After all, you can find beauty in every destination. In this new decade, responsible travelers need to start focusing on this one requirement: sustainability. Sustainable tourism puts the focus on making a positive impact on the environment, the local economy, and the local culture as you travel.
Cities and countries around the world have begun to realize the importance of sustainability and have made it a top priority to help everything from ancient ruins to rain forests survive the next century—or even decade. Safeguarding tourist locations means there will still be Instagram-worthy destinations for future generations.
Here at Skyscanner, sustainable travel is important to us. We rounded up ten top destinations that are already leading the way in sustainability. When traveling to and around these locations, you can make additional positive contributions to the earth by choosing fewer transportation options that rely on fossil fuels and more farm-to-table meals that use local ingredients. These locations have already made it easy for you to do that, so all you have to do is arrive and start exploring.
1. Republic of Palau
Talk about forward-thinking. This Micronesian archipelago really makes visitors think about actions before they even take them. When you arrive in Palau, you must sign a pledge that’s stamped into your passport and declares to the nation’s children that you will help preserve and protect their island home. As for the island country itself, this sustainable destination designated the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, protected 80% of its territorial waters as a marine sanctuary in 2015 and just this year Palau put into effect a ban on sunscreen that contains any one of ten ingredients that are environmental pollutants and toxic to coral reefs.
2. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenia’s capital and largest city has been far ahead of the curve when it comes to eco-friendly and sustainable practices. Since 2008, the city center has been a traffic-free pedestrian zone that is also bike-friendly. There are many parks and green areas around Ljubljana, as well as an urban bee path that cares for 4,500 beehives. And in an effort to relieve pressure on the city, Ljubljana Tourism is working to deseasonalize tourism by creating alluring events and experiences throughout the year. It’s no shock that Ljubljana was awarded as the European Green Capital in 2016.
3. Galapagos National Park, Ecuador
The Galapagos archipelago and surrounding waters are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and more than 95% protected under the status of conservation. But that doesn’t mean that the flora, fauna, and waters are off-limits to travelers. Flights from Quito and Guayaquil land each day, and when you arrive on the islands from mainland Ecuador, you’ll pay a visitation fee that goes towards the park’s preservation efforts. The Galapagos National Park closely regulates tours and itineraries so that there are visitor caps for protected areas.
4. Chumbe Island, Tanzania
Just off the coast of Zanzibar lies Chumbe Island, a stunning protected tropical paradise and one of the top sustainable destinations. This private nature reserve is home to a fully protected Coral Reef Sanctuary and Forest Reserve where visitors can snorkel with hundreds of reef fish and spot rare wildlife like the small Aders’s duiker and enormous coconut crab. Buildings on Chumbe Island–including eco-bungalows that overlook the water–are run sustainably without impact on the environment through innovative efforts like composting toilets, solar water heating and the capture and utilization of rainwater.
5. Águeda, Portugal
Just an hour south of Porto, Águeda has taken the lead on many sustainability initiatives to improve everything from air quality to the way tourists experience the local culture. Águeda is working to combat air pollution through sustainable mobility, essentially optimizing its public transportation system to use energy more efficiently. For the use of tourists and locals, the city is creating urban bicycle lanes, encouraging the use of public e-bikes, adding pedestrian walking trails and creating car-free zones.
6. Goeree-Overflakke, Netherlands
This island in South Holland carries an excellent reputation of sustainable living among its residents, which has naturally extended to industries that touch tourism. Goeree-Overflakkee’s goal for 2020 is to become completely energy-neutral. It’s taking advantage of natural resources like water, sun, and wind to develop sustainable-energy projects that support this goal. There are many accommodation options that focus on sustainability by using recycled or organic building materials, minimizing water usage, and even generating their own energy.
7. Lake Tahoe, USA
Crossing into both California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. It’s certainly an Instagram-worthy spot and has been a popular year-round destination for outdoor activities for decades. Unfortunately, such activities have damaged the watersheds and aquatic habitats over the years. But a new collaboration between public and private groups is already helping to improve environmental conditions, like lake clarity, fish and wildlife habitat restoration, improvements to forest health and more. Visitors can do their part to help this sustainable destination, too, by picking up trash, staying on designated trails, and limiting car usage as much as possible.
8. Åsnen, Sweden
This lake in the south of Sweden is home to an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. As a nature destination and national park, the locals are serious about conserving the fauna and flora of Åsnen. One example is in the way that they safeguard the sensitive birdlife. During particular months of the year, visitors are prohibited from traveling to certain areas in order to protect breeding birds. Locals and visitors are urged to treat the land and waters as gently as possible and stay on designated footpaths, biking trails, canoeing paths, and camping areas.
9. Bardia National Park, Nepal
Bardia National Park is the largest protected area in Nepal’s Terai region and home to a number of endangered species, like the Bengal tiger, wild Asian elephant and great one-horned rhinoceros. A sustainable destination, Bardia National Park is working together with neighboring Banke National Park on the Tiger Conservation Unit to help protect the endangered Bengal tiger population. Bardia is also focused on conserving the unique local culture of the Tharu, who are indigenous to Nepal’s Terai region.
10. Gozo, Malta
In the Mediterranean Sea, the island of Gozo is part of the European archipelago Malta. Its stunning beauty will be the first thing to draw you in, followed by its Citadel that dates back to the Bronze Age and a temple complex that’s said to be older than the Egyptian pyramids. Luckily for future visitors, Gozo is carrying out a number of initiatives that promote sustainable tourism through its “Eco-Gozo Island 2020” strategy. This includes a push for eco-education in schools, local meals that use 100% organic ingredients, and taking steps to protect Gozo’s cultural heritage.
Can’t wait to land in these 10 exciting sustainable destinations? Start your flight search here. 👇