For those who want to explore the world in a unique and sustainable way, ecotourism is the way to go. Ecotourism refers to visiting locations which are environmentally friendly and aim to promote conservation.
Visiting ecotourism destinations can be a great way to learn more about the environment, meet new people, use sustainable resources and also help the local economy. In this article, we will explore the top ecotourism destinations in the world.
These locations offer travelers a chance to see some of the best nature and wildlife up close, while also supporting conservation efforts.
Amazing Ecotourism Destinations for Nature Lovers
Responsible tourism has the potential to contribute positively to local communities’ livelihoods and promote conservation through sustainable activities. So, whether you’re interested in wildlife, marine life, or cultural immersion, consider an ecotourism destination for your next travel experience.
In this article, we’ll explore the best ecotourism destinations in the world. Put them on your bucket list!
1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are a group of 127 volcanic islands and islets in the Pacific Ocean known for their unique animal and plant species. The islands are home to giant Galapagos tortoises, marine iguanas and many other species. There are quite a few animals and birds that you will only find in the Galapagos such as blue-footed boobies, Darwin’s finches, flightless cormorants and Sally Lightfoot Crabs.
You can visit the islands on land, or take a cruise to explore the diverse marine life there. The natural and fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos is protected by conservation efforts that ensure tourists can visit without harming the environment.
2. Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
This park on the North Island of New Zealand is a UNESCO-listed site and features three active volcanoes, alpine landscapes, and emerald lakes. Visitors can hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which takes around 7-9 hours to complete and offers panoramic views of the park.
The park has several ecotourism operators, and they offer guided tours that prioritize environmental sustainability and cultural education.
3. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is home to over 5% of the world’s biodiversity, making it an incredible destination for eco-tourism. There are approximately half a million species living here!
In Costa Rica, you can explore the rainforest, get involved in turtle conservation, and even go on a humpback whale-watching tour. Some ecotourism activities worth considering include visiting the Arenal Volcano National Park, hiking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and visiting Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.
Here, you can spot sloths, giant anteaters, Baird’s tapirs and many more animals. For safety reasons, Corcovado National Park must be visited as part of a tour.
4. Borneo, Malaysia
Borneo is an island in Southeast Asia known for its biodiversity, rainforests, and native Borneo orangutans. You can explore the rainforest, learn about conservation efforts for the local wildlife, and visit the local villages and markets.
The island is also home to Mount Kinabalu, which offers fantastic hiking and climbing opportunities. At 3,435 feet, this is the third highest island mountain peak in the world.
Gunung Mulu National Park is another highlight, known for its 2,377 m-high sandstone pinnacle and extensive cave network. The gigantic Deer Cave leads to the hidden Garden of Eden pools.
Kenya is a great destination for those who want to see African wildlife up close. There are several national parks and reserves where you can go on safari tours to see zebras, lions, elephants, and more.
You can also visit the Maasai Mara, a national Wildlife reserve known for its Great Migration, when millions of wildebeests and zebras make their way across the Serengeti Plains.
Palau is a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean located between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Palau has made tremendous efforts to protect its natural environment, including creating the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.
The sanctuary protects a vast area of the ocean and provides habitat for incredible marine life including sharks, turtles and rays. If you are interested in scuba diving or snorkeling, Palau is an excellent destination to explore the underwater world.
7. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
This park is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, with an abundance of species like lions, leopards, cheetahs, and elephants. The annual great migration is a sight to behold, where millions of wildebeests cross the Serengeti plains in search of water and grazing lands.
Ecotourism lodges within the park offer an authentic Tanzanian safari experience, with guides who are knowledgeable about the flora and fauna.
8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world, and it’s home to a diverse range of marine life. It features over 400 hard and soft coral species, over 1,500 species of fish, and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles.
You can enjoy snorkeling, diving, and glass-bottomed boat tours to explore the colorful underwater world. However, it’s essential to choose responsible ecotourism operators who prioritize reef conservation.
9. Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango Delta is a vast wetland area that supports an array of wildlife, including hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species. You can explore the delta in a traditional mokoro canoe, where you’ll see animals up close without disturbing their natural habitat.
The Moremi Game Reserve offers unparalleled bird watching, with around 400 species to spot. There are also many animal species such as hippos, spotted hyenas, African buffalos and chacma baboons.
Some lodges, such as the Kujwana Camp, offer luxury tented accommodations that have a minimum impact on the environment.
10. South Island, New Zealand
The South Island of New Zealand is a must-visit destination for eco-tourism enthusiasts. With its stunning Alpine scenery, crystal-clear lakes, and rivers, this unspoiled island is known for its natural beauty.
It is home to several endangered species, including the yellow-eyed penguin and the New Zealand fur seal. Ecotourists can participate in conservation activities such as beach cleanups.
South Island has some of the best eco-accommodations in the world, ranging from eco-friendly hotels to luxury lodges. You can explore the island’s glaciers, fjords, and mountains while supporting local conservation efforts.
11. The Burren, Ireland
The Burren, located in County Clare, Ireland, is a unique landscape that is perfect for eco-tourism. Covering approximately 530 square kilometers, the area consists of vast limestone karst formations that were formed up to 299 million years ago.
With over 70% of Ireland’s native plant species found within the region, the Burren is a haven for botanists and nature enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy a variety of eco-friendly activities, including hiking, cycling, and wildlife spotting.
With opportunities to explore ancient archaeological sites, sample traditional Irish cuisine and chat with friendly local people, the Burren offers a truly authentic Irish experience.
12. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world and supports over 10% of the world’s species. Ecotourists can explore the forest on guided excursions that prioritize the well-being of the local communities and the protection of the ecosystem.
You can see monkeys, sloths, and exotic bird species on a jungle trek or enjoy a river cruise to learn about the region’s flora and fauna.
Madagascar is an eco-tourism destination that offers a unique and unforgettable experience for nature lovers. With a rich biodiversity, the island’s ecosystems support an array of endemic species, including the iconic lemurs, chameleons, and baobab trees.
Trekking through the lush rainforests and spotting colorful birds and fascinating bugs is an adventure in itself. Visitors can immerse themselves in the traditional Malagasy culture by staying in a community-run lodge or taking part in local festivals.
Additionally, there are plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and swimming in the turquoise waters surrounding the coastline. Madagascar is a nature enthusiast’s paradise and a must-visit for anyone looking to explore one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.
Slovenia’s commitment to sustainable tourism practices has made it a top destination for eco-tourists looking to explore and protect the country’s natural beauty. With over half of its land covered in forests and a variety of landscapes including mountains, lakes, and rivers, Slovenia offers visitors the opportunity to experience the great outdoors while minimizing their environmental impact.
From hiking in the Julian Alps to bird watching in the Sečovlje Salt Pans Nature Park, there are plenty of eco-friendly activities to choose from. Plus, with numerous eco-certified accommodations and tour operators, travelers can rest easy knowing they are supporting responsible and sustainable tourism.
Look for the Slovenia Green Certificate when booking accommodation, tourist attractions and restaurants within the country.
Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation often referred to as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” With its pristine landscapes, breathtaking scenery, and commitment to preserving the environment, Bhutan has become a popular destination for eco-tourists seeking unique and sustainable travel experiences.
From trekking through its lush forests and spotting rare wildlife to immersing oneself in the rich cultural traditions of the Bhutanese people, there is no shortage of activities for visitors to engage in. The country’s government has made it a priority to prioritize sustainable tourism, and visitors are encouraged to be respectful and mindful during their stay.
Bhutan eco-tourism offers a rare opportunity to experience the beauty of an unspoiled natural environment while supporting local communities and contributing to conservation efforts. In Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCP) in north Bhutan, a homestay programme developed by the WWF and the Royal Government of Bhutan provides visitors with an authentic experience and the chance to learn first hand about Bhutanese customs and local lifestyle.
