramatic icebergs, and incredible wildlife like breaching Whales, Penguin colonies, and deep-diving Seals. Most cruises offer the opportunity to step off the boat for hikes through ice fields, kayaking adventures, and camping overnight on the most remote continent in the world! -Megan Jerrard at Mapping Megan
 

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Australia
Australia’s Coat of Arms, photo by Mike Jerrard

Australia

Australia is blessed with a vast array of natural and indigenous cultural attractions, which collectively draw millions of visitors from all over the world. With its increasingly heavy focus on promoting ecotourism, Australia is a great choice for sustainable travelers in 2017.

 

Australia boasts 52 national parks and nature reserves to explore. The most famous of these include the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, Daintree Rainforest, Fraser Island and Uluru (though climbing the rock is a controversial conservation issue). Among these parks, a diverse range of endemic wildlife– such as Kangaroos, Koalas, Crocodiles and Emus– roams free.
 

Travelers have an overwhelming amount of choices here. Do you prefer exploring the legendary Outback, stunning coastlines, ancient rainforests, unique wildlife, or hip cities with multicultural food and wine scene? From camping to luxury eco-resorts, from bushwalks to skywalks, the opportunities for ecotourism in Australia are as expansive and diverse as the country itself. -Mike Jerrard of Waking Up Wild

 

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Borneo
Orangutan in Semenggoh, Borneo by Mike Huxley

Borneo

I fell in love with Borneo the instant I arrived in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. And not just because of the laid-back, feline charm that the cat city exudes.
Borneo is ideally placed to be a world leader in ecotourism. And despite huge, ongoing environmental problems with logging and the haze, the island (which is divided among three countries) is doing just that with its sustainable tourism initiatives.

 

Sarawak is filled with national parks and other areas of outstanding natural beauty that are not overly commercialized. The Orangutan rehabilitation centre located just a short drive from Kuching is a model of sustainable wildlife tourism that restricts tourist numbers and visits. And the region’s numerous open museums and festivals celebrate and keep traditional cultural experiences alive without reducing it to a tourist-oriented sideshow. -Mike Huxley of Bemused Backpacker

 

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Canada
Jasper National Park, Canada by Ethan Gelber

Alberta, Canada

Canada boasts an astounding spread of eco-conscious destinations and experiences, but one highlight is Alberta’s Jasper National Park, the largest and wildest wilderness area in the Canadian Rockies. While all but about 3% of its 4,200 square miles is protected, the roads and backcountry trails that traverse it deliver its imposing immensity.

Time permitting, visit the top of Whistlers Mountain (accessible via Canada’s highest and longest aerial tramway), Maligne Lake (the world’s second largest glacier-fed lake), the Miette Hotsprings (the hottest in the Canadian Rockies), and the Columbia Icefield. The trip to each is worth the journey, as is time spent in the town of Jasper. -Ethan Gelber of The Travel Word

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Costa Rica
Humming Bird by Chris Christensen

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is often the first example given for countries that have embraced ecotourism. 25% of Costa Rica’s total land area is preserved by its 29 national parks.

One of the most popular parks with tourists is Arenal Volcano National Park, where you can find most of Costa Rica’s 850 bird species, including the endangered and beautiful Resplendent Quetzal. Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest of the parks, but boasts some of Costa Rica’s best beaches. Poás Volcano National Park has one of the largest volcanic craters in the world. One of our favorites was Tortuguero National Park, which is home to 6 of the world’s 8 species of sea turtles.

Costa Rica is especially popular with adventure travelers, who can zip line in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, surf on the Nicoya Peninsula or raft down the Pacuare River. Volunteer opportunities are also available, including helping to protect Costa Rica’s vulnerable populations of Leatherback Sea Turtles. -Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler
 

Galapagos Islands Animals: Galapagos Tortoise
Galapagos Tortoise on the island of Santa Cruz, photo by Mary Gabbett

Galapagos Islands

The world’s first UNESCO site is one of the world’s most pristine, well-protected national parks. Despite their remote location 563 miles west of mainland Ecuador, the wildlife of the Galapagos was threatened in the 20th century by everything from poaching and invasive species to El Niño.

Thanks to decades of scientific research, strict controls on visitor numbers and access, and aggressive eradication and captive breeding efforts, today the Galapagos Islands are a model for how conservation scientists and sustainable travel destinations can work hand-in-hand.

The result is a wildlife lover’s paradise where weird animals like Marine Iguanas, Flightless Cormorants and Galapagos Penguins have no fear of humans, and every island offer distinctive, dynamic landscapes to explore. -Bret Love of Green Global Travel

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Germany
Germany’s Jasmine National Park, photographed by Michael Turtle

Germany

For decades, Germany has seen the value in protecting its culture. It has the fifth highest number of World Heritage Sites (41), ranging from medieval castles to coal mines and ironworks of the 20th century.

 

Germany often doesn’t get the credit it deserves for the protection of its natural landscape. But it’s one of the most environmentally-friendly countries in Europe, with 16 national parks and 14 biosphere reserves.

 

The Black Forest and Bavarian Forest National Parks are the most famous of these. But, from north to south, the country offers an incredible diversity of ecosystems. One of the most interesting spots is Jasmund National Park, where the ancient beech forests that once covered the whole continent stretch down to white cliffs by the sea. -Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle

 

Natural Pools, Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Natural Pools in Semuc Champey, Guatemala by Emma Gallagher

Guatemala

Guatemala can offer chilling moments atop volcanoes, hiking up Volcan Acatenango to watch neighboring Volcan Feugo spew fire through the night. Turtles nest along the black sand beaches of the Pacific, while Jaguars prowl the jungles that the ancient Maya called home over a thousand years ago. The persuasive blue eyes of Semuc Champey’s cascading pools call to be swum in.

