The Best Locations for an Eco-Adventure

The Faroe Islands are leading the way in ecotourism thanks to green initiatives focusing on sustainability
The Faroe Islands are leading the way in ecotourism thanks to green initiatives focusing on sustainability | © pixdeluxe / Getty Images
Photo of Chloe Thrussell
Production Assistant13 January 2022
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Ecotourism is more important than ever. If you’re looking to travel responsibly and sustainably, book local, eat local and think local – seek the out-of-season and the little-known. For sustainable travel locations that will inspire incredible adventures, from wind-battered Faroese isles to trail-laced Patagonian glaciers, discover these alternative eco-holiday destinations.

Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia

The Pacific Rim National Park coastline offers a true back-to-nature experience | © Danita Delimont Creative / Alamy Stock Photo

Comprising three regions on the outer reaches of Vancouver Island – Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail – the Pacific Rim National Park cradles rugged coast and temperate rainforest. Bordered by driftwood, Long Beach is best discovered by surfboard; this sandy stretch lies between buoyant Tofino and sedate Ucluelet. The secluded bays and sheltered waters of the 100-island Broken Group can be explored by kayak; drift through sea caves and spot harbour seals.

If challenging treks are more your thing, tackle the 75km (45mi) West Coast Trail. Tracing the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island, it was originally built to help rescue shipwrecked survivors along the perilous Graveyard of the Pacific. It passes through territory of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, who today act as its guardians.

Where to stay in the Pacific Rim National Park

Wya Point Resort, Ucluelet

Resort, Apartment
Light streams through large windows in an ecofriendly water-side suite at Wya Point Resort in Ucluelet
Courtesy of Wya Point Resort, Ucluelet / Expedia.com
Enclosed within 600 acres (240ha) of old-growth forest on the edge of the Pacific, Wya Point offers cedar lodges, waterfront yurts and oceanside camping on Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ – Ucluelet First Nation territory. Run by the Ucluelet First Nation, accommodation reflects traditional knowledge, which includes a commitment to environmental sustainability. This is reflected in the design – raised lodges minimally impact the land. Floor-to-ceiling windows embrace the forest and ocean views; you’ll be off-grid here, so expect to be enveloped by nature.

Faroe Islands

A focus on sustainable tourism should keep the Faroe Islands a beautiful destination for years to come | © Sebastian Wasek / Alamy Stock Photo

Bound by basalt cliffs, this oft-overlooked North Atlantic archipelago – halfway between Norway and Iceland – encloses dramatic fjords, stark moorlands and grass-roofed cottages. The wind-and-wave-battered setting calls for adventure: hike ancient cairn-marked trails, visit puffin-lined chasms or paddle a kayak to the distinctive Drangarnir sea stacks and feel the spray from the cascading Múlafossur. All the while knowing you’ll never be far from 4G signal, should you want it. The Faroes have recently developed a sustainable tourism strategy, termed the preservolution, which reinvests visitor fees in nature-preserving projects across the islands.

Where to stay in the Faroe Islands

Hotel Brandan, Tórshavn

The ecofriendly Hotel Brandan in Tórshavn has a modern structure and a grass roof
Courtesy of Hotel Brandan / Expedia.com
There is no right to roam and wild camp in the Faroes; planning accommodation is key. Your best bet is a base in the capital Tórshavn it’s only a one-hour drive to most destinations. Hotel Brandan is the first Faroes hotel built according to Green Key standards, and has locally sourced products, such as organic beer, and pieces by Faroese artist Edward Fuglø. The 124 energy-efficient rooms are named after Faroese landmarks, and come with coffeemakers, Chromecasts and ecofriendly toiletries. Four-star features include a sauna, fitness centre and wine-tasting cellar, Gilið.

Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve, Sri Lanka

Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve is a haven for the wildlife of Sri Lanka | © Mark Daffey / Alamy Stock Photo

Although not as famous as Yala, its south-coast neighbour, Sinharaja is home to 95 percent of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds and 50 percent of its native species. This lowland rainforest is steeped in legend, too – sinha (lion) and raja (king) refer to a fabled feline that once roamed the jungle. The only way to traverse the forest today is by foot; guides will lead you along slippery trails veiled by mist, past ancient trees, tea estates and waterfalls. Don’t miss Kiruwananaganga Falls, which reaches a height and width of 60m (200ft) during the rainy season peak.

Where to stay in Sinharaja

The Rainforest Ecolodge

Accommodation in the form of converted containers on stilts poke out of the shrubbery at The Rainforest Ecolodge
Courtesy of The Rainforest Ecolodge / Expedia.com
Sixteen chalets, each made from recycled shipping containers, perch on stilts above an old tea plantation in the jungle of Sinharaja. From within, the magnificent rainforest surroundings are enhanced by floor-to-ceiling windows and private decks; watch waves of mist cascade over the treeline. Interiors are decorated with bamboo panelling and reclaimed railway sleepers. Produce served in the dining room is fresh from the local village, while meats and seafood are brought in from nearby Galle.

