12 Off-The-Beaten-Track Sustainable Destinations
Are you a conscious traveller looking for sustainable destinations to add to your bucket list? Want to know the destinations where sustainability is a top priority before you add them to your bucket list or before planning your next solo vacation? Below are my top 12 picks for off-the-beaten-track sustainable destinations.
I am constantly learning about or expanding my knowledge on my favourite destinations, including countries and island destinations I have already visited as well as destinations that are still on my own bucket list, particularly those I think my clients may be interested in putting on their bucket list too.
Every now and then I add a new off-the-beaten-track destination to my bucket list, such as Slovenia, which I learned last year, is one of the greenest and most sustainable countries in Europe—as well as one of the safest.
Last October, I shared three things travellers can do to travel as sustainably as possible after the pandemic in this article and spoke with a women’s group on the same topic. In that presentation, I shared three more things we can do, one of which was to roam responsibly.
One of the things I highlighted was the need to reduce our impact in the destinations we visit. This can be achieved by travelling during the low and shoulder seasons and travelling in a small group instead of in large groups. Avoiding tourist hot-spots and travelling to off-the-beaten-path destinations and regions instead can also reduce our impact when we travel.
Since one of my goals as a travel planner is to help my clients roam responsibly, it’s important that I help them choose off-the-beaten-path destinations where sustainability is also a high priority. In my constant search for off-the-beaten-path destinations I’m always on the lookout for any information about their commitment to sustainability—not just with regards to tourism, but as a destination as a whole.
I’ve scoured various resources from my trainings as well as travel magazines and websites (including Green Destinations Top 100) to select my top 12 Off-The-Beaten-Track Sustainable Destinations. So, if you’re looking for travel inspiration and sustainability is a priority, take a look at my top 12 picks below. Hover or click each image to see my picks and/or learn more about each destination.
My top 12 picks for Off-the-Beaten-Track Sustainable Destinations
Each of these environmentally friendly, green and responsible destinations are committed to sustainable tourism.
They made my top 12 list for various reasons, which I highlight below. You may be unfamiliar with some of these destinations or may not know just how green and/or sustainable they are. It might be time to add them to your bucket list and plan to visit on an adventure sooner rather than later!
Receiving Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021 Sustainability Award as best “Cultural Walk”, visitors to this off-the-beaten-track region of Italy can follow in the steps of the great Italian poet, Dante. The 395 km circular route will take you on an adventure across the Apennines between Tuscany and Romagna and you can choose to go by foot, bike or train.
Starting in Florence the route passes through Scarperia and San Piero, Borgo San Lorenzo, Marradi, then Faenza, Brisighella and Ravenna where you’ll discover ancient monuments, Italian traditions, and of course, food and wine. Every step of the way, you’ll be immersed in Italian history, art and nature as well as have the opportunity to visit places where Dante lived in exile.
With a variety of itineraries to choose from, history and stories are told in ancient buildings, Romanesque churches, small villages, museums, libraries, and craft workshops.
Awarded European Green Capital in 2016, a UNESCO city of literature in 2015 and one of 9 destinations in Slovenia listed on the Green Destinations Top 100.
A country with more bikes than people, is it any wonder why I’ve included this tiny European nation in my top 12 sustainable destinations. With 11 destinations in this tiny European country being listed on the Green Destinations Top 100, the Netherlands easily falls in the top 12 sustainable destinations in the world. One of the destinations listed is Ameland, an island made up mainly of sand dunes in West Frisian Islands – a natural beauty and quiet island also known as the “Wadden Diamond” earned the Quality Coast Award in 2009.
One of 11 destinations in Portugal listed on the Green Destinations Top 100 and being on my bucket list for quite some time (as it’s a volcanic archipelago) I had to include the Azores in my top 12 sustainable destinations.
With eight eco-hotels and lodges to choose from, a coastal path that stretches the entire length of the county and with the warmest weather in the UK, it’s no wonder Cornwall is so popular with many Brits like me. They even have Biome Domes at the Eden Project, an educational charity, where you can learn about the interconnections between all living things.
Just 3-4 hours from London, consider adding this eco-destination to your bucket-list, especially if you’re visiting the UK in late Spring or early Fall, when the weather and the scenery is at its best for hiking, and there are substantially fewer tourists. (Pictured is one of my favourite spots on the north Cornish coast.)
One of the world's cleanest and greenest cities, ranking second out of 23 European cities in 2015 (Zurich received the top spot), and second to Calgary, according to World Atlas), Copenhagen is committed to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2025.
As a pioneer of sustainable tourism, sustainability is not a practice in Costa Rica, it’s a way of life. With 5% of the earth’s land-based biodiversity and 3.5% of its marine life, crammed into this tiny territory, of which 25% is protected by the National System of Conservation Areas, is it any wonder Costa Rica is one of the most sustainable destinations in the world? More than 98 per cent of its energy is renewable, 93% of its electricity is from renewable resources…
Committed to being carbon neutral by 2035 and involves tourism with its “Think Sustainably” campaign by the city’s tourism board.
Finland is not yet on my bucket list but I know a couple of people who love this country. With a commitment like this, I wanted to include it in my top 12 and will definitely be looking into this destination more, and may even add it to my bucket list. Is Helsinki on your bucket list?
While not listed in Green Destinations Top 100 Sustainable Destinations, over 300 Icelandic tourism companies have committed to work towards a country-wide responsible tourism initiative. The aim of the initiative is to keep tourism alive and thriving but with less negative impact. Some popular spots have been closed due to over-tourism, while the government has taken steps to encourage visitors to the take the road less travelled and visit off-the-beaten-track areas, such as Westfjords Region where they have made vast improvements to the roads recently. Even visitors to their official tourism website are encouraged to take the pledge to travel responsibly in Iceland. Iceland is not only an ideal destination for solo female travellers but it’s also a sustainable destination!
Lagoons of New Calendonia
Located between Australia and Fiji, this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean was awarded the ‘Best of the World – 2021 Sustainable Destination’ accolade by National Geographic Traveller in January 2021. To be honest, I'm not too familiar with New Caledonia, but with this kind of accolade, I'll definitely be considering adding it to my bucket list and will learn more about this destination before too long. Will you be adding it to yours?
While maybe not so off-the-beaten-track for Europeans, Greece can be considred off-the-beaten-track for Canadians who mostly prefer to go to the Caribbean for their "beach vacation."
If you choose to go during the shoulder or off seasons and select some of the lesser-know islands to visit, it's definitely off-the-beaten-track—literally, as you'll need to hop on a ferry or boat to reach many places.
I've mainly included Greece in my top 12 off-the-beaten track sustainable destinations, because no matter where you go, you will find sustainable food practices (delicious, fresh, local food).
And it's why Greece was awarded top destination for sustainable food by Lonely Planet on their “Best in Travel 2021” list. According to the travel magazine, the country received this accolade because of its "organic produce markets, prolific wild herbs and island seafood hauls."
While most of the world is only just becoming conscious about sustainable food habits, traditional Greek food practices, with respect to choice and preparation, date back thousands of years, and are intrinsically sustainable.
Consistently ranked number one in the world for sustainable tourism by the Global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Reports, Switzerland is committed to reducing emissions, switching to renewable energy and improving water quality. Zurich, one of Switzerland's major cities, was also ranked number one green destination in 2015.