Whether you’ve been stuck with the travel bug for years or have just caught it and can’t get enough, being able to explore the world in a way that is sustainable and environmentally friendly is a major focus for many – and so it should be. With the ever-increasing focus on the need to protect the planet and reduce the harm caused by climate change, more and more people are investing their time in eco-travel.
Europe in particular has made some major moves towards enabling conscious consumption for all. We’ve put together a list of our top 10 eco travel destinations in Europe so you can get to planning your next trip around this travel hotspot.
One thing you can do in your life towards being more sustainable generally is by buying fewer consumer gods. Instead invest in products that last like your ski goggles.
Since spearheading the idea nearly two decades ago, the city of Tallinn was officially named the European Green Capital in 2023 – and the title was nothing short of well-deserved. From addressing carbon neutrality to increased access, innovation, climate improvement, health and biodiversity, its Tallinn strategy 2035 showcases some pretty impressive plans towards achieving ultra-green status. A biodiversity enhancer is also in the works where citizens will be able to co-design urban green spaces and nature-inspired solutions – a big win for eco travelers.
Switzerland is setting an example for the world in sustainability with its highly efficient rail network, commitment to recycling, and outstanding air and water quality. With over 11,000 trains traveling on the Swiss network daily, water so clean you can even bathe in it in the bigger cities, and over 30% of the country covered in forest, there’s plenty to explore without causing environmental harm. When it comes to food and waste, the Swiss consume the most organic products per capita compared to other European countries and its recycling system is second to none.
In just seven years time, Salzburg will determine whether it has met its goal of generating electricity exclusively from renewable energies – an enormous effort recognised globally. When traveling through this Austrian city, there’s no shortage of eco-friendly public transport thanks to its trolleybus network that runs on electricity, and has since 1940. With a rich list of waterscapes, historical monuments and parks, it's easier and cleaner than ever to travel from A to B.
Lahti Region, Finland
The leading environmentally friendly city in Finland, the Lahti Region is a pioneer in cleaner, greener living. Also a recipient of the European Green Capital award, the efforts of the country’s companies, organisations and citizens led the city to take the title in 2021. Residents are encouraged to be a part of sustainable urban development projects, an app was created to help them steer towards a carbon-neutral lifestyle by 2025, and remote workspaces in nature were created for all to access – a must visit for digital nomads.
A highly recognised and respected leader in cultural, social and environmental sustainability, Iceland was not always the hot tourist spot it is nowadays. Dubbed the 2021 winner of Sustain Europe’s Safe & Sustainable Tourism Awards, the country aims to gain carbon neutrality by the year 2050. Producing 100% of electricity and meeting 100% of its heating needs with a mix of hydropower and geothermal energy, Iceland has managed to meet 90% of its main energy needs with renewable energy! As travelers, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re reducing Iceland’s carbon footprint.
Traveling sustainably through Sweden is simple, just look out for the Nature’s Best certification on tourist activities – these have been given the green tick! "The Right of Public Access'', or 'Allemansrätten' means you can roam freely, as long as you consider the preservation of the environment wherever you go. Not to mention, there are countless tour guides who can take you on adventures through its expansive nature sites, with activities including horse riding, fishing and even hanging out with Siberian Huskies.
The second city in France to gain the European Green Capital title after Nantes in 2013, Grenoble won €350,000, but decided to partner with Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, the departmental council of Isère and the State. The three-year agreement meant the budget skyrocketed to 7.5 million euros and Grenoble was able to turn its environmental initiatives into a regional project, and expand its ecological transformation efforts.
Sustainable tourism is second nature to the people of Tuscany. Here is where you can explore until your heart's content over land, with winding mountain paths, rolling hills, bike tracks and horse riding tours, or follow the water and visit an array of vast beaches, islands and even natural thermal baths. The Tuscany Environment Foundation makes eco travel possible by supporting the best grassroots projects, so that everyone can enjoy the slow, sustainable food and wine, as well as everything in between.
One of the best parts about eco travel in Slovenia is the fact that almost all single-use plastics have been banned since 2021, meaning there’s no stress around adding to global waste issues when it comes to eating out or shopping. There are also well over 2,000 protected sites to visit that boast unrivalled scenes, which definitely helps to explain how it became the first country in the world to be declared a Green Destination of the World. A standout for flora and fauna, vineyards and beekeeping, Slovenians are known as lovers of nature and always willing to share that with sustainable travelers.
From electric cars to buses, trains, bicycles and pretty much any other eco friendly mode of transport you can think of, getting around Scotland in a way that’s kind to the planet is a breeze. An environmental haven you can enjoy all year round, there’s an endless list of outdoor activities to enjoy, and even more so during the off season when things are a little quieter – rain, hail or shine! With some of the widest landscapes to explore in Europe, having access to the Scottish countryside sustainably is a right written in law for all travelers to take advantage of.
There’s no doubt about it, Europe is hands-down one of the best continents for eco travel. From huge environmental Government initiatives to locals taking responsibility for treating their natural environment kindly, these destinations are truly some of the best if you want to explore ethically. Whether you’re infatuated with the outdoors or love to try all the rich produce there is on offer, you can do so with a clean conscience in Europe.