Yes, you’ve heard of tourism before, but have you heard of ecotourism? Ecotourism is basically what you call it when you visit a destination with a focus on experiencing nature-based activities and visiting natural attractions. In other words, ecotourism increases your appreciation for that destination’s natural marvels, as well as giving you the opportunity to engage with the relationship between these natural attractions and the ecological and cultural significance of those attractions.
And speaking of ecology, ecotourism is also the general term used to refer to any ‘economically, ecologically and socially sustainable tourist activities’, with profits of ecotourism typically being used to strengthen the natural wellbeing and conservation of ecotourist destinations and the local communities that border them.
It’s a new way of framing travel not as a passive and detached experience, but as an immersive journey where you can be rest assured that your cultural enrichment is also creating a positive local impact. Sure, you still need a hotel booking for somewhere comfortable to stay, but an ecotourist would prefer visiting the natural, wild destinations and perhaps even staying in sustainable lodging once they’ve arrived at their selected travel destination.
Now that you know a bit more about what ecotourism is, you may be wondering where the best places to explore in the world are with this lens. Lucky for you, this informative article will share the top ecotourism destinations to explore across the globe.
With its abundance of diverse natural attractions, Australia is an excellent travel destination for any avid ecotourist. While Australia has many famous man-made attractions like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, this vast island continent also comprises the wild outback and lush natural landscapes that are just ripe for exploration and ecological enrichment.
From scorching, dry deserts to lush tropical rainforests, every inch of Australia tells a unique ecological story, so you’re sure to find plenty to awe at regardless of whether you travel to the Queensland hinterland or to the red sands of Broome. In fact, you could spend a year in Australia and still see less than 1% of all the natural wonders it has to offer. From Victoria’s ‘Twelve Apostles’ to Western Australia’s Horizontal Falls, to all the national parks, state parks, and the literal thousands of beautiful remote beaches – every inch of Australia is sure to deliver plenty of experiences for curious ecotourists.
If you are planning a first-time trip to Australia and are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of destinations you could feasibly explore, then we do recommend seeing Queensland or Western Australia first. You could explore the Whitsunday Islands and snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef, or tour the rugged Western Australia coastline and perhaps even go whale spotting for a genuinely unforgettable ecotourist experience.
New Zealand Offers Wild Experiences
While we’re discussing the southern hemisphere, New Zealand is another choice destination for the ecotourist. A small country with a relatively tiny population, New Zealand boasts some of the most breathtaking natural vistas in the world. The country has glaciers that you can trek across, excellent snow-capped mountains, lush forests and rapid rivers that have taken many a dwarf for the barrel ride of their lives. Although we can’t promise any dwarf spottings during your trip to New Zealand, sorry Lord of the Rings fans!
February is the best time of year to visit New Zealand, as the weather is pleasant, allowing for more outdoor exploration. You can ride a jet boat across a river or hike through the forests. Bathing in the hot springs located around the central region of North Island is also an excellent ecotourism experience.
If you’re looking to travel to New Zealand to ski or to enjoy other winter sports, however, then we have to recommend that you travel between June to August, or even September if you prefer wet snow ski conditions. New Zealand’s top skiing spots can also be found across South Island, particularly around Wanaka and Queenstown. Visits to either of these ski destinations can also be accompanied by a little road trip to the Fox or Franz Josef glaciers, two superb ecotourist destinations that are valuable for learning about the impacts of climate change on glacial activity both in New Zealand as well as around the world.
Visit Costa Rica
Costa Rica is another excellent ecotourism destination that’s also seriously underrated. A rugged country known for gorgeous beaches, biodiversity and volcanoes – it’s well worth a visit for those who want to experience the wildly dynamic and almost antediluvian landscapes of a country whose geography is still changing and growing.
For reference, a quarter of Costa Rica is purely protected jungle lands that are teeming with wildlife like frogs, exotic birdlife and monkeys. There are a variety of sustainable ecotourism hotels and tours on offer as well, with locally-sourced organic food and lots of recycling and turtle conservation efforts that tourists are welcome to participate in and to just generally engage with. You can also literally tour a volcano, go whitewater rafting, tour local sustainable coffee farms, meet with monkeys, and even have a soak in some thermal hot springs.
