Lonely Planet, a renowned travel authority, has unveiled its list of the most environmentally friendly vacation destinations for the year 2024.
According to the experts of Lonely Planet, this ranking highlights the increasing global awareness of sustainable travel and its significant impact on the environment.
Below, you can find the top ten vacation destinations for 2024 if you are a responsible traveller.
Spain, a beloved travel destination, is taking substantial steps to promote off-season travel, encouraging visitors throughout the year and promoting less-visited areas. The country has invested in cycle paths, electric buses and train routes to provide eco-friendly transportation options.
Spain has also set ambitious environmental goals, aiming to draw 75 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, rising to 100 per cent by 2050.
As part of this plan, Spain has stopped issuing new licenses for oil and gas exploration, closed most of its coal mines and is transitioning away from nuclear energy.
Cities like Barcelona and Madrid have embraced renewable energy and sustainable transport. For example, the El Prat airport in Barcelona features solar panels for renewable energy and specially designed glass walls to reduce electrical consumption.
Madrid, on the other hand, has dedicated a significant portion of the city to protected green spaces, making it one of the greenest cities in Europe.
Greenland, renowned for its immaculate ice and tundra, is set to become more accessible by opening two new international airports in 2024: one in the colourful capital, Nuuk and the other in Ilulissat.
The government of Greenland has put an end to oil and gas exploration, making Greenland the first Arctic nation to declare such an intention.
Greenland is moving towards a greener future by stopping oil and gas exploration, focusing on renewable energy and emphasising sustainability in mining and tourism.
The country has also prioritised renewable energy sources, emphasising the importance of clean and sustainable power generation.
The effort to enhance local food production underscores the country’s commitment to self-sufficiency and eco-conscious practices.
Trails of Wales
Wales, one of the world’s first countries to legislate for sustainability, is expanding its eco-friendly transportation options. New train stations and increased services will make it easier for travellers to explore the beautiful Pembrokeshire National Park.
In line with Wales’ commitment to sustainable travel, Transport for Wales has launched the “Wales on Rails” project, a collaborative effort with Visit Wales.
This initiative aims to promote eco-friendly exploration within Wales by encouraging sustainable transportation, particularly trains.
To make it easier for travellers, the “Wales on Rails” website provides a user-friendly platform to plan journeys across the country while offering various tourist attractions to choose from.
Portuguese Way, Caminho Portugues de Santiago
The Portuguese Way is not just a pilgrimage route but also a scenic journey across Portugal and Spain.
This 620km trail offers opportunities to explore historic sites, dine at local restaurants and interact with fellow travellers. It’s a route that encourages travellers to slow down, appreciate the changing scenery and befriend fellow adventurers along the way.
Carefully selected accommodation establishments along the Portuguese Way use eco-friendly practices to save water, use solar power and promote recycling.
The small Pacific nation of Palau is demonstrating how sustainable travel can alleviate the impact of climate change.
Palau has a long history of commitment to sustainability, adopting the world’s first anti-nuclear constitution in 1979 and implementing the Palau Pledge in 2017, requiring international visitors to promise to “tread lightly” and “preserve and protect” the islands.
As the archipelago reopens to tourism after a long lockdown, an app of the country named “Ol’au Palau” program offers a world-first initiative of “gamifying” responsible tourism, rewarding travellers based on their environmental and cultural impact rather than their spending.
The program offers points to those who make sustainable decisions, such as using reef-safe sunscreen, visiting culturally important sites, and eating sustainably sourced local food.
By acting responsibly, visitors earn access to experiences usually reserved for Palauan families and their friends.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island, is a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. With 20 per cent of Japan’s land area but only five per cent of its population, Hokkaido boasts vast mountain ranges and wilderness, much of which remains relatively undiscovered.
Niseko, a popular town in Hokkaido, has earned recognition as one of the World Tourism Organization’s Best Tourism Villages for its emphasis on the environment and resident autonomy. It’s also the only Japanese city to have joined the United Nations’ Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.
As a signatory to the declaration, Niseko is committed to advancing its climate-related plans. Initiatives like using geothermal energy to heat buildings demonstrate the town’s dedication to sustainability. However, there is still progress to be made in achieving carbon neutrality, as Niseko aspires to become a top sustainable tourism destination.
Ecuador, known for its rainforests, wild rivers, active volcanoes and remarkable biodiversity, has much to protect.
Responsible tourism is ingrained in the country’s culture, as we notice important specifics such as caps on visitors, solar-powered ecolodges, a new marine reserve and the first renewable-powered airport.
Ecuador has received recognition for its sustainability efforts, including winning South America’s Leading Green Destination award in 2022 and the World’s Leading Green Destination in 2021 by the World Travel Awards.
The country is focused on balancing economic growth and environmental preservation, with the government, hotel owners and local communities collaborating on various ecotourism projects.
With its breathtaking landscapes, Patagonia is becoming even more enticing with new trails, expanded parklands and rewilding projects.
Patagonia National Park will unveil a planetarium and interpretation centre in late 2023 on the Argentinian side. Across the border, Chile has successfully rewilded pumas, rheas and endangered huemul deer in a park of the same name. As a bonus, an annual solar eclipse will black out the sky over both parks in October.
Baltic Trails in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
The Baltic Forest Trail is a breathtaking stretch of hiking trails that extends through the Baltic States. It’s part of the larger E11 European hiking trail, which starts in the Netherlands and goes up to Estonia’s capital city.
The 1060 km section between Riga and Tallinn is known as the Metsa Trail, which emphasises nature and is a popular choice for nature lovers.
These paths lead travellers through Estonia’s Nordic landscapes, the Curonian Spit sands in Lithuania, and the Gauja River valley in Latvia, known for its spectacular autumn greenery. You’ll feel like you have the entire world to yourself for much of the way.
Eco-Lodges in South Africa
With Earth’s biodiversity at a juncture and an impressive crop of eco-lodges committed to its protection, now is the time to take in South Africa’s wild beauty.
We advise you to spend star-studded nights glamping and, if you’re lucky, walk among giraffes and zebras like the humans of yore once did since this place is an ode to the beauty of mother nature.
According to a list by go2africa, some of the top eco-lodges to consider visiting are Singita Lebombo, Thornybush Game Lodge and Pafuni Luxury Tented Camp.
These lodges stand out for their exceptional eco-friendliness, characterised by their use of sustainable design and materials, as well as for their renewable energy sources.
In recent years, eco-lodges in South Africa have gained popularity for sustainable tourism, offering travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature while minimising their environmental impact.