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8 of the most sustainable destinations in the world


If the environmental impact of your travels is important to you – and it should be – travel more responsibly at one of these green destinations with sustainability at their core.

Image by will_cyclist on flickr


Breathe clean air in Switzerland

Switzerland tops the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, making it the most sustainable country in the world to live in – and visit. The report ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators, the most important of which is air quality. Get a lungful of the freshest air in the world as you pedal along Switzerland’s 12,000km of cycle paths, past old timber-framed houses, lakes, castles and – if your thighs are up to it – all those mountain passes; there’s even a network of dedicated bike hotels


Image by Ania Mendrek on flickr

Go plastic-free in Penzance, UK

In December 2017, the Cornish town of Penzance on the UK’s south-west coast became the first community to be awarded plastic-free status, as part of a campaign run by Surfers Against Sewage, a marine conservation charity. Visitor attractions, shops, cafes and locals who have signed up to Plastic Free Penzance have replaced single use plastic with wooden cutlery, paper straws and cornstarch plates, and there are regular community beach cleans and litter picks.
Stay in a sustainable resort in China

China isn’t the most obvious place for a sustainable holiday – it’s one of the worst performing places in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index – but there are greener ways to see this otherwise sensational country. Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain luxury resort has sustainable values at its core, and there’s no scrimping on style either. It was designed to include regional architecture and landscaping, and complement nearby Dujiangyan UNESCO World Heritage and Natural Cultural site (the views are jaw dropping); it purifies and mineralises its own drinking water and serves it in re-usable glass bottles; it uses produce from its organic gardens; and is fanatical about sorting its (and its guests’) rubbish. There’s even a Tesla Model S electric vehicle to whizz guests to and from the airport.
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain luxury resort
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain luxury resort

Follow Marlon Brando to French Polynesia

It’s hard to believe that the pristine Tetiaroa atoll just north of Tahiti could ever be self-sustaining – there appears to be little here but trees, sand and seawater – but that’s the long-term aim of Marlon Brando’s luxury resort, The Brando. The buildings and lodges, made with local materials, blend into the atoll’s trees; energy sources are entirely renewable, including a pioneering deep seawater air-conditioning system; and the resort is close to becoming carbon neutral. Tetiaroa is also home to an ecostation dedicated to researching and teaching sustainable interdependence.

“including a pioneering deep seawater air-conditioning system; and the resort is close to becoming carbon neutral.”

Spot the mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Named one of the world’s top 10 sustainable destinations, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is the backdrop to one of the world’s best-known conservation success stories. It was here that the American primatologist Dian Fossey undertook her study of mountain gorillas, spearheaded the campaign against poaching in the area, and was brutally murdered. Mountain gorillas are still critically endangered, and Volcanoes National Park is home to about one third of the species’ population. Seeing the gorillas is a major draw to the area, but the Rwandan government has limited the number of visitors to eight permits per gorilla group per day to reduce stress on the creatures and make sure the activity is sustainable.

“Mountain gorillas are still critically endangered, and Volcanoes National Park is home to about one third of the species’ population.”

Encourage sustainable development in Uruguay

Uruguay isn’t top of most travellers’ bucket lists, but that just adds to the country’s allure. Almost 95% of this South American country’s energy comes from renewable sources, and it’s implemented some impressive policies regarding sustainability and alternative energies. Head to the uber-cool city resort of Punta del Este on Uruguay’s southeastern coast. It’s popular with wealthy Argentine and Urguayan holidaymakers and in peak months is home to more tourists than residents, but it’s actively working on developing sustainable practices, such as reforestation, recycling, reducing plastic use and involving the local community in tourism planning processes.

Take a city break in Vancouver, Canada

As if we needed another excuse to visit Vancouver, the city is currently working hard on its Greenest City Action Plan – a strategy that aims to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020. It’s outlined 10 goals within areas such as green buildings, green transportation, zero waste, access to nature, local food and green economy. Throw in the city’s enviable location between ocean and mountains, and you’ve got the perfect green city break. Make plans now to visit in 2020!
Ski sustainably in Vail, USA

The town of Vail, Colorado is committed to conserving the environment that made it such a popular ski resort in the first place. It’s even trying to become the USA’s first sustainable tourist destination, certified by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. That’s no trifling thing for a small town of 5,500 that draws as many as 2.8 million visitors annually. Hundreds of local businesses are in on the ambitious scheme – driven by Vail Resorts and named EpicPromise – which aims to eliminate the environmental impact of Vail’s operations by 2030. That means eliminating emissions, sending no waste to landfill, and offsetting its overall impact on forests and habitat. Take your next ski trip here, or if snow’s not your thing visit in summer for hiking, ziplining, climbing and scenic gondola rides.
Check out the eco-tourism trips currently being planned by the Thelma & Louise community.