Travel makes a lasting impression on people and the planet. That’s why tourism that minimizes every traveler’s environmental impact is so important to us. In light of our commitment to responsible travel, we’ve rounded up three destinations centering sustainability and three lesser-known destinations to visit instead of high-traffic hot spots. In short, these are six places where you can feel as good about your journey as your impact on the destination.
If you want to go to sustainability and ecotourism-focused destinations, visit…
1. Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been a world leader in ecotourism since the early 1990s. Today, 30% of the country is protected natural land and 93% of its electricity is produced from renewable resources. Costa Rica’s biodiversity is second to none, with its diverse landscapes—volcanoes and beaches, rainforests and jungles—making it a must-visit for any traveler who values sustainable tourism. Before you walk through misty cloud forests or take a relaxing dip in volcano-fed hot springs, check out our Costa Rica travel guide.
Copenhagen is already clean and green—one of the top eco-friendly destinations in the world—but the city is aiming to become an even more prominent leader in sustainable tourism by 2030. You’ll see evidence of its commitment to sustainability everywhere, from energy-efficient public transportation to a lively biking culture to CopenHill, a waste-to-energy power plant that doubles as the city’s “epicenter for urban mountain sport.” (Trust us, going skiing or rock climbing atop a power plant is cooler than it sounds.) Exploring the city by bike or strolling through the Botanical Gardens are just a few of the many things to do in Copenhagen.
3. New Zealand
The goal of the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment is both noble and self-evident: to see every tourism business committed to sustainability—having a positive impact on local communities, protecting and restoring the environment—by 2025. New Zealand’s awe-inspiring natural beauty, after all, can’t be conserved for generations to come without a commitment to ecotourism. From a national park with sun-kissed beaches and thick forests to caves lit by bioluminescent glow worms, it’s no wonder New Zealand is one of the top eco-friendly destinations.
If you want to explore less-traveled alternatives to popular destinations, visit…
4. Rovinj, Croatia instead of Venice, Italy
Venice has a picturesque harbor leading to an old town of cobblestone streets—and so does Rovinj, Croatia. The colorful buildings lining the streets make the peninsular city of Rovinj feel more Italian than Croatian Specifically, Rovinj feels Venetian—minus the iconic Italian city’s cruise ships and overwhelming crowds. While Venice has been struggling to preserve its natural and cultural environment under the weight of overtourism, Rovinj is almost peaceful in comparison. Escaping into nature is easy in Rovinj: Unwind on the secluded, tree-lined Golden Cape or take a quick boat ride from the harbor to the gardens and beaches of St. Andrew’s and St. Catherine’s Islands.
5. Santa Margherita Ligure instead of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a very popular destination among travelers to Italy. Here, cliffside pastel buildings rise out of the Mediterranean like a vivid dream. Each of its five distinct fishing villages has a unique flair, from Monterosso’s resort-worthy beaches and fresh-caught anchovies to Vernazza’s candy-colored harbor.
With significantly less foot traffic, Santa Margherita Ligure is a more sustainable travel destination. Just up the coast from Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita Ligure, has the same beautiful coastline as Cinque Terre and similarly eye-catching buildings with trompe-l'œil frescos, but with a much more intimate, local feel. Go Ahead staffer Jamie has a few recommendations when visiting the seaside village: Enjoy seafood at Ristorante Il Nostromo, try chestnut-flour pasta, and visit the opulent sanctuary in the Church of Santa Margherita in Piazza Caprera.
6. The Sacred Valley instead of Machu Picchu
Before 2001, you could hike freely around the legendary Machu Picchu. Now, in an effort to conserve Machu Picchu and minimize the impact of thousands of curious travelers a day, guides are mandatory, soft shoes are encouraged, and single-use plastics are banned.
If you want a Machu Picchu–like experience with fewer crowds and tour buses, visit the nearby Sacred Valley. It has a similarly rich history and tons of spectacular Incan ruins, like the fortress and temple of Ollantaytambo and the terraced citadel of Pisac (which is also famous for its craft market). Beyond its archaeological sites, the Sacred Valley has alpaca farms, quaint Quechua-speaking villages, and ample places to try the local beverage of choice: chicha, or maize beer.