A LIST OF SOME SOMEWHAT UNEXPECTED SUSTAINABLE DESTINATIONS AROUND THE WORLD, AS WELL AS SOME OF THE MOST ECO-FRIENDLY PLACES TO EXPLORE WITHIN EACH COUNTRY. IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A SUSTAINABLE ADVENTURE LOCATION, KEEP READING.
There seems to be a growing trend for travelers looking to blend the fun of a trip abroad, with the pressing need for eco-friendly travel. This could include focusing on staying at more eco-friendly accommodations, spending a longer amount of time in one place, basing themselves in a spot that is easily walkable (or has good public transportation), or is just close to some beautiful natural areas like national parks. We like to call this trend sustainable travel.
Luckily, many destinations around the world have started focusing on moving towards more sustainable practices. Including, using less plastic, swapping out fossil fuels for renewable energy (especially solar), reconnecting with nature and minimizing harmful building practices, conserving water and protecting the animals and plants that call the destinations home.
While there is still a long way to go when it comes to righting the wrongs humans have done to the planet, we believe focusing on sustainable practices and sustainable travel in general, is a great place to start.
So if you are a traveler looking to combine fun and adventure with sustainability, then check out the list below for 8 countries that are really doing their part to make the planet a better place - especially when it comes to travel and tourism.
Similarly, we have also outlined many destinations within each country where travelers, and slow travelers especially, can combine sustainable travel with adventure.
But wait, before you think this is just going to be a list of the top sustainable countries as ranked by the EPI (Environmental Performance Index, see more below), be aware that this list is instead made up of various countries making strong steps towards sustainability at a more grassroots level. Some of the nations listed are in the "developing" world and therefore don't have all the resources many higher-income countries do (like Switzerland, the Netherlands). So the fact that they are combining modernization, development and economic growth with sustainability, is to us, even more heartening.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: we have included each countries voluntary sustainability report, provided by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals platform, as well as each nation's EPI ranking, which is "a quantitative basis for comparing, analyzing, and understanding environmental performance for 180 countries." Learn more here.
THE TOP SUSTAINABLE DESTINATIONS AROUND THE WORLD FOR ADVENTURE
1 | Finland
Regularly ranked as one of the most sustainable countries in the world, it is no wonder that Finland made the list of most sustainable destinations to adventure in.
While this country definitely does not fall under the idea of "developing" we included it because many of the top destinations are actually pretty unexpected. This includes a historic artisan village and a small town in the northern Lapland region.
The first spot is Fiskars Village, a historic crafts village about an hour from the capital of Helsinki. This small village is considered one of the most sustainable destinations in the country due to its focus on promoting the protection of the local heritage and culture, its goal of minimizing harmful impacts to the environment and its overall promotion of health and wellbeing (the best ay to explore the area is by bike).
While Fiskars Village is a great place to explore, for a totally different sustainable travel experience, consider heading up into the Lapland region and checking out the area around the small town of Posio. This tiny Finnish town is surrounded by beautiful pine forests, large lakes and the famous Korouoma Canyon. And due to its incredible access to various outdoor areas, including Riisitunturi National Park, this is a great spot for travelers looking to combine outdoor adventures with sustainability. Plus, because of its relative remoteness, it makes sense for travelers to slow down and spend a longer amount of time in the area.
Finally, with so many outdoor adventures to be had, sustainable travelers can rest easy knowing almost all guiding services in the area have been awarded a Green Key or Green Activities sustainability certification.
| CAPITAL: Helsinki
| EPI RANKING: 7th, 78.9
| FINLAND SUSTAINABILITY REPORT
EXPLORE MORE | FINLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
2 | Australia
Australia, like most nations around the world, has stated its focus on being more sustainable. And while only time will tell if the nation - and other nations - actually meet their sustainability goals, in some places in the country, sustainability has already become common practice.
Two of the most notable destinations are Douglas Shire (Port Douglas Daintree) and Lord Howe Island.
The first is Port Douglas Daintree, a destination that showcases and combines two highly important ecosystems: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest (one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world).
