What if you could disconnect from your daily life and commune with nature while making a positive impact by collaborating with the local economy? Well, you can. Welcome to ecotourism.
Ecological tourism has been a growing trend in recent years, and the United Nations has even declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. In its beginnings, the concept was often confused with “natural tourism,” which is an important part of it, but not the whole story. It includes rural and natural environments, economic collaboration and long-term sustainability achievement.
Planning an eco-adventure can be a bit daunting at first, especially when considering all the places you could visit and the huge distances between them. To help make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of some of the top eco-destinations across Europe and Africa.
Traveling around Europe is easy and convenient, especially when compared to other continents, due to the short distances between countries and the ability to move freely between them, often without the need for separate visas. This makes it an appealing place for first-time ecotourists.
Located in the cold North Atlantic near Greenland, this beautiful island stands out for its unique natural wonders. Green prairies, crystalline lakes and northern lights are just a few of Iceland’s trademark sceneries. Visitors to the island cannot miss out on activities such as diving in the natural geothermal spa outside Reykjavik known as the Blue Lagoon, contemplating the imposing power of untouched nature at Gullfoss or being dumbfounded while admiring the Aurora Borealis.
Snow-capped mountains, rugged fjords and unspoiled bodies of water characterize this Nordic landscape. Because of this, hiking, cycling, canoeing, cross-country skiing or tobogganing perfectly suit the idiosyncrasies of Norway. In addition, you can stay with a Sami family for the full Lapland experience, witnessing first-hand how the native people have lived for thousands of years. In short, there are plenty of eco-activities available to suit all kinds of tastes and budgets.
Commonly known as a summer destination where beach parties stand out above all else, this country hides many ecological wonders, national parks and beautiful places accredited by the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST). Some interesting sites for eco-lovers are Doñana National Park, located near Huelva, Las Batuecas in Salamanca, the millennial forest of Garajonay in the Canary Islands or the volcanic area of La Garrotxa, in Catalonia.
The continent of Africa is home to some incredible pristine landscapes and untouched, virgin lands. It offers ample opportunities for ecological tourism, connecting with nature at its purest, and exploring exotic fauna and flora.
Kenya is a destination for the adventurous and curious. Broad savannahs roamed by majestic wild animals attract more than 1 million visitors yearly. Biodiversity plays an important role in Kenya because it assures food security for locals, and is a substantial source of income through tourism.
There are also several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, such as Fort Jesus on Mombasa Island or Lamu Old Town, founded by Arab traders and showcasing a fusion of Swahili, Persian, Arabic, European and even Indian architectural influences.
Pursuits to be followed in Kenya are truly endless, from watching sea turtles at Watamu Beach, scuba diving or windsurfing, to going on safari in Maasai Mara wild reserve.
Tonga soa e! Welcome to the Republic of Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean. If you want to experience something different, Madagascar is certainly the right destination. The island offers a mixture of African and Southeast Asian cultures. Antananarivo, the capital of the country, is not only known for the pronunciation complexity of its name, but also the Lemurs’ Park, Croc Farm and Tsimbazaza Zoo. In fact, some of the animals that can be found here are unique autochthon species.
There are plenty of other interesting places to see like Ile Sainte Marie, Isalo National Park, Avenue of the Baobabs or Ifaty, where you can spend an amazing day fishing and snorkeling in the coral reef.
Our last stop is Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Over 40 years of civilian leadership, progressive social policies and significant financial influx from the diamond industry have helped make Botswana one of Africa’s most stable countries. The country has also continuously maintained its conservation practices, nature reserves, and offers multiple safari opportunities.
Some of the most popular tourist activities are visiting Victoria Falls and joining a camping safari in Chobe National Park. Botswana is also home to Central Kalahari Game Reserve – perhaps, one of the world’s most spectacularly scenic destinations – and places of incredible natural beauty such as Lake Ngami and Gcwihaba Caverns.