Aruba may be known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, but its eco-tourism industry is definitely worth exploring. With a focus on sustainability and conservation, Aruba offers many opportunities for visitors to experience its unique natural environment.
One popular attraction is Arikok National Park, which spans almost 20% of the island’s terrain and is home to rare plant and animal species. Another must-see destination is the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, where visitors can observe over 80 species of migratory birds in their natural habitat.
Aruba’s commitment to eco tourism is not just limited to its attractions, but can also be seen in its restaurants, hotels, and transportation options. In fact, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort is a pioneer in green initiatives in the hotel industry.
Iceland is a nature lover’s paradise and eco-tourism hotspot. This small island nation in north Europe is a playground for those who love the outdoors and want to experience nature in its purest form.
From towering glaciers to the Northern Lights and spouting geysers in the Golden Circle, Iceland has it all. What makes Iceland special is its commitment to protecting its natural resources and using renewable energy, while still allowing visitors to experience the raw beauty of the country.
Visitors can hike on glaciers, snowmobile through the rugged terrain, or take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon. Iceland’s unique way of integrating tourism with the environment has made it a model for eco-tourism around the world. With a pledge to carbon neutrality by 2040, Iceland’s tourism industry is working towards a more sustainable future.
Canada is a vast country with a diverse landscape encompassing mountains, forests, lakes, glaciers, and much more. Jasper, located in the Canadian Rockies, is one such place that offers breathtaking views of nature.
Jasper National Park is a prime example of eco-tourism at its best. Being one of the largest Dark Sky Preserves in the world, the park provides the perfect opportunity to witness a stunning display of stars at night, unlike anywhere else.
Visitors can explore the park by hiking, biking, or driving along the scenic routes to behold the stunning beauty of the area. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot grizzly bears, wolves, elks, and caribous in their natural habitat.
Additionally, there are several eco-friendly accommodations and dining options available in Jasper, making it the perfect destination for nature lovers seeking an eco-friendly vacation in Canada.
19. Kefalonia-Ithaca UNESCO Global Geopark, Greece
Kefalonia is a Greek island located in the Ionian Sea, and it is renowned for its scenic beauty and rich cultural heritage. The island is home to the Kefalonia-Ithaca UNESCO Global Geopark. Similar to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is a designated area that promotes the conservation of geological and cultural heritage.
The geopark is an excellent place for nature and adventure lovers, offering a wide range of activities, including hiking, kayaking, and caving. Moreover, visitors can learn about the island’s rich geological history and explore ancient myths and legends that shrouded it.
With its stunning landscapes, vast biodiversity and unique geological features, Kefalonia-Ithaca UNESCO Global Geopark is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to discover the hidden gems of Greece.
Belize, a small but mighty country located in Central America, is a destination that offers breathtaking natural beauty and cultural richness. The growth of ecotourism in Belize has allowed visitors to experience the country’s unique ecosystems, including coral reefs, rainforests, and savannas, while also promoting conservation efforts.
Travelers can explore ancient Mayan ruins, go on jungle treks, visit the world’s only Jaguar Reserve and snorkel with whale sharks. The gigantic Great Blue Hole is another popular diving destination.
This sustainable form of tourism not only benefits the environment but also contributes to the local economy by providing jobs and supporting local businesses. For those seeking an adventure that is both educational and impactful, ecotourism in Belize is a must-try experience. San Ignacio Resort Hotel is host to the Green Iguana Conservation Project, where you can see this endangered species up close.
Final Thoughts on the Best Ecotourism Destinations in the World
If you’re passionate about preserving nature and believe in responsible travel, you should definitely try ecotourism. Ecotourism involves traveling to natural areas while taking care of the environment and contributing to the well-being of the local community.
Sustainable tourism is an opportunity to connect with nature, learn about different cultures, and contribute to conservation efforts.
These destinations offer the best of what ecotourism has to offer. They are home to amazing natural wonders, vibrant cultures and provide visitors with a unique perspective.
Paul is a freelance photograher and graphic designer and has worked on our most recent media kit.
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