The best time of year to visit Costa Rica is also between December and April, during the region’s dry summer season. If you travel between May to November, you may be able to enjoy some cooler or humid rainy weather, which can be superb for exploring Costa Rica’s forested and jungle areas.
Return to the birth of evolution at the Galapagos Islands
This destination is the absolute pinnacle of ecotourism hot spots for what we hope are fairly transparent reasons. The Galapagos Islands are geologically unique and remote, far away from civilisation, making this particular ecotourist destination a fascinating place to explore for those with a keen interest in evolutionary biology.
In fact, the undisturbed evolution of endemic animal life across the Islands is nothing short of incredible, which is precisely why Sir Charles Darwin travelled here to document the unique beak shape varieties and other divergent evolutionary traits that can be found across the Galapagos finches.
Darwin fans will be excited to hear that you can actually retrace the renowned biologist’s footsteps across the Islands during your visit, as well as just generally experience the incredible wildlife at this UNESCO-listed world heritage site. We strongly recommend that you book any ecotourism activities like local walking or boat tours well ahead of time and do your research before placing any bookings, just to make sure that you know exactly what to look forward to from your selected tours. Ecotourism lodging is also available all around the Galapagos Islands including around Puerto Ayora, but if you’re hoping to stay in the heart of the Galapagos National Park, then we recommend placing your bookings well in advance.
Sustainable Travel in Sumatra
Located in Indonesia, a short trip away from the bustling hub of Kuala Lumpur is one of the most biodiverse locations in the world: the island of Sumatra. Sumatra is known for being one of Oceania’s most picturesque and dynamic ecotourist destinations. Not only are there lush tropical rainforests to be explored, but Sumatra also happens to have unique wildlife and even a few active and dormant volcanoes. And by ‘few’ we mean a whopping 68!
For those who want to get seriously up close and personal with some of the world’s most elusive endangered wildlife, you’ll find plenty to enjoy across Sumatra’s protected forest areas. The Gunung Leuser National Park is home to the second-largest population of orangutans and other endangered species, such as rhinos and the elusive Sumatran tiger. Sumatran locals promote sustainable travel and ecotourism activities that aim to protect the island’s forests and all of its furry, feathered, scaled, and leathery inhabitants.
Ecotourism activities also offer an alternative income stream for locals, which helps drastically reduce the amount of illegal logging activity that threatens Sumatra’s vital natural habitats. All in all, Sumatra is truly an enriching ecotourism destination where you can plant trees, go hiking and water rafting while supporting the valiant efforts of Sumatran locals to preserve everything that makes their island one of the world’s most vital natural assets.
Leaving the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Hemisphere altogether now, let’s have a look at one of Europe’s most breathtaking ecotourism hotspots. We’re of course talking about the unique island of Iceland. Thanks to Iceland’s proximity to the Arctic Circle, if you visit during summer (between May and July), you’ll be treated to 24 hours of daylight, with the entire day to explore and see the sights. Keep in mind, however, that the shortest daylight hours in Iceland fall during their winter season, with an average of only 4-5 hours of daylight per day between December and January.
The verdant, frigid landscapes are the primary attraction, as Iceland’s remote regions are largely untouched by humans. There are impressive waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, lava fields, geysers and lagoons, and amazing scenery everywhere that you can explore without even coming across another living soul – especially if you’re travelling during Iceland’s winter season! But truth be told, there is just so much to do here that you will want to come during summer so that you can enjoy hours upon hours of speeding down Icelandic highways on quad bikes, going horseback riding, or even going white water rafting or hiking on a glacier.
If you are planning an eco-getaway to Iceland anytime soon, then we also thoroughly recommend carving out a few days in your trip itinerary to visit the Westman Islands, where you can explore some volcanic attractions, superb local eateries, and go for a dip in Iceland’s iconic Blue Lagoon spa.
In this informative article, we’ve shared some of the top ecotourism destinations to explore across the globe. Spread across the southern and northern hemispheres, these countries and getaway destinations are rich in natural, sustainable experiences for you to enjoy while avoiding the hustle and bustle of busy cities, pollution and crowds. Enjoy your experience, knowing you’re a different kind of tourist.