Luckily, the stewards of the area know how special both places are and have taken massive steps to ensure that the ecosystems - both of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites - can continue to be enjoyed and protected for years to come (in 2019, the area received Ecotourism Australia’s first certified ECO Destination award).
Some of the most easily observable ways Port Douglas Daintree is being more sustainable is by pushing the use of bikes, including mountain bikes, having a wide array of walking trails, and using eco-friendly shuttle services throughout the area. Similarly, there are a number of volunteer activities for travelers to join, including beach clean-ups and reforestation projects. Finally, if you are looking to do a tour, including to the Great Barrier Reef, rest assured that almost all of the tour companies available are Ecotourism Australia certified.
Another spot in Australia that really embodies sustainability is Lord Howe Island; which due to its remoteness - 600 kilometers from the nearest large landmass - is one of the cleanest places on Earth. In fact, it has no litter, air pollution or sea pollution.
And, thanks to the Lord Howe Island Act of 1981, more than 70 percent of the island is protected as a park preserve; including, the island’s surrounding waters - which were declared a Marine Park in 1998. Because of this protection, approximately 75% of the island’s original natural vegetation remains intact and undisturbed. Likewise, its beaches, coral reef, and marine environments are pristine (which is why it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982).
Finally, in the last couple of years, the island has celebrated the removal of the last human-introduced feral mammal pests. Which included cats, pigs, goats, dogs, and rodents (most notably rats). The removal of these feral mammals has led to a resurgence in the once highly threatened Woodhen population, a local flightless bird, as well as numerous endemic plant species.
Learn more about Lord Howe Island here.
| CAPITAL: Canberra
| EPI RANKING: 13th, 74.9
| AUSTRALIA SUSTAINABILITY REPORT
LEARN MORE | OUR TOP TIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL
3 | Estonia
Likely not a country that comes to mind when you think of sustainable travel destinations, but in fact Estonia is quickly becoming one of the most popular countries for outdoor enthusiasts and slow and sustainable travelers.
Some of the best places to see sustainable practices in action are Jarvamaa, one of the central regions of the country and home to various small culturally rich communities, Lahemaa National Park, the largest national park in the country, and Tartu, an incredibly culturally rich city with a strong focus on the environment.
Jarvamaa is a cyclist’s paradise. Due to the closeness of many of the main points of interest, various biking paths have been created - making it easy for travelers and locals alike to get between places quickly on two wheels. Similarly, because many of the local communities are quite small, sustainability and self-sufficiency have long been an integral part of the DNA of the local people. Plus, many modern-day environmentally friendly practices are being implemented regularly, from water management to event organizing.
Another great spot to explore in Estonia is Lahemaa National Park, the oldest and largest national park in the country. Home to forests, marshes and coastal ecosystems, Lahemaa also focuses on protecting semi-natural communities, and geological, historical and architectural monuments.
Today, Lahemaa National Park is one of the most important protected forests in all of Europe, and because of that, it is part of Natura 2000 - the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world and a haven for some of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. The park was also recently given a Europarc Federation quality label - a certificate of sustainable tourism charter.
And hands down one of the best ways to experience these habitats is with your own two feet: in fact, there are 20 various hiking trails in the park, with many of them being part of the much longer Oandu-Aegviidu-Ikla hiking trail, which cuts through the whole of Estonia.
Finally, there is the city of Tartu, also known as the intellectual capital of Estonia. Home to modern amenities, a strong culture, and a real focus on the environment, Tartu is a great spot to combine your interest in Estonian culture and nature.
One of the clearest ways to understand the city’s focus on sustainability is in its focus on biking, public buses (which run on Estonian green gas), and overall connectivity within the city. In fact, Tartu has a goal of reducing the number of trips made by cars to 25% of all traffic by 2040.
➳ Learn more about Tartu’s focus on connectivity and sustainability in this video.
| CAPITAL: Tallinn
| EPI RANKING: 30th, 65.3
| ESTONIA SUSTAINABILITY REPORT