Sustainable travel may not have crossed your mind a year ago but it is a trend that will be adopted by more of us in 2020. Many are becoming more conscious about the modes of transport we use, the impact our love of travel, especially flights, have on the environment, and how we can support local communities along the way.
Thankfully, adopting sustainable travel habits into your holiday plans needn’t be too difficult. To become an eco-conscious traveller in 2020, plan your sustainable trip well in advance. In this blog, we have found our favourite responsible travel destinations and have highlighted how you can take on the role of an Eco-Conscious Traveller, at each stage of your journey.
To start, pick up some eco-friendly sun cream before leaving home. Look for some that do not contain oxybenzone (or BP-3) and octinoxate. These are found in over 3,500 skincare products because they are a very effective way to protect the skin from harmful UV rays. The problem is that when they enter the water they can have toxic effects on the wildlife, for example, they damage the ecosystem of coral reefs.
So, with eco-friendly suncream packed, to discover natural coral rock formations, head for the Southern Caribbean waters of Aruba…
Aruba – An eco-tourism destination
An island north of Venezuela, Aruba has been home to many different inhabitants, who ventured there to seek out gold. Aruba’s first residents were the Arawak Indians, who left their red cave drawings, clay pottery, and stones, to remind us of their presence. Only 20 miles long and six miles wide, this white sandy island is sure to make you smile. In its south, the colourful cultural hub of San Nicolas (known as Sunrise City), is full of international and local artists. Pop-up carnivals also fuel the island’s rugged coastlines with happy vibes and boost the country’s ambitious sustainability efforts.
What eco-tourism activities does Aruba offer?
- The Arikok National Park, where you can see unique plants and listen out for the rare Burrowing Owl. Hiking trails also run throughout, for you to view the Aruba Lava rock formations.
- A responsible tour, to the sea turtle protection programme, where four different species of turtles nest.
- For animal lovers, get cosy with over 100 donkeys that live in a protected sanctuary.
- As a tourist, you can participate in a beach clean to keep the environment tidy.
Remember that 100 activities are automatically covered for free in Free Spirit’s insurance policy – view the list here. Visiting a destination and supporting its community through ecotourism is a great feeling on holiday, while you admire its beauty.
For an option, a little closer to home where you can immerse yourself in the country, live close to the locals in a villa with friends and family….
Living like a local in Italy
The home of flamboyant people, pasta, and pesto, Italy is friendly with a warm climate throughout most of the year. There are ample opportunities to savour the authentic taste of Italian cuisine and support the local economy.
After arriving at your villa and taking a quick dip in the pool, visit the local shops for some provisions. You may be surprised to see how receptive the locals are, when you walk in, speak a little of the language and stroll out with an armful of vibrantly red, tasty tomatoes. Find a family-run café to drink your favourite Espresso and tuck into some of the best stone-baked pizzas from an out-of-town restaurant. You may even have the opportunity to listen to stories told by your new Italian friends. You might even come back again to meet them next year!
Buying local produce, and visiting independent restaurants and suppliers (rather than chains), will always be a unique experience – not to mention one valued by locals – whatever the destination.
If this sounds like the type of experience you would value, but you’d like to support a community in a faraway country, perhaps the Tico community in Costa Rica would suit you…
Assist a Costa Rican Community
Full of everything you could wish for on holiday. Costa Rica has ancient volcanos, hot springs, rugged rainforests, and oceanic beaches that grace both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
It is also a famous wildlife nurturing country, which devotes around 26% of its land to national parks, wildlife reserves, and protected lands – don’t forget your camera! With Free Spirit, you can take out stand-alone mobile phone and tablet insurance if you prefer to take photos with your phone.
While in Costa Rica, it is possible to stay on a farm around the Volcán Tenorio and Río Celeste regions. If you plan to travel with children, this will be ideal as they may enjoy looking after the animals, while learning about traditional farming methods with the Tico community. So together you can all follow the customs and traditions within the communities while enjoying a slower pace of life.
What activities can you do in Costa Rica?
- Guided tours along the canopy walkways, through the jungle where you can be on the lookout for jaguar prints and manakin leks.
- Listen to the call of over 850 species of colourful birds and other wildlife.
- Indulge in a meal of locally sourced black beans, rice, and fresh vegetables, while being wowed by local salsa dancers.
- Look after the country’s endangered sea turtles, such as leatherback and green turtles.
Costa Rica may look small on a map but its roads are long. As there is so much to see you may wish to visit the whole of Costa Rica but this will prove arduous by car. To avoid increasing your air miles, use Eco-Travel transport – like train travel. You will find that it is possible to travel entirely by train, and you will often find the journey will itself add to the experience.
A perfect place to discover just this is in Canada…
Experience Canada on a luxurious train trip
There are nearly 600 miles of rail from Jasper to Vancouver – a renowned rail route high up in western Canada, where you can enjoy views of some of the greatest peaks on the planet. Gaze across panoramic surroundings through glass-dome coaches, savour local cuisine, and learn about natural and historic sites from expert hosts. What is more, as you make your way to Vancouver, you are on your way to experiencing one of the world’s greenest cities.
What does Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan mean for visitors?
- Day trips are made by bike, foot, SeaBus ferry, and SkyTrain, which make it easy to get around without a car. Just purchase a Transit’s all-access DayPass.
- 450km of separate, scenic bike lanes. Explore the city and local neighbourhoods, to visit museums, beaches, and breweries.
- There is access to watching nature, with a bee-friendly zone at Jericho Beach Park.
- A wildflower-flanked route can be walked and cycled down to visit many other parks, gardens, and nature houses.
Vancouver is not the only location on the extreme west of the Americas to boost great eco-credentials. For a sustainable luxury travel destination, you may not have considered, try Chile…
Sustainable Travel in Santiago
Santiago remained relatively undeveloped after colonial rule fell in the early 19th century, with just 30,000 inhabitants. However, it is now full of 19th-century neoclassical architecture, arts enclaves, world-class wine, and bundles of enthusiasm for sustainable tourism.
During your stay, give a nod to the Chilean’s sustainable travel efforts, to offer tourism that respects their environment.
What do luxury sustainable holidays look like in Santiago?
- Stay at eco-boutique hotels such as Bidasoa.
- Eat at on-site restaurants that serve seasonal, authentic, and vegan meals that can cover most dietary requirements.
- Enjoy responsible tours to the picturesque Maipo Valley to see the Tarapacá winery, alongside cheese tastings in a Tuscan-style manor house.
- Use locally manufactured and sourced products, like electric cars!
Or, if you’d prefer somewhere a little quieter, there are four other sustainable destinations in Chile:
- Huilo Huilo biological reserve, where you can dip into hot springs or enjoy active excursions surrounded by endemic flora and fauna.
- Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve is home to three national parks that protect thousands of tiny plants and lichens.
- Chiloé Island. Meet the local artisans, who produce most of the souvenirs sold in the area.
- Curacaví. Here you can experience the true culture of Chile and taste authentic homemade dishes full of regional, organic products.
As you can see, taking on a sustainable travel approach and thinking about eco-tourism holidays is not a great challenge. It is simply an opportunity to discover countries you may not have considered before, where the focus is on sustainability. You now can have a fantastic holiday satisfied with the knowledge that you have embraced responsible tourism.