We love to travel. But our love for travel doesn’t always coincide with our love for the planet. After all, travelling is not very eco-friendly. Fortunately, there aren’t only green ways to travel, but there are also green holiday destinations that have an excellent environment & climate policy and sustainable tourism destination management.
Europe is home to many eco-friendly holiday destinations. If you live in Europe, you really don’t have to fly halfway across the world to enjoy waterfalls, mountains, palm trees, forests, wide open spaces or gorgeous islands.
Every year, the non-profit organisation for sustainable tourism Green Destinations publishes a ‘Sustainable Destinations Top 100’ list. The awards for this year won’t take place until December, but there are already 60 destinations that have been selected from the Early-Bird procedure. Here are 15 of them.
Out of all the countries on the Sustainable Top 100 list, the Netherlands is mentioned the most. With no less than 11 green 'hotspots' in the Netherlands, this country makes an excellent destination for eco-conscious travellers. Here are our 4 top-picks.
Ameland is one of the small islands in the North Sea. A beautiful island, mainly consisting of sand dunes, you can rent a bicycle and traverse the island by bike.
The most beautiful part of Wassenaar is Meijendel. Follow the walking and cycling trails through the forest and sand dunes, enjoy a picnic, and breathe in the fresh air.
3. Hoek van Holland
Hoek van Holland has some of the widest, cleanest, whitest beaches of Holland. You can even learn to surf as there are usually plenty of beginner waves.
4. Berg en Dal
Berg en Dal is a cute little town in the province of Gelderland. Surrounded by a lush forest, you can enjoy hikes, bike rides or visit one of the museums.
After the Netherlands, Portugal comes in second with 10 green locations. We’ve chosen 4 of our favourites.
The Azores is a group of 9 amazing islands belonging to Portugal. They’re located 2 hours flying from Lisbon. High mountains, lush forest, waterfalls, and vast countryside make this a truly fascinating green destination.
Who’s not a fan of the Portuguese dessert “pastéis de nata”? If you haven’t tried it yet, you’ll find the best ones in Lagos!
Cascais is a 30-minute train ride from Lisbon. This once sleepy fishing village has been transformed into a coastal resort town that is always buzzing with festivals and art expos. The town's government has worked and continues to work hard to reduce their CO2 emissions by more than 20% by 2020.
Águeda is a town famous for its AgitÁgueda festival. In July, this town turns into a creative wonderland full of colourful art installations and spontaneous performances. The local government set up a Fund for Energy and Water Efficiency to increase renewable energy and promote sustainable mobility. Águeda wants to be the first “Smart City” in Portugal.
Malmö used to be an industrial waste land until the Swedish government turned it into its number one sustainable city. Do you like long bicycle tours? With 470 km of bicycle paths, Malmö is the place to be.
10. Skyros Island
If you like turquoise oceans and unspoiled nature, you will like Skyros Island. There are plans to develop a huge wind farm project here, which would contribute significantly to Greece’s renewable power supply.
This town lies in the foothills of the Alps and along the glacial Lake Bled. Bled’s stunning backdrop makes this a picture perfect paradise.
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and is its largest city. It has a huge amount of green spaces, such as the famous Tivoli Park. There are plenty of amazing festivals, especially during the summer.
13. Town of Drniš
You don’t need to go to the USA or Thailand to enjoy zip lines, river rafting, and canyons. Croatia has it all! The town of Drniš is situated in between the most beautiful parts of the Šibenik-Knin County.
14. Lyngenfjord Region
Ever tried cross-country skiing, ice climbing or snowshoeing? The Lyngenfjord region in Norway would be the perfect place to try it out. From eco-accommodations and eco-transport to waste sorting, this region's government has made some serious efforts to make it a sustainable holiday destination.
15. Bretagne - Brittany
Cycling is the best way to get around in the local cities of Brittany. Many hotels even offer a bike for free. Also, a lot of food in France is grown organically and sold on the markets.
Are you taking the ferry from England to Brittany? Brittany ferries actually do their best to improve sustainability on the ships as well. For example, 80% of their food comes from France, reducing their food miles (the distance the food products need to travel before landing on your plate) significantly.
Extra eco-friendly travel tips
Transport is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to travelling eco-friendly. How about taking the train? What better way is there to relax in the comfort of your seat while enjoying the view and knowing you minimise your carbon footprint?
With the train, you can reach even the furthest destinations in Europe. But if you do need to fly, then use FlyGRN to offset your flight’s carbon emissions.
Once you’ve reached your eco-friendly holiday destination, then go and explore all the fun options to travel sustainably. Rent a bike instead of a car. Go to the local markets and eat local food. This way, you get to know the area and the locals much better than when you only hang out at touristy places.
Have you been to these green holiday destinations? And which ones are on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.
Written by: Jessica Scheper