Sustainable travel

Nine of the best eco-conscious holidays

Whether it’s a UK-based rewilding break or agritourism in Tuscany, Clare Vooght picks climate-friendly trips to book with a clear conscience

Friday 03 December 2021 15:49 GMT
<p>Helsinki has launched a Think Sustainably guide </p>

Helsinki has launched a Think Sustainably guide

Responsible, sustainable tourism is on the rise, as people look to leave a smaller footprint on the planet while supporting positive initiatives in the destinations they visit. But no longer does eco holidaying mean a drizzly camping trip.

From chic meat-free ski-lodges in Morzine, where it pays to arrive by train, to driving through Scotland in an electric car, or staying on a Tuscan farm-meets-art-gallery that runs on renewable energy – here are 10 of the most conscious holiday ideas.

Escape to the mountains in Morzine

Morzine, France

AliKats Mountain Holidays uses eco-friendly cleaning products for its Morzine chalets and has a zero-waste ethos for food-prep, including making its own yoghurt. Anyone prepared to eschew the flights and travel there by train (it’s around six hours to nearby Geneva from London St Pancras) gets a discount on chalets via its eco package, which also includes free transfers from the station and meat-free meals.

Sip cocktails with a social conscience in Colombia

Hip Blue Apple Beach, on an island 30 minutes off the coast of Cartagena, specialises in poolside cocktails with a conscience. Behind the scenes it operates the first glass-recycling machine on the entire Colombian coast, shipping in bottles from local hotels and training locals to make them into sustainable building materials, via its Green Apple Foundation – a social enterprise set up by the hotel’s owner to promote responsible waste management in hospitality and also provide positive employment opportunities. The Balearic-meets-St Tropez vibe and sunset yoga also make a compelling case for a visit.

Take a low-impact city break in Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland, has set a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2035

Helsinki residents said climate change was one of the key issues they’d like to see dealt with, and the City listened – setting a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2035, and launching Think Sustainably, an online guide to the city’s most sustainable accommodations, shops, restaurants (such as local and organic-focused Juuri) and attractions (Amos Rex gallery runs on eco electricity). Listings are in English, too, and the venues have to meet guidelines set by a local sustainability think tank.

Look after the land in the UK

Help take care of some of the most beautiful places in England and Wales on a National Trust Working Holiday. You might even learn a new skill on one of its short breaks or week-long stays, and helping out keeps the costs down (trips with accommodation start at £100). Options include cider-making in Devon, looking after wildflower meadows in Northumberland, preparing a habitat for butterflies in Sussex and tree-planting in Snowdonia.

See gorillas and help communities in Uganda

See mountain gorillas in Mount Mgahinga National Park

When gorilla tourism kicked off in the 1990s, one of the oldest groups of people in eastern Africa, the Batwa, were displaced from their land in Mgahinga National Park – so Volcano Safaris provided 10 acres of land for them to build homes and farm near their Mount Gahinga Lodge (a great, luxurious base for gorilla spotting). The sustainable credentials also run to its other safari lodges: as well as chimpanzee tracking and lion safaris, guests at Kyambura Gorge can plant indigenous tree seedlings as part of its reforestation project, while the lodge runs local beekeeping training and buys its coffee from a local women’s co-operative.

Offset your Scandinavian ski trips

By shouldering the responsibility of offsetting as part of the package, Scandinavian Travel provides carbon-neutral ski holidays in the Nordics – from Christmas holidays in Finnish Lapland to skiing in Norway. It does this through global offsetting projects, including reforestation projects in the UK and Amazon, developing solar power projects in India and repairing boreholes in Uganda.

No longer does eco holidaying mean a drizzly camping trip

Go off-grid in the UK countryside

Cosy up by the wood-burner in a carpenter’s cabin in Devon, made with local timber and powered by solar panels. Or go completely off-grid at The Woodcock organic farm in Norfolk, where there’s no electricity: instead you can warm the water for a bath with a wood fire and spend evenings relaxing by candlelight. As well as these, Canopy and Stars has a huge list of eco-huts, treehouses and cosy cabins across the country that’ll make you feel much further away from the hubbub than you actually are.

Embrace eco-accommodation in Zanzibar

If you must fly long haul to find a white-sand fix, at least go for eco accommodation. Zuri Zanzibar has garnered Sustainable Design Gold Certification from EarthCheck – a key benchmarking group for responsible tourism – for its sustainable energy use and water sources, as well as commitment to using sustainable, locally sourced building materials. The Indian Ocean retreat is also suitably luxe, with palm-fringed plunge pools, a spa, stylish suites and beachfront villas.

Agritourism in wild Tuscany

Head to Tuscany on an agritourism break

Go slow and take the train (French stopovers advised) to an organic farm in Tuscany. Three quarters of the food served in the restaurants at Villa Lena is grown on the estate, and the rest is locally sourced, while the accommodation building is entirely powered by renewable energy and it’s self-sufficient when it comes to water. Plus, rooms are filled with upcycled old furniture and pieces by artists from the non-profit creative foundation it runs on-site.

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