As many of us make our return to travel in 2022, we’ll be mulling over a lot of different decisions about the trips we take, like which airline to fly with, whether we should extend our vacations, and which hotels to book. But more important still are the eco-friendly choices we’ll be making in an effort to travel sustainably. Because let’s face it, the better we take care of the world around us, the longer we’ll be able to explore it. That’s why we’re constantly pushing for greener practices in every tour we design, whether that’s taking bullet trains in Japan or sleeping in a hotel made entirely of salt in Bolivia.
But there are many ways to travel more sustainably, and you'll get to see some of the creative ways our travel family is celebrating and preserving the planet on our eco-friendly tours. Read on to learn about eight eco-friendly travel experiences to have on tour.
1. See how tomatoes are grown with geothermal energy in Iceland
If you think it’s impossible to grow tomatoes in a country like Iceland, let family-owned Friðheimar Farm blow your mind. On our Iceland tours, you won’t just get to chase waterfalls, soak in lagoons, and walk on lava. You’ll also get to learn about how technology is pushing agriculture to new heights at Friðheimar Farm. They’re successfully growing 10,000 tomato plants in climate-controlled greenhouses, which yield an annual harvest of 370 tons of tomatoes. Some of these plump fruits are used to feed hungry travelers who stop at their restaurant during their journey around the Golden Circle.
“I was awed by Iceland’s waterfalls, geyser, and Blue Lagoon, to name a few things,” said Go Ahead traveler Rita. “I was amazed by the tomatoes grown in the greenhouse,” she said.
And if you think farming tomatoes in Iceland is an unexpected surprise, wait until you taste what they do with the stuff—yes, there’s tomato soup and salads, but they also use their tomatoes in ice cream and beer.
2. Explore the Great Barrier Reef with a marine biologist
No trip to Australia is complete without seeing the majestic Great Barrier Reef. On our Highlights of Australia: The Great Barrier to Sydney tour, you’ll get the opportunity to check off bucket list experiences like seeing the famous Sydney Opera House and some of Australia’s famous furry locals (we’re talking about the koalas and kangaroos, of course!). But when it’s time to behold the Great Barrier Reef, we’ll be enlisting the expertise of a marine biologist to add not just an educational component to the excursion, but also so you can truly understand the importance of responsibly visiting one of our planet’s most awe-inspiring sights.
“Having the ability to swim in the Great Barrier Reef made us want to stay longer,” said Go Ahead traveler Kathleen.
And we don’t blame her. The Great Barrier Reef is home to the world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and 4,000 types of mollusk. The biodiversity here is mind-boggling in its breadth and depth, and ensuring its longevity is a critical part to every visit.
3. Plant a tree in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s motto is Pura Vida, which in English means pure life. All over the country, you’ll find countless initiatives focused on keeping Costa Rica as pure as possible for as long as possible, including hospitality projects that operate on solar energy. As a visitor, you’re encouraged to participate in this countrywide goal while you experience Costa Rica’s unmatched natural beauty.
“The nature, people, and experience were educational and exciting,” said Go Ahead traveler Kerry. “I am amazed by the culture that focuses on conservation and togetherness.”
One of the highlights of our Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife trip is the visit to Heliconia Ranch in the northwest. There, you’ll get to learn more about their coffee production and plant native trees to help support their reforestation efforts. There are countless benefits to revitalizing forests, including enriching the soil and providing shelter for wildlife—both of which are critical to keeping Costa Rica naturally verdant. As a traveler, planting even a single tree can reduce your trip’s carbon footprint, as well as help us meet our Hello Zero commitment to become historically carbon neutral.
4. Eat lunch at a biodynamic winery in Italy
Food and wine are as important to a trip to Italy as art and ancient architecture. On a memorable 12-day holiday through Northern Italy, we’ll make sure you never go hungry or thirsty during truffle hunts in Alba, Barolo tastings in Piedmont, and pasta-filled meals in Bologna. Learning about the work that goes into the country’s legendary food culture will only add more unforgettable layers to the experience, which is why you should spend a relaxing, wine-paired lunch at a farm just outside the fair city of Verona. In Valpolicella, one of Northern Italy’s premier wine regions, you’ll meet with farmers and winemakers who are implementing biodynamic practices to protect the land they grow on. These include taking a look at their companion planting techniques and renewable solar electricity.
5. Ride a high-speed train throughout Japan
Japan’s bullet trains are world-famous for how quickly they whiz around the country, connecting many of its most delightful destinations. In many cases, hopping on a bullet train is more convenient than taking a plane. That’s why we’ve chosen them as our primary mode of transportation for our comprehensive, 14-day Japan Adventure. The bullet train will get you from foodie-favorite Osaka to Hiroshima, and from the picturesque Japanese Alps to the lush city of Kazanawa. And did you know that they’re also incredibly eco-friendly? These trains use about 1/8th of the energy and emit 1/12th of the carbon that flying internally would.
6. Visit a cork factory in Portugal
You may already know about those beautiful Portuguese tiles and tasty Portuguese pastries, but did you know that Portugal is the biggest cork producer in the world? Yes, more than 50% of the planet’s cork supply comes from Portugal, a country roughly the size of the state of Maine. During our nine-day Portugal: Porto, the Algarve & Lisbon trip, you’ll make a detour in Alentejo to get up-close and personal with the meticulous work that goes into making cork.
“We loved visiting the cork factory and learning about how cork is grown and processed,” said Go Ahead traveler Shauntelle.
And if you think that cork is only used for sealing wine bottles, prepare to be amazed: Cork, a sustainable, renewable resource, can be used to build furniture, make accessories, and even insulate buildings.
7. Forage for seaweed in Ireland
Ireland’s cultural traditions are as rich as they are vast. While many of us might be familiar with the country’s renowned literary figures and its most famous export (a pint of Guinness), there’s still a lot to learn. Our experts unearth as much of Ireland’s hidden gems as possible, because sustainable travel also means veering off the beaten path to relieve some of the pressure that popular destinations and activities have to shoulder.
Take our brand-new, 12-day Ireland: A Feast of Culinary Flavors & Local Traditions tour, for example. In addition to whiskey tastings and cheesemaking, you’ll discover a surprising food source that has been used in Ireland for centuries: seaweed. In fact, roughly 40,000 tonnes of it are harvested in Ireland every year. During our stay in County Kerry, you’ll learn more about the importance of seaweed while foraging for it in the seaside town of Caherdaniel. Seaweed makes up a notable portion of the country’s coastal ecosystem, and it shows up in a lot of traditional Irish dishes, especially stews. You’ll get to sample a bit of local seaweed in a unique-tasting cup of tea.
8. Sleep in a hotel made of salt in Bolivia
A trip to Latin America is often built around once-in-a-lifetime, nature-first experiences, like exploring the Amazon or hiking in Patagonia. How do you top those? Well, how about staying in a hotel made entirely of salt in Bolivia? The team behind Hotel Palacio del Sal (meaning palace of salt) took advantage of the massively renewable resource at the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, and made nearly everything in this 30-room inn from salt. From the walls to the ceilings to the floors to the chairs and the tables, this hotel isn’t just a product of ingenuity and a unique place to rest your head after a day of exploring. It also gives you a wonderful sense of place.