Planning your next trip can be one of the most exciting things to do – whether you’re escaping the cold or wanting to experience a whole new world of culture and tradition. Getting to see how others live and immersing yourself in their corner of this place we call home is not only eye-opening, but also fulfilling, educational, and all-round generally good for the soul. But finding the best responsible travel locations is a must.
While many of us have the privilege of being able to explore, we have to also consider the responsibilities that come with that privilege. We’re talking about respecting the environment while travelling, the communities that live in the places we visit, and all of the other things that come with that. So on that note, here are our top picks for responsible travel locations.
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It's no secret that New Zealand is leading the way in sustainable tourism. With a heavy focus on environmental conservation and responsible business practices, its clean green image has caught the world’s attention and encouraged more and more eco-conscious travellers to make the trip to this breathtaking location at the bottom of the world. From innovative dairy farm management to waste reduction regulations, industries are taking action to protect the country's natural resources, and central and local Governments are working closely together to do the same.
It was Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure New Zealand campaign that was one of the many environmental projects that captured the hearts of many, and there’s no shortage of reasons why. From waste disposal management initiatives to wildlife conservation, predator-free goals and making waterways even cleaner, New Zealand is renowned for its forward-thinking and proactive approach to sustainability. For travellers, being responsible when exploring this part of the globe is simple. With so many eco-tours on offer, including Milford Sound to Akaroa and beyond, cheap and accessible public transport, luxury ecolodges and hundreds of nature adventures to take on, there’s no doubt about it – it’s one of the top destinations to add to your sustainable travel list.
A small Buddhist Kingdom rich in religious culture and nestled in the Himalayas, Bhutan regularly makes its way up to the top of the list of responsible places to travel. One of the world’s first carbon-neutral countries, a minimum of 60% of forest has been set aside for conservation efforts and its biodiversity is second to none – from the highest point of its mountains all the way down into the valleys below. An intensely unique place, travelling in Bhutan has to come with a large amount of respect for the place, its deep roots in religion and culture, and a heightened sense of awareness when it comes to respecting the land and its people.
Unlike most travel destinations, Bhutan can be a particularly expensive trip in a unique way. Visitors are required to pay a “sustainable development fee” which has risen significantly in recent times to cost around USD$200 per night. This has been put in place for one simple reason, to attract high-quality visitors and mitigate the risks of overtourism. Many people are also not allowed to travel solo, and must instead hire a tour guide in order to continue to contribute to keeping the economy sustainable for the people of Bhutan.
Another country that has taken it in its stride to create a more sustainable travel experience for all who visit, Costa Rica’s eco-tourism campaign says it all in the title – Pura Vida, the “Pure Life”. After being voted the most sustainable country numerous times over the years, it hasn’t been any overnight job for the leaders and communities that call Costa Rica home. In fact, the bid to make eco-tourism as big as it is today has been a long journey that has involved enormous amounts of work, as well as changes to ways of living and moving around its spaces. However, it’s definitely paid off.
Around 30% of Costa Rica’s land is actually dedicated to national parks, wildlife reserves and protected areas – a huge feat compared to many other countries. As a result, biodiversity is flourishing and travellers are able to enjoy all the incredible sites and scenes that it has to offer in a way that is kind to the environment and their carbon footprint. From the wildlife to the rainforests, there is an abundance of things to explore in this beautiful place.
Republic of Palau
This country’s commitment to responsible travel is undeniable. So much so that you must sign the Palau Pledge upon arrival, a document which states that you agree to protect the country’s ecosystem while visiting one of its 300-plus islands. With one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries, there are plenty of initiatives in place to ensure that travellers respect the land they’re on and don’t cause any damage to the life and culture of the islands. Tourist operators are entirely on board with these schemes, which include the ban on single-use plastic, non-reef-safe sunscreen, as well as styrofoam.
A world-first strategy, it has also established a program called Ol’au Palau, where travellers to Palau can download an app and earn points based on how they treat the environment and culture, which then rewards them with access to exclusive experiences that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. A big win-win!
There are so many responsible travel destinations across the globe – too many to count even – and they’re all just waiting to be explored. Whether you’re looking to experience long walks through lush native forests, never-ending beaches or a whole new way of life that is incomparable to your every day, the opportunities to visit places in a way that is responsible to the land, its people and the culture are endless. All you need to do now is get to planning!