If visiting the sultry rain forests of Costa Rica or trekking along a sheet of ice on a guided glacier tour in Iceland sounds up your alley, ecotourism might be your cup of tea. What is ecotourism? In a nutshell, it’s the act of traveling responsibly with the goal of conserving the environment and sustaining the well-being of the local people. It works to create cultural awareness and respect for the environment through positive experiences. Wondering where to go to support this initiative? We’ve rounded up our five favorite destinations for sustainable tourism—add some (or all!) to your travel itinerary and start exploring the natural wonders the world has to offer.
1. Costa Rica
Ecotourism is a driving factor behind why so many people flock to this environmentally friendly country every year. Over 30% of the country’s national territory is marked for conservation, and its park system protects over 3.2 million acres of land. With hundreds of bird, mammal, and reptile species and thousands of tree and orchid species to observe, it comes as no surprise that sustainable tourism is popular here. If you’re looking to explore the rich biodiversity of our planet, this is certainly the place to start. Add these activities to your itinerary:
- Explore the vast array of nocturnal wildlife on a nighttime rain forest walk
- Embark on a sloth adventure for an up-close and interactive look at these sleepy creatures
- Venture into the wild on a three-day boat tour of Tortuguero National Park
- Fly over and through the rain forest on an adrenaline-filled canopy tour
- Take a private tour along Monteverde Cloud Forest Nature Trail
2. Galapagos Islands
Foreign plant and animal species have resulted in the loss of part of the fragile habitat that makes up this diverse archipelago, endangering the Galapagos Islands and putting many of its native species at risk. With over 150,000 visitors every year, ecotourism plays a major part in helping to manage the island’s increasing popularity with tourists.
Galapagos National Park has introduced a number of ways to introduce ecotourism, including strict rules around the number of people who can visit a site at once, planning boat routes so the delicate marine life is not overwhelmed by large amounts of people, and forbidding anyone from exploring the islands on their own. Strict urban development rules are also in place, with clear rules about where new hotels or other tourism-based buildings can be built.
If you’re planning to visit this beautiful and unique area of the world, add these eco-friendly excursions to your list:
- Meet the giant tortoises the islands are known for on a seven-day guided tour
- Explore the colorful native marine life on a multi-day diving tour
- Make friends with the local sea lions on a guided half-day tour of the islands
- Soak in nature as you hike and snorkel during a land-based eco adventure
- Snorkel through the lava tunnels and get up-close with the native sea turtles
When it comes to ecotourism, Iceland is a tiny country that packs a powerful green punch. The capital of Reykjavik is an amazing sustainable city that gets all of its energy for heat, hot water, and electricity from geothermal sources and hydropower. Even more impressive is Iceland’s plan to completely break its reliance on fossil fuels by 2050 and become a hydrogen economy. With a green city as its capital and a local culture dedicated to preserving the land’s delicate habitat, Iceland is making huge strides in sustainable tourism.
With a country-wide population of only around 300,000 (115,000 of who live in Reykjavik), the sparse landscapes are home to an eye-opening array of wildlife, flora, fauna, and sea creatures. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Iceland during your trip, look no further than this eco-friendly list:
- Try your luck at seeing the elusive Northern Lights on a small-group tour
- Travel through the sub-zero tunnels of a real glacier at the Perlan Museum
- Catch your own dinner of trout, salmon, redfish, and cod on an ice fishing tour
- Explore the country’s most popular natural attractions on a guided tour of the Golden Circle
- Take in the breath-taking views as you snorkel the Silfra Fissure
Ecuador is a tiny country making big waves on the ecotourism front. The country’s sustainable tourism initiative is a global leader in educating visitors about its diverse cultures, landscapes, and native creatures. Ecuador’s initiatives in conservation are working to ensure the country’s beautiful habitats will be around for generations to come. With ancient volcanoes, raging rivers, and dense rain forests teeming with wildlife in all shapes and forms, this is a must-see country to add to your travel list.
As you plan your itinerary, add these eco-activities to your list:
- Get an up-close look at Antisana Volcano on a day trip from Quito
- Take a full-day tour of the Ecological Reserve of Churute
- Hike along the scenic lakes of the Cloud Forest and Moorlands
- Get up close and personal with the native sea life on a guided snorkeling tour
- See the penguins and summit a volcano on a tour of Bartolome Island
Finnish natives are people of nature born with a natural respect for the environment and their surroundings. With an attitude like this, its no surprise that the country has a booming sustainable tourism industry aimed at educating visitors about the cultural and historical elements of their land.
Green Tourism of Finland exists to facilitate healthy and green tourism through a network of sustainable practices. Their main goal is to encourage travelers to take advantage of the country’s gorgeous natural landscapes and outdoor opportunities, with the hope that they’ll gain a greater understanding and respect for the world around them. Sign us up!
If you’re planning a trip to Finland, help support the country’s ecotourism industry with these excursions and activities:
- Explore the Arctic Circle on a guided snowshoe tour
- Soak in the gorgeous scenery on a hike through the Arctic forests of Auttiköngäs
- Get an adrenaline rush on a white water rafting excursion
- Get an up-close look at the frozen waterfalls in Korouoma Canyon
- Learn about the local wildlife on a tour of Ranua Wildlife Park
Ecotourism provides everyone with the opportunity to explore nature, with the aim of gaining a greater understanding of local cultures and the fragile and delicate habitats that support our planet’s wildlife. As you plan your next eco-friendly trip, PlacePass can help you book the best excursions and activities to help you experience the beautiful natural wonders of our world.