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11 Best Ecotourism Destinations Around the World (2024)

A remote, snowy village in Norway, set against a rugged mountainous backdrop

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If you’re looking for the best ecotourism destinations, you’re not alone! As we’re seeing the impact of global warming, more people are turning to sustainable tourism and responsible travel.

As someone who’s passionate about both travel and sustainability, it can feel like a battle to balance the two!

Yet, even though travel is seen as a big contributor to climate change, it’s also not realistic to ditch our vacations completely. In fact – many countries rely on tourism to thrive.

With that said, ecotourism is the future of travel, and there are things we can do to tread lightly and travel more sustainably.

So if you want to support ecotourism destinations and have a more eco-friendly getaway – keep reading to find out the best places to visit in 2024 and beyond!

What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism is all about responsible travel. It’s tourism that’s directed towards the environment, with the intention of supporting conservation, wildlife and local communities.

RELATED: What is greenwashing in tourism?

As ecotourists, we want to be mindful of how we travel and how our actions are affecting the world around us.

We can do this through things like choosing sustainable transport, participating in conservation work or contributing to local communities.

Likewise, we can opt for eco hotels, hire local guides, choose ecotourism destinations and less touristy alternative destinations, as well as offset carbon emissions. 

What are ecotourism destinations?

Ecotourism destinations are nature-rich destinations and places that are doing great things to protect the environment.

They are more aligned with sustainability and have conservation initiatives and practices in place that make it easier for tourists to be eco-friendly. 

Here are the best ecotourism destinations for 2024 as well as what you can expect during your trip…

Top ecotourism destinations to visit in 2024

1 Costa Rica

Costa Rica is first on the list of best ecotourism destinations for good reason – this is a country that’s been a pioneer of sustainability for years.

Over 25% of the land in Costa Rica is protected and it’s a destination that’s committed to becoming carbon neutral.

If you’ve ever Googled Costa Rica, you’ll know this is a country that’s abundant in wildlife. It’s a picture-perfect destination that’s overflowing with natural beauty.

With such a flourishing and diverse ecosystem, it’s no surprise that care has been taken to protect it with national parks, conservation areas and nature reserves. 

Costa Rica is a tropical paradise and one that has lots to see and do; from volcano trekking and wildlife watching to jungle zip-lining and surfing.

The country is also known for its rainforest eco lodges and wellness retreats, which are perfect if you want a peaceful vacay!

📸 Top things to do in Costa Rica: Go volcano trekking, try jungle zip-lining, learn to surf, go wildlife watching, try canyoneering, chase waterfalls, explore dense rainforest, join a wellness retreat, relax on the beach

When to visit: November to April
Where to stay: Pacuare Lodge 
Main airport: Juan Santamaría Airport (SJO)

2 Palau

Clear blue sea with coral reefs in Palau

A small nation in Micronesia, Palau is everything you’d imagine from a Pacific island paradise with pristine beaches lapped by crystal waters.

As one of the best ecotourism destinations, Palau is especially focused on preserving the ocean.

Miles of coral reef around its islands have been declared no-fishing zones and it’s also home to a 600,000-square-kilometre shark sanctuary.

The sale and use of sunscreen that’s toxic and harmful to sea life and coral has also been banned in Palau.

Plus, Palau is the first country to have changed its immigration laws to benefit the environment! This means that if you visit, you have to sign a passport pledge declaring that you’ll act responsibly while on the island.

📸 Top things to do in Palau: Go scuba diving & snorkelling, take a sea kayaking excursion, relax on the beach, swim with (stingless) jellyfish, go island hopping

When to visit: December to April
Where to stay: Palau Plantation Resort
Main airport: Roman Tmetuchl International Airport (ROR)

3 New Zealand

A bright blue lake next to forests and mountains on a clear sunny day in New Zealand

New Zealand is a long journey from the UK and Europe, but it’s a country that cares passionately about the environment with lots of great initiatives in place.

So if you’re a Brit travelling to New Zealand, your flight won’t be eco-friendly – but your time in the country can be more sustainable.

New Zealand boasts some of the world’s most impressive scenery with beaches, volcanoes and hot springs in the North Island and mountains, lakes and fjords in the South.

Much of its land is breathtaking national parks, forests or reserves, so a trip to New Zealand will always have a big focus on nature.

Thanks to its Māori culture and low population density, there’s a lot of respect for the environment and natural world in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s government has also signed a Zero Carbon bill which means that the country’s greenhouse emissions will be near neutral by 2050.

📸 Top things to do in New Zealand: Go hiking, try bungy jumping & skydiving, join whale and dolphin watching tours, go kayaking, take an eco cruise into Milford Sound, visit glowworm caves, see geysers & hot springs

When to visit: December to March
Where to stay: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses
Main airports: Auckland Airport (AKL) or Christchurch International Airport (CHC)

4 Iceland

Another ecotourism destination that flaunts beautiful remote landscapes is Iceland.

As one of the world’s top ecotourism destinations, Iceland is a leader in clean energy with most coming from renewable sources.

The government also aims to be carbon neutral by 2040 and fossil-fuel-free by 2050. 

