To travel is to open your eyes to new cultures and experiences. And while many cities and lesser-known holiday destinations welcome the before unseen income, there’s no denying that there is a dark side of tourism.
Influxes of sightseers can cause a strain on local infrastructure, a loss of culture, as well as a large environmental damage from the garbage and the number of footprints left behind. It’s no wonder that hotspots like UNESCO World Heritage listed Dubrovnik are implementing policies to limit the number of holidaymakers each year.
However, for those looking to enjoy a holiday with a clean conscience, there are plenty sustainable travel experiences that focus on connecting with culture, protecting the planet and giving back to local communities.
Here are five of our favourite sustainable travel experiences.
1. Australia: Mt Borradaile, Northern Territory
In the depths of the Arnhem Land region is one of the best – and less trodden – places to immerse yourself in Australian indigenous culture.
Home to some of the oldest rock paintings in the world, only a handful of visitors are permitted to visit the rock shelters at any time.
Tours are exclusively managed by Davidson Arnhemland Safaris and include Dreamtime art-appreciation classes by the traditional owners of the land, the Ulba Bunidj people; outback explorations; and of course; digging into damper feasts by the billabong.
2. Bhutan: Hiking
Clear your head, mind and soul by trekking the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Deeply entrenched in Buddhist principles, the country, naturally, is committed to conserving its cultural and environmental magnificence.
A government-approved tour operator can take you through yak meadows, thick forestry and to the sacred Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
Built into a centuries-old cliffside, it seemingly floats 900 metres above the floor of the Paro Valley. Practise your squats now in prep for a mega leg and butt workout.
3. Wales: Skomer Island
While other wildlife travel experiences may just about break the bank, this day trip to this remote west Wales island is even achievable on shoestring budgets.
An early wake-up call and a 15-minute ferry ride will take up to 200 birdwatchers, nature photographers and wildlife enthusiasts to the puffin and rabbit-laden reserve.
What this island lacks in facilities – there are zero food supplies, flushable toilets and bins – it makes up for in natural splendours. And you’ll appreciate the absence of consumerism, as all efforts are to protect Skomer Island’s carpets of bluebells and soaring owls, as well as the moulting seals off the coast.
4. Nicaragua: Eco-resorts
A pioneer in world of eco-tourism world, in Nicaragua, the eco way isn’t just a fad, it’s the eco way of life. This Latin American hidden gem is the dream getaway for environmentally-minded travellers on the hunt for R&R.
Its tropical climate lends itself to a dreamy escape and a wide-spanning range of wildlife, all protected under an ever-growing list of sustainable initiatives.
Jicaro Island Lodge is luxury at its greenest. Cabins at this chic ecolodge set amidst a lush forest are all crafted from reclaimed wood, while water is heated by solar panels, and staff are all locals with an abundance of local knowledge to share.
View this post on Instagram
5. Peru: Central restaurant, Lima
Sustainable travel experiences can even extend to fine dining addresses, and in this case, to Virgilio Martínez’s Central. Ranked number five on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, Martínez’s passion for regional Peruvian ingredients was immortalised in the popular Netflix show, Chef’s Table.
Martínez’s dedicated episode chronicles his journey, from his early days as a chef, his loss of identity and his rediscovery of it – after staying with a family in the Andes, near an Incan agricultural terrace.
Taking inspiration from the ancient philosophies of seeing the world in different altitudes and ecosystems, this is exactly what Martínez aims to plate up at Central.
And to do so, he teams up with local tribes to source “180 ingredients, 50% of them unknown” from regions across Peru.