Traveling destinations can be stunningly beautiful, while also caring for the planet. Tourism is already a huge industry, and in many parts of the world, it’s starting to tax the environment. Most think that you can either opt for a luxurious, all-inclusive hotel (that’s bad for the environment), or go for a more sustainable and natural trip, but give up some comfort. Well, that’s really not how things are today. From a handful of isolated lodges in the early 90s, ecotourism has truly flourished. In the June/July issue of National Geographic Traveler, 21 such awesome places are presented. Here are just some of them.
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North of Hanoi in Sa Pa, Vietnam, Topas Ecolodge is a small hotel situated on a beautiful hilltop deep in the mountains. Working with Denmark’s development cooperation, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Topas is very involved in the local community, training people and involving them as much as possible in the business. All the energy for the lodge is renewable, coming from solar and hydro sources.
SIX SENSES ZIL PASYON
At the new Six Senses Zil Pasyon, opulence and sustainability go hand in hand. I mean, just think about it — you get to stay on a private island in the Seychelles, but at the same time, you support threatened local ecosystems, and removing invasive species. A chicken farm and an organic garden also support the ultimate aim of self-sustained food and beverages on the island, drastically reducing the environmental footprint.
SÁPMI NATURE CAMP
Few places can provide the experience from Sweden’s Sápmi Nature Camp. You get to hang out with reindeer herders and other indigenous people, supporting them as they try to adapt to a modern lifestyle.
Director Francis Ford Coppola opened Coral Caye last year in Belize, surrounded by a rainbow of sea life. He encourages visitors bring supplies for area schools or medical clinics in need. Since of course, that’s never truly reliable, they reportedly invest a significant part of their income to those causes.
Costa Rica’s Lapa Rios is the creation of John and Karen Lewis, two former Peace Corps volunteers who in 1990 left their home and their careers in the U.S., selling everything they have and developing this lodge. Lapa Rios offers environmentally friendly luxury and an upscale rain forest experience. They support local artisans and work with with Earth Equilibrium, a local nonprofit, to build classrooms, dining rooms, and playgrounds; provide needed school supplies; and install water pumps and solar panels to supply clean water and electricity in local communities.
The vision of another Hollywood legend, The Brando, in French Polynesia, is late actor Marlon Brando’s eco-dream brought to life. It runs completely on renewable energy, and the innovative Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) system harnesses the ocean’s cold water to provide highly efficient cooling for all buildings, supplying 60% of the property’s energy demands.
DUBA EXPEDITION CAMP
The new Duba Expedition Camp in Botswana offers a front-row view of Africa’s majestic wildlife. Aside from paying lease directly to local communities, the business tries to reduce environmental footprint as much as possible, especially due to driving in delicate areas.
JETWIG VIL UYANA
Jetwing Vil Uyana might be the best eco-luxury hotel in Sri Lanka, and that’s saying a lot. They blend in the simplicity of rural Sri Lanka with opulence that can satisfy even the most picky travelers.
PRINCE OF WALES’S GUESTHOUSE
At the Prince of Wales’s Guesthouse in rural Transylvania, you’ll get one of the most hands-on, authentic experiences you can imagine. Food is prepared on site by local staff, mostly from local ingredients as available. Menus are set for every day of the week and no choice ‘à la carte’ is possible. It is built sustainably, with local materials, and is associated with a local training center for traditional crafts.
ARISTI MOUNTAIN RESORT & VILLAS
Crystal rivers, deep gorges, and soaring peaks combine with Greek village life at Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas.