Travel Intentionally

There are few things as gratifying as travelling to new places and taking the time to truly immerse yourself and experience all the unique aspects they have to offer. But concurrently, far too many of us remain blissfully oblivious to the massive impact the way we travel and our travel choices have on the environment around us.

Realistically, it falls upon us to understand the overall effects of our travel decisions and then take responsibility towards making necessary changes for the better. For that very reason, a step in the right direction has been the steady growth of sustainable travel (also called eco-tourism).

Simply put, sustainable travel is based around finding ways to carry out tourism for the long-term in a manner that creates minimal negative impact and ideally maximises the positive effects. It aims to strike a balance between satisfying visitors’ needs, while also protecting the interests of the local population and the environment.

Here are a few places that have made focused efforts towards creating a more sustainable travel experience for visitors.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Currently on track to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025 is the wonderful city of Copenhagen. A contributing factor to that feat is it being one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world (62% of its residents commute to work and school by bike) thanks to notable investments in cycling infrastructure. Hence, it would be amiss not to hire one and head out exploring, be sure to cycle around the Havneringen (Harbour Ring).

Take time to admire magnificent works of art at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and Statens Museum for Kunst. Then take a walk through Superkilen, an urban park that sprawls through the city’s most culturally diverse neighbourhood, Norrebro. Consider renting a solar-powered boat or join an arranged tour and experience this amazing Scandinavian city by taking in breathtaking sights around the harbour at a leisurely pace. Then get the best view of Copenhagen from the ultra-modern waste-recycling plant, Copenhill, which also boasts an artificial ski slope on the roof along with facilities for hiking as well as a climbing wall.

Costa Rica, Central America

Home to some of the most diverse natural landscapes and flanked by the Caribbean sea and Pacific ocean is the stunningly beautiful Costa Rica. Brimming with lush rain forests, serene beaches, rivers, cloud forests and biodiverse wildlife, this country is an undeniable world-class destination for nature tourism. In order to protect and conserve its resplendent biodiversity, Costa Rica has established numerous national parks, wildlife refuges and other protected areas. Moreover, sustainable travel has long been championed here with high availability of eco-lodges for accommodation even in remote natural areas. Aerial trams or cable cars, known to have minimal environmental impact, offer breathtaking views of the landscape and are found in several locations. Take guided tours to animal sanctuaries (that focus on rescue, rehabilitation and release) and learn about the conservation efforts of each species. Then spend hours relaxing, swimming and sunbathing at the pristine white sand beaches. For those with a penchant for adventure, the waves and surf opportunities here are like no other. For birdwatching enthusiasts, take a trip through the Monteverde Cloud Forest and leave with remarkable photos of the impressive array of bird species.

Reykjavík, Iceland

The stupendous beauty of Iceland’s natural scenery, which includes black sand beaches, glaciers, geothermal areas and much more, is sure to leave you in awe. Additionally, it is also a perfect destination for those that are keen on making responsible travel choices due to government-backed initiatives to protect its environment. Case in point, Iceland takes advantage of its remarkable geography and geology by producing all its electricity from renewable energy sources like hydropower and geothermal energy. Stay in sustainable hotels or eco-campsites during your trip in Reykjavík. Move around using buses (a growing number of which are electric) as well as renting bicycles and electric scooters. Or support a local farm by taking a tour on the back of an Icelandic horse. Then visit the famed Blue Lagoon, nestled within a stunning lava field, and treat yourself to a geothermal spa day. Take a guided walking tour in the city admiring the unique local architecture, landmarks like the iconic Hallgrímskirkja Church, museums and art galleries, then try local Icelandic delicacies. Don’t forget to visit Thingvellir, a famous historic site and national park.

Mallorca, Spain

Offering a variety of attractions for the sustainability focused traveller is Spain’s largest island in the Balearic archipelago – Mallorca. Renowned for its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty, the island boasts excellent weather, dense forests, majestic mountains, golden sandy beaches and the Mediterranean Sea. Choose from housing options that implement sustainable practices and integrate different ecological solutions. Then traverse using the comprehensive public services like trains and buses or make use of the ample cycling trails. Take the opportunity for hiking and birdwatching through protected natural reserves like Mondragó Natural Park and the Sierra de Tramuntana Natural Park that serve as havens for diverse wildlife. Attend organic farming tours that showcase sustainable agriculture experiences, which have become quite famous in Mallorca. Go snorkelling at Cala Llombards or Cala des Moro where the waters are home to spectacularly vibrant coral reefs and seagrass meadows. Hike the numerous trails at the Serra de Tramuntana, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, and enjoy stunning panoramic mountain views. Then taste locally-produced grapes made from sustainably grown fruit at vineyards practicing ecological viticulture. Also, make sure to truly indulge in delicious preparations at local restaurants that use local, fresh and organic produce.

Our world has finite resources and unchecked mass tourism risks causing significant damage to the environment. Sustainable tourism is an optimal and thoughtful way to go about our travel. Therefore, it works in everyone’s best interest to support destinations that are committed to eco-friendly tourism practices. ✤