Sustainable travel

Seven of the best holidays balancing eco-credentials with a good time

From flight-free forays in Europe to rewilding projects making a difference, here’s Helen Coffey’s pick of trips that are as enjoyable as they are responsible

Friday 29 April 2022 15:23 BST
<p>Take a long and winding journey from Porto to Lisbon with Pura Aventura</p>

Take a long and winding journey from Porto to Lisbon with Pura Aventura

Responsible tourism. Green travel. Eco trips. Sustainable holidays. All can conjure up the image of a joyless, spartan exercise in endurance, rather than a fun-crammed getaway.

But times have changed – opting for a more ethical break doesn’t have to mean compromising on luxury, hedonism or the chance to immerse yourself in new experiences.

Here are seven trips that balance doing good with feeling good.

Beyond Barcelona by train

Flight-free travel company Byway launched with a bang during the pandemic, despite the obvious hurdles, and is expanding its portfolio of bespoke trips at a pace.

The latest offerings all focus on getting off the beaten track in Brits’ favourite holiday destination – Spain – on multi-stop breaks travelling by train. One of the suggested itineraries sees travellers set off on a 10-day break around Catalonia, calling in at Vic, Besalú and Girona, as well as the region’s sensational capital, Barcelona.

Stop off in Girona on a flight-free trip to Spain

As well as avoiding emissions-heavy flights by arranging rail travel, the company also recommends eco-friendly stays where possible, such as the Andante hotel in Barcelona, a signatory to the Biosphere Responsible Tourism charter (meaning it’s committed to a number of sustainable practices such as producing its own energy with solar panels and using low-energy consumption lighting).

“Catalonia has far more to offer than the busy streets of its capital,” says Byway. “Venture inland from the city to explore the medieval towns and volcanic landscape of northern Catalonia by train, and see them from above by hot air balloon.”

Byway’s 10-day Catalonia itinerary from £1,265 per person.

Porto to Lisbon road trip

Pura Aventura organises award-winning, sustainable holidays across Latin America, Spain and Portugal. A certified B Corp, it balances 160 per cent of its carbon emissions and ensures local people benefit economically from trips, plus encourages travellers to go for longer to greater benefit destinations.

While all trips can be tailored to suit individuals’ needs, the company recommends taking 23 days to do its epic Porto to Lisbon road trip. Starting in Portugal’s beautiful second city and ending up in its historic capital, this itinerary encourages adventurers to take their time winding between the two, really digging into the best of Portuguese history, wine, food, culture and landscapes along the way. Stops include Vila Nova de Cerveira, the Douro Valley and the Alentejo region.

Pura Aventura’s 23-day Porto to Lisbon road trip from £3,750 per person.

Climbing and yoga in Morocco

Much Better Adventures offers small group adventure holidays in some of the wildest and most beautiful places in the world – and it also puts carbon labels on all trips.

From wild camping in Wales to kayaking in Corsica, there’s plenty of choice of trip types to get travellers immersed in nature, with short trips available for those running low on annual leave. Combining high-octane thrills with deep relaxation, the intro to rock climbing and yoga package in Morocco whisks explorers away for six nights to scale the cliffs of Todra Gorge in the Atlas Mountains, perfect their downward dog and sleep under the stars in the Sahara Desert; no previous experience necessary.

Take on Todra Gorge in Morocco

Guests will trek through dramatic wadis and canyons and tackle Morocco’s only via-ferrata, start the day with sunrise yoga amid the dunes, and bed down in a traditional riad in Marrakech before luxury camping in the desert. Booking now for September 2022.

Much Better Adventures’ six-day Morocco itinerary from £675 per person.

Women-led adventures in Peru

Intrepid, the world’s biggest B Corp certified travel company, has relaunched its Women’s Expeditions with new and redesigned tours for 2022. Designed to support and empower communities in Peru, India, Iran, Morocco, and Jordan that have been deeply affected by the pandemic, these unique trips are guided by local female tour leaders and offer experiences that wouldn’t be possible with men in the group, such as visiting a beauty salon in Iran or travelling in a women-only train carriage.

On the Peru expedition, travellers spend four days trekking the iconic Inca Trail accompanied by female porters, a role traditionally held by men, to visit Machu Picchu and hear how history unfolded here from a female perspective. There’s also a walking tour of downtown Lima with a visit to a female-run a food stall; an excursion to learn about traditional techniques and the importance of weaving to the women of the Umasbamba community in the Sacred Valley; and dinner at Mama Seledonia’s in Cusco, a restaurant that supports single mothers from underprivileged backgrounds by providing employment and culinary training.

Intrepid’s eight-day Peru itinerary from £1,110 per person.

Rewilding in Italy

Last year Exodus Travels launched a new “Rewilding in the Italian Apennines” walking tour as part of its commitment to sustainable tourism. It’s partnered with Rewilding Europe through the Nature and Carbon Corridors project to offer the trip; the process of rewilding helps restore nature’s ecosystems and biodiversity while combating climate change by increasing the land’s ability to absorb carbon.

Travellers can explore the Apennine mountain range

During this six-day experience, travellers get to see first-hand the beneficial impact of rewilding and the importance of using wildlife corridors to connect protected areas. Exploring Italy’s wild heart, guests will be able to spot native chamois, deer, wolves and golden eagles, and if they’re lucky, the rare Marsican brown bear. Tours are led by skilled nature guides and complimented by some of the finest local food and wine.

​Exodus Travels’ six-day Rewilding the Apennines tour from £2,199 per person.

Wine tasting in France

“Sustainable rail trips for adventurous souls”: that’s the tagline for No Fly Travel Club, which, you guessed it, offers a curated range of flight-free holidays across the UK and Europe.

One of the options is a sustainable wine tasting trip to the Loire Valley in France. Guests stay at eco-friendly La Grande Maison, where they’ll be treated to a wine tasting supper comprised of local, organic produce; an organic picnic in the vineyard; and an exclusive tour and apéro in the property’s wine caves and tunnels. They’ll also get private wine tasting sessions at two to three vineyards, with a choice of eco-friendly transport (walking, e-bike or electric car) and qualified wine guide. The best part? Travelling by train means wine lovers can take as much of their favourite tipple home with them as they like at no extra charge.

No Fly Travel Club’s three-night Sustainable Wine Tasting Break from £841 per person.

Walking and painting in Crete

Responsible Travel’s Walking and Painting Holiday takes place in an area of Kissamos in Crete that’s part of the European Programme NATURA 2000, which aims to protect the region’s rich natural heritage and promote eco-tourism. Walks leave only a “green footprint” as there’s no need for transport, and focus on local archaeological, historical, botanical and artistic highlights.

Crete’s landscapes inspire budding artists

The trip includes five mornings of leisurely paced walks of light to medium difficulty, lasting from two and a half to four hours. Travellers explore the area’s beaches, hills, valleys and the town of Kissamos, as well as traditional villages and little-known Ancient and Byzantine sites. After getting inspired by the pristine local landscapes, holidaymakers have four afternoons of painting workshops for beginners and more advanced artists. On the last day, the group exhibits their paintings and celebrates the week’s accomplishments with a party.

Responsible Travel’s eight-day Walking and Painting in Crete holiday from £647 per person.

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