In a country no bigger than the state of Louisiana, there are 23 different languages and distinct cultures to discover. This is why eco-lodges, environmental NGOs, and humanitarian organizations have reached into every corner of this emerging sustainable travel hotspot, working to preserve the grandeur of a true global treasure. -Jonathon Engels of  A Life Abroad

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Iceland, Landmannalaugar
Landmannalaugar Hot Spring, Iceland by Jennifer Miner

Iceland

Sure, Iceland isn’t a tropical vacation spot like Costa Rica, Belize and the other usual suspects you find when you research sustainable travel destinations. But what could be more eco-friendly than a country which supplies free heat and hot water to all its citizens through green hydroelectric plants?

There are so many natural hot springs in Iceland that, even in the dead of winter, locals don’t have to spend a penny on heat. Iceland is a world leader in terms of protecting natural resources, pollution control and public health through clean, “green” lifestyles.

As far as must-see spots, check out Thingvellir National Park and Eyjafjnallajokull Volcano (just don’t try to spell them easily). My family enjoyed both immensely last summer. But fair warning: Even in July, we had to bundle up in several woolen layers to stay comfortable. – Jennifer Miner of The Vacation Gals
 

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - India
Ranthambhore National Park, India by Mariellen Ward

India

India may not be the first place you think of when planning an eco-friendly vacation. However, there are a lot of spots throughout the vast country (the world’s seventh largest) that are gaining worldwide acclaim for sustainable tourism development.

The pride of India is the country’s network of 40+ tiger reserves, which were created in the 1970s under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Project Tiger initiative and are still going strong. In fact, some of the parks are so well-managed that wildlife populations are rebounding. For India’s national animal, the Bengal Tiger, numbers have risen by about 20% in the last 10 years.

Ranthambore, Corbett, Bandhavgarh and Kanha are among the most highly recommended Tiger reserves. While on a Tiger safari in India, not only do you have a good chance of seeing the big cats (since India is home to more than 60% of the world’s Tiger population), but you might also see Leopards, Sloth Bears, Elephants and more glorious birds than you can imagine. -Mariellen Ward of BreatheDreamGo

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Ireland
Gap of Dunloe, Ireland by Dr. Jessie Voigts

Ireland

The first thing you notice when visiting Ireland is just how green the country is. Perhaps it’s because of all the rain, but I think it’s also because Ireland is magical.

Here you can travel back in time at historical sites (we visited Staigue Fort, on the Ring of Kerry, every day we were there), eat at renowned organic cooking schools (Ballymaloe) or restaurants (we love Avoca), see Europe’s first Marine Nature Reserve (Skibbereen Heritage Centre), and explore the great outdoors in a variety of ways.

Many people go to Ireland specifically to walk, especially along the Wild Atlantic Way. Just make sure you bring a raincoat! -Dr. Jessie Voigts of Wandering Educators

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru by Lina & David Stock

Peru

As sustainable travel destinations go, Peru offers a multitude of options catering to a wide variety of travel styles. The most famous place to visit is the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, which are set high in the Andes. But there are many other archeological sites in Peru worthy of exploration.

 

If nature is your thing, you can access the Peruvian Amazon through the gateways of Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado. Each offers an exotic, off-the-beaten-path experience with jungle trekking and wildlife. The country is also bursting with vibrant cultural sites– such as Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca– that provide insight into the indigenous peoples of each region.

 

For history, you can hop into a plane for a flight over the Nazca Lines, take a stroll through downtown Lima, or set off on foot through one of the many small villages you’ll encounter on your visit.  -Lina & David Stock of Divergent Travelers

 

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Portugal
Ria Formosa Natural Park, Portugal by Emma Higgins

Portugal

In May 2016, Portugal became one of the first countries in the world to run solely on renewable energy for four straight days. A large percentage of all food and drink in Portugal is sourced from within the country itself.

Eco-friendly factors like these are reason enough to visit Portugal. But the array of wildlife reserves (such as Ria Formosa in the Algarve), use of local tour guides and eco-focused tour operators make Portugal one of the most up-and-coming green destinations in Europe. Emma Higgins of Gotta Keep Movin 

Sustainable Travel Destinations 2017 - Tanzania
Lioness in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Tanzania

Still widely viewed as an untamed wilderness, Tanzania is teeming with incredible nature/wildlife and outdoor activities. Ecotourism has been a driving force for the local economy for decades, and with associations such as Responsible Tourism Tanzania  popping up, it’s only getting better!

Tanzania has an important history of environmental research and eco-development. It’s home to Gombe Stream National Park, where Jane Goodall first studied chimpanzees back in the 1970s, in addition to being where her Roots n Shoots program was born.

Amongst Tanzania’s greatest natural treasures are Mt Kilimanjaro (tallest mountain in Africa), the vast plains of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The country is home to the Big 5 safari animals, the Maasai  people, and the beginning of the annual Great Migration. And then there’s Zanzibar, a beautiful island with white sand beaches, coral reef, and a rich multicultural past.

There are so many reasons why Tanzania is one of my all-time favorite Sustainable Travel destinations on the planet. -Ian Ord of Where Sidewalks End 

 

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