Julian Alps, Slovenia

Grab a kayak to paddle around the Church of the Assumption in Lake Bled… or just admire it from dry land | © Mike Clegg / Alamy Stock Photo

Stretching from northeastern Italy to Slovenia, the Julian Alps peak at 2,864m (9,396ft) tall Mount Triglav, the crown of Triglav National Park. In winter, visit Vogel, the only ski area within the park, for 22km (14mi) of pistes and views of Lake Bohinj; in summer, visit Lake Bled for a leisurely paddle around the baroque Church of the Assumption, harboured on a tear-shaped island. The Vršič Pass, at 1,611m (5,285ft), can be reached via a storied road and offers views of Mojstrovka (2,332m/7,650ft), Prisojnik (2,547m/8,356ft) and the Soča River valley. Mushroom foraging is allowed in the outer zones of the park from August; visit the Pokljuka and Mežakla plateaus. Slovenia is leading the way on green tourism.

Where to stay in the Julian Alps

Bohinj Eco Hotel

A glassy indoor pool in a conservatory at Bohinj Eco Hotel offers views of snowy mountains
Courtesy of Bohinj Eco Hotel / Expedia.com
This large, resort-like hotel is the first and only Green Key-certified hotel in Slovenia. A 430m (1,410ft) deep geothermal well nearby provides the hotel with sanitary water and heating, and natural insulation and energy-efficient technology ensure a sustainable stay. But Bohinj has ample luxury: it’s equipped with an aquapark, bowling alley and cinema hall, as well as a top-floor, adults-only wellness centre. The rooms themselves are warmly decorated in pistachio and taupe, and offer unbeatable views of the Belca stream and the Julian Alps.

Cerro Castillo National Park, Chilean Patagonia

The rocky heights of Cerro Castillo offer a challenging climb for adventurers | © Raquel Mogado / Alamy Stock Photo

Torres del Paine is the most-visited national park in Chile for good reason, but the January hiking crowds can congest the better-known hiking routes, such as the W. Instead, branch out into the lesser-known Aysén region, the third-largest in Chile but least populated. Here you’ll find the national parks of Laguna San Rafael, accessible only by boat, the eponymous Patagonia and Cerro Castillo, named for its crowning basalt spires. Cerro Castillo has far fewer visitors than Torres del Paine, but has comparable beauty; beech-lined trails etch their way between glaciers, rainforest and deep mountain valleys. Start at the Las Horquetas Grandes trailhead for an unforgettable, and undisturbed, three-to-four-day hike through these remote wilds.

Where to stay near Cerro Castillo National Park

Cabañas Patagonia Indómita

Cabin, Short-term Rental
Cabin-like huts at Cabañas Patagonia Indómita sit on a grassy hillside, with views out to mountain peaks
Courtesy of Cabañas Patagonia Indómita / Expedia.com
Coyhaique, the regional capital, sits 75km (45mi) north of Cerro Castillo; on its outskirts, you’ll find four wood-clad cabins overlooking the Simpson River. Each cabin has two ensuite bedrooms, a living room and fully equipped kitchen. Keep warm by the wood-burning stove, enjoy fresh spring water from the taps and savour the pristine beauty of the surroundings from your private terrace. You’ll be a one-hour drive from the Las Horquetas trailhead.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

The peaks of the Atlas range are dotted with Amazigh villages and demanding hikes | ©Artur Debat / Getty Images

Dividing the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts from the Sahara, the Atlas Mountains soar above Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The arid terrain is pocketed with argan- and almond-filled valleys, poppy fields and Amazigh (Berber) villages. Hardcore hikers head to the slopes of Toubkal (4,167m/13,671ft), the highest peak in North Africa; M’Goun (4,071m/13,356ft) and the Saghro range offer quieter, but equally challenging, multi-day alternatives. For two-wheeled adventures, get pumped for the Tizi n’Tichka Pass (2,260m/7.414ft) or the sensational hairpin bends of the Dades Gorge. For rock climbing, the sublime orange limestone of the 300m (984ft) deep Todra Gorge awaits.

Where to stay in the High Atlas

Ouirgane Ecolodge

A traditionally designed dining space at Ouirgane Ecolodge has a table with breakfast food and there are views over dry hills
Courtesy of Ouirgane Ecolodge / Expedia.com
In the foothills of Toubkal, a 70-minute drive from Marrakech, you’ll find this nine-room guesthouse, built in traditional Amazigh style. Under supervision from local craftsmen, the lodge has been integrated with the landscape, focusing on water and energy conservation, and provides work for nearby villagers. The lodge has a roof terrace, hammam, pool, and vegetable garden providing homegrown produce, and offers single- and multi-day treks in the surrounding mountains, as well as desert tours, cooking classes and yoga retreats.

Keen to learn more about what we’re doing? Check out Culture Trip’s commitment to responsible travel to read about our latest green initiatives.

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