In Iceland, sustainability is also a way of life – so much so that sustainability is included as part of the national curriculum at schools.

Iceland is known for its natural wonders. The Northern Lights, hot springs and incredible waterfalls are all a huge draw.. It has such breathtaking natural settings that it’s no surprise that locals would want to preserve the land!

Although Iceland is a country that’s prone to overtourism, it’s still on the list thanks to these eco credentials… If you travel off-peak and invest in local businesses, Iceland can still be a great destination.

If you visit, you’ll find a host of eco tours and hotels to choose from. You could also opt for camping.

📸 Top things to do in Iceland: Explore the Golden Circle, see waterfalls, chase the Northern Lights, relax at the Blue Lagoon, go whale watching, visit geysers & hot springs

When to visit: Year round depending on your itinerary
Where to stay: Deplar Farm
Main airport: Keflavík International Airport (KEF)

5 Kenya

A solitary tree in the Kenyan savannah at sunset

If a safari is on your bucket list, Kenya is one of the best ecotourism destinations for wildlife lovers.

With many African countries dealing with poaching, extinction of wildlife, deforestation and climate change, there are lots of reasons why you would want to support the places that are doing good things to help.

In Kenya specifically, there are policies in place to tackle these issues.

Namely, the country has over 50 national parks and reserves (including the famous Maasai Mara) and all are protected areas that keep wildlife truly wild.

READ MORE: Are Safaris Ethical?

Its wildlife conservancies are also great for the local community and promote the coexistence between people and planet.

There’s also a big focus on wildlife protection with several sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres.

In Kenya, there are also tough bans on single-use plastic bags as well as a crackdown on single-use plastic in protected areas, which means many lodges and resorts are entirely plastic-free.

On top of this, plenty of the best hotels and safari camps focus on solar and renewable energy for power.

📸 Top things to do in Kenya: See the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Maasai Mara, go on safari, join cultural experiences, head to the beach

When to visit: June to October
Where to stay: Olarro Lodge
Main airport: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO)

6 Bhutan 

Traditional buildings built into a dramatic cliffside in Bhutan

Not only is Bhutan a pristine and beautiful place to visit, but it’s also the world’s first carbon-negative country.

Sustainability is built into this country’s identity and with its predominantly Buddhist culture, there’s a big focus on the natural world.

It’s only since the 1970s that this Himalayan kingdom has been open to tourists. And even now with open borders, there are restrictions in place to keep visitor levels controlled and to ensure profits go back to the local communities. 

If you visit, you’ll have to pay a sustainable development fee which goes towards protecting the country.

This includes preserving its traditions, heritage and environment, as well as supporting healthcare and education. 

As one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive destinations, Bhutan is on amazing place for an authentic, once-in-a-lifetime eco experience!

📸 Top things to do in Bhutan: Visit Tiger’s Nest Monastery, go whitewater rafting, go hiking, visit temples, attend cultural festivals, trek into the Himalayas, go bird watching, take a wildlife safari

When to visit: March to May or September to November
Where to stay: Six Senses Bhutan
Main airport: Paro Airport (PBH) 

7 Borneo

A close up of an orangutan amongst forest leaves in Borneo

Borneo is known for being one of the world’s most biodiverse spots. It’s a tropical destination that’s loved by wildlife enthusiasts and there’s an amazing focus on nature. 

Covered in rainforest, it’s no surprise that Borneo is one of the planet’s top ecotourism destinations. Borneo has a number of national parks and protected areas, as well as orangutan rehabilitation centres.

It’s also home to the Danum Valley Conservation Area, which is one of the few untouched jungles in the world. It’s a nature lover’s paradise and also has a leading conservation research centre.

Borneo is overlooked by a lot of budget travellers who choose other spots in Southeast Asia instead, which means it can feel like a more authentic eco experience, too.

While you’re there, you’ll be able to take part in sustainable wildlife activities and jungle treks as well as stay in eco rainforest lodges.

📸 Top things to do in Borneo: See orangutans in the wild, take a river safari, climb Mount Kinabalu, island hop in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, go snorkelling & diving, explore rainforests, go wildlife watching

When to visit: March to October
Where to stay: Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Main airport: Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI)

8 Galapagos Islands 

A rugged, rocky and dramatic coastline in an untouched part of the Galapagos Islands

A list of ecotourism destinations wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Galapagos Islands. These islands off the coast of Ecuador are one of the world’s most in-demand ecotourism destinations.

Known for playing a role in Darwin’s theory of evolution, this is a destination that has so much for wildlife lovers to enjoy.

With most of the Galapagos declared a national park, these islands are home to thousands of species, as well as unique natural scenery. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that although it’s one of the best eco destinations, the Galapagos Islands have been threatened by tourism, and overtourism here can really damage the ecosystem.

Because of this, it’s really important to carefully consider your trip to the Galapagos – make sure you research eco-friendly tours, accommodation and activities before ticking this destination off your bucket list!

📸 Top things to do in the Galapagos Islands: Spot whales & dolphins, spend time with giant tortoises, go snorkelling, diving & kayaking, climb an active volcano, experience abundant marine life, go bird watching

When to visit: November to April
Where to stay: Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel
Nearest airport: Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport (GYE)

9 Rwanda

Two mountain gorillas amongst dense greenery in Rwanda

Lush forests, valleys, volcanoes and sweeping plains – Rwanda is famed for its spectacular landscapes so it’s easy to see why this is one of the best ecotourism destinations.

This is a country that has a conservation-centric approach to tourism and targets wealthy travellers to provide a more exclusive, ethical experience.

The destination has committed to conservation and responsible travel and has become known for its luxury eco accommodation and bucket list experiences, such as mountain gorilla trekking. 

Visiting mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park massively benefits their conservation and the communities surrounding the park.

With a spendy price tag of $1,500, this money limits tourist numbers and raises money for conservation and research efforts as well as local communities.

Rwanda is also increasing its wildlife conservation beyond gorillas by introducing animals to its national parks, focusing on wildlife research and investing in community projects. It’s an incredible destination for an authentic African vacation!

📸 Top things to do in Rwanda: Go gorilla trekking, go on safari, visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, go hiking, enjoy bird watching, take a boat trip on Lake Kivu

When to visit: June to September
Where to stay: Bisate Lodge
Main airport: Kigali International Airport (KGL)

10 Singapore

Large supertree structures in Singapore lit up at night against a clear purple sky

A city break might not seem like an eco vacation, but Singapore is one of the world’s most sustainable cities. If you’re wanting more of an urban adventure, this is the ecotourism destination for you!

Despite its built-up and fast-paced setting, Singapore has taken many steps to favour the environment – from sustainable water systems, efficient public transport, green zones and eco-friendly architecture. 

As one of the world’s densest cities, Singapore is surprisingly one of the greenest. Around half of the island is covered in greenery, so if you want a city break but still crave time in nature, Singapore is definitely a winner. 

Plus, in 2021, the Singapore Green Plan was launched to progress the country’s sustainable development and help it achieve its long-term goal of net zero emissions by 2050. 

📸 Top things to do in Singapore: Explore Gardens by the Bay, visit Singapore Botanic Gardens, cruise the Singapore River, visit temples, join a bike tour

When to visit: February to July
Where to stay: Marina Bay Sands
Main airport: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

11 Norway

Beautiful Norway is well known as one of the world’s best ecotourism destinations. It’s a country that prides itself on its green credentials and is working hard to uphold and continue its sustainable development.

With its gorgeous, dramatic and unspoiled landscapes, Norway is an amazing choice for eco enthusiasts. It’s an incredibly picturesque country and boasts so many unique nature experiences.

Visiting the fjords is one of the main draws of Norway and you’ll find a host of eco-friendly tours that are designed with sustainability and the protection of nature in mind.

Norway also uses the Sustainable Destination label which shows the areas working to reduce the negative impacts of tourism.

By visiting destinations in Norway that are labelled by the Sustainable Destination scheme, you can be sure that you’re supporting a place that’s doing good things!

📸 Top things to do in Norway: Join a boat tour of the fjords, go hiking in national parks, spot whales, see the Northern Lights, experience wild kayaking, go bird watching, join a glacier walk

When to visit: March to November
Where to stay: Storfjord Hotel
Main airport: Oslo Lufthavn Airport (OSL)

Ecotourism FAQS

A herd of wildebeest on a sprawling plain in Kenya under a golden sun

Why is ecotourism important?

Unlike traditional tourism, ecotourism benefits the environment, conservation efforts and local communities.

While traditional tourism can be damaging, ecotourism focuses on beneficial, responsible tourism and allows travel to be a rewarding experience for everyone! 

What is the purpose of ecotourism?

The goal of ecotourism is to provide tourism opportunities and experiences without damaging the environment and affecting local communities.

Ecotourism is all about minimising the impact of travel, supporting local communities and raising awareness of local cultures and traditions.

Ecotourism also helps fund conservation projects and provides education around environmental issues.

What are the benefits of ecotourism?

Ecotourism has so many benefits – from protecting the environment and keeping natural areas unspoilt to benefiting the local economy. It also helps fund important conservation work.

Ecotourism can also create jobs for local people and bring in money that can be reinvested into the community. Plus, it promotes social and environmental awareness. 

What are the disadvantages of ecotourism? 

Like many things, there are pros and cons of ecotourism. A main disadvantage of ecotourism is that it can drive too many tourists to certain areas – especially those with already fragile ecosystems.

There can also be social disadvantages as more travellers visit remote areas and start to outnumber locals. Plus, tourists often have to travel a long way to these destinations by plane – producing a huge amount of carbon in the process. 

Which country is best known for ecotourism?

Costa Rica is one of the most known ecotourism destinations and is one of the leaders in sustainability. It’s a gorgeous destination that flaunts so much natural beauty – it’s definitely one to have on your list!

An empty, pristine golden sand beach in Costa Rica, fringed by lush greenery and palm trees

Being able to travel the world is a blessing. But, with the challenges the planet is facing, we need to play our part and choose to travel as mindfully as possible.

If we support ecotourism destinations and the places that care, we can turn our holidays into an even more rewarding experience!

READ MORE: Overtourism: 6 Best Alternative